In Garrett Park, Maryland, UD lives under heat and huge trees – a jungle setting, with the branches of a derecho treefall pressing against her windows. The treefall has brought wildlife closer as animals explore the dead limbs. Loud animal noise deepens the jungle feel.

Here in rural New York, it’s about big sky and cool air, a bowl of blue-and-white swirl above, and, around your shoulders, a morning breeze that almost makes you tremble.

The only tea in the house is green. UD puts two bags in her cup in a vague effort to make it taste more black, but basically she’s after the warmth of it.

Of course you could argue it’s wilder here than in suburban Maryland – Garrett Park doesn’t have bears, and Summit neighbors warn us to make loud noises when we take walks – but sitting on the gray deck of our house on top of a hill overlooking small green mountains sloping into farm valleys, you’d think this the more settled place. The dawn chorus is pips and clicks, not the shriek of grackles. We’ve kept the front acres of our hill down to Seven Ponds Road a wildflower field, so no trees press against our windows. A sweet smell comes off the field.

And it’s almost silent here, without the trains and planes and people and dogs of Garrett Park. Down the hill in back of me, past our pond, the Sousias have a lumber yard, and you can sometimes hear them cutting. But for miles around it’s thinly settled. We see no houses from our deck, and are ourselves invisible from the road.

You could say Garrett Park lacks hunters and guns, but, precisely because of this, herds of deer live inches from our houses, while, at least in this part of Schoharie County, the population is under control.

The only wild part of my immediate setting is our little house, empty almost all the time, and so host to hordes of critters. They make themselves scarce when we turn on lights, but they come back when we leave.

While Garrett Park’s always protecting itself from the massive development of boom town Bethesda, Summit New York is a particularly depressed part of generally depressed upstate. The tiny main street has since our last stay closed the general store, a restaurant, and a church. Four miles from town, the Summit Shock Facility, a long-shuttered juvenile detention center, is one of many pieces of local real estate the state is trying to unload.


So here is a woodpecker, which does shriek a bit coming in for a landing in the maple next to me. It taps a central limb for a few seconds and flies off.

In the evening and early morning you hear pond frogs.

There’s tree removal to be done here too – some dead cypresses (I think they’re cypresses) and a grouping of firs that blocks part of the view. Planted decades ago to give a sunning platform privacy, these got so big they dominate the foreground.

It’s late morning now, and with the sun comes the sleeping problem. The setting is so tranquil – butterflies in the grass, only a faint wind for sound – that life becomes variations on light napping. “You need amphetamines to stay here,” I said to Mr UD. “Even if I had the world’s blackest tea, I don’t think I could stay awake.” I sketch an entrepreneurial future in which we retrofit the place as a yoga lodge. Deep in the most distant part of our view – the blue tips of the Catskills – lie many spiritual retreats.

We have calming the mind down to a science at our house; but what about awakening?

Maybe ours could be the place where you calm your mind, and then you’d move on to one of the Catskill retreats for the next step.

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