This October marks our second year of living on a farm* outside Chapel Hill, which is the longest my husband and I have ever lived anywhere since we left our parents' homes. We had a string of mediocre rentals in Maryland, so we moved around a lot during graduate school. And then there was that whole nonsense with the dog in Durham, but it all worked out in the end because we moved out here as a result.
We've loved living here. I think I do even more so than my husband because I like having this kind of space to roam around outside and I really don't miss living close to restaurants or bars. I kind of grew up this way in a somewhat rural part of Maryland where our house was situated in the midst of horse farms, near a river. I spent a lot of my childhood wandering around the woods and fields, wading through the streams, canoeing, etc. (basically trespassing), and there's just something special about knowing what all the plants and animals are up to year round.
But since living out here, I've found a darker side to the country-life that I didn't know existed before. Because for all the days the farm looks like the above picture, it also can look like this:
Beyond the the gloominess and the isolation (and the spiders), there's also this sense that we're intruding. The animals that live out here are wild and sometimes a little dangerous, and it's their land, not ours.
We have coyotes and they run around in packs in the early evening and at night during the fall/winter. Mostly, we hear their high-pitched yipping a ways off through the forest, but sometimes we hear them circling around the house late at night. Seriously, they come to our house and investigate.
I almost stepped on a copperhead the other day. Like really, almost put my foot right on it. I see snakes all the time out here and most of them are harmless. But there's also a sizable population of copperheads, which are poisonous. If my husband is around, he's strong enough to kill them with a rock. I'm not that strong, so I always have to run back to the house to grab a hoe, but most of the time the snake just slithers off somewhere before I can kill it, and that's almost worse, because now you know there's a poisonous animal lurking somewhere nearby, but you can't see it.
And then just the other day, I took our dog for a walk in the morning, and then again a few hours later after lunch. At some point during those few hours, an animal, probably a coyote or a fox, left behind a long, thick piece of intestine on the path where we walk. It must have killed a small deer, maybe a fawn, or maybe even a dog or cat. Whatever it was, both the animal that was killed and the thing that killed it had to have been fairly large. And we're quietly sharing the same space with it, whatever it was, which can be a little disconcerting.
And then of course there's the more subtle dangers, like the ticks that carry Lyme's disease. My husband is a very outdoorsy person, and never thinks twice about exploring in the woods. But since he got bit by that tick and has been really suffering from the effects of Lyme's disease (and struggling with doctors** who don't want to prescribe any more antibiotics even though his symptoms haven't completely gone away...), he's admitted to feeling much more uneasy about living on the farm than he ever had before. I can understand that when it feels like there's danger lurking beneath every leaf.
Anyway, happy two-year anniversary to us and all the wildlife that's puts up with us while we're here. It's a privilege to live out in the country, but it's not a petting-zoo.
*Technically, it's not a farm, but I don't know how else to describe it so you'd understand. It's a very strange place that's more like a semi-public park, though it has a specialized farming purpose.
**Don't worry, we're going to find a better doctor.
Today is August 31, the last official day of summer (or at least, that's how I see it).
I was taking a walk with my dog the other day, enjoying the heat, the blue-blue skies, and the sound of cicadas in the trees, and I wondered why it was summer made me feel so alive and happy. I know a lot of people hate summer, usually because of the heat, and they'll almost always say fall is their favorite season instead. But I hate fall.
I love summer because it's so hot, I can actually feel the heat pushing into my body, which is cooler by comparison. I like the sun and the insects. A mosquito here and there never hurt anyone. I like watching the snakes sun-bathe, and then slither off into the grass when we get too close. I like sitting by the pool and reading, looking up every now and then to enjoy that aqua color of the water.
But I realized that what I really love about summer is that it's the only time where I'm really myself.
I'm a first-born child, and a girl at that, therefore it was practically mandated I would be a people-pleaser. When you make other people's expectations a priority, it can have a lot of advantages. You tend to get good grades in school. You're valued at work for being organized and dependable. Deadlines are your friend.
But the downside is you tend not to make your own expectations and goals a priority. During the school year, I always felt like I was running around trying to make everyone else happy (playing sports, performing in recitals, endlessly studying to get good grades). I never had enough time to do the things I really wanted to do, which was basically to read, write, draw, and play outside by myself.
Summer was the reprieve from school and all those outer-expectations. It was the only time of year that my family and my teachers left me alone. My brother and I spent most of our summers at our babysitter's house, sitting in her basement, which sounds awful, but really it was heaven. We spent hours of time playing video games, reading, and watching tv. Then we'd be sent off to my grandparents house, where it was even better, because then we could run around outside and swim all day. No one asked us to do anything except our chores.
It was really only then that I was myself, or rather, escaping into various fantasies and stories in which I really felt like myself. I wasn't the "good-student" or the "good girl" during the summer. Everyone finally left me alone, and stopped asking me to do so much crap for them. That was happiness.
Occasionally, my dad would try and butt in with some obnoxious math workbook, but I typically fought back over that. Summer was my time. I didn't need more school (God, the last thing I needed was more school work). It was kind of ironic even, because my dad's descriptions of his own childhood were almost entirely about how he shirked school to work on his own projects, doing things like rebuilding cars, sailing dingies, and playing in rock-and-roll bands. Basically, doing the things he wanted to do. And frankly, it worked. He's a brilliant scientist and engineer, he's the best sailor I know, and he's a wonderful musician. Did he learn how to do all those things from math workbooks? No, he learned how from playing around on his own time. That's all I ever wanted, and I only ever got it during the summer.
But of course, August 31 always rolled around and suddenly it was time to buy school supplies and new shoes again. I still get depressed watching back-to-school commercials for this reason, even if I've been technically out of school for several years now (though I'm still employed by academics, so maybe that's why my internal calendar is still so school-centric).
So goodbye summer. It's been a great one. I started working full-time on my own editing business. I wrote and published my own books on Amazon Kindle Direct. I hung out at the pool with my own friends almost every weekend. It was my summer, and it was amazing.
My goal now, as an adult and a reforming people-pleaser, is to take that summer freedom and apply it to the rest of the year. There's no reason I can't love fall. There aren't anymore teachers or parents to tell me what to do. I'm 30 years old and I finally feel like I belong to myself.
But then again, I'm going to miss that heat. Goodbye summer. Until next year.
My husband loves to fish. I mean, he really, really loves fishing. I don't think I can convey how much he loves fishing.
Actually, I can. We're taking a fishing trip this weekend to the North Carolina Smoky Mountains. My husband was so excited last night (Thursday) that he couldn't sleep, even though we're not even leaving until Saturday morning. He spent the entire night tossing and turning, like a kid before Christmas morning, or in this case, like a kid before Christmas Eve. Eventually he gave up on any hope of sleep and spent the tiny hours of the morning giggling at fishing memes. Such as this one:
Or this one:
And this one:
All of which he was very excited to show me this morning!
But I don't mind. I like fishing too. I grew up fishing off the dock at my grandparents house every summer, and in the creek and river behind my parents' house. All I ever did was bait fishing with blood-worms. Later, when I first met my husband, we'd go catfishing with cheesy hot dogs. Which is only to say, I like to fish, but I'm pretty low on the spectrum of technical fishing.
My husband is just the opposite and right now he's into fly-fishing. We're aiming to catch some trout in the mountains this weekend.
I'm excited because it's so nice to have my old husband back. He can get more excited about fishing and being outside then anyone I've ever known. Isn't it funny the things we love about our partners? It's not the money, it's not the looks, it's their passion and excitement for something. At least, that's how it is for me (though my husband isn't hard on the eyes either).
So wish me luck! I've never really fly-fished before, but my husband made me take a free class last weekend so I think I have an idea of what I'm supposed to do. He also very nicely gave me some flies he tied himself. Isn't he sweet :)
Writer, editor, scientist.