Our friends, Greg and Sherry, bought an old barn on a large piece of property in Minnesota a couple of years ago. Since then they have spent a lot of time between here, Jacksonville, and there, making changes, clearing a few trees around the barn, and putting on an addition to the original structure. Out of the old barn has emerged a lovely living space of two bedrooms, a bathroom, an open plan kitchen, dining room and lounge area, plus a nice comfortable screened in porch.
There is still a lot of work to do, but the main thrust is there. The rest is mainly “accessorizing”: putting in permanent flooring, deciding on décor and finishes, and painting the exterior. The barn-house is surrounded by woodland and even though there are two sets of neighbors living close by, the trees almost completely hide the other houses from view.
Five days into our retirement ride we stopped to visit with Greg and Sherry. In fact we spent 4 blissful days with them in their “little piece of paradise” (my label). One element of this new habitat that I really enjoyed is that they have installed floor to ceiling windows in the dining room and on both sides of the spacious lounge. This means that not only does a lot of natural light fill the home but it also seems like sitting in the middle of the woods – but with all mod cons!
While we were there, I spent my early morning quiet time sitting in a chair right up against one of these enormous windows. With my meditation books in hand and a cup of herbal tea close by, I was truly in “God’s space”. Greg and Sherry have placed several bird feeders within a few yards of this particular window and the morning activity was quite frenzied. Nuthatches and Downy Woodpeckers vied with Hairy Woodpeckers and Chickadees as well as some small sparrows and titmice, while the hummingbirds buzzed in and out. I also saw a bluebird one day.
The squirrels up there were enormous, about twice the size of squirrels down here in Florida. Although Greg and Sherry had installed a really interesting squirrel feeder for them, they still came and tried to access the bird feeders once in a while. But they also had a plentiful supply of corn down on the ground because our friends also took care of the numerous deer that would come almost up to the house in search of food.
Every evening at about 9pm we would spot movement out among the trees. We would turn off the lights inside the house, and soon we would see the deer emerging cautiously from the trees and coming toward a large block of salt that Greg and Sherry had attached to a tree, and also toward a long wooden palette that lay close by on the ground piled high with corn. They are such graceful creatures and are a delight to watch. One evening we were treated to the spectacle of a mother deer with her two young ones.
During the four days that we stayed, I also got to see an animal that I had never seen before – at least, not in real life. I’m sure you’ve all heard them “singing” and maybe even seen them in an animated movie. Yes, I’m talking about the chipmunk. I was so amazed at how small they were! I had always imagined chipmunks to be the size of a squirrel, but instead they are these tiny little animals probably about the size of a hamster. They were very entertaining scampering here and there in the undergrowth. Richard managed to get some really good pictures one day as a chipmunk decided to sit on a small fallen log not far from the window and complete his/her morning ablutions.
Although they did not come into the yard, we also saw many Canadian geese and wild turkeys not too far from the house as we made various trips in the surrounding area. There were two very large fields on opposite sides of a nearby road that had been mowed recently, and the geese were there in large numbers mainly in the morning, probably more than a hundred at a time, feeding on whatever geese feed on. The turkeys were usually in a lower section of the field apart from the geese.
It was such a joy to be surrounded by so much of nature’s wonders that God created for our pleasure. I am so grateful that Sherry and Greg gave us such great hospitality in their tranquil haven, and I hope it won’t be too long before we can go back and enjoy it some more. We have to go back anyway, so that we can see the finished product that is their summer retreat!
Well, I’m sitting here looking at my lap-top and wondering just what am I going to write about. Maybe that’s the wrong comment. I’m pretty sure I know what I’m going to write about – my absence from writing since 20 October. I’m just not sure how I’m going to go about it or exactly what will appear on the page.
I can at least share what I have been doing in the last ten days: reading. I have devoured at least twelve books in that period. Every spare moment has been spent reading. Every meal and every bathroom visit has been accompanied by the book du jour. I have done essential housework and kept appointments, and I have read. My husband has been away for the last week so I have been able to indulge my little addiction with no guilt whatsoever. I have avoided going out unless I had to, and I have avoided any other activities inside or outside the home that I might normally engage in.
With one exception: gardening. Somehow or other the garden manages to break through all barriers within me. And now is the great time of weeding and clearing, pruning certain plants and attempting to dig out the root systems of those pesky crab grasses and vines that seem to take over every nook and cranny during the summer months. Pansies have finally appeared in the garden centers and I have brought many flats home to brighten up the winter flower beds.
Perhaps the reading marathon is akin to squirrels collecting and hoarding their nuts for winter provisions. Right now is nature’s time to pull back and curl up and hibernate a little. And so I move into autumnal mode, make my hot herbal teas, and curl up with adventures created by other authors. I was thinking a little earlier on today that maybe I am tired of my own words and need to fill my head and my heart with the words of other writers.
There was a moment somewhere in these last ten days when I wondered if I was in one of my “funks” (read de-pression). But I have not felt that awful slide downwards, nor have my days been gray. Tears have not plagued me and so I decided not to fight it and just accepted that I needed to read rather than write. I have not felt frustrated at not writing, and I was still surrounded by words!
I have discovered Rosamunde Pilcher who writes about families and their incredibly rich relationships. She has a way of unfolding their stories on the written page that invites the reader into their lives in such an intimate fashion. Her characters are so real that I feel as though I could invite them into my own life and they would fit. And along with Rosamunde I have been reading Belva Plain whose style I find to be simply elegant and elegantly simple.
Then, too, I came across Robert B. Parker. I love a good detective or suspense story and he manages to combine those two aspects in the best possible way. His dialogues are composed of short phrases, sometimes pure monosyllables or just one or two word sentences. But they are so succinct, so totally perfect, and his humor is dry yet delectable as a nutty, crisp cracker (must appeal to the Brit in me!). The plots move along at a fast pace and keep the reader involved from start to finish. His series of books with PI Spenser as the central character is terrific and well worth the read.
And here I am writing again. There was one other thought process that I have entertained about my not writing. It reminded me a little of what happens when I make up my mind to get back into exercising or to make a specific change in my diet. Either something comes up (a sickness or an arthritic flare up) that keeps me from doing the exercise, or I get a “chocolate attack” and there goes the healthy eating. So either “he-who-shall-not-be-named” is getting at me, or I fall into a big hole of self-sabotage.
But I have managed to reach a point in my life where I can accept most situations as they unfold. “What is, is” says my dear friend Tish. And so I read obsessively for a couple of weeks – no big deal. It has brought me great joy. It is wonderful to love myself enough that I do not need to beat myself up. Bottom line is I was enriching my vocabulary and feeding my heart and soul.