In a Town Just Right

It’s been over a year, but “Where have you moved to?” people still ask. Next door to the country, say I. To a place God had waiting. In a town meant for living and loving it, not commerce.

The bottom of our large backyard sits less than two hundred steps from open prairie. Having lived for decades in the city, the Preacher and I are still discovering the surprises of a next-door-to-country kind of life. Particularly those in our own backyard.

White-tailed deer visited us all winter—enough that the backyard became so trampled it looked like a school playground in winter. Rising in the night, we often noticed their dark shapes shifting in unhurried grace, like dark ghosts among the spruces.

We fed sparrows, chickadees and woodpeckers all winter. Now a bird-chorus greets us when we poke our noses outside in the mornings. We do that often, inhaling with gratitude the fragrance of the almost-country air and the wood smoke of our neighbour’s chimney.

This morning, at the cusp of genuine spring, a magpie landed on top of the clothesline pole and stood surveying the expanse of snow (and deer-dropping-covered lawn) beneath. Stood there like Noah’s dove, a large twig in its beak. Wondering, perhaps. Didn’t someone call spring? Thought I heard “spring.” Why isn’t it spring? What happened to spring? 

I counted almost a hundred trees and bushes in our yard after we moved here. The section where spruce and maple grow thickest the Preacher calls “The Wilds.” We hope to leave it wild-looking for now, though we did some essential taming last year.

The taming meant that for most of last summer, the backside of our quarter-acre sported an assortment of piles: excess raspberry canes, uprooted weeds, spruce needles and cones, and a passel of rhubarb leaves.

 We’ve learned rhubarb math since moving to the almost-country. Two rhubarb plants take away one equals three. Try it, you’ll see.

 To my great delight, a pair of wheelbarrows came with the house. I parked the eldest one, filled it with soil and flowers, and use it for a planter. But the other has become a working barrow. When I get it full, I make the trek to the natural-materials-only dump a block over. Sometimes a grandchild accompanies me. Each time we tip up the green bucket, an immense sense of satisfaction floods me. I don’t know why.

 Sometimes, when the piles are too high, we borrow our son-in-law’s quarter-ton, a black beater with a white canopy. Cream Puff, he calls it. Occasionally a kind neighbour sees our piles and throws them on top of the load of his own in the trailer on his lawn tractor, and takes them away.

 Where do we live now? people want to know. In a place just big enough. In a place just kind enough. In a place just right.

 Where do we live now? We live where God led us—in a house called Hope. One day I’ll explain why.

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Yep, that’s really the town Post Office in the picture at the top of this column. I wrote more about it here.