Another Country Year

In the car, in the dark, I trekked a twice-daily, hour-and-a-half commute for the final eighteen months of my life as an employee.  I don’t miss that, but those miles and hours translated into an era of abundant listening to books on tape.  A favorite from that time was A Country Year by Sue Hubbell, and I’m sure I listened to it a half-dozen times at least — especially during the days of snowy roads and Braxton-Hicks along for the ride in those final days of commuting.

I have been savoring A Country Year one again, but in book form, nostalgically celebrating another “country year” here on the hill, and have been astonished to find that it resonates for me even more than it did twenty years ago.  One reason may be that at the ultimate end of that long-distant commute lay a life in which we measure a winter in cords of wood, in which rogue roosters leave back-of-leg scars on the trusting souls who turn their backs, in which we agree that “retirement age” laying hens are useless as slaughter birds and quite picturesque in their efforts at controlling the insect population, and in which we understand that bee stings are likely the least painful aspect of beekeeping.

In peaceful and lyrical prose, Sue Hubbell invites her readers to travel through the seasons of her solitary (but not lonely) days on a farm in Missouri’s Ozarks.  I could probably scrounge around on Google and find data to  corroborate my suspicion that Sue and I would not agree on many theological topics.  However, I would enjoy discovering it in person much more, and I believe that she would too, for we would also find much to agree upon:

Under her detailed and glorious descriptions of rat snakes
(“self assured in his sense of possession of the chicken coop”)
and black walnut trees
(“a tree of such dignity”);
the sound of spring peepers
(“both exhilarating and oddly disturbing at close range”)
and the personality of indigo buntings
(“small but emphatic birds”),
there thrums a steady cadence of Psalm 19:1.

“The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky proclaims the work of His hands.”

We would agree that there is very little romance to life in the country.  There is certainly no room for careless mistakes, and very little time for leisure, especially when taking a day off or being cavalier with your chain saw may mean running out of firewood in mid-February — or a flying trip to the emergency room.  The flip side of this is, of course, that a drink of ice water is more refreshing when it comes at the end of long row of weeding.

I owe my appreciation of small brown bats to Sue’s description of drinking her morning coffee in semi-darkness and discovering that she was serving as bait to gather mosquitoes for the bats’ breakfast.  Swooping around her, they feasted on pesky insects as she mused:  “All this gives me a fine, friendly feeling toward bats.  In their way, I suppose, they also approve of me.”

And it was through A Country Year that I discovered Rilke’s writing:

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves . . . Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

These words were perfect for my transition out of the life I knew and loved and into an unknown life in the country — which I have now known and loved for twenty-three years.


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28 thoughts on “Another Country Year”

  1. Not being a country girl by any means, Another Country Year, sounds interesting. The idea one could become thankful for bats is quite an entertaining one …

    I always hear of something new here at your blog, Michele! Thanks for sharing.


  2. Michele,
    You have such a strong command of words, leaving us with such wonderful descriptions of the life some of us lead in our little rural communities and how blessed we are to live it and to share with others. He certainly gave us a globe of diversity to savor, enjoy and share!
    Thank you once again for sharing your thoughts with us. I look forward to more to come in the new year.
    Happy New Year to you and your family……..Pam


  3. 6 years ago we moved out of the country – I would give a lot to be able to return. But alas, I must go where God decrees and I try to maintain my willingness. I like your book reviews, Michele – I always end up wanting to read them. I have quite the commute, I need to get moving on audio books!
    Stopping by from Inspire Me Monday!


  4. Michele, I believe my husband would agree with you about country living. He loved growing up on his grandfather’s rice farm and in a small town (about 600 people). I love how you addressed the “theological differences” point. Even across the internet you exude Christ’s love! Hope your first week of the new year is off to a good start! Blessings, sweet sister!


  5. I relate to missing hours to listen …I used to listen to sermons while running, but haven’t been able to in a over a year now. It’s funny how those messages have stuck with me, though. God is so good.
    Happy Tuesday, from the #RaRaLinkup

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I enjoyed this post, Michele. Having grown up in NYC, I often wondered what it would be like to live in the country. Thank you for bringing out the point to “live everything”. Every place we find ourselves serves a purpose. Happy New Year to you and yours!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’ve never heard of this book, Michele, but it sounds LOVELY. I really like the quote in bold, about living our questions rather than trying to get answers to them. <#


    1. I had that poem by Rilke on my bulletin board during those final days of work, and it gave me so much hope. This is the only book by Sue Hubbell that I’ve ever read, and it came along for me at just the right time.


  8. Hi Michele,
    I enjoyed this post since I love to revisit books too and find that they are just as impactful much later and the second time around! Your country life sounds like it offers such an opportunity to appreciate God’s handiwork in all that surrounds you. Happy 2017 to you, friend!


  9. Dear Michele, I thought for ages that living, and working, one year on a farm would help me put more of a “God perspective ” on life. Alas, I am a wimp, and while I’ve enjoyed sojourns of living in the country I do not seem to be cut out to be a farmer’s wife. Accordingly, I find yearly refreshment with Father Tim in the Mitford Series. Books, in any format, are one of God’s quietest blessings. Thanks for the reminder!


    1. Oh, yes — life in the country has its rough edges. And I do love the world of Mitford. We have book one on cd, and I agree that I could enjoy any of the books in that series at any time.


  10. Oh, my goodness… I read this years ago and loved it then. Thanks for reminding me of it. I found it at our little country library and just enjoyed the journey with her.
    Thanks for sharing so much fun at the #GraceMoments Link UP!



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