I like to fancy myself something of a country girl. I wouldn't presume to say that I can do all (or even close to all) of the things that any good farmer does in a given day, but I can ride a horse, drive a tractor, shovel manure in a passable manner. I don't mind swimming in a pond with a little green algae when the day is hot, and I'll help you organize your feed room any day.
But it's not what I can or cannot do on a farm that makes me a country person. It's the way I feel it in my soul. That open, free and grassy space hemmed in by mountains. The round bales dotting a hilly summer field. The fences that stitch the acreage together. And on a smaller scale, the lichen growing on a seasoned locust post. The box turtle that could have been a rock on the gravel road. And the way the dog runs so fast down the winding driveway that he trips on his own flopping ears. All of these help me breathe, fill me up and make me real.
Most days, I'm lucky lucky lucky to get my country fix in the same county where I was born, just a few miles from the stone house where we lived before they named the road. Someday I hope to share this country feeling with my children, the way it was shared with me.
My parents live in North Carolina now, not far from a different kind of country, more sun and red clay. A couple of months ago, they went to a concert put on by the art museum in their city. One of the songs the singer sang was "Shenandoah". My mom told me that they both came out with that song in their hearts, thinking, 'We have to get back there.' That's the way I feel. Got to get back there, to the country, and the open, and the free.
(And finally, let me say that I know you're thinking, 'the dog again?'... but don't we all secretly believe that our dog (kid, mom, etc.) is the cutest one in the world? So hopefully you can forgive me.)