The hills are still drowsing in their winter sleep. The woods are dark under the clouds, the pines and bare oaks awaiting the return of the sun, when they will provide welcome shade to the cattle during the hot summer days.
Faint hints of green are beginning to appear along the road and on the hillsides where only the wild grasses grow. The smoother hilltops are planted to barley in alternate years, and left fallow to recover and hold onto the rain in between. Traces of the cattle that grazed here last summer still remain -- drying cow pats and the slanting paths along the steeper hillsides.
Isolation. It bothers some people. "What do you do?" they ask.
But that's a city attitude. In the country there's always something to do, even if it's just watching and listening. Your senses expand, you find yourself becoming more and more aware of your surroundings.
You begin to see the world around you. The moon, the stars. Yes, you can see them at night, out in the country.
You listen. You hear. The sigh of the wind in the trees. The distant growl and squeak of a caterpillar tractor plowing, disking, planting. (With all that bare metal rubbing against itself, a crawler tractor can sound much like a loud meadowlark).
You learn to sniff the air -- a faint smell of smoke from a distant neighbor's woodstove; the fresh smell of turned earth; the clean, crisp smell of the air after a cold front.