Our log cabin, set on the high back pasture far from the road and lacking utilities and phone connection, is an ideal setting for midsummer nights' dreaming. The only drop-by visitors we are likely to have are the cows, which enjoy grazing by the gate when we sit on the porch – a sociability I have always appreciated, for their slow, drifting movements close the day on a perfect note of serenity.
The sifting of leaves, the occasional drumming of rain on the cabin's metal roof, the flickering of the fire in the hearth, and the snuffling contentment of the dogs as they circle down to the rag rugs all nudge me imperceptibly toward a deep and generally untroubled sleep.
Aside from the murmurings of dreams, the next thing I hear is bird song.
The half-mile walk back to the house – set on the road, electrified, tethered to the world by phone and Internet service – takes just long enough for me to make the emotional shift into the 21st century again.
There are a number of routes to choose from – directly down the footpath, across the stream, and straight up to the back door; through the cedars and east hayfield; or along any of a number of meandering cow paths.
If time doesn't press, I follow a mowed path across the high pasture before heading down to the stream's S-curve past the big twin poplars. Sometimes I linger by the water or under the poplars to savor the uncomplicated embrace of a summery dawn a bit longer.
The other morning, the dogs and I chose to take a wooded path down from the cabin and under the horizontal canopy of a huge sugar maple that had toppled in a storm years ago but lived on – the branches of one side having broken the fall so that the roots held. Over the years it has shed a number of crushed and defoliated branches on the underside and filled out above, creating a kind of arced shelter – almost a room.
It was not yet 7 a.m., an overcast morning with the woods only dimly lighted, when I noticed that the three dogs – who had been briskly trotting ahead – had slowed to a tiptoe around a dark, obscuring shadow.
A moment later, I saw it was Ben, our black Percheron workhorse, normally a skittish fellow who would not brook a trio of mutts coming up behind him without flinching. But he'd stood absolutely still. At my touch, one eye flicked open.
I realized then that he'd been sound asleep there in the bower. I felt a sudden twinge of embarrassment at having clumped right into his private bedroom. I murmured an apology and crept on by as the dogs had, marveling at their tact.
Looking back, I saw that Ben hadn't moved a muscle – and perhaps hadn't fully waked from his own midsummer night's dreaming.