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we took to the woods

Another blog. I guess because we’re looking ahead at another life.

First a word about the title: for weeks E and I have been marveling over the showy trees that have flowered suddenly along the highways, replacing the fading fruit trees and redbuds. The trees are inelegantly shaped and have an oddly humanoid-smooth skin but they produce gangbuster grapelike flowers in purply bunches that resemble long bells. The old man who brought us firewood last winter thought I might have been describing Kentucky coffee trees when I asked him; I thought at first (flying past at sixty) the blossom clusters might be wisteria. But no. It turns out they are newcomers and the trees’ name and history reminded me of our own path to Virginia and way out again.

This place — the farm, the Piedmont, the minutiae of spring — is so photogenic that A said, over photos I sent to him in Singapore, “Dreamlike! Was I ever really there?” I am a bit terrified that I too will discover too late the ability to see all of this beauty, once we fly away to join him. Being surrounded by heart-stopping loveliness day after day is no guarantee of continuing to see it. I try to make an effort, hence this blog.

Last night at three I woke alarmed to find a beam of light flashing in through my window, and a very chilling, very nearby howl/bark repeating at intervals just outside. It was an unfamiliar floodlight from the neighbor’s farmhouse across the road, and deeply disturbing at such an hour — some evil hunters, I was sure, and felt instantly a rush of sleeping-ruining adrenaline. Went into the rain to have a look. Was the bizarre call animal (welcome) or human (some horn or whistle designed to lure the innocent to slaughter, like Rick’s deadly collection up the hill)? I wanted so much to see some delicate secretive creature, a rare encounter of whatever kind. Turn on the porch lamp or not? It seemed a choice between sabotaging a hunter’s intentions or gambling on getting my own glimpse the beast in the blackness. I forfeited my own wish and turned on the light; the cry went silent and never returned. Still don’t know what that was about. Restless until morning… though little Ms. Phoebe blinking sleepily in her mudnest under the eaves gives off vibes of comfort as powerful as that little statue of Mary that faithful Kelly kept illuminated in her front window every night back in Chicago.

I think this rural interlude may have worked my desire to live in the farthest removed countryside right out of my system. A house in town, with room of course for a garden, might work just fine (on that happy day when I get to choose). I miss seeing people stroll by in the evenings, looking in windows (discreetly) and judging front lawns, overhearing talk, just seeing others live. Households are so atomized out here; one could probably go a decade seeing one’s neighbor only at the wheel of her car. Also I have not so much a coffee habit as a cafe habit.

However… today I brought in for lunch the first of my first garden’s spring yield: spotted lettuce and very spicy white radishes. Every time I unhook the makeshift garden gate and enter that patch, I feel better. Just better in general. Despite what I’ve read (and I might hold the world record for garden books read by a non-gardener) it is a glacial-paced world in there — no explosions of growth, not even among the weeds. Everything grows extremely slowly. I really do love it. The mud smells so good after rain.