Land in the country, a secluded place, isolated from curious, peering neighbors. An acreage with dozens – hundreds! – of mature trees, a pond or stream delightfully situated somewhere along the fringes. Grand vistas looking out onto rolling hillsides, fields of corn and grain, a huge expanse of black, star-studded sky, where gentle breezes roil the springtime air, where the great snows amble with fierce intensity along wintry plains.

A place of our own where autumn lushness, the beauty of scarlet, gold and ochre take our breaths away in the waning light of an October afternoon-turned-evening, the crisp air tantalized with tender wisps of fire-pit smoke as we snuggle inside colorful quilts tucked tightly around our thighs in the comfortable confines of teal-blue Adirondack chairs. We sip Merlot, our rosy cheeks illumined by the orange-red-blue flames of a roaring fire.

It’s quiet here, serene. We smile on occasion or warmly shrug our shoulders by way of silent acknowledgment of the other, a private ritual of ‘Hello! How are you, my love?” Our shared camaraderie…. You’ll hear an owl in the distant woods, once again amazed that I’m unable to hear its call. Me, I’m resigned though a little forlorn that my diminished sense of hearing prevents me from doing so. But I’ve come to terms knowing that audible pleasures pale in comparison to those afforded by my remaining senses. Sights and scents, touch and textures and hearing what I’m able to, these senses all more than compensate.

I’m at peace, immersed in the glory of our natural surroundings, this home we’ve made for ourselves. An aging Coco at our feet, the three of us digging our solitude. We’re content with this station of life. My son is doing well. He’s happy. With our parents now having all passed into the next realm, we are able to come and go more easily now that their care is, sadly, no longer of concern. I’ve left disjointedness and dismay in my wake. Tired of the scraps some would throw my way, expecting that I might still be satisfied with those meager morsels, at long last I’ve broken free. I’m living MY life. There still remain those who accept and embrace and cherish me for who I am. This, I’ve learned, is more than enough.

COVID-19, though some effects continue to linger, having manifested themselves into a new social and cultural reality, is no longer the health menace it was back in 2020 and those challenging subsequent years of recovery, aided in large part by a new (sane! rational! compassionate! articulate and wise!) administration whose hard-fought / hard-won policies, mandates and actions helped to guide us beyond the brink.

Travel continues to present more obstacles than opportunities. Our forays have been curtailed somewhat by our own fears and self-limitation though we are branching out further and farther into the world more and more, seeking to explore all that awaits us.

In this future world, this idealized life I’m creating here for us, we remain content to shape, nurture and fashion this place we call home. We revel in the magnificence of ‘our little land’. Our interests – his, mine and ours! – sustain us. We continue to read and learn, to write and play music, to exert our bodies (as best we can) with activities to keep us active, to keep us limber and lithe (again, as best we can!) Our love is strong. Our lives, sublime.

Contentment reigns.

When we were first engaged and began to plan and dream of owning our first house together, I became addicted to decorating magazines, books on remodeling and garden design. I drooled over décor shop windows and their stunning displays. Obsessed with making our home a cozy place to live and play, to laugh and love, I pored over photographs and journals and HGTV how-to programs, always taking note of even the most subtle of details.

We’ve lived now in our second home for fourteen years and I was surprised recently to realize, just a few months ago, that I’d let myself go in that arena, that I’d become stale and content and settled in with a more practical, useful, cluttered way of living day to day.

Annie Dillard, author of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, commented once that “how we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives”. Well, somewhere along this Track of Life of ours, I’d apparently made the non-decision that pragmatic and uninspired was a satisfactory, if not illuminating, way to live. I don’t know what jolted me from this lack of reverie but I’m glad to have returned to the joys of making our house once more a home that I love, that we enjoy wiling away entire weekends delighting in the antics of our puppy or quietly reading or thrilling to the many enticing offerings on Netflix, cozy and relaxed with a hot cuppa or munching down on air-popped popcorn, each of us fat and happy with a huge bowl in our laps, Coco alternating begging each of us in turn for a nibble (or two or three or more) of his favorite salted, lightly buttered delight.

The ambience of our home has taken on, over the years, a distinctly textured, layered look. We’ve not ever had a messy, unstructured framework to our rooms (well, okay, maybe except for the master bedroom but we’re getting there!) But, in the past several months, I’ve become inspired again to appreciate and savor the warmth and appeal of a home well loved and well cared for.

I’ve thrilled to the excitement – yes, excitement! – of remembering the vintage-look craft-wood sign a local artisan painted shortly after my dad died in 2007. It was designed by my sister Kelly and proclaims my father’s sawmill business (thus the name of my blog, A Sawyer’s Daughter). It’s been collecting dust and spidery offshoots for years in our basement. We’d just never found a place to hang it. Husband was concerned it was too heavy to hang on the wall without locating studs to support it and there just didn’t seem to be a place to accommodate its shape and size. But! I was recently inspired. Why did it need to hang on the wall? And so, it sits on the floor and leans against a bare space in our sunroom. The background color of the sign even complements the wall color there and I love the look.

Today, I recalled an ancient crate I’d purchased from a friend thirty-five years ago. I paid five dollars for it, enamored with the mushrooms and angels and flowers delicately decoupaged on the old wood slats. Certainly I could repurpose it somehow. Our office, my sanctuary as I call it, already a bohemian space filled with art and memorabilia, photographs and collected ephemera from just years and years, afforded no space for our ever-growing assortment of camera and photographic gear so it all just lay on the floor in its own crowded space between the armoire and our bi-fold closet doors. We rarely open the closet (another space in dire need of ‘guidance’) but to do so necessitates moving some (or all) of the cameras, bags and tri-pods out of the way. Well, no more! My delightful Mishawaka Woolen Mfg. Co. crate more than adequately corrals all of it and looks pretty darn funky in the process. Excellent!

Down the road from where I live is an antique / used furniture place, near my sister Theresa’s house, where I stumbled upon additional ‘a-ha!’ moments. For a grand outlay of roughly $150, I purchased a sofa table, a gold-bronze set of rams-head bookends, a ‘tower’ shelfing unit to store craft items and a small two-shelf bookcase to help store my ever-growing collection of books, of which one can never own too many of, can one?

And then there’s the holidays. Decorating for Christmas is yet another way to snuggle into the arms of one’s home and to feel tingly-happy with color and music and the remembrance of waiting for Santa and cookies and gifts under the tree, caroling and winter whiteness and every good work of those with much to share with the world, putting aside, if only briefly, the madness and chaos that too often threatens to overwhelm us.

Yes, I am (still) so very much in love. With, of course, my husband of going on twenty-four years and our amazing, how-could-we-live-without-him puppy Coco and the life we share together but now once more – again, again! – with our home and the joys of tending to it, nurturing it, embracing it, loving it. Because to do so feeds the flame. It all circles back to us, sustaining and enveloping and cultivating the continued seeds of growth and warmth, safety and comfort, love and jubilation of life. With cold winds and swirling snows pressing upon us in the coming months, what better to way to hunker down against the elements of both the world and the harsh months of the Midwest winter than to feel comfortably ensconced in the Love and Wonder of Home.