One of my wife’s colleagues invited us to dinner at her renovated farm house in the country. She lives in a clearing in the woods, reached by an unpaved road. We ate on a table in the backyard as chickens ran about, ignored by the dog. One of the birds rolled on its back and kicked up dirt in the flower bed. By sight or sound I recognized eight bird species, including spotted towhee and Say’s phoebe, not counting chickens. I smelled cedar and a scent as cloying as honeysuckle, unidentified. Swallows dipped in arcs above the cedars.
I walked around the perimeter of her land, admiring the tall rotting cedar stumps, spider webs, buttercups and blackberries, the latter now in flower, a month from fruit. I came upon a wicker table and two wicker chairs, once white, now gray, sunken like stumps in the ground. Nearby, I almost missed two old farm buildings obscured by brambles and second-growth trees. The wooden-shingled roofs had collapsed inward and were upholstered with moss. Through a gap in the impassable underbrush I spied a rusted automobile chassis, baling wire and a stack of tractor tires. An empty bird’s nest sat on a pile of rotting wood. Frost writes:
“For them there was really nothing sad.
But though they rejoiced in the nest they kept,
One had to be versed in country things
Not to believe the phoebes wept.”