where there's no place like home

A new year, with a few somewhat warm and rainy days in Mid-Michigan. Obsidian Kitten is just back from a trip to NYC to see family and friends, but with each return back east I realize my roots here, in rural Michigan, are growing deeper and deeper.

The New York I knew and loved -- the City of the 1980s and 90s -- is long gone and my strolls through the once familiar streets are plagued with reminiscence and a sappy nostalgia: an old grimy haunt revamped into a sleek upscale bar and restaurant, a great thrift shop turned Pottery Barn, an artists' coop gallery turned into a cosmetics boutique, that kind of thing. I experience a pervasive sense of loss for things that will never be the way I remember them--perhaps never were the way I recall.

A friend reminds me that big cities change rapidly.

The country--rural areas like the one in which I live now--change more slowly. I don't miss the city-sound of sirens, cars honking, the constant diving and buzzing of helicopters, of planes flying in and out of three major airports, the non-stop rumble of 24-hour city traffic and people and trucks and cabs and commuters crushing in and out of the city one on top of the other. NY is truly a city that never sleeps.

Here in the country, some things sleep at night (our llamas and chickens, the geese and many other birds), while many others sleep during the day and leave their prints in the snow as evidence of their busy, yet virtually silent, nocturnal activities (the rabbits, the coyotes, the mice and owls and racoons and possum and deer, perhaps a stray cat or two). They root avidly through our compost pile and leave tracks in the barn. The only ones I ever hear are the coyotes, howling late in the evening, so plaintively as to raise the hair on your neck, and sometimes an owl. But it is quiet here, especially in the winter, blanketed as we are under a white down comforter of fluffy snow.

The chickens--the ten pullets that arrived in a little box in the mail last May--are now grown and laying 8 to 10 large brown eggs daily, depending on the temperature and their mood. We kept one rooster to provide them with some company, but featherless patches on some of their backs lend evidence of his own sexual proclivities, as he digs his spurs into them when he mounts them for his brief, utilitarian, and most unromantic of mating rituals. I notice that he too is missing some back and tail feathers now. Some of the girls must be fighting back in kind.

The snow has begun again and I expect we will see little else until March or April. The hens and the llamas will have to make do with processed commercial feed and hay until spring slowly coaxes things green from the ground again, after the season of mud and mush and thaw. But that is the way of things here, where the earth is not buried under concrete and asphalt.

Some days I do miss the city. I miss ordering Chinese food a 2 am or running to the corner store for milk in my pajamas, and I long to ride the subway instead of digging the truck out of the snow. But there are so many stars in the sky here, and the cries of the geese, and fresh eggs every morning. Flowers for the table are picked, not bought. I am learning to spin fleece from our llamas into yarn, and to knit; I've felted slippers and mittens after shearing time. Simple, quiet things. In light of these things, the loss of big city conveniences is a small price to pay.

Time moves so differently in this, my rural home. It ebbs and flows with the sun and the seasons, not with subways and cars and crowds. It moves with the migration of the bats from our barn, with the whooping cranes and the geese and the barn swallows. There is a timelessness in the maturation of the chicks into hens and the daily gathering of eggs, the growing and shearing of fleece, the planting and tending and harvesting of vegetables from the garden and fruit from the apple and pear trees, of canning and freezing and dehydrating and butchering for the winter ahead, and in the very slow coming of the green of spring.

Now that winter solstice has passed, the days have already begun to lengthen. Here, in the country, where we must go out daily and tend to the animals, we notice these minute lengthenings of time, the phases of the moon, the tiny shifts in temperature and humidity, the varying amount of moisture in the air and on the ground. Time is both much larger, and much, much smaller. More circular, and more eternal. And here, in this eternity and circularity, there is solitude, and, in the solitude, true serenity.