It's been almost eight years since I dragged my husband and three kids to a split foyer in the middle of nowhere in South Carroll to makeour new home.
The five of us moved from Brooklyn Park in Anne Arundel County, because, as a country girl at heart, I simply could not take the crowded city any longer. (We were just a short walk away from the Baltimore line).
So we pulled up stakes and headed west.
My first impressions were ones of delight. I could look out my living room window and see afarm, complete with red barn and horses, across the street.
Out the kitchen window was a wooded lot, and beyond that, a stand of treeson a hill. At night, I could stand in my yard and actually see the stars and moon after a brilliant sunset.
The kids could play Frisbee and baseball in the back yard and not fear hitting a neighbor's caror house. I thought I was in heaven.
In the time we've been here,I've found many other things for which I'm deeply thankful:
* Thetrees. Having learned early in life to appreciate the beauties of nature from summer vacations in West Virginia, I was never happy so near the city, especially in the fall when the leaves turn brilliant hues of red, gold, yellow and orange.
But here, my hunger for that beauty has been satisfied. A 10-minute walk in any direction from my house brings me to breath-taking vistas. And the drive up Route 97 fromLiberty Road to Westminster has to be one of the loveliest sights inall of Maryland in October.
* The wildlife, including Momma, Baby, Beggar, Stubby and Little Donny, our resident chipmunks. All five of us delight in watching these adorable animals as they play, fight and eat. We had a few that ate out of our hands and let us pet them, but this year's young still are tentative, though we stuff them constantly with seeds.
We also have rabbits and a gray squirrel in the yard. Rides on the school bus and in the car show us deer, fox, owls, hawks, herons, possums and raccoons.
The domestic animals also give cause for joy -- foals in spring kicking up their heels in play, a tiny calf nursing.
* The farms, especially those with the typical aging farmhouse and red barn. Some of my happiest memories are of summers on Grandma's farm, and here, amid the numerous farms, those memories come alive.
No matter where I go in Carroll, I pass barns andfarmhouses that take me back to other places and times.
I don't know if it's my love for history and the simpler way life used to be, or just my longing to be a child at Grandma's again, but Carroll's pastoral beauty make me feel happily at home.
* The towns. I've always loved quaint, historical towns, and Carroll has so many little places like that. Not just the incorporated towns, but Woodbine, Snydersburg, Lineboro, Frizzelburg, Patapsco and other off-the-beaten-path communities.
While I'm on the towns, I'd like to add a word about Sykesville, which I cover for The Carroll County Sun. The people make a town, and those I have to work with here have to be the best around.
I've been known to badger the mayor, town manager, clerk/treasurer and police chief unmercifully with questions about stories, but never have I failed to get everything I needed. For your unceasing timeand effort to make my job easier, I thank all of you in Sykesville.
* The people. In the five years I've been with this newspaper, I've written hundreds of stories and met hundreds of people from every walk of life. And every one of them has been a delight to get to know and write about.
Beyond the newsmakers, there are those we all need to get us through the day. With hubby working 35 miles away, it's up to me to take of things around the house when they break down and to keep the car running.
I've been extremely lucky in Carroll County in finding honest, reputable, fair-priced business people who can fix something when I need it.
Just a couple of places I feel compelled to mention include the two guys in Eldersburg who keep my Ford LTD running and the Sykesville firm that makes sure my well, septic andwater systems are functioning properly.
One of my cherished possessions is a 1970 Mercury Cougar XR-7. Old as it is, it's sometimes hard to find someone with the right parts and knowledge to fix it.
But find someone I did -- a repair shop in New Windsor where their specialty is old Mustangs and similar cars.
I'm only one of many transplants from other areas -- those of us seeking a little calm and peace in our lives away from the city.
Nonetheless, Carroll County isa place where anyone can feel at home, and I do.
For that, I givethanks.