The Meadow And I

In some ways I envy those who live in or near undeveloped locales. Those parts of Montana or Utah, say, that Man hasn’t messed around with too much. Places whose terrains have been shaped over the eons by seismic events and by the unaltered flow of waters, without the added oomph provided by bulldozers, dynamite and chain saws. Where the growth and spread, or not, of vegetation follow elemental rhythms. And where, if you decide to venture out on a nice, long walk, you’re probably not going to bump into other members of our wondrously meddlesome species. Yes, that would be superb.

On the other hand, I’m a suburban/city boy at heart, ensconced in a comfortable house a handful of miles outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. As such, I like living close to supermarkets and shopping malls and movie theaters and art museums and a lot of the other man-made stuff that this sort of environment contains. But there are times when I’ve had enough. “Let me outta here!” I then cry inwardly. “I hear the call of the wild! I require the presence of forests and/or sands and/or seas. Oh, wait for me, my fair landscapes and coastlines. Soon I shall be among you.”

Cape Cod Bay.
Cape Cod Bay (in the distance) at low tide.

That’s when my wife Sandy and I start making plans, rent a house for a decent spell, and a month or so later drive 360 miles in a northwesterly direction to said house on Cape Cod where, miraculously, substantial expanses of Nature in its mostly-undisturbed glory indeed exist. Cape Cod soothes my soul. And has for a long time. But, going to Cape Cod is a schlep and a half. What’s a guy to do on those mornings or afternoons, at home  in the Philadelphia burbs, when a quick fix is in order?

Good question. For picky me there aren’t too many pleasing answers. I mean, there isn’t a lot of natural  scenery around here, in any format, to begin with. Much of what passes for natural are fields and woodlands that have been daintified and picnic-benched. But a few pockets of goodness somehow have escaped humankind’s conquering hands, and one of them, pathetically small as it may be, is where I headed one morning late last month when my inner being began slapping me hard upside the head to let me know it was time to try and commune with Mother Earth.

img_1306img_1304Thus, off I headed on a solo expedition to Awbury Arboretum, formerly a private estate now run by a non-profit group, half an hour from my house. This was my third time there. The first two were with my wife Sandy. She and I first heard of and went to Awbury three years ago. It’s in Philadelphia’s Germantown section, a congested residential area with roots that reach back to the late 1600s, and about seven miles from downtown. Little-known and little-visited, that’s Awbury. Which is A-OK with me, not being the world’s biggest people person. We enjoyed that Awbury visit very much, checking out the trees and shrubbery and well-kept lawns, and admiring the mansion that once housed the Cope family (click here to learn more about the arboretum), even though we didn’t set foot on Awbury’s best feature. A few months ago, on our second trip, we discovered that feature, a compact and alluring meadow. Wowza! I was smitten.

What’s the big deal about a meadow? Well, incredibly, this simple form of natural landscape is harder to find in the Philadelphia area than a winning Powerball ticket. Where did we go wrong? Unfettered meadows, where grasses and wildflowers grow freely to their hearts’ content, used to be fairly commonplace around here not all that many decades ago, weren’t they? Bye, baby, bye. What a world.

img_1313img_1319Yeah, the Awbury meadow is pint-sized, three or four acres at best. Not exactly the meadow of my dreams. But not only did it have to do last month when the earth goddesses beckoned me to find green space, I enjoyed the heck out of it. I tell you, 20 minutes in the meadow grasses did me a world of good. That’s the thing about meadows: they’re just so cute and inviting. Why, within seconds I dropped 60 years from my age and began doing cartwheels magnificently from one edge of the field to another. Too bad that Simone Biles wasn’t there to witness my athletic triumphs. She’d have been way envious.

img_1315img_1314But, getting back to reality, let me say this: You better believe it’s the simple things in life — like, strutting through tall grasses and admiring the muted shades of green and tan and sepia that the blades take on in winter — that can help to put your head back on straight. Not that mine remained in proper position for all that long. Though I embraced the Zenlike moments that happily blossomed within me at Awbury, they faded fast. I ain’t a Buddhist monk — not a bad thing to be, come to think of it — so I was almost back to my usual grumbly self by the time I arrived home. No doubt, however, that something sweet yet short-lived is better than nothing at all.


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28 thoughts on “The Meadow And I

  1. ghostof82 January 11, 2017 / 1:39 am

    Lovely post. The world changes rather slowly from a human perspective, but you know how it is, next thing you know, five years have gone by, then ten, then twenty, and you wonder where they went. And suddenly you realise the world has indeed changed. More buildings, homes, shopping centres, and there’s less green fields around. There’s more people around.

    The world does change but it seems we only realise afterwards- life distracts us from the world around us with all its silly noise that we obsess over. Maybe we need more of those Zen monents you write of!

    Liked by 3 people

    • yeahanotherblogger January 11, 2017 / 8:30 am

      Hi. I’m going to look into becoming a Buddhist monk. Zen rules!


  2. C. C. Cedras January 11, 2017 / 6:51 am

    I know how fortunate I am. I live South of you in the Appalachian mountains, I can see the Blue Ridge Parkway from my living room. My late husband and I bought a couple hundred acres on the side of a mountain that’s part of the Jefferson National Forest and built our dream home here. A few years later, we carved a meadow out of the forest and I’ve had many moments of twirling in the sun, arms flung out and singing “The Hills Are Alive With The Sound of Music”. The views are majestic, the woodsy trails a remove from civilization, the peace and — not just quiet– silence a balm to the soul. And then I can climb into the car, zip along twisty mountain roads and be at Krogers in 15 minutes. It is the best of all worlds.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Sherri Fox January 11, 2017 / 11:15 am

    While I don’t live near any meadows ( though I did enjoy the comedy skills of Audrey & Jayne ) I do live on a pristine beach facing the old Atlantic with palm trees swaying to a variety of music provided by beachgoers. One can meditate, read, tan & sleep off a hangover. Not much retail nearby so it’s wise to bring your own Cheez-Its.
    The bad news is a tractor careens across the sand every morning & removes any trace of naturalness. So I regenerate on the beach at sundown & watch the ocean erase the footprints of humanity.

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger January 11, 2017 / 1:19 pm

      Hi Sherri. Bringing one’s own Cheez-Its is always a good idea. So is regenerating on the beach at sundown. Enjoy the view!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Branda January 12, 2017 / 10:59 am

    Hello! I work at Awbury and am so please you visited!

    I’m especially glad that you recognized the awesomeness of the meadow. It’s one of my favorite parts of our 55 acres. I love how different it looks in each season and the wildlife we spot there.

    If you’re ever by the Arboretum during office hours (roughly Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm) come by the Cope House and say hi!

    – Branda

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger January 12, 2017 / 1:07 pm

      Hi Branda. I’m glad you stumbled upon/discovered my Awbury story. You work at a fine place. I hope this piece will help spread the word about the arboretum!


  5. akwelle vallis January 12, 2017 / 12:15 pm

    I thoroughly enjoyed your story. I live next to Rock Creek Park golf course. It’s not a fancy golf course with expensive membership fees. In fact, it is mostly woodland with meadows where deer roam freely after they’ve eaten the flowers in my front yard. Nevertheless I enjoy walking my dog there especially after a big snow fall.

    My twin sister, Akuokuo ( told me about your site. And I’m glad she did.

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger January 12, 2017 / 1:10 pm

      Hi Akwelle. You and your sister are, I’m sure, the only twins who will ever read my articles! Thanks for signing up.
      The area where you live sounds real nice. You’re lucky to live near meadows.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. dearlilyjune January 12, 2017 / 3:49 pm

    I can’t help but think of Chris Whitley’s “Wild Country”:

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger January 12, 2017 / 8:27 pm

      Beautiful song. Thanks for posting this. I hadn’t thought of Chris Whitley in quite a few years.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Still the Lucky Few January 12, 2017 / 6:44 pm

    You made me pine for the beautiful plains of my childhood in Northern Alberta, Canada! I haven’t been there in way too many years, since it’s a good long plane ride away. Winters were brutally cold and yet beautiful. Summer days were long and hot and dry—I have great memories of simple games, and long lonely walks, during which I learned how to think and live. Currently, the temperature there is 30 degrees below, I’m told. So I’ll have to be satisfied with my balmy surroundings here on the west coast!

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger January 12, 2017 / 8:31 pm

      Hi, Diane. Your descriptions of Northern Alberta are lovely. Thanks for adding them to this story.


  8. BuntyMcC January 12, 2017 / 7:57 pm

    I’m glad you found somewhere to do cartwheels. Does Valley Forge count as meadow?
    On another note, if we let our 1/2 acre “lawn” (and I use that term loosely) become meadow-like, we would be carried away by the mosquitoes.

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger January 12, 2017 / 8:34 pm

      Hi. You know, I’ve lived in or near Philadelphia for the last 40 years. Yet, I’ve never been to Valley Forge. I don’t know how what degree of naturalness those grounds are in. But, I’m glad you mentioned VF, because I have added it to my list of places to go and see.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Cindy January 14, 2017 / 11:45 pm

    Have you visited Chanticleer Garden in Radnor Township? It’s a little gem of a garden that, even though it isn’t mostly meadow, always made me feel relaxed and peaceful. I’m thankful to live in an area with so many beautiful green spaces!

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger January 15, 2017 / 10:12 am

      Hi, Cindy. Haven’t been to Chanticleer. I’ll add it to my ever-expanding list of places to visit.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. andrewcferguson January 15, 2017 / 3:48 am

    Amusingly and well written as ever, Neil. I’m with you – I’ve discovered when flat-hunting recently in Edinburgh I’m a suburbanite at heart, but I also feel the call of the wild on occasion. WHEN (not if) you come to Edinburgh, I’ll direct you to the Botanic Gardens – no meadow, unfortunately, but lots of areas where, with a bit of luck, you can get away from other people for a while. Although they do have a slightly annoying habit of showing up when you don’t need them…

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger January 15, 2017 / 10:20 am

      Hi, Andrew. Scotland/Edinburgh definitely is on my list of places to see. Hope to get there one of these days. Speaking of the search for greenery, my wife and I watched a movie at home last night: Miss Potter. It’s about the children’s book writer Beatrix Potter. She was so distressed by the buying of Lake District farms by housing developers, she bought thousands of farm acres and kept the land as it was. She eventually donated the lands, which have been maintained as a park, to Britain.

      Liked by 1 person

      • andrewcferguson January 15, 2017 / 1:54 pm

        Yep, she was really an admirable person actually. As well as the film, there’s a recent book out about her which goes even further into how she had to struggle to become who she wanted to be – and save a large part of stunning countryside into the bargain.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. ALAN NOTHERN February 9, 2017 / 1:35 pm

    Modern Homo Sapiens is a highly urbanized creature, yet many of us I’m sure crave the primeval wilds from time to time. I live in downtown Paris where I love to winter, close to theatres, museums, concert halls, restaurants etc but come March or April when the sun is out, I hear the call of the wilds and head for the countryside. The US is lucky in having so many millions of acres of near virgin land and pristine parks such as Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon.
    Alan from Paris

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger February 9, 2017 / 2:18 pm

      Hi, Alan.
      Trump is such an utter fool and such a destructive force, he’s going to wreak havoc on Mother Nature. The near virgin lands you mention will be under attack.


  12. Eugene Knapik February 16, 2017 / 8:40 am

    I used to be a fly fishing freak. By that I mean I traveled all over the place to chase trout, up to my ass in a riffle, waving my fly rod around. My buddy East Texas Red and I visited all kinds of out of the way places from Northern Ontario, the UP in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Yellowstone, up into Alberta and BC. I love those out of the way places, forests, streams, meadows, lakes and so on. Curiously though, I never wanted to live in any of those places. I need to be around the city too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger February 16, 2017 / 9:36 am

      Hi. “Fly fishing freak” — that is a great string of words!


    • yeahanotherblogger March 13, 2017 / 10:06 am

      Hi. Thanks for stopping by. Germantown used to be a separate village. It was incorporated into Philly around 1850. There are a lot of historical sights in Germantown.

      Liked by 1 person

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