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When I first moved to Bucks County I missed street lamps, sidewalks, and the park where I did my laps.  And while my husband insisted I could walk around the perimeter of our ten-acre field, I was hesitant to stray too far from the house. 

I had seen deer go leaping by in small arrogant gangs, once scaring my perpetually terrified Golden Retriever in a near miss worthy of the NFL.  I had seen foxes launch straight up as though strapped to a missile, turkeys that attacked innocent cars, and flocks of blackbirds swarming our field that would make the Hitchcock movie seem understated.  But while I enjoyed observing wildlife from behind my windows, there was little chance I was going out there to commune with nature--not as long as nature had fangs and claws. 

I worried there were wild dogs ready to attack if I dared walk deep into the field alone.  My husband thought it was hysterical that I feared a pack of jackals or wolves coming for me, as if it were Hudson County in Jersey on a bad night.  Yet we hadn’t even fully unpacked before I spotted a coyote, all mangy and wild, resting on the snow as if he’d just devoured a brood of chickens and was coming to sleep off his feast.  It was the stuff nightmares were made of, mine anyway, and I couldn’t believe my eyes.

You wouldn’t think a Jersey girl would know a coyote if she saw one, but my father loved westerns.  Also, I got immediate confirmation from Steve. He was instantly running up the stairs to arm, rush onto the balcony, and disable the threat.  Our neighbor had animals at risk, and you just didn’t leave a predator to do his worst.  I looked away, knowing I’d remember the intruder ugly but at least whole.

Like the family of groundhogs, who serpentine their way back to their tree line at the first shot, the coyote had to know there were consequences for intruding. Farmers and cowboys get this. You protect and defend your home and family, your crops, your neighbors’ animals. 

As I watched the tractor out there digging a coyote grave, I had a vague sense of history I couldn’t get from the New York metropolitan area.  I could picture the first settlers in this strange new land where animals were food or foe, and nothing short of God’s providence could sustain them.  Space, fresh air, the sounds and smells of horses--people still grow up this way in the country, depending on the right mix of rain and sun for crops to feed cattle. Yes, the weather still trumps our brilliant gadgetry.   And for that, prayer is needed.

One of my earliest observations after moving was the country is God-friendly.  You can hear Christian music on store radios as well as in church, and people wave to each other when passing in cars.  Not the Jersey salute I was used to, but a respectful thank you for waiting while I cross this ridiculously narrow, one-lane bridge.

I’m still training myself to hear the hellos when I walk in and out of establishments.  I’m in a land where people say hello just because I’m there.  It’s foreign to me.  I’ll be honest, it takes effort to interact, awareness of not just all the noise and voices in my head, but actual people-presence. 

In New York City you can duck and weave among thousands of people and never lose your train of thought.  That’s what I was used to.  A guaranteed invisibility.  Solitude.  Privacy. Nothing to interrupt the crazy characters venting or waxing profoundly in my head.

Recently, I was shopping with my mother in-law when a woman handed me thirty-one dollars worth of shopping bucks.  I asked if she was sure. They could be used like cash for anything in the store, plants, decorations, birdseed, but she wanted to give them to me.   The Jersey in me paused to hear the counter, “Pay me half in cash,” but instead she nodded, smiled, and said, “Just take them.”   And this wasn’t one of my worst-dressed days when I could have been mistaken for a panhandler. 

Kindness and generosity seemed to come naturally in this historic county where tractors and hay wagons bring traffic to a crawl. I’ve always appreciated the charm of country landscapes, barn animals, the sweet arts and crafts of country folk. But I’ve still got that Jersey-trust factor shielding my heart.  Could I ever be the first one to wave hello, chat a little longer on the checkout line, be less anxious about something darting out at my car from the cornfields? I have to work on my vibe, come up a little higher, live less in my storied head.  And maybe I’ll discover that I am not so much in the wilderness as in the promised land.

Linda R.