Out to the house in Oak Hill with packed boxes, all of it unpacked and piled in out of the way corners, I sit now in front of the bedroom window, future site of my desk when eventually delivered. I thought at first the desk would go in the guest bedroom with its view out onto the large backyard, but on second thought the view from the front seemed better. Inaccurate really to call it a “better” view, but then the giant magnolia now coming to bloom changed my mind. I also like that the front bedroom gets more natural light and is considerably larger.
I’m finding things in the house I can make no sense of, but can’t really say it surprises me. Switches, lights and ceiling fans have a mysterious electrical order, but more puzzling is the hidden telephone inside a walk-in closet, a phone with a dialtone. Nothing to do with me, I wonder who is paying the bill. One more question for the property manager.
Since my arrival was at lunchtime, I brought a sandwich and ate it sitting on a stool at the work island in the kitchen. The ham sandwich was particularly good and the pleasant setting with views out to both back and front yards were definitely an enhancement. Certainly the perfect quiet helped, a blessing only rarely enjoyed at the beach with its constant tourist soundtrack. Looking out to the long screened porch that stretches across the back of the house, I decided that a small table with a couple of chairs would be perfect on the porch, a shaded spot with its wide view of the backyard extending to the woods. Just the thing to improve the flavor of summer lunches.
Today was my first opportunity to try out the Henry Lever-Action .22 rifle I bought last week. With all the years since I last shot a gun, it was a slow process, performed with exaggerated care and the hope I wouldn’t blow a toe off. The first loud crack of the rifle surprised me and I worried that someone beyond the next clump of trees might be taking cover. Not likely really. I heard gunshots from down the road the first time I visited the property, and talking later with my October to May neighbor I learned that rifle and shotgun fire this far out in the country is usual. Making sure that the direction and angles were safe, I set up a couple of tin cans and from about twenty feet did pretty well at knocking them off the stump. Took me two shots to hit a ping pong ball, but the second shot was right through the middle. Two or three squirrels ran scampering up the tall trees but their alarm was unnecessary. Squirrels are not on my hit list.
To get a better feel of the outdoor sounds I move my chair to a part of the backyard just outside the screened porch. For the moment I hear nothing but the rasp and click of insects. Far overhead an airplane's roar is pared to a fraction, fading gradually into the distance. Waiting in my place under the arch of limbs I soon catch a hesitant trill of birds beginning their shy recital. The first songs come not from my yard but from the nearby woods. The wind is there as well, slight, ruffling the leaves overhead. Occasionally a heavy twig falls with a small thump on the carport’s tin roof. Looking at the tall oaks around me, each one hung with Spanish moss swaying slightly in the breeze, I remember a friend in New York who longs to see this well-known southern sight. Doubtful that a photograph would capture the full effect.
Now a cardinal has flown into the tree in front of me, and on another tree to the left what I believe is a woodpecker bounces on a limb but doesn’t stay long. Another bird out of sight on the other side of the house chirps and whistles with all its heart.
Too soon surely to make comparisons of the beach and the country, but maybe it is enough to say that the familiar peace of walking the surf line on an off-season morning is no more soothing than the calm of a backyard in the country.