Living in the country seems exactly the right thing to do right now. A couple of acres on a half-grass, half-wooded lot on some high ground in a town called Greenfield Center, about six miles northwest of Saratoga Springs in upstate New York: We found the ideal house at an ideal price at an ideal time for me to get quiet.
These first few days have been a wonder, even as I get used to the reality that far less traffic on the road in front of the new house than where I lived on Long Island does not mean that the pickups and cars that come barreling by aren't going about 15 miles above the 45 mph speed limit. Country roads, open and inviting, are meant to be traveled at high rates of speed. There's a lot of ground to cover up here, and freedom means going fast. But as fast and loud as the roar of a truck strikes up, it's just as soon gone. And it's back to quiet.
Trees rustling. The high, green branches up in the blue sky: That was the first thing I noticed. You could hear the trees. Leafy chimes, like a constant flutter and dance. I found myself just looking up and wondering whether I had actually ever heard this before. Of course I HAVE heard trees rustling before, but that was the surprise here. It was as if it was new. A first time. And then the realization that this would be a constant part of the sound stream of living here. If nothing else ever happened, I could listen to the trees.
Fast trucks, tree branches in the wind, crows and jays and a few barred owls. The soundtrack started to fill up. ATVs in the woods from where the kids down the road were riding. Shotgun blasts in the early morning. Echoing through the trees. That distinct "pop" and the trail of sound. It's not hunting season, technically, but it's shooting season always.
That was outside, while inside, new sound effects to get used to from a door swelling in the afternoon sun and heat; the fridge humming; the sound of the water through the pipes under the floorboards as the outside hose is turned on. It was all like turning on the speaker of a new life and letting each piece of the orchestra take its warmup.
Then there are the new things to see: An apple tree near the garage with green fruit thick in the boughs, headed toward ripening in a month's time. Another apple tree in the rear of the yard, where the woods start. A stand of blueberry bushes that the birds have yet to lay waste to. Blueberries on the branches, many of them ripe or ripening from green to dark blue. More berries on the ground, fallen and uneaten.
The dog goes wild near the edge of the woods, where a few large ferns have been tamped down and seem to be showing the outline of deer. Their beds? The dog's frantic investigation seems to indicate the animals had been there. So, too, under the porch. She runs in and out of the plant beds, out of sight, hot on the trail of some fresh scent that must be radiating odor.
The hemlock in the tree stand is all but eaten away. Only a few tufts of evergreen leaves to show. A porcupine has eaten through the hemlock, rendering it naked and exposed to the sun and elements. The porcupine -- one day I bet I'll finally make its quill-fringed acquaintance -- but for now it owns the tree, which stripped almost naked doesn't look like it will ever come back to full life.
What other creatures are out here? Wild turkeys from our yard crossed the road before disappearing into the far woods. A few adults and a bunch of young birds, heading out together, who knows why. Frogs in the pool. Frogs in the pool filter basket. Little frogs that made a big mistake jumping into the pool and unable to leverage their way out. Nothing you can do. Every day the pool takes down a half dozen of these small amphibious creatures. They're kind of white-ish, but I can't tell if that's from the drowning or their natural hue.
The driveway and front yard offer up clues, too, about what's come by under cover or night, or when we're not looking. Now we're getting expert at examining scat. Scat! What a great word. You'd think it was fanciful but out here, it is necessary to use. There are many forms of this stuff to look at. Coyote? Fox? It's important to understand in order to protect the dog from becoming a juicy meal for one of these wild creatures.
A coyote got a woman last week on a bike path several miles away. The dog would be a piece of cake. So we're reading the scat. Preparing for whatever. Storing up tomato juice, for that inevitable meeting between dog and skunk at 11 p.m. when, hoping to get one last bit of business done before sleep, the dog will get hit and it's midnight in the sink. The white dog in a red bath. The acidity of the juice hopefully soaking up the acrid stink of that wild v. domestic meeting. This is the place where that all comes together as I step foot and plant feet in the country.
I used to write politics, news and sports for newspapers in cities like Albany NY, Seattle, Baltimore and Harrisburg PA. Now I take a lot of Instagram photos, check Facebook, swim, read about T$$$p and cook dinner for people I really like. New York native, living in Port Washington and Greenfield Center (that's near Saratoga Springs FYI).