Two lessons shared
By Christine Tailer
I so love the creek valley, yet for some reason, I find it difficult, if not impossible, to find the words with which to share my feelings.
A wonderful old fisherman, whom we inherited along with the deed, stood beside me one day as he took off his waders. It was early summertime.
“Just look up at the hillsides,” he smiled as he stepped out of his suspenders and paused to catch his breath. “There is so much energy in these hills.”
We stood beside each other, listening to the sound of creek water barely flowing behind us, the rustle of the leaves that blew overhead in the breeze and the call of the valley’s birds. The sun was just starting to slip behind the far hill, and the evening was washed in that magical, deep golden end-of-day color. He was so very right. I think back to that moment often, so thankful that he shared his feelings with me.
Very truly, this valley has become so much more than our home. It is our world. I used to count my neighbors as the people who lived in the houses up and down the city block where we raised our children, but now I have come to think of the valley’s wild creatures as our neighbors. I could almost set my watch by the time that Mr. Smith stepped out onto his front porch, or Mrs. Sterne zoomed up the driveway in her silver Corvette. It is really no different now that I’ve gotten to know the daily routines of the tortoise and turtles, the rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks and opossum. Ground-floor-door toad greets me at the end of every summer day when I step outside for evening rounds, and the family of deer who pass through the orchard each evening, who briefly pause, lazily look up, and then get right back to filling their bellies as I head out to visit the goat yard while dinner cooks.
Every morning I greet the pair of cardinals from the back kitchen window as I pour our coffee, and then there are the wren and sparrow who stop by mid-day to visit the parrots on the front porch. The wild birds happily eat up the seeds the parrots drop. I actually think that this is some sort of a bird plot, in which the parrots purposely throw the seed to the porch floor so their wild friends will stop by and visit.
Then, of course, the valley is filled with not only the wild creatures, but the animals for whom we care. The goats bleat each morning, letting us know that it is time to rise from the breakfast table and start chores. As soon as we enter their yard, they nuzzle our pockets for treats and hugs. The rabbits jump forward in their hutch, and beg to have their foreheads scratched.
The little horses call from the pasture and dance to the gate as I walk down the hill, and yes, the cattle low. They do not sedately saunter over to their morning feed. They rather trot and pivot with bovine joy. The sheep, however, remain rather sheep-like. They seem to randomly baa, or perhaps they are always begging for attention. When we approach, however, they nervously wag their tails and stomp their forefeet, though I have noticed that recently they have started to come right up as I fill their trough with feed. They’ve even started nibbling on the hay while I am still carrying it over to their feeder.
Then there are the chickens. Their feathers are many colored, black, cream, white and golden, and they lay a rainbow of colored eggs, and I’ve come to know that their personalities are as varied as their feathers. The tawny hen has always been a sweetie. I could hold her and stroke her back forever. The old white hen, on the other hand, has always been bossy and skittish, but now in her older days, she seems to have settled down a bit, and allows me brief cuddles, even chortling in reply to my touch. The black hen loves to talk. The red hen laughs, and the grey hen is just plain jolly. She arches her back as I pet her, and whenever she lays an egg, she runs all around the yard, flapping her wings with the joy of creation.
A friend, a human friend, came by the creek a while back. She stepped out of her car and told me that she had stopped down by the pasture to talk with the people there. I looked at her quizzically. She smiled. Yes, she had stopped to talk with the horses and cattle, and then it wonderfully occurred to me. All of these creek valley creatures, both wild and farm, really are like people, be they rural or urban, each with their own distinct personality, each ever so precious in their very own way. My friend was absolutely right, as was the old fly fisherman. This valley is our home, our world, and our neighborhood, and it is filled with the most wonderful life energy you could ever imagine. Perhaps now, you’ll better understand what I mean when I say that I so love these hills and the life that flows through them.
Christine Tailer is an attorney and former city dweller who moved several years ago, with her husband, Greg, to an off-grid farm in Ohio south-central Ohio. Visit them on the web at straightcreekvalleyfarm.com.