Glimpse Inside a Country Life
Eight years after we built a cabin on a dead end street in the middle of nowhere on a gorgeous piece of land, I’ve watched how people in rural Kentucky live. I generally like suburban life, and even made my home in a major city for a time; and country life is different. I learned not to wear my Syracuse tee shirt while stopping by the local store that holds four shelves of necessities such as chocolate and Ale Eight. I’m a learner but not necessarily a quick one. This list of lessons applies to anyone’s life. Anywhere. Anytime.
Be proud of the work you’re doing; do it well. Almost to perfection. Most people on my street and in the area can be found tidying up their yards on a weeknight or a Saturday, and some of these yards are more than three acres. When we drive down to spend time at our country farm or cabin we see so many carefully manicured yards, along with impeccable gardens with nary a weed to be seen. The grass is not full of chemicals to keep the clover or dandelions at bay, but the yards are clean, cut and ready. For what?
Sundays are for sitting on the porch. Yes, it’s a real thing in the country. Our neighbors rest after working to make their yards and gardens presentable. Driving around on a Sunday is fun, because I see so many people sitting on their porch. It’s a day to visit family, to go to church (for some), and to hang out. Sitting on a porch doing nothing might sound boring, but it’s actually an art form. I had to learn to look at the sky again, since I gave that up after childhood. Wildlife is abundant and will appear if I’m still and patient. Gangly fawns, tiny bunnies, box turtles, and even baby turkeys show up when life slows down.
I realize city life doesn’t usually lend itself to porch sitting, but parks offer a respite from the rush. Watching a fountain is soothing, and even in my city we have deer wandering around. I know cats are common, and sitting out most anywhere gives us a chance to recharge for the week to come. Walking is nice, but this isn’t about getting one’s steps in. This is about having no agenda and letting an hour slip by while not actively doing anything. Rest. Watch. Repeat.
Always wave at an oncoming truck or car once you’re on a small road. This rule is absolute, and one I learned immediately. The back roads near our country home are not wide enough for two cars, so both drivers need to pull off the road a bit to accommodate the other. Waving is friendly and an acknowledgment of the other person. At first I found it tedious and annoying, but I don’t see truck after truck on these roads; so it’s nice to notice a friendly wave. Many times it is a neighbor. What if we smiled and waved more often? Our world becomes just a little smaller and a lot nicer.
If a neighbor is in the car/truck/off road vehicle, then stopping to say hello is expected. I know! I hail from the Northeast of this country, and walking past people as quickly as possible is as polite as it gets most days. In the country, however, we can go weeks not seeing our neighbor, so it’s good to see what they’ve been doing. It’s how we connect when many are too busy to come over for dinner and a night of cards or games. I find out how everyone on our street is doing.
I discovered my neighbor’s granddaughter overdosed on drugs this way, and I decided to pull off the road and get out to give her a hug. Good news and bad is passed around this way, and I like this method of communication more than Facebook or Instagram. Yes, sometimes it makes me late for my own chores or plans; but if the news is important then others understand. If I’m in a rush, I just tell my neighbors I have to be going and that I’ll catch up with them next time. Which is a promise. News about death, illness, weddings or births means I’ll be talking for a while, but the connection with my neighbors is worth it.
It’s not okay to walk on some else’s land. Boundaries exist and are meant to be respected at all times. I suppose some people might think it rude that they’re limited to their own property, but people generally have reasons why they don’t want others traipsing across their land. Some hunt on their land, so they don’t want the woods and fields spoiled; and it could be dangerous. Some have horses wandering freely, and they’re not always friendly; so it’s about safety. Some just want privacy. Would I enjoy my neighbor walking around my backyard in the suburbs? No. The same applies to people who own hundreds of acres. Boundaries are meant to be respected.
Now that we’ve lived in the country part of the week for about a decade, we’ve come to understand how life ebbs and flows. We’ve been invited to go on multiple horse-driven wagon rides to help train our friends’ horses. We’ve had drinks and made friendships with our neighbors, and it’s usually more than a cupful of sugar that’s needed when they call for help. The people on our street are an independent bunch, so when a call for help arrives it’s time to offer our time.
Our street is composed of horse farmers, a man raising cattle who drives a school bus for more income, a fifteen time Emmy award winner, a couple planning on running a bed and breakfast, an artist, an IT guy (who has to deal with the slower internet speeds on our dead end road), and an elderly couple who likes it when we walk to the very end of the road just so they can look outside and see people. We have a variety of people dwelling on just this one road, and yet it’s what unites us. We’ve all chosen to make the winding, rolling hills on this smallish road our home, and we’re all in the adventure together.
Work hard, mow your lawn, wave when driving, stop to chat, wait to be asked to visit a neighbor’s pond or field, share in their good and bad news, help out when asked, and make a connection with the people in the neighborhood. These rules I learned in the country work in my suburban life, and I think I would have enjoyed my time in the city more by using what I’ve learned only recently.
We might be very different, but we’re all humans. That is what unites us.