Rural Living

by Elizabeth Slavenksy

Rural living in my corner of the internet is generally framed as a temporary situation, necessitated by a year or two in the Peace Corps or a summer spent WWOOFing, or as a childhood circumstance to overcome. Rural aspirations occasionally bubble to the surface in the form of Instagrammed pictures of that weekend at the lake or that holiday at the cabin. The realities are rural living can be easy to overlook. I’ve been living in the country most of my life and can confidently assert the following:

Sometimes, living in the country means attending an annual neighborhood party, complete with both a locally-raised roast pig and many vegan side dishes, old men circulating Mason jars of moonshine, and a band playing Ramones covers.

Other times, it means drinking too many homebrews at the lovely neighborhood party, forgetting to close the door on the chicken coop for the night, and spending the following day, hungover, burying several beloved hens that have been disemboweled overnight by an unidentified predator.

Sometimes, living in the country means making a julep with mint harvested from the herb garden, strolling down to the old apple tree that reliably shades a patch of morels every spring, and harvesting mushroom after wondrous mushroom.

Other times, it means sitting at the desk at my office job, absentmindedly scratching my head, and finding a fully engorged tick.

Sometimes, living in the country means zipping up a white jacket that smells of sweet beeswax and pine smoke, pulling up the screened hood, and gently prying open the cover to my beehive after its first winter. The bees hum and whir, crawling over my gloved hands, weightless.

Other times, it means spending several minutes attempting to determine exactly what variety of shit I have just tracked into the house. Chicken? Cat? Bear? It smells like cat shit, but it appears to contain a cherry pit.

Sometimes, living in the country means watching the snow fall on the spruce trees while stirring a batch of fudge and listening to early Tom Waits on the stereo.

Other times, it means washing my hair in a bucket of lukewarm water when the power has been off for 11 days following a massive snowstorm.

Rural living is alternately maligned and idealized. Like most living situations, the truth lies somewhere in between. I love my trips to “the big city” for Trader Joe’s, the giant Co-op, and national music acts, but at the end of the day, I choose to slip on my shit-encrusted work boots, scratch my beestings, and head out to water the mushroom logs.

Elizabeth Slavensky lives in the beating heart of Appalachia with her husband and a revolving cast of wild and domestic animals. If someone wanted to send her some Chocolatey Cats Cookies, that would be cool.

Photo: Jimmy Brown

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