Sunday morning dawns peaceful and cool. Aside from mowing another patch of green later, no tasks are pressing. I can move at a calm pace, at last. The last weeks since moving to Z Acres have been hectic, adjusting to being a caretaker of ten acres, a landlord of my previous home, and learning the ins and outs of a new job.
At last, I can feel a rhythm settling in. Sunday morning brings serenity. The old chow pup, Guinnez, stirs at the foot of the bed as I stir. He rises and comes around to the side of the bed for a nuzzle, making me smile. He knows our new routine, and he likes it just fine.
We move slowly. Slow and easy. So I putter downstairs to the kitchen and put on a pot of coffee. I feed the dog and the cat, I feed myself -- eggs scrambled with mushrooms, green onions, peppers with a fold of thin Nan bread, warmed for a moment in the pan.
Coffee mug in hand and steaming, Guinnez and I go out for our daily wander. I never did this when I lived in suburbia. There, our routine was a morning and evening walk around the neighborhood, winding between blocks lined by houses. Here, our routine is much different, and whereas the other left me with blood pumping and adrenalized, here I feel soothed, refreshed by the beauty around me, and calmed.
We wander a different way most every day. Every time we walk these ten acres, we find something new. And there's a comfort in seeing other things again and again as we learn the land.
As seasons turn from spring into late spring toward summer, I see different flowers come and go. Some I know, some I don't. I've been eager to learn the ones I don't know, and gradually the names collect ... wild yellow primroses, anemones, columbine, money plant, painted trillium, bleeding heart, peonies, lily of the valley.
Little by little, Z Acres is threading into me, and I am blending into this land. Warming my hands around my coffee mug, I head toward the pond in front of the little red farmhouse, and Guinnez and I circle it. I grin at the dog's antics, dipping a paw into the water, frightening rows of frogs, peepers, to leap one by one, or line by line, into the water.
I watch koi fish swim around the pond, some surfacing to nab an unseen bug. I see one floater, a fish passed on to some other fish heaven, and I move him out of the water with a long stick and into the grass. He is beautiful. Like a goldfish, only six inches long. I admire him for a while in the grass, his rich color and flash of silver glinting off his scales in the morning light, then flip him across the grassy path into the stream that bubbles out of the pond to the other side.
We stroll on. I watch Guinnez wander in and among the trees, come out again, stand among the wildflowers and gaze at the horizon. His eyes close for a moment. He looks like he is saying a silent prayer: "Thank you for this wanderland ..."
It brings my heart joy to watch him wander like this. All his life, he's been on a leash. Suburbia made him barky and anxious, skittery. Here, he almost never makes a sound. If he barks, I know he has reason. He has spotted a deer, wild turkey, or a racoon peeking out of the bush. Or, rarely, someone is coming down my long drive, a propane delivery man, perhaps, or the occasional dinner guest he soon welcomes.
At about a dozen years of age, I see the old chow pup come into his own. Every living thing should know freedom, and now he has his. Yet he always keeps an eye on my movements, and when I call, he comes. We walk together, old friends.
It's a long walk here to my mailbox, and we both enjoy it. From the pond, we wind up through woods, passing an old swing hanging from a tree -- and I give it a go for a while as the dog watches me in what appears to be amusement, his lip curling at the corner. We walk down the long drive, trees forming a canopy over us, and at last emerge into the sun at the very end, on the dirt road, and where the local paper hangs in a bag from the mailbox flag.
The Penasee Globe: a small and slim paper of a few pages covering a long list of tiny towns and villages in southwest Michigan. In this day and age when so few newspapers survive, the reading public turning to the Internet for its news, I enjoy this little local rag with its homey stories.
Guinnez and I take another path, uphill this time, up through the woods and toward the cottage on the hill. A week goes by sometimes that I don't visit the cottage. On Sundays, I can wander up the hill and ponder its still silent spirit. How will I use it? It's an enchanting space, hand-hewn by some previous owner, and quite obviously with love. And with a sense of humor. It makes me think of a place I'd see in a Dr. Seuss children's book, with its array of unmatched windows, not one of them aligned with another, and the second floor jutting out like a ship helm, and one door up front, one door out back, and that last one stepping out into mid-sky. Yet it's solid and strong, every board neatly finished, and when I go inside, it feels warm and cozy. A broom by the door gets me sweeping the wooden floor, and then I sit in one of the three chairs left behind with newspaper in hand. Guinnez walks a circle around the cottage room, then steps outside again to lie in the grass and watch and wait.
I read the paper, occasionally looking up and around. What should this cottage be? Shall I make it into a little guest house, suitable for summer guests? It is wired with electricity, lights upstairs and down. Bring a bed up here and place it by the window, add some curtains, a counter for books and bowls ... the upstairs already has a desk for writing and two more chairs, an empty bookshelf waiting. A writer's cottage ...
Paper read and tucked back under my arm, coffee mug by now empty, Guinnez and I take another path down the hill toward the barn. The patch of grass on the south side of the barn hasn't been mowed ... with my push mower, I have covered an acre and a half, but left this for when the two flat tires on the riding mower are plump again. The long grass is wet with morning dew and slaps against my shins. Dandelions gone to puff scatter seed as I walk through. The big old apple tree spurts a bird our passage has frightened into leaving its nest. There are many bird nests around here, in most every other tree, and I have come to recognize the two hawks that live in the highest tree tops on my southern boundary line, and the crane that occasionally flies across the field.
They say country is quiet. It is. I don't miss the constant sirens I used to hear in my previous house back in town. They were relentless, and although a mile or more away, at night I could hear the hum of the Interstate. I could hear the neighbors come and go, pulling in and out of their driveways. I could hear lawnmowers and neighborhood parties and those times the couple in the house out back had a spat.
Yet it isn't quiet here either. It's a different kind of music, a different pace, a different rhythm. The chorus changes with time of day, but there is a choir of birds. I can't name them all yet either, no more than all these wildflowers, but I listen to them and have come to expect their song. The catbird that lives in the bush on my north side had me so convinced one evening that it was indeed a lost cat, that I went looking for kitty, kitty, here kitty. Until kitty flapped its wings and flew away.
I hear the raucous call of the wild turkey. I hear the finches, the robins and redwing blackbirds, the jays, and a thousand other birds I can't name. I listen to them, I listen for them, and they serenade me from one day into the next. At night, the peepers by the pond astound me with their perfect rhythm, starting up as one, stopping in unison, starting up again with one voice.
It's never quiet here, but it is almost always peaceful. I've never known such peace. By the time Guinnez and I finish our rounds, back at the little red farmhouse, we've had a good long walk, an hour or more, and we sit down side by side on the edge of the back deck to look out over it all, reluctant still to go in.
I wonder sometimes what my life might have been like had I always lived this way. But perhaps I needed to live other ways, in other surroundings, to truly appreciate these surroundings. I can't imagine living in more beauty, and even now, more than a month here, each and every time I look around, I am amazed, awed by the blessings I have received. All my roads taken, all my paths traveled, have all come together and led me here. Home. To stay.
Guinnez rests his soft whitening muzzle on my knee. I sense the same gratitude in him. We both feel it: prayer answered, blessing bestowed, harvest gathered for all the work of so many years. On a Sunday morning, each in our own way, we say thanks.