We don’t have a Starbucks coffee shop within walking distance of our primary residence. In fact, there isn’t one closer than fifty miles from our house, or at least there wasn’t one within the last fifteen minutes; they seem to just pop up like mushrooms after a soft summer shower. So, I thought we lived out in the country.

That was before we purchased a hilltop in Bland, Virginia. Surrounded by thousands of acres of pristine woodland that comprises The Jefferson National Forest, and not a traffic light in sight, the idea of country living took on a whole new meaning.

By day, the three hundred sixty degree view is awe inspiring. Ridge after ridge runs down the bowl of the circular mountain surround as if down hill skiing into the lap of Bland. I have often referred to it as a natural sundial and we are the center hand whose reflection determines the hour of the day. From sunrise, a glorious birth of another day that I arise early to glimpse, until the evening sunset which is not to be missed; the creeping hours of the day can be seen in the shadows that run along the ridges, turning them olive and navy from the bright yellow green of previous hours in the day. Who needs a clock when the heavens are providing?

But at night, there is total darkness, the kind most of us have never experienced. We certainly had not, until we spent our first night in our tiny cabin that is perched on the top of the hill like a woodpecker; dark walls, red roof, black accents of iron lanterns and coat hooks.
That was three years ago. But the brilliance of the night sky, an inky overhead carpet studded with millions of Swarovski crystals, remains a favorite time for me.

I will pull open the curtains over the cherry wood sleigh bed and tilt back my head to look up into the heavens as I fall asleep. The delicate striations of cloudiness that contains the milky way can be seen in a way that makes it quite apparent. The red glow of Mars and Venus can be seen, though small, with the naked eye.

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