This morning, as I walked around the house tidying up, I kept gazing out the back windows, the ones that look out over our pasture into our neighbor’s pasture. Sometimes, she has cattle there. Sometimes donkeys. But just now, two horses are calling that space home.
One is a tawny beige color – I’m sure the horse people among us know the proper name – and the other is like an Oreo or a panda or a Holstein – black and white patches that stand out strong in the faded golds and browns of winter in Virginia.
I love these neighbors of ours – both the animal ones and their human owners. I love the cattle that spend time on our land to the west of the farmhouse and Glen, the man who owns them. . . and these horses and their owner Karen. I love our neighborhood chickens and the roosters down the road that we only hear. I love the hound dogs that bay nearby. I love the alpacas we pass, and the big fluffy sheep that look like barrels near Philip’s parents home.
Here’s something else I love – from where our house sits, we can’t see any other houses. I can see the top of the silo at the farm across the way, and this morning for the first time, I saw the lights of the house next door through the bare trees in the woods. From time to time, Karen rides her four-wheeler to check fence lines and her German Shepherd runs beside her. Most mornings, I see Glen carry a spiked bale of hay to his cattle. Sometimes, I see our neighbors in the old schoolhouse doing a bit of work around the place (and I keep hoping those bee hives will mean they have honey for sale soon.)
But mostly, our neighbors are animals, and I love that. Don’t get me wrong – I love the people, too, care for them, want to be sure they are well, am eager to lend a hand. But part of the reason I hold such deep affection for all these people is that I don’t see them often. Call it antisocial if you will, but I know that I am a better friend and neighbor when I spend most of my time alone. It’s my nature, Philip’s, too. We need solitude to live well.
Some of us are called to live close to our neighbors, to walk with them and by them and beside them every day. I love that. But I also love that some of us are called – are built for – solitude, for the creativity that comes in isolation, for the ways of wonder that come when we are alone. No way of being neighborly is better so long as we answer needs when we know them (and we need to try and know them). Each of us gets to live our gifts and making the best way we know. I find that beautiful.
So this morning, as I watched Karen’s horses, I gave thanks for them, for this great blessing of a place Dad found for us to live, and for the neighbors who trust us enough to have only the thinnest of wire fences and a lot of open air between us all.
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