Before I kick things off tonight, I have to give a shout-out to my blogfriend Modfab for naming the Cabinet one of five blogs that make him think. It is, of course, my life's work to make people think, and so I am probably more pleased about this surprise than he had any idea I might be. Thanks, guy!
Now: it was an action-packed day here in mid-Ohio. At about 10, the harnessed dog--who by this point has pretty much given up on the fight against said harness--and I headed out for our morning walk. At the end of my excellent friends' street is a mansion known as the Bishop's Palace, which has a sweeping lawn bordered by a footpath open to the public. If the dog and I follow that path, we eventually end up on one of the village's streets and can make our way back home in a long loop. Today, though, as we were about to turn the last bend toward the street, I noticed a footpath heading off into the woods to our right. Because the path started with stone steps and was dramatically clear, I asked the dog if he wanted to take a different route. He assented, and off we flew into the woods. Eventually, we reached a sign that confirmed what I'd thought about the path we were hiking: it's a relatively new footpath cut by the college's environmental center, and it leads (kind of) to the college observatory. We coursed on through the woods until we reached a place where the path broke out to an asphalt drive (which also goes up to the observatory), and lo and behold, there in the field before us were the cows that I can hear from my new apartment.
Upon seeing the cows, the dog was 75 pounds of attention and strain. I'm not sure whether he's seen or interacted with cows before; he certainly acted as though this were his first encounter--and as though he firmly believed that these were very large, potentially very hostile dogs against which he might want to launch a campaign of aggression.
If you've ever walked near pastures of cows, you may have experienced the funny phenomenon of their turning to regard you and then ambling toward you, en masse, to regard you more closely. As soon as these cows saw me with my over-alert, edgily eager dog, they were on the move. The young cows were especially curious about the dog. I said hello to them a number of times, and we proceeded up the hill, on the asphalt road, I ruing the fact that once again I was having an excellent cow encounter without my camera.
On the other hand, how I would have managed a camera and a straining and jumping dog, I'm not quite sure. In a kind of mixed blessing, the dog tired himself out the more we went up the hill, in the full sun; by the time we neared the observatory (where I had hoped to find some path on which we could trespass our way back to campus without going back to the wooded footpath), we were both pretty winded, and I hadn't realized we'd need water for this walk. (Have I mentioned that this dog will drink from a water bottle? Have I mentioned, for that matter, how lovely and well-behaved a walker he is--when he's not confronting a pasture full of cows?)
And so we headed back down the road, toward the cows once more. There must be sixty cows pasturing on that land, and their basso chorus and the green of the near pasture against the lay of the hills in the distance combined to remind me of hiking public footpaths in England--and then to remind me of how, on my first trip to England, I loved the fact that Devon looks so much like Knox County, Ohio.
Within a few hours, I had left the panting dog behind in his house with huge bowls of fresh water, done a bit of unpacking and filing in the new apartment, and then made my way past fields of towering, green-spearing corn to Columbus for my first haircut in ages--since, in fact, the day I met Granville Jim. I make the drive to Columbus for haircuts because the woman who cuts my hair is fantastic. (For instance, she currently has one of her relatives scouting London salons for me so that I will experience no slackening of style upon arriving in the UK. "He's a total connoisseur," she says.) While she brought me back from the edge of the overgrowth abyss with which I've been flirting for weeks, we talked about where I might want to settle down for the long term. "You strike me as such a city girl," she said, "that the thought of you being up there [meaning my county] always seems strange." But I've never really lived in a city, I pointed out to her. Not a real one. And while I miss being able to walk to good cinemas, and while I love the subway and cheap take-out food (not even to mention cheap delivery food), I also can't quite imagine not being able to, say, discover a pasture of cows during my morning walk.
The day kept me ricocheting between the poles of rural love and (sub)urban desire. At its high-point of incoherence, I found myself at a frame shop, forking over an unexpectedly large quantity of money to have my broadside of Wendell Berry's "Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front" (which, I know, I may seem to link you to all the time) finally readied for hanging. And then I found myself in the "town centre" mall that has helped suck commercial activity out of downtown Columbus and relocate it to the suburbs. There, I somehow resisted the siren song of Anthropologie's glassware and dishes--reminding myself that even $16 spent on new coffee mugs is a silly purchase right now, given that I'm about to leave the country for a year.
Then, there was the Container Store, a place I've never entered. At Ye Olde Towne Centre, the Container Store is off to one side, not on my usual beaten track. But tonight, I decided that I would check to see whether said Container Store sold over-the-door ironing board holders.
And do they ever.
When I showed up at the cash register, glassy-eyed and clutching my five items (the ironing board holder, three steel strips that hang on the wall to become bulletin boards, a tube of Krazy Glue for my Cuba Cheese-Cutter, which has lost its feet again), I told the cashier that I'd never been in a Container Store before but that I think it's an amazing place. "You're getting out of here in record time," he replied. "Would you like to take some literature with you?" "What, like Container Store philosophy?" I asked him. He explained that he had a number of things that look like catalogs but really aren't, and he sent me home with all of them.
I think that they will be my bedtime reading. I think that tonight I will dream of cabinets with innumerable drawers, full of unexpected paths and tiny cows facing off against tinier dogs, and tables of students eating oversized meals, and tiny spotted fawns dead at the side of the sunset-lit highway.
Or perhaps I will dream of this strange building in Bangs. Having glimpsed it from the state highway for years, I finally detoured to see it on my way home tonight and think I may have to present it at greater length later. At heart, I am no trespasser, and I have too much respect for principles of structural soundness (or lack thereof) to mess around with an abandoned building--even one that, tantalizingly, still has curtains hanging in some of its windows. But I do have far better lenses for scrutinizing this kind of structure than the one I was carrying tonight, and now I have plans.