In the inky darkness of my Virginia farm cottage, I am nudged awake by a distant groan. Is it a moan? The room is black and still, and I groggily raise my head up, straining to hear the noise again.
It sounds like a dying furnace, or a car transmission heaving a final shudder as it fails. I listen harder.
The sound is ... cows mooing in a nearby field.
It is 4:15 a.m. Is mooing legal at that hour?
Why are cows mooing in the dark? Is this normal? I wonder. Cows mooing by daylight are cute. Mooing under cover of darkness seems abnormal and almost eery. “The cattle are lowing,” I tell the walls. Hmm. What time of day is being referred to in that Christmas carol? First my thoughts race: worries of danger. Why would the cows (or cattle or whatever I should properly call them) be bellowing at a pre-dawn hour? As in pre-pre-pre-dawn.
COWS IN DANGER. Are they being attacked by a coyote? Nah. They outweigh those wily critters. It must be a bear! I’ve heard there are black bears around here. I am not quite awake but am fretting about these cows – they must be terrified.
I realize that I’m too much of an urbanite/suburbanite, and I don’t know diddly about bovine behavior. All I know is that these poor beasts must need to be saved. But it ain’t gonna be me. Not if there is some real or imagined black bear on the prowl.
So now it is the indulgingly late hour of 4:45 and I decide throw in the sponge and get up.
I toss on an oversized flannel shirt and jeans. I brew the coffee and stoke up the laptop for today’s online headline news.
In the dim of the first morning light I am distracted by the Hatfield and McCoy scenario at the birdfeeder, the purple finches versus the goldfinches. God, they’re up early, too. What is it with all these animals? Oh, early-bird. Got the etymology.
Properly fortified and caffeinated, I slip on mud boots and clomp across my hilltop to take a peek at the Angus herd. They are just lumbering in the field, chewing and mooing, on a neighboring hill. Just being cows. I sigh and turn around to head home. Hawks are having a field day overhead. A lone car passes by on the two-lane road.
I stop in my tracks as a vague panicky sensation creeps over me. Oh no. What has happened to me? I'm watching cows and birds. Am I at risk of becoming a rural dullard? Wait a second! Didn’t I recently live in Paris, with all the sophisticated, dazzling excitement at my doorstep, with cafes and people-watching in a daily life that seems derived from Central Casting? How can I have already adjusted to an environment where the biggest adrenaline buzz of the day is gawking at a pelican-sized Northern Flicker as it flaps away from its hammering on my rooftop? A place where the juiciest gossip among the neighbors is “how tall will they build that burn pile of brush before they actually torch it?”
Wait a minute! Didn’t I just live in Paris? Where I would never venture from my apartment without stylish leather boots and at least a passing attempt at make-up? Now I’m listening to cows moo in the night, and don’t attempt to scrape the mud off my boots any more. My biggest fashion concern in the countryside is whether I should go walking outdoors without my neon-orange polar fleece cap, lest a hunter take aim in my direction. Where are the Parisian thrill and the bling-bling of yesteryear? Am I being lulled into a bucolic stupor?
Then I pause and take in the view. That edge of blue. These days the skyline of the Blue Ridge Mountains has the same effect on me that the Eiffel Tower did in Paris. Every time it catches me off guard in awe, takes my breath away.
The mountains and the sky.
And I have traded the sparkling glitter of Paris at night for the drama of the Big Dipper twinkling in the blue-black Virginia night sky. In Paris I saw Stars. Here, I see stars.
But, still. When I get back to my cozy cottage, just to make sure I don’t lose touch with my inner Parisian, I rush to my laptop to search for the latest in Paris news: politics, fashion, celebrities, culture, gossip.
Whew. I get all the Paris I need this morning in one fell swoop, just reading about Rachida Dati.