Hello, Peter!

Hello, Peter!

The very first day I spent some time on my own up at the property I had a visitor. A cheeky brown bunny kept a wary eye on me as I moved about quietly, hoicking out poison oak. I must have looked quite the sight, wearing my bright pink dishwashing gloves, but he didn’t really seem to mind my presence. As he lippety-lopped back and forth to check in on my progress, I couldn’t help but think, “Hello, Peter!” As if I needed any confirmation that this piece of property, after all of our searching, was ‘the one,’ Peter’s appearance sealed the deal, like a thumbs-up from Miss Potter herself.

One of the highlights of our recent trip to England was the opportunity to spend a morning at Hill Top, the inspiration for much of what we endeavor to create as we develop Acorn Lodge. The visit to Hill Top was my husband’s first, and he was just as gratifyingly impressed with the warmth of that dear house as I continue to be. Now, thanks to the wonders of the worldwide web, you may wander through the the garden and cottage too, by clicking on the link below. Enjoy the birdsong!

http://www.photographybyward.co.uk/nt/veg-garden.swf

One of the very few disappointments of our trip was the fact that, try as I might, I didn’t spot Squirrel Nutkin as we traversed the countryside. The list of wildlife sightings was otherwise rather well filled out — bunny, heron, dipper, grouse, buzzard, vole, hedgehog — but no red squirrel. At Acorn Lodge we’ve sighted, besides Peter Rabbit, deer, turkeys, acorn woodpeckers, and scrub jays just in the brief visits we’ve made over the months since we acquired the property. Yet to be spotted are the quail that are known to live in the area, or any other number of beasts we’ve been led to expect to find by a book called Secrets of the Oak Woodlands.

Beatrix Potter was an ardent conservationist dedicated to preserving the Lake District, where she had come to live and love in her adult years. She championed the land and its animals (both wild and domestic) in her lifetime, and in her will, she left well over 4,000 acres to the National Trust, ensuring that much of this beautiful terrain will be protected in perpetuity. We feel ourselves both inspired and privileged to act as the stewards of our new property, cautious to minimize our domestic overlay and committed to protecting and enhancing the natural beauty of our own little bit of oak woodland. While Peter won’t be any more welcome in my kitchen garden than he was in Mr. McGregor’s garden, I hope to catch sight of him from time to time, lippety-lopping atop the rocky knoll behind the house, still feeling safe enough in my presence to feel at home.

“Nature is not a place to visit. It is home.”

— Gary Snyder

Spring Rabbits

The Dales Way

Dales Way signpost

We are just back from the ‘green and pleasant land’ that we so love to visit, having spent about half of our time there walking the Dales Way — 82 miles from Ilkley (in Yorkshire) to Bowness-on-Windermere (in the Lake District). The trip was wonderful in so many ways, but the walk was particularly satisfying. We had contracted with a company called Mickledore to arrange for our lodgings and the transport of our luggage each day so that all we ‘had’ to do upon rising was walk, covering about 10 miles a day at a decidedly leisurely pace that allowed for delighting completely in our surroundings.

The peace and stillness that we enjoyed reminded me of the quiet I have experienced in the time I have spent at our property, silence that is deep and calm except for the small sounds of the movement and voices of the animals in the area. In England, there was the bleating of sheep and lowing of cows, but mostly the glorious symphony of birdsong — so full as to be almost unreal. At Acorn Lodge, it is the raucous calls of jays and woodpeckers that break the stillness now, but I am hoping to attract song birds to the garden, and there will be soft clucking from the chickens and the hum of bees eventually too to ensure a companionable quiet.

The orderliness of the Dales, stonewalled fields stretching over the landscape like patches on a crazy quilt, reminded me of the wine-producing areas of Sonoma County. Row upon row of grapes in the vineyards, vineyard next to vineyard, each arrayed to optimize its orientation to the sun in context with its topography — I find that the tidiness imparts a feeling of all being right with the world, a suggestion that consideration has been given and care is being taken to ensure an intended outcome.

I want that same sense of intention to be explicit at Acorn Lodge, but only insofar as it allows for the unintended to unfold as well. There can be nothing so lonely as complete silence, nothing so boring as the exact same routine day after day, however cosy the scene might be. I look forward to organizing our lives around our values and interests, but we mean to leave open the possibility of discovery, to create a warm welcome for even the unexpected guest, to leave the emotional space for whatever comes next in our lives.

Walking the Dales Way was both a meditation and an affirmation for me: we knew what we were about each day, our task (walking) structured for us by our eventual goal (completion of the trail), but with the freedom of time and space to take pleasure in the ‘work,’ find delight in the surprises of sights and people along the way, and experience a deep sense of peace around the unfolding. I came away from the experience satisfied that seeking to create my own little oasis in this busy world will be fine just as long as we leave the door unlocked and the welcome mat out.

Bloom where you are planted.

Harebells
Harebells along the footpath.