From Bellingham to Bucolia
Wednesday, March 2, 2016
“In Bucolia, folks tend to communicate more over their fence posts and on their front porches than they do by pressing buttons on a piece of high-tech plastic,” writes Matthew Thuney in the opening pages of Bucolia: Hijinx in the Hinterlands. “It’s an old method of communication called ‘talking’ or ‘conversing,’ and it seems to work pretty well when it comes to catching up on news or, especially, gossip.”
Sometimes the tittle-tattling is done at one of the many potlucks that take place during “soiree season” near he and his wife Donna’s South Fork Valley home in rural Whatcom County, but Thuney also writes about being compelled to converse with neighbors by the side of the road as he tries to get from point A to point B.
Either way, it’s clear from the overall tone of the autobiographical tome that the author is thrilled they made the move from the big city of Bellingham to “Bucolia,” which seems to be a state of mind as much as it is the geographical description.
“Whether you’re a denizen of Bucolia or just passing through, it’s a good idea to keep your eyes peeled and allow a little extra time to get from here to there,” he writes. “You’re on country time now. Clocks tick a little more slowly around here.”
Those who read Bucolia will also discover that time isn’t the only thing that behaves differently when it comes to living outside of city limits. After Matthew and Donna moved to the county in 2008—preceded by a hilarious recounting of the months-long challenge of getting a manufactured home to their remote locale—they soon realized that the humans were a little out of the ordinary, as well.
For example, despite being a longtime UFO aficionado, Thuney balks when his wife suggests consulting a “water witch” to find out where to drill for a well. But the dowsing works, and the diviner won’t accept a penny, instead asking him to “pay it forward.”
“Out here in Bucolia, between the old ways and modern technology, we sit pretty comfortably in the here and now,” he notes.
Or take their friend Anna, who arrives to bless the property and soon tells the couple it’s good they didn’t set the house where they were going to, because it’s a prime locale for the Sasquatch People (also a fascination of Thuney’s, and a topic he’ll discuss at a March 12 Whatcom Community College presentation).
Along with clever illustrations by local artist Ellen Clark, subsequent chapters in Bucolia deal with everything from Thuney’s latent gardening addiction to ongoing battles with cows (and his father-in-law), mysterious lights in the night (most likely caused by glowing frisbees and dogs), the sighting of many winged and furry creatures from the animal kingdom, the weirdness of being cat people among a community of many farmers and, finally, becoming “Your Voice of the Valley” on the rural radio station KAVZ.
While Thuney acknowledges that not every moment spent in Bucolia is bucolic, the love he feels for the place—and the people—will resonate with anybody who’s made similar journeys, and even those of us who make their homes in places where generators aren’t needed.
“The truth of the matter is that Bucolia is my pillar, not the other way around,” Thuney writes near the end of the book. “This tiny community tucked far away from the hustle and bustle, the confusing discord of life lived in convenient but close confines, has supported me in ways too numerous to mention and too deep to divine.”
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