We spent the final days of 2011 on the farm in Tennessee with frost covering the ground each morning and a fire in the stove each night. Four baby goats were born in the week that we were there. Two survived. The neighbor shot a doe in the field across the road and gave it to us for nothing in return. Each day we took walks with the dogs and a fat cat named Ellington who thinks he too must be a dog. On one hike up to the spring we found frogs living in it. As in, the water we drink. We left them there and were later chastised for not cleaning them out when we had the chance – how were a couple of thirty-somethings from LA supposed to know?
When we ventured out it was to visit the local pig farm or the Tractor Supply Company. These were funny moments for me, lounging on the bench seat of our souped up Crown Victoria. Yep, we rented a cop car. Anxious as the thing made me, it ate up the country road, rolling along beside great expanses of farmland with perfect ease. In the end I got close to even liking the thing.
After the boys were in bed each night we took to gin and tonic and a game of hearts. Each time we played later into the night, stopping when our scores had reached the bottom of the page. And on New Year’s Eve we drank champagne out of pilsner glasses and played well into 2012.
What I’ve been thinking about for the last few days is how all of this time, with its space for breathing and naps and sitting around the table, has got to stand for something really fantastic in our lives. Mostly I’ve been turning my wheels about how to convey it in the least schmaltzy of ways. I’ve come to the conclusion this may not be possible, and I’m writing it anyway.
Within our seven sleepy days in Tennessee we witnessed a microcosm of experiences so appropriate for the turning of the year. The precious cycle of life our children observed in the birth and passing of animals on the farm, the definite union between all of us and the vivid forest landscape, the modest pace of living that swallows you up and slows you down. These are the hopes that I hold for my family all year long, and work to preserve in the shelter of our household. Spending the final days of 2011 in the arms of such a place has set the tone for the year to come. Each time we arrive here, on my aunt’s farm, we know that we will bring a piece of this home. And lucky for 2012, we’ve done it again.