Secret Crying Places


I was up in the haymow throwing hay down to the sheep the morning after our grandson scored the winning points at the buzzer in a high school basketball game. It had been a thrilling moment in our lives, of course, and I was still riding high on the memory. I happened to look over in the corner of the loft and saw lying there in the corner, a basketball, now partially deflated. Nearby the old homemade banking board hung from the wall with cobwebs streaming down from the hoop. Over the last decade, there is no telling how many hours Grandmother and I played there with Evan and his brother, Alex. I joked that I had taught the boys everything they know about the game but the truth was just the opposite. Nevertheless, I couldn’t help wondering if all that dribbling, passing, and shooting might have contributed to Evan’s dramatic drive to the basket with just four seconds left in the game. And yes, as I sat there on a bale, staring at the old deflated basketball, I was crying my eyes out.

My barn has often been the place I go to cry. No one can see me there except the cats. We must never let the young people know about secret crying places. Perhaps oddly, I go there to cry more over happy events than sad ones. I went there to cry when our daughter and then our son grew up and left home as they must do, to start their own families. Now the grandchildren too will leave, nevermore to ripple that old basketball net, and I will go to the barn to weep even as I cheer them on.

I knew I needed a secret crying place when my mother died. We were living the suburban life then, but had managed to turn our big backyard into a kind of secluded garden with a chicken coop at the center of it. I would sit on an overturned bucket in the coop, hidden from everything except the chickens, and weep with abandoned, remembering my mother, who was always singing. The chickens would cock  their heads sideways, staring as only chickens can do, and maybe sing a little too, as if to comfort me.

Later here on the homeplace, the big weeping willow tree along the creek became a secret crying place. Up among the branches there was a huge crotch limb where I could sit comfortably, hidden from all eyes, and look out over all he fields roundabout. I thought it was appropriate to have a secret crying place in a weeping willow. I even wrote a little poem about it, after I watched my son one day running across the fields calling his dog.

“Here Dusty dog, here Dusty dog, here Dusty dog.”
I hear my son calling, the sound fading into the willow tree
where I sit, listening. So joyful and carefree a sound.
When the boy is gone, I will sit in my weeping willow weeping
and hear his voice still.

A couple of years ago the old willow blew down, a blow only to myself I thought. I had known the tree all my life. When we walked back to view the downed giant, our granddaughter was with us. She had known the tree all her life too. When she saw it, stretched out on the ground, she started to cry and ran away from us. I felt as helpless and prostrate as the tree. She was much too young to understand the need for secret crying places.


Gene, you just keep getting better. Thanks for this.

This is beautiful.

I cry in the goat shed, it’s a very good place to weep. I find my heart breaks open for the love of my animals which in turn allows pain to surface and proper grieving to be done. I’ve been setting many things right out in that shed.

Thanks for sharing this story.

Wow. Gene and Russ, I’ve been there too. I remember the first night after our oldest daughter left for college back in 1999. I was setting out plates for our supper table and grabbed five plates just we had done for years when it suddenly dawned on me that we now only needed four. A few years later, when our son packed his stuff in his beloved Jeep and drove off to school I realized that when he returned he would not be coming back as a child but would be in transition to honorable manhood. Our youngest daughter’s announcement that she would be moving out even though she was attending a hometown college was the biggest shock, one that I didn’t see coming. To date, none have moved back home, for which I suppose I should be grateful considering that many folks have kids that “fail to launch”. But it is none the less sad to permanently close a chapter of one’s life. We only set two places at the table now, just as we did in those first few years we were married. For this I feel truly blessed considering there are many who now eat their meals alone. We are now eagerly looking forward to the day when we are graced with the presence of those yet to come who will start the next chapter of our lives.

Our lane is about 600 feet. In the fall of 92 I was returning alone from somewhere about dark and turned in. It took me about half an hour to drive that final 600 feet. The eldest of our four beautiful children was a senior in high school and bound for an out of state college after she graduated. We had lived the majority of her life as a family that would have officially qualified as below the poverty line. But thanks to the good will of extended family and the efforts of a world class mother, my daughter thinks she had a privileged childhood. What washed over me as I started up the lane was the enormity of the realization that things would never be the same once she left. The force of my weeping made me stop and it did not soon subside. Make no mistake, I had no desire for her to live with her mother and I for the rest of our lives. But the best often comes at the expense of the good and the comfortable. A favorite quote of mine is from C S Lewis’s last novel, “Till We Have Faces”. Spoken by a protagonist who has known much sorrow, she says “ The greatest thing in all my life is the longing to know where the beauty comes from”. That undeniable connection between sadness and joy has always been very real to me. You’re a good man Gene Logsdon.

Crying is like a good, cleansing rainshower.

I would agree that the older I get, the more likely I am to cry at the drop of a hat. My life, as I’m sure everyone elses’, is full of reasons to weep – in joy, in mourning, and in fear. All of my livestock and my dogs are conditioned to the occasional tears and tolerate my hugging them through a crying fit. It’s actually quite cathartic to hang on to a donkey or a Great Pyrenees and bawl your eyes out. The pigs are a little confused by it, but if you keep scratching their belly while crying, they’ll stick around!

Thank you Steve, and all of the others who are undeclared, for your service to our country. I will go ahead and cry now over the sacrifices that you and all of your partners in the history of our country made for all of us.

Buy stock in hankies – the good kind made of nice cotton that doesn’t peel the hide off your beak!

Barns are as sacred as cathedrals. What a wonderful post.

For me it’s not a place — the shoulder or neck of a horse, no matter where located, is my choice for a crying jag. I find I actually have fewer of them than I did when younger. My old saddle mare was the animal of choice for over seventeen years, then her daughter took over the duty for another twenty-nine. Now it’s our stallion, who is also getting long in the tooth. We hope to breed him later this spring after the new mare delivers her colt, so I will have another crying nag…

Reblogged this on Ruminations and commented:
This is such an awesome post (and it’s comments!). I think it speaks to what matters in life… relationships, not things. Let me know what YOU think!

You give this form of communication the respect is well deserves! Awesome post!! Thank you

One of your best, Gene.

What a lovely essay Gene. Thank you so much for Being and writing. I cry when I’m happy and sad and just figured it was due to my being heartfelt in this life. My 93 yr old mother is in a nursing home. I go and sit with her and cry. She is blind so she can’t see me cry. Someone told me that those of us who caretake for long periods of time just have heart tears coming out of our eyes. I was concerned I was in depression. Now I believe it is my heart’s reaction of being open for so long. Your mention of the old weeping willow resonated with me as well. We have one that was not quite so old, but had really grown fast due to soaking up the well water when we flush the tank before putting in another filter. It fell over and we just left it there. The roots are still very much in the ground, yet exposed somewhat. We didn’t know if it would make it thru the winter, but I see it budding out now. Now, it lays on the ground and I can easily climb and work my way up thru the branches…with the cats. I love willows…….

I hold up pretty well, except in the voting booth.

Very touching Gene! I am trying to spend every moment I can with my 2 kids and wife. I didn’t start having kids until age 46 and they are growing up far too quickly. My son is 11 and daughter 8 now. I will cry my eyes out when they leave home but so far no talk of that! They both want to build a home on the farm and I am all for that. Families used to be much closer at one time. Now they are scattered all about the country. I think something has been lost by this situation including having all the older folks living alone now. The best times I can remember growing up were hanging out with my grandparents.

Crying so often is close to wordless awe.

Really good story very touching, I could see the barn and weeping willow tree it took me back to my child hood, and to my secret crying place. Ellen from Georgia

Wow – powerful post. You, Jake & Steven made me cry : )
Now I have to go find some manure to shovel – that’s the place I get all my best crying done…

The fact that I cry stopped bothering me long ago.I’ve no secret place for it,my old truck being the usual place that I let loose with the occasional gully-washer.Very public indeed, except I’m not likely to be seen by anyone I am actually acquainted with,as I live near a major metropolis and spend over two hours per day on the road.

I do seem to let loose with more frequency now that I’m older.Male menopause?I think it’s that I no longer care much about what other people,especially other males, think of me.I know they cry too,and I guess the fact that this tough construction worker,in his 50’s now, just doesn’t care if what he does in private conflicts with his public persona anymore

I had a good cry when my father,who was not easy to love, passed recently,but it was quickly over.And I cried frequently when I was working overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan,trying to support my family – in a tent,in the middle of the night,surrounded by 25 other men.They were probably crying in their bunks,too.I always cry about my family,sometimes in joy,sometimes in longing or sadness.

As my dog and I made our morning tromp through the woods, at the top of a hill we both stood silent for a moment to take in the sunrise. This is the place I find myself thinking about the joy and heartache of life. Gene, thank you for reminding us that we all need these quiet places…and that it’s ok to cry.

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