Singing Meadow: The Adventure of Creating a Country Home

The lilting prose of Peri McQuay’s enchanting new book has the feel of a conversation with an open-hearted friend.Charlotte Zoe Walker, editor of The Art of Seeing Things: Essays by John Burroughs

Author Peri Phillips McQuay broods on nature with a great love. She and her husband, Barry, must find a new home. Their journey is one to the heart of living, from the Polygala orchid she finds, to the oak tree, to her guest visits of flying squirrels. There is much to be understood from such gentle writing. And even more to be gained from the pattern language of her country life. Diana Beresford-Kroeger –author of The Sweetness of a Simple Life and The Global Forest

Told with the excitement of a novel, Singing Meadow: The Adventure of Creating a Country Home is the much-requested sequel to The View from Foley Mountain. Here is the inspirational story of a couple creating a small, simple home in a magnificent, natural setting.

For thirty years, my husband Barry and I were fortunate to live within Foley Mountain, an 800 acre Eastern Ontario conservation area. Experiencing nature intimately, I established a successful writing career while Barry was passionately committed to teaching nature appreciation to thousands of school children. But now, with retirement looming and the need to pass on our present rented park home to a new Area Supervisor, it was time to begin the daunting search for a new and different refuge.

First came a year-long search for a ready-made house and land, filled with adventures and encounters which forced us to hone our concept of what we truly wanted and needed from a new dwelling and new surroundings.

Would it be too late to wrench up our roots and transfer our commitment to a whole new landscape? As the years at Foley Mountain had taught us, living close to nature is the most important part of home. Unfortunately, an affordable place where we could be surrounded by nature appeared impossible to find. But then, just as we were ready to give up, we fell in love with a beautiful piece of land. Although we never planned to take on the challenges of a custom-built house, this location, close to our beloved conservation area and the welcoming community of Westport, was too sweet to leave behind.

Inevitably, the art of creating a pleasing small home, caused tensions to surface. But at the same time, there was great joy in discovering our new surroundings. Always present in my lyrical writing is our love of the land.

This timely book celebrates the possibilities and rewards of simple living and the healing power of nature. Yes, Singing Meadow says. Yes, you can have a house in the country and here’s the story of one couple’s adventure of discovery.

As it turned out, the feeling of finding home was more profound than excitement. It was a heartfelt knowing. What I want to suggest is that sometimes, with much sacrifice and patience and some luck, dreams can come true.

From Singing Meadow:

 

When I finally began the joyous process of learning our new land, I wanted a name for our place. The need for a name felt like a kind of claiming, but I also saw it as an expression of love for what felt like “home at last”.

Over the long years when I dreamed of land of my own, I felt sure the name would be ‘Heart’s Desire’. What else could express my longing for a country place to care for? Although I treasured the rented areas where we lived, especially beautiful Foley Mountain where we raised our sons, I felt a need for a sanctuary greater than renting could give.

When I first stood feeling the morning heat of high summer rising from the water meadow, ‘Still Point’ was the name that came to me. It is here that I want to end my days, learning to focus more narrowly and deeply. I want to study a different kind of praise that breathes in and absorbs the sorrow as well as the glory into an earthy whole. Yes, ‘Still Point’ was right, I thought then. This will be a convergence point for becoming one with what I care for.

And yet. There has never been a time when I have looked out over the beautiful spreading meadow in the valley beyond our house when I have not felt a powerful singing quality to it. Yes, of course, this comes when I hear a chorus of peepers through my open bedroom window. And yes, there is the piping call of the snipe, the exuberance of the redwings, in fact, a whole summer of birds. But there is more to this singing. There is the wind
blowing through lush spring grasses, and a different sort of wind whispering through the sere brown seed heads of last summer’s goldenrods and black-eyed susans. But perhaps the most resounding time for me in the meadow is on a snowbound day such as this, when I am surrounded by an eloquent silence. Singing Meadow.

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