The neighbors’ German Shepherd is barking. I can hear it clearly throughout the house. I have to counsel myself to just accept what is. They do bring him (her?) in after a while; it’s not constant. So I tell myself, and get busy, and pretty soon it stops barking (or I stop being aware of it). More on this later.

Winter in the country means taking walks every evening, stopping to sit quietly on an  overturned 5-gallon bucket and appreciate each detail of the setting sun and the rising moon. Photo courtesy of Anne Cyr

We have a long, thin plot of 5 or so acres, as do all my neighbors on this dead-end rural road. The property at the end of the lane has rolling fields down to the Saco River – prime property, for sure. And yet I would not change spots, even if it meant having a river in my front yard. Over the course of 25-plus years we have created a sanctuary, our own Shangri-La (I recently read “Lost Horizon” by James Hilton, who created that mystical, magical place in all our minds …).

What started as a thickly wooded lot now has a cleared acre in its middle, where house and gardens are situated. Over the course of the past year we have taken down 50 trees to create more light – so anxious is the forest to move back in!

Our passive solar house (and its inhabitants) are grateful for every drop of sunshine we can squeeze out of these short winter days.

It’s the first time in many years that we haven’t left home to seek warmth for at least part of the winter. I’ve taken to going for a sunset walk every evening, following a winding tote road down to a cornfield that borders on the river. I pull out a beat-up 5-gallon bucket I’d found in the underbrush and flip it over, thus creating a front-row seat for the evening show. Often the colors are muted, and I wait patiently in case there’s an encore afterglow. I try to just be as I sit, and softly recite what I’m hearing, seeing, smelling, feeling to settle myself, as much as I can settle this rarely still being of mine …

Eventually my seat becomes too cold to bear, and back up the road I go, admiring the moon, the light that still lingers in the tops of the trees, the indigo blue of the nearly dark sky. All is calm. Tomorrow my simple routines will be repeated, including experiencing angst over the barking dog. But really – it’s the country. People have dogs. And I have the birds, my gardens, my husband, my tote road. What more is there?

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