10 July, 2008

where meadows become pastures

Well, that's the least of the transformations in our lives from 48 hours ago until now. Yes, when we left our lovely little Connecticut hideaway in December, the back meadow was... a meadow. In fact, it was a bitter winter wasteland representing what we knew from experience would morph into a spring phenomenon of tangled overwhelming green, and by the height of summer would be an overgrown jungle inhabited only by deer, coyotes and... ticks. I personally have never actually been very far into that particular bit of the acreage that comprises our homestead.


Since then, our lovely neighbors up the road, Mark who so kindly helped us paint our fence last summer and his sweet wife and little daughter, have transformed the whole lot into a pasture for their horses! It's an unrecognizably civilized space back there, bounded by some sort of electrical fencing so that the eventual ponies will not be allowed to eat until they burst.

As I say, however, that's the least of the ways in which we feel we've fallen down a rabbit hole from the urban sprawl, endless competition, crammed social calendar, long list of impenetrable responsibilities (and great grocery shopping), plus COLD RAIN that is our life in London, left behind just two days ago. Here, instead, we are living in a welter of green growing things, a house full of summer memories and spider webs, produce stands full of sweet corn and basil, overpowering heat and humidity, and the relentless cheeriness of American life! It's just hard to believe that one can have both lives in one.

The weather greeted us as an open hand in our faces: my hair has exploded in a welter of embarrassing curls, all over my head. We take showers and then immediately start pulling up weeds, sticks from the lawn, yanking the trampoline out of the big barn (covered in bat poo, yuck), and are thus instantly covered in sweat again. Needless to say... we are in heaven.

A sort of truncated heaven, in which there are (for the first two days, anyway) no telephone, internet or car. We arrived from the airport late-ish on Monday to find the driveway (I use the term loosely, referring to the space covered by grass and weeds that SHOULD be the driveway) occupied by dear farmer Rollie's pickup truck, his two helpers and some random university boy trying to conduct a survey into the educational system of Southbury. Why all these people? Dead battery in the station wagon, predictably, and it took all of two days to get it sorted, thank you Rollie. In the meantime, we went into the house to find a refrigerator full of food from our dear neighbors Anne and David (and their darling new baby Katie)... a roast chicken, ears of splendid sweetcorn, a loaf of bread, eggs, you name it. Could we have better neighbors? Rhetorical question.

So Avery and I doggedly stayed up until the wee hours to avoid jet lag, and were up with the chickens the next day to survey our domain. What accounts for the serenity here? Certainly there's no shortage of work to be done: downspouts hideous, weeds everywhere, windowsills crumbling, driveway in desperate need of 7 yards (would you believe that's how it's measured? Rollie says, and Rollie knows) of gravel. But there is something of an eternal welcome in Rollie's wife Judy's visit, a quick, shy New England hug, her basket of red geraniums to greet us on our staggering steps encumbered by luggage, up to the house. And a look both ways to cross the road to Anne and David (Avery asking all morning yesterday "Is this too early to visit people with a new baby?"), rejoicing over the sleeping miraculous creature in her bassinet, presenting them with the "ceremonial first bowl of pesto of the year..."

And my brand of gardening, which I explained to my mother in law, is of the "reductive" rather than the "additive" school: picture Michelangelo versus Degas. I sculpt in REMOVING, rather than PLANTING. I can conjure up no interest in putting things into the ground, but I don't mind a little time spent pulling up weeds and gathering up sticks from the lawn to throw over the ever-useful back fence to clear up the place. So Avery and slaved this afternoon to make the lawn presentable, and periodically hoped Rollie would come back to fix the dead car battery so we could go visit Jill, Joel and Jane tomorrow. And yes! As I spatchcocked and marinated my Cornish game hens, I found time to help Rollie remove the old battery and put in the new, totally flashing back to my childhood spent helping my dad do things to cars (how I have retained none of this knowledge, I cannot explain). To hear the starter turn over! Bliss. To drop one of the beautifully chargrilled game hens into the newly-raked and de-sticked lawn? Priceless. Avery and I persevered in eating dinner, but I wouldn't recommend even the cleanest Connecticut crunchy dirt as a condiment for your next barbecue.

Sigh. We miss John. We miss the cats. But something came and took away the half apple Avery left under the bird feeder, so our hopes are high that our usual groundhog Gary will reappear once he knows there is food to be had. We've had a clue that we're not alone: after my first load of lawn sticks went over the back fence, there was the unmistakable aroma of... skunk. As long as it's not ON ME, I don't object at all to skunk. I hope he didn't feel we were rejecting him. A little half canteloupe set temptingly in the usual backyard snack area should do the trick.

So the long and short of it is: we're back in the summertime mode. No schedule, no expectations, no makeup, no ironing. On the plus side: endless corn on the cob, fresh crabmeat, live lobsters on Thursdays, tennis lessons to begin on Friday, family to appreciate, blue blue skies the order of the day. Wish you were here.


Shelley said...

Aha!! Welcome Home My Friend!! How lovely that you're at Red Gate and bringing your summer home to life.

Weeds!! I have plenty...it seems to be the only thing that the deer won't eat. They've chomped the tops off of almost everything this year. As I wrote and told you though...it's a race between them and the moles to see who will devour the most!! Summer is glorious though, isn't it. :)

So nice to know that we're almost neighbors again.


Bonnie said...

Welcome back Kristen... I love hearing you talk about Red Gate Farm as it brings back memories of the day we visited Stillmeadow and Red Gate. It's a beautiful area, it's also nice to know that Anne and David finally have their new baby, we were told they were expecting in our last issue of Friends of Gladys Taber newsletter. Glad you're "home". Bonnie

Kristen In London said...

Thanks, Shelley and Bonnie! It is lovely to be back. We haven't completely relaxed, as we just got our car fixed up and I still have to go get my license switched to CT from NY, and then re-register the car in CT! Today was emissions testing day (we passed!). I also cannot remember the PIN on my cash card for American money, and so I can neither use a cash machine nor get "cash back"! Good thing cash is becoming obsolete! But it's excellent to be back... thanks for the welcome!

S. said...

Your neighbors sure sound lovely, and the summer up North sounds and looks gorgeous as well (down here in the sprawling lands of Texas it's just HOT).

Kristen In London said...

I am unbelievably lucky in my neighbors on BOTH sides of the pond! Tomorrow night is the kickoff to the traditional summer dinners at the picnic table: neighbors and family both. Stay cool in TX!