All the work of organizing tours of the house, packing, and finally giving up ownership of our beloved home to someone new is coming to an end. The large caravan arrives promptly at nine a.m. I watch as our belongings are ported onto the truck and tied down for their journey. What took years to collect, assemble and display becomes stuff packed, albeit carefully, in a pile. Left is an empty shell of rooms that now await its new family.
I imagine a large cart drawn by two muscular oxen about to travel to the unknown north with my belongings tied precariously high. Over the hills and through the valleys our caravan trundles. Heading for a new beginning; the next stage of our life. The cosy shire that will be our community and home for the next number of years lies almost asleep by the time we arrive. The caravan occupies a good bit of the roadway but the existing shire folk seem fine with the short term inconvenience. The container holding our precious cargo empties much faster than it was packed. It seems like a three dimensional card, our belongings unfolding to encompass the designated rooms. A daunting wall of boxes is piled in various rooms to be opened later. The bed is assembled and, after a long day, it is where my heart and body find familiarity and comfort.
In the morning, with the sun shining on our faces, we open our hearts to the spaces around us. There is a lot of work to do and at times it seems almost daunting. We soon realize that one box at a time is the best way to proceed. Outside the walls of our new domain, our new neighbours busily carry on with their own lives and wonder who the new people might be. We make short work of their curiosity by reaching out to them and making the introductions ourselves. Our new acquaintances became characters in my mind, each with a different story – all in the shire for different reasons.
The shire seems an island, surrounded by trees, themselves surrounded by an ocean of green grass. The intimate homes are hardly visible from the busy road outside. The people passing in their vehicles are oblivious to the shire’s existence. The path one follows to enter the shire has the appearance of a private drive. There are no lines down the centre of the narrow roads that twist and turn throughout the settlement. I have noticed that most inhabitants drive down the centre of the road. I could be wrong, but sometimes I think a centre line might just be a little confusing.
The houses, at first sight, look small but are deceivingly spacious. The grounds are neatly trimmed thanks to an army of gardeners. They sweep through the landscape tuning, trimming and cultivating all the spaces around the homes. If we were to close our eyes we might imagine a community in another place and time. The homes nestled together like an ancient village in a secluded little valley.
There seem to be more little white dogs than people. I am sure they are a great comfort to all of their respective parents. Little dogs, in little coats, say hello in their own special way. There is the odd cat sighting, but not many, and not out hunting in the shire. More than dogs and cats, there are squirrels. They have found a non-threatening home among the shire folk. They carry on their lives in the flower boxes on everyone’s deck. They scurry up and down the highway of trees interlocking each home site. I spoke to one the other day while I sat on my upper deck eating an apple. Apparently, I am supposed to share. We, the squirrel and I, had a staring contest. To my delight, I won.
Autumn comes and goes leaving more leaves then I have ever seen in one place. The army of gardeners makes quick work of them with a magical machine that conjures up a leaf disappearing act. Before you know it the leaves are gone and the gardeners have left the shire to return in Spring.
We find ourselves slipping into Christmas one house at a time. There is a spirit of joy and good will. Those of us who have not escaped winter by flying south have decorated our little homes with festive jewels of light, thus warding off the darkness with seasonal magic. The shire folk proudly display their own traditions and caringly share their joy as we welcome the Christmas season.
The New Year is upon us and our sleepy little community is now tucked away, quietly dreaming of the day when the snow is gone and the plants begin to show themselves. The coming return of our neighbours will announce the arrival of Spring. I think we will enjoy our new home in the shire.
By: Dian Bowers