07/09/2013 05:15 pm ET Updated Sep 08, 2013

Rural Musings

In an isolated rural spot, one can sit outside in the early morning and try to blend in with everyone else scooting about taking care of their morning. We have a bench on a stone patio facing the Catskills which looks over a stone terrace edging the grass overlooking the hill, down two fields and a pond and then across the valley to a 180 degree view of the northern Catskills with Big Dome far to the east. Trees surround the house behind the patio which in turn is overlooked by a large bay window right behind the bench. The quiet in parts of rural New York is startling and noticeable to someone from a city. Yet once settled with coffee looking out over the hills, clouds, and swaying hay, one notices that it is not quite as quiet as it initially appears. At six am a lot is going on.

When I come out the front door, and start to walk past the rockers over to the patio bench, an adolescent woodchuck dashes away from my husband's front flower bed. Uh oh; those had survived an early summer assault, and now I was wondering if that would continue. The sun is behind the trees in the east, just rising; a small puff of mist appears in the low valley across the way. There are no vehicles trying to climb Potter Hollow Mountain Road; one always knows when a car is going up that hill by the chugging noise one normally hears described in a children's book. That and an occasional lawnmower off to the west are the mechanical noises that might drift across the hills. My son used to listen for the milk truck coming up our road to our neighbor's farm early morning, but they no longer have milk cows. Too much work for too little gain. Those cows were often sent into our lower pasture or would appear above our white fence on the hill in the back of the house, silently and softly chewing. A friend doing a jigsaw puzzle late one summer night in our living room thought she felt someone looking at her, turned to look out the window and sure enough, someone was looking at her: a cow had wandered onto the front porch and was peering into the living room. She went to bed on that discovery.

But back to the morning noises. They are there, if one listens. The red-tailed hawks have a loud, drawn out, harsh call as they fly over the hay field looking for breakfast. The red-winged blackbirds swoop up and down over the hay with a noisy caw. The smaller birds-Baltimore orioles, and yellow finches- flash by at head level, missing the person sitting on the patio by inches. When they all aim for the field, they fly low over the terrace as they will soon be high over the fast-sloping field. Then, the birds start chasing each other; don't know if they are playing, or chasing each other out of their chosen air space. Two sparrows were doing that and one lightly hit the window right at my shoulder and then just veered off and the chase continued. The chipmunks race along the stone wall which edges the grass; we call it chipmunk highway, and then discovered deep in the grass by the stones a sign the former owners had made: chipmunk crossing. One day a huge black bird with a white head flew elegantly over the field and we realized it was a bald eagle sailing over the land as if it owned it, which in fact, it does. No one chased the eagle. None of the wildlife pays us any attention if we are sitting silently looking at the view. We often apologize quietly for interrupting their lives; it does feel like their place, not ours.