Saturday, January 25, 2014

What's It Like, Living in the Country?

A friend asked me today what it's like to live in the country.

I gave him a completely inadequate and rambling and rather superficial and stupid answer.

Yes, I did.

But on the way home after our visit, driving into the Northern Sonoma County Wine Country I call home, I contemplated that question, and thought about all that country living means to me, and what I should have answered.  If I'd had half a brain at the time.  I blame heatstroke from my not having been able to sit in the sunshine for the last few months.  Or I can blame the giddy happiness of being able to catch up with my friend again after such a long time.  But look what I'm doing - I'm rambling again!

As I thought about it while driving past antique stores and vineyards and the fragrant pungent dairy next door, I recognized that country living is simply life.  Being a part of this lifestyle is all the pain and glory of what real life is all about, something most of us are insulated from when living in modern society.  Here's what I have concluded so far...

Country living is pitch black and truly quiet nights, sometimes punctuated by the midnight call of the rooster. (If you haven't lived with one, you don't know that roosters crow 24/7, not just at dawn!)

Country living is dust and mud and giving up on keeping your car clean.  When I recently purchased a new(er) vehicle, I washed it once a week until I got tired of the frustration of seeing dust all over it as soon as I arrived home, within a half hour of the wash.  Now it gets washed for special occasions or when I'm fed up with it or the dust gets too thick for my carpool teenagers to navigate through so they can get their backpacks in and out of the back.

If you really listen, country living is not quiet.  As I write this today, I hear songbirds calling to each other and pigeons cooing, and tonight I'll hear owls and coyotes and perhaps a fox or bobcat.  However, there are no regular sirens, motorcycle engines, or neighbors rowing next door (or overhead), blasting music (except mine) or freeway rumble.

It's sweat and backache from digging, weeding, planting, and then harvesting the garden.  It's kicking back on the deck at night with a cold beer and food grown and prepared at home.  It's the sweet smell of flowering trees and plants and the taste of blackberries in late summer. It's reading a good book in the sunshine on the back deck, watching the sun rise, knitting in front of the heater in the winter.

It's hot, sweltering days and pouring rain with wind so fierce I think the house will fly away or fall around me, hoping if a tree falls, it doesn't fall on me or in my way.

It's a glorious, star-filled night sky, and a full moon so bright I feel like I'm under floodlights at a Friday night high school football game.

It's goats run amok, head butting each other or daring to try to head butt me, cloven hooves stomping on my toes, having the guys at the feed store wrap hay in plastic to fit it into my SUV without destroying the carpeting, filling water buckets, and chasing goats when they run off, usually in the pitch black of night.

It's good neighbors, and trespassers who just want to hike up my driveway - I politely turn the latter around.

It's also the warmth of a full udder above my hands and soft fur belly to rest my head on in the wee hours of milking.  A gentle creature who thoughtfully chews grain as she listens to me intently while I ponder or sing or brainstorm or vent or cry.

It's a fiercely protective rooster that I have to patiently encourage to vacate the coop so I can safely gather the still-warm, smooth, and beautifully colored eggs.

It's falling and getting back up and dusting myself off.  It's not enough time to mend the fences, do the laundry, clear the tall weeds that spring up overnight, or clean the barn when I want/need to. It's flies and wasps, and butterflies, and a purring barn cat winding around my ankles.

It's burying animals even when the ground is rock hard, so they have a place to rest in peace.

It's the joy of spring goat kids bounding about and climbing on my back as I lie in the grass.

Country living is real life - it's the "mud and the blood and the beer," it's quiet and chaos, it's new life and letting go, and fresh air and dairy fertilizer.  It's 6 miles to the nearest grocery store and 20 to work, and I wouldn't trade it for anything.  Some people travel far away to vacation in places like this; I get to vacation here at home every day.

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