Monday, May 23, 2011

A Country Girl

I spent most of my life in the country now. I was born in New Jersey, in the suburbs of NYC, but it still was a small town atmosphere and I always had nature and room to move. I am a country girl.  I have at times bemoaned it. I don't like the isolation. I adored living in town during college and being able to walk places (the nearest store is five miles away from where I live now.) And with Ryan and I talking about our future, and India, and his city of two million's making me contemplate what God's given me, being raised here.

I don't really feel like a country girl on a daily basis anymore.  I think probably since our goats died. But I really am.  Nature is an essential part of me. Even in New Jersey, we had the water and a garden, always.  When I visited my aunt in San Diego for two weeks when I was fifteen, she lived in an apartment complex that was all cement and mulch. There were a couple of bushes in the mulch, but there was also a playground, which was much bigger.  There was no green, no nature.. and after two weeks something in me felt like screaming. I'd had a terrific visit overall, but it was a subconscious thing. Then I went to stay with my aunt who lives in San Pedro... and who has a back yard. And I went out in it, and I felt the grass beneath my feet, and closed my eyes... and I was good again. I need nature.

I am not a farm girl, I didn't spend my childhood doing hard labor on a daily basis... But one summer my mom and another neighborhood mom got together and our two families did a massive family garden (probably a 25 by 15 foot plot of land? I'm just estimating from memory) and we worked on it. A lot. A lot of weeding and harvesting on hot summer days. At the time, I thought I hated it. But I look back on the memory fondly now and am glad we did it.  That's the summer I learned one of the most delicious things is eating raw green beans fresh from the vine! Soo much better than the overly stewed green beans most people serve at their dinner table!

And I've hauled wood my dad chopped for the fire place to heat our home (though, we later found out, I'm incredibly allergic to cedar and the fatigue I got doing this wasn't me trying to psychologically get out of chores, but instead me being sick! Oops.) And we've had adventures, like the time an escaped bull showed up in the yard!

We had a tree house in the woods when we were kids. I remember lying on my belly reading in it, and feeling move beneath me as the tree swayed with the wind, like a boat deck on calm waves, and I ached for New Jersey... but that's another post.

The woods. We've got three acres, and an acre and a half of them are woods. We've got a creek back there. It's a great wild woods, with brush and such, much more than our neighbors. I learned in my botany class that that's because apparently it's younger woods than the woods surrounding it, and it's an earlier stage of succession. But it seemed magical, to gaze from the tree house and see that the sea of green beneath me seemed to end at our property line, and beyond that it was brown dead leaves and tree trunks.

I'd fly through the woods, dashing over briars and rocks, down and up hills. We'd catch crayfish and salamanders in the river.

And I'd worship.

God and I got close in those woods. I'd set up a little chapel, and I would worship him. I also had a 'secret place, a little clearing surrounded by brambles on three sides, invisible from the trail or the house. And I brought a old bathmat and put it on the ground there, and I'd lie in my secret spot, just four feet away from the 'chapel' and read. Sometimes books, sometimes the Bible. It didn't matter, I drew close to God through both. I remember once sitting on the bank of the creek, reading (I was always, always reading as a kid, and not much has changed) and I looked up to see a bird in the creek, bathing. It was a gift from God, that beautiful creature.  The woods were a holy place.

Then the next door neighbor tore down the very edge of woods that went on their property, the trees that served as a buffer between our woods and their backyard, and suddenly I'd be worshipping and I'd hear "Hi Pam!" and turn to see a neighbor barbequing with a curious look on their face, wondering what I was doing.

We never really had livestock. We did have pet goats, but we didn't get anything but enjoyment out of them. The closest thing to livestock we had were guinea pigs, which we bred. But we only sold a few to pet stores, and gave some more away. But they were a joy. At one point we had over 30.  Guinea pigs are herd animals, and we'd take them outside and let them graze. Anastasia was the lead female (and the lead female bosses the lead male, who was Garth) and she'd tentatively leave the box we brought them out in... Garth would come too.. and then when they checked it was safe, they'd look at the rest of the herd and they'd all come out. It was so much fun to watch their social interactions. We also had to keep alert for hawks or other prey animals, but we never had trouble. I'm not sure what we'd have done if they tried to carry one of our pets away, except probably launch ourselves at them and punch them. But we were kids then (the last guinea pig died when I was in eighth or ninth grade, I think) and talons are sharp. So it's good it never happened.

And, like I said, we had goats. No, we didn't milk or eat them. They were cashmere goats, so they produced fur, and there were only two of them and we were too lazy to shear and card them. They were our pets. They were great fun. Henry and Blake. We got them when I was in high school, and they were basically just like outdoor dogs. Just outdoor dogs who weighed 250 pounds a piece and had very large horns.  Blake loved to get his nose scratched. They were twin brothers, and has such different personalities. I miss them.

But I have a distinct memory, shortly after I moved back in from college, of going out one morning in bare feet and hearing the morning country noises. Song birds and our neighbor's roosters (which actually sound nice and happy) and the bleating of our goats.  And I remember closing my eyes, feeling the soft rising sunshine, and drinking in the dewy morning smell, of green and flowers and fresh, fresh air.  And thanking God for the countryside, and that I got the privilege of being raised a country girl.

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