All winter long my godfathers and I have started each Saturday evening family dinner conversation more or less with the same incredulous exclamation: "What an amazingly beautiful winter we are having!". Then the conversation will proceed for a good ten minutes with sentiments like "Its years since we saw a winter like this!" or "How lucky we are to have such wonderful weather - and so much snow!" and "Can you believe we have such a fine winter - this year of all years! - when we are all here for the extended season due to the pandemic?!". Gratitude runs high in our family, and especially so when we are all more or less isolated due to corona restrictions and we get to wait it out here in the peaceful idyll of the countryside instead of in a tiny flat in a big city. Odd though it may seem, this isolated idyll feels much more companionable than living in a city filled with people.
In fact, life in the countryside is quite opposite the lonely isolation I once thought it may be. I had somehow thought that living on my own in a house surrounded by wilderness and with the closest neighbour visible over the water but still a boat ride away, I would feel alone. Yet to my delight I don't. Life has a slower pace here, and there is more time for little random interactions within the community. Here it is normal taking time to chat to the other neighbours along our road when we meet on my daily dog walks, and it has become an integral and much welcomed part of the day. In the village shops life seems less stressful, and there is always time to natter with the persons at the till or over the fish counter. In my old life in town there was always a feeling of stress, and interactions felt rushed and as if it was an inconvenience to meet an acquaintance in the street.
It is also lovely to have my family so close. On my daily walks with Boomer, I often meet godfather Frans and Båtsman, their beautiful old Sheltie. Our little cottages are close to each other, but separated by woods, and so we have enough privacy not to bump into each other when stepping out the door. Great minds think alike, however, and it turns out we keep the same daily rhythm when it comes to walking our dogs. In the evening, as I go to the red house to check in on my youngsters, I often meet godfather Ente (again with Båtsman) as he is on his way back from closing the hatch for the chicken. During normal years, they would have returned to Amsterdam after new years to enjoy the early spring, but this year they got stuck here due to travel restrictions. I think the chicken are secretly as happy about it as I am. Of course they would be back for summer again, but it has been cozy to have the whole family here for the duration of these odd pandemic times.
From early on in my life, I always entertained the idea that one day when my children are older I would make the leap and move to the country full time. What surprised me was that suddenly I had entered that time. Just as I thought one period of life was ending it turned out a new one had already begun. I was going to take some time out to go travelling, and then it was as if the world stopped turning due to the pandemic. For a whole year now, I have been here. No travels, no hotels, no journeys. Just here, on the farm, day in and day out, 365 days in a row. And I love it! My city friends ask me "But what do you do there, all by yourself??". As it is it feels like I have not been by myself at all. My country dwelling friends all live in corona bubbles too, and we meet up safe in the knowledge that we are all equally careful and it would be damned bad luck if we got ill. At a safe distance of two meters my elderly neighbours and I stand shouting to each other how wonderful it is to have seen otters in the lake, and sometimes my youngerly neighbours pop over for some red wine in the evening. My godchildren come to spend the weekend, the younger ones with their parents and the older ones for a night on their own. Their parents and I laugh that when we were young you had to get a doctors certificate that you were ill and could skip school, and today they get doctors certificates that they are well and virus free to attend school or daycare. Life is different now, yet it is good.