I Always Wanted to Live in the Country

I’m heading to my country cottage in Ireland next week. It’s been just over a year since I signed all the paperwork, and more than six months since I’ve been there (I’m still working out a schedule).

Buying the place has been an interesting experience, and one that was relatively uncomplicated. Since I’ve gone public, I’ve learned that there are a lot of people for whom owning a small cottage in Ireland is a beloved fantasy. I’m happy to let you live vicariously through my own adventure!

There are two main reasons why I wanted to have a place of my own in Ireland. One is all those Irish ancestors calling out to me. Because of various family frictions, I never had a chance to know my Irish-born grandparents (my father’s side of the family), so this was my way of making up for it (and I’ve found a lot of new relatives!).

But I always wanted to live in the country, somewhere. I grew up mainly in suburbs of major cities, usually within commuting distance. Don’t get me wrong—I love cities. I’ve worked in Boston, Philadelphia, San Francisco and London and enjoyed them all. But I don’t want to live in the heart of one.

My mother was a child of the New Jersey suburbs, until her father had a sort of mid-life crisis and decided he wanted to be a dairy farmer (you have no idea how absurd this was—he had no training at all, and little aptitude). He got a six-week agricultural degree at Rutgers and moved the family to Maine when my mother was fourteen. She hated it. Actually my grandmother did too: she got fed up, moved to Manhattan during WWII, and divorced her husband. My mother lasted another year in Maine, then joined her mother in New York. She never looked back, and when in later years we would drive past a farm with rolling hills and a pretty view, she’d snarl.

Mountain View Farm, Waterville,


So why my fascination with places and lifestyles I’ve never known? Sometimes I wonder if there’s some kind of inherited memory involved, which is why rolling green hills seem familiar to me. Other times I think it really may be all those rural ancestors (on both sides of the Atlantic) whispering in my ear, which would explain why I kept finding their final resting places in obscure cemeteries when I’m not even looking for them.

But while I yearned for those rolling green meadows early in my life, a few decades later I’ve found that I want those places for other reasons, that have nothing to do with my ghosts. I want peace. Quiet. Real darkness, where I can see the stars, and on a good night, the Milky Way. Elbow room. I don’t want to be a hermit, but neither do I want to look into my neighbor’s kitchen and watch her washing dishes (been there, done that). Glimpses of animals who are too shy to come out back home, and wildflowers that I don’t even recognize. When I think about the cottage, the little half-acre piece of the world that is all mine, I swear my blood pressure drops. It’s my Happy Place. Sure, there’s work to be done on it, and I still want to visit new places in Ireland, but what I picture most often is sitting on the patio and watching the sun set over the mountains of Kerry.

And, yes, the family cemetery is up the hill

What about you? Have you ever come to a place you’ve never been and immediately recognized it and felt at home? What places just feel “right” to you?


18 Thoughts

  1. I absolutely understand, Sheila, and envy your cottage. Four years ago I made my first trip to the west and suddenly “got” the lyrics to John Denver’s song. Coming home to a place I’d never been before. I wept the first time I saw the Rockies from the plane’s window. I’ve been fortunate to go back to “visit home” every year since then. My heart soars and my blood pressure drops every time I see the mountains, the bluffs, and the canyons.

  2. I grew up in the west, in the shadow of real mountains. Even though I’ve now lived in Massachusetts longer than I lived in California, when I fly west and cross the Rockies, I feel like I can really breathe again. I doubt I’ll return to live there, but I know it’s home. Have fun in your solitary cottage this summer, Sheila – I love following your settling-in posts!

  3. I subscribe to the “inherited memory” theory! A few weeks ago I sailed into Lerwick harbor in the Shetland Islands, and it felt like coming home. No one is entirely sure where my father’s family came from centuries ago– England? Scotland? And it doesn’t matter. Still, I pay attention anytime I have one of those visceral responses that tell me I’ve come home. Enjoy your cottage! 🙂

  4. Thank you for letting us live in Ireland with/through? you. My Mother was born there but the family never talked about Ireland.

  5. Great post, Sheila — and thanks for bringing us into all this! This resonates greatly. And have fun in Ireland!

  6. As a military wife you kind of have to do a “home is where your heart is” thing. But when we moved to Monterey, California I didn’t have the usual adjustment period. Coastal Maine gives me the same feeling.

  7. It all sounds so wonderful Sheila. I am truly happy for you.
    I am still searching for that magical place to call home. I loathe my current house, and hopefully will relocate in the future.

    1. My family moved around a lot when I was young (mostly for my father’s job) and no place felt like home in those days. Seems like I’ve been looking for a long time. I knew New England would be a good fit. but I still wonder what it would be like to live in a true Colonial home. Good luck with your hunting! No matter how many lists of requirements you give the realtor (or search for in online listings), the house still has to feel right to you when you’re in it.

  8. Oh does this blog post speak to me. I dream daily of living in the UK countryside. I have lived in Portland OR all my life except for a 4 year stint in New England (which I LOVED) and it is getting more and more big, crowded not to mention that all the beautiful historic buildings are being demolished and replaced with tacky highrises. I don’t know how much more I can take! I fantasize when in traffic oh to have a place in England, Ireland, Wales, Scotland – I’d take any of them.

    A show that will really get you going is a series called Escape to the Country (filmed in the UK) about people looking for a home in the countryside – they tour 3 homes including the “mystery house” – it is eye candy for those of us longing for a slower, quieter, quaint style of life. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006vb2f

    1. What you said above reminded me of so many of my ancestors, who seemed to feel that if they could see a house from where they lived, the neighborhood was too crowded, so they’d pick up and move, mostly westward.

      I did stumble on that Escape to the Country show recently, for the first time. (I was mad that they didn’t share which house the couple had chosen). The things people were looking for were so different from what we see on American housing shows. I love details like “the kitchen beams date from the sixteenth century.”

  9. I love this blog and understand completely. I grew up as an only child living in the country.in southeast Kansas As a result, I never had a problem entertaining myself and loved the quiet peacefulness and simple pleasures of the lifestyle.. I have lived in cities ( Rio de Janeiro, Los Angelos, mid size cities and small towns) and now in retirement years, I love our small cape cod house in small town Michigan, with a winter cottage in the low country of SC. I still daydream of the whitewashed cottage in Ireland or the highlands of Scotland , but the travel and daydreams suffice as I am thankful for contented life. Thanks Sheila, for adding dimension to my daydreams.

  10. I was born at the Chelsea Naval Hospital outside Boston. My family left when I was six months old, and I grew up in the mid-Atlantic states, mostly NJ and PA. But when I moved to Boston after college, I felt instantly like it was home. Still do feel this way, even as we contemplate moving away as a part of our downsizing.

    I am a city person. I love cities. The country gives me the creeps. So dark. So quiet. No thank you.

  11. I live in Amish country in Pennsylvania, and I love it. But when I visit the Sacred Valley of Peru, I really feel I am home. There was a time, years ago, when I hoped to moved there, but that time has passed and now I enjoy the beauty of our quiet area.

    1. My father lived in Willow Street, south of Lancester, for the last decade or so of his life, and Cornwall before that. I think he felt some of the same thing–it felt like country, not that he ever voiced it. But his third wife kept a horse, which played into that choice.

      1. I love the convenience of Lancaster, but the ability to get out into the country within minutes is priceless. I sure understand your father.

  12. Love your Irish posts, Sheila. Keep sharing your adventures as you nestle into your small sweet cottage. I’m sort of with Barb Ross in preferring city or dense suburban living – though deep city gets old fast fot me. I’ve enjoyed living in a small apartments in Boston’s North End and on Beacon Hill – I like the jostle and color of people and activity around, but always with a happy place to retreat to, like Gloucester, a place that’s not country, still lots of people and color, but different. When I’m in Connemara, Ireland, it feels like a home place – though it would have to be a counterpoint to a life like the one I have here. Wouldn’t suit me full time.
    One essential for me is to live on or near the ocean – the Atlantic to be specific. New England/Ireland latitudes. I start feeling desperate when I’m too far away from the ocean. Like I can’t settle. Makes me antsy.

    1. I do know what you mean–I truly enjoy cities, but I like a place to retreat to and recharge. I guess this is why I have two homes?

      I also agree that the ocean matters. My sister (in Kentucky) and I were talking about that yesterday. We grew up in New Jersey and visited The Shore regularly, but she’s been in Kentucky since her teens and has grown away from it. My husband grew up in landlocked Indiana and didn’t see an ocean until he was in his twenties, so he really doesn’t get it. We introduced our daughter to the Pacific Ocean (she was born in California) when she was about two–and she hated it. Where did I go wrong?

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