Our Location: Reflecting on the First Two Weeks

Privilege and Responsibility

Round Top Mountain

Round Top Mountain

It’s now been over two weeks since we arrived at Ripples’ new location! Time is stealthy like the barred owl I hear hooting in the woods. I can hear time ticking away but never see it passing. I still haven’t spotted that owl. This is a place of rolling fields of grass, of dusty gravel roads lined with a tunnel of trees, of history and stories and hope for the future. Lifetimes are symbolized by old foundations, unused wagon roads, hints of the past along the forest trails and in the yard, where curious stone structures covered in vines await somebody to love them again.

Cat atop a stone wall near the pergola, our building site on the hill behind the trees at left.

Cat atop a stone wall near the pergola, our building site on the hill behind the trees at left.

The pergola, with its stone pillars mounted with branches supporting wisteria, calls to me in a strangely mystical way somewhat like “The gold, it calls to us!” in Pirates of the Caribbean. I swept clear its stone steps and hidden benches, feeling much like I was gently awakening a secret garden. From the bench, I can look across the way to the hilltop close to where our earthbag cottage will be built, and ponder the history we’ll be making here, season after season.

When it rains, it’s very quiet. The droplets create a soft shuuuush that sounds like white noise, or a gentle breeze rustling the leaves as it blows through the branches of trees. Our resident black walnut trees are giants, towering above the house and enveloping it in a protective embrace that makes satellite internet challenging, and would create a fear in certain homeowners of large branches crushing the house in a storm. This blog post I’m writing from our location wouldn’t even be possible if the Hughes Net satellite internet installer had not arrived on the same day as a peaceful-minded painter who happened to have a ladder tall enough for the installer to borrow and place the dish out of range of these spirit-trees.

There is an old male mulberry tree whose mossy gnarled bark and countless nooks and holes create a wonderful apartment complex for the birds, insects, and squirrels. Our squirrels come in two species here, delightfully: the Eastern Gray Squirrel, which many locals see frequently, and the Fox Squirrel, a slightly larger, reddish-furred fellow with a tail Hollywood may appreciate for its flamboyant colors and volume. I adore them the way some people abandon their self-control for candy. There’s a silly “good day” game I play: if I see a fox squirrel, no matter what is happening in my life that day, it’s a good day! Perhaps you have a certain butterfly or bird that makes it a good day for you.

One of the gravel roads that hosts my daily walk.

One of the gravel roads that hosts my daily walk.

Of course there are hard times. In the study abroad field, there’s a saying that you’ll have good days and bad days in your new country just like you have here, that it won’t be all exotic enchantment and gaiety. I encounter a number of dead animals each day, my heart going out to each of their spirits. My health is not always perfect, and injuries happen here just like in the city, when Ryan fell down a manhole and got eight stitches. I still fumble the ball socially, struggling to fit into the people-world. Nowhere is perfect, but like two slices of bread coming together to form a sandwich, some places are a better fit for some people than others.

A rescued chipmunk before and after its rest with us.

A rescued chipmunk before and after its rest with us.

Having lived in Fayetteville for almost a decade now, I’m surprised by the chipmunk population out here. In town, I can count on one hand the chipmunk sightings I’ve had there, despite my attention to rock walls. But here, along the rock wall that borders the gravel road leading to the house, I can almost always get my daily dose of chipmunk. Ironically, despite hardly ever seeing them in town, we rescued one during our last night living within the city limits. This was our first chipmunk rescue, and luckily Lynn at Morning Star Wildlife Rehabilitation answered her phone and confirmed we were doing the right thing. After a night of rest and safety, curled up in a furry ball within a towel-lined cardboard box, our little friend scampered off apparently unscathed by its experience with the neighbor’s cat. Need to contact a wildlife rehabilitator in your area? Check out our resource list and directory of wildlife rehabilitators within the USA.

Life is abundant and fragile here. Yes, we have such privilege to observe and encounter this place, but that privilege comes with responsibility. We’re learning how to protect this land, working with elders and organizations that have been doing this work since before we were born. We’re rolling up our sleeves and getting to work, taking seriously our new responsibilities but never forgetting the immense privilege and enchantment of our new home. We aren’t just living here for ourselves, we’re living here for Ripples. Visit our updated About Page to see what I mean.

May droplets of happiness dance upon your day today! Until next time,
Amanda



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