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Friday, November 22, 2013

A Favorite Place - Living and Writing in Woodstock, GA

Woodstock is situated on a collection of hills. The bustling metropolis of  Atlanta lies southward, and the untamed mountain world rises northward. Here, the locale is more livestock pasture than wild animal lair; although, the occasional coyote or a rare bear comes down from the upper regions to visit our neighborhoods. I prefer the gentle end of the critter spectrum.

There is a place I often drive by, and today that tranquil scene made my day again. Around Woodstock, we refer to it as "the sheep corner." The scene whispers to every car that reaches the tranquil junction of Arnold Mill Road and North Arnold Mill Road. A pastoral landscape, this place always reminds me to slow down, take a deep breath and let my sight travel the meadow that feeds two dozen sheep and a donkey or two. A crimson barn sits at the far corner. I'm renewed as I watch the slow-moving, un-agitated sheep. 

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Winter is coming and the sheep search for the last nubs of grass that are more preferable than the dry hay that will be laid out for them as cold temperatures put every green thing to bed for the season. The weeks pass. I patiently wait for that special day in February when I'll drive along and look toward the pasture. A big change will make my eyes go wide, just as it has each year. The warm sunlight streaming down will relieve my concern as I view the frosty ground dotted with bundles of white fluff--the babies have arrived, most of them. I learned from Mary Lou Reece, owner of the field, that offspring can show up any time of the year.

When my husband and I (formerly inside-the-Atlanta Perimeter-apartment-dwellers) first considered moving to Woodstock over thirty years ago, we weren't prepared for living in the country or in the presence of farm animals. Housing buys abounded here, then. I persuaded myself and my husband that we could get used to the quiet and uneventful atmosphere--I still remember the little goat corral on Highway 92, before that slim road became multiple laser-lanes and a modern strip of commerce.

Early on, when we moved into our first home neatly tucked within a new subdivision, we went to bed exhausted from the move. Dawn came and we were jolted awake by a long, earth-shattering bellow. We shuddered but pretended calmness. Something massive stomped and ripped through our backyard, mangling vegetation, snorting as it went. My husband threw off the covers and darted to the window where he yelled with excitement, "It's a steer, with horns!" I raced to find my glasses, gave up and dashed to the window. In the dim light, the angry behemoth was gone.

Ever since that brief drama so long ago, my husband and I get excited about the animals still making Woodstock their habitat. We pause. We watch. We count. Mallard, fox, beaver, blue heron, groundhog, turkey, possum, giant snapping turtle, deer and great horned owl--we've caught sight of them all, in our yard or not so far away. The natural world has become important to us. Beauty is all around. We look at each other and grin. We know there is no better place to live . . . . Sometimes, people change for the better.