The American Dream is alive and well just around the corner, a short walk from Trouts Farm. This manifestation of ‘50s-style prosperity — a collection of family homes on wooded and rolling land — always cheers me up regardless of how much doom and gloom I’ve glimpsed in the morning headlines.
The first part of my walk is not calming. I hurry south along the Moncure Pittsboro Road with its narrow shoulder and loaded logging trucks. When I hear one hurtling towards me, I clamp my teeth shut to protect my tongue like I used to when working with young horses, and step into the weeds until it roars around the bend. I’ve learned to close my eyes until the slipstream has come and gone before stepping back onto the asphalt.
But it’s usually only one or two trucks before I emerge onto the wide, gravel entrance to the hinterlands. The first thing I see is the old Midway General Store, so named because of its location halfway between Pittsboro and Moncure. My next-door neighbor’s father ran the Midway from 1949–1968, back in the days before paychecks flattened and everyone went into debt. I like that the family kept the storefront intact; it’s a little piece of local history preserved, the clipped lawn a harbinger of more civic pride ahead.
This well-tended road curves through the woods, taking me away. The first time I walked here after our return from the dusty squalor of Kumasi, I noticed a pattern on the shoulder and my mouth gaped open when I realized that it had been seeded with grass. And when I stepped into the sunlight with the view of neatly-tended hay fields, I was flushed with gratitude for the people that care enough to tend this land.
The image of these orderly acres would return to me during our repatriation phase, helping me override the fears that we were old and unemployable and would not be able to successfully resume our lives here in the states. We’ve been home nearly six years now and those seedlings have grown into a green carpet.
These days I am often joined by my friend Judy. She meets me at the end of her driveway where the road turns left through the trees and we continue on around the bend to where the landscape opens up. The man largely responsible for keeping paradise intact is the nicest of people. I can tell it’s him even when the sun is glinting off his windshield because he doesn’t just wave his hand, he waggles his fingers. He often stops to chat, leaning over his steering wheel or throwing a foot over the side of his golf cart, with his blue heeler, Cricket, smiling beside him.
Judy overwintered her horses in this pasture for a couple of seasons to give her own acres a rest. We usually stop to take in the view and appreciate the barn at this point, remembering when the horses were here: two bays and a grey.
Sometimes Judy brings ZuZu, a sturdy Boxer who loves to run and nose around.
Even on cooler days, Zuzu jumps into the pond where the horses used to drink, bending forward like zebras.
This is the view that I see shortly after turning around: a lone Tulip Poplar with a juniper tutu flanking a hayfield, with the barn and the pond beyond.
When I return to the pond, the geese waddle up onto the bank and launch, flying over the trees towards our house.
A bit further, I’m back into the shade and heading towards home.
Nearly every day, sometimes in the rain, I step into this place of casual order and reaffirm my belief in a future that’s not on fire, or heavily armed, or being knelt upon. This milieu of The American Dream, born of generations of hard work and family money, is a remnant of the years between The Great Depression and Reganomics when we were assured of education, healthcare, and the right to thrive. In the coming days, as we wait for the election and a vaccine, I may find myself seeking equilibrium here more than once a day.