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“Hi Amy, this is Cathy from next door. This morning, we found a dead deer with mountain lion tracks around it in our grapevines. Fish and Game guessed the mountain lion got scared off before it could drag the deer away. The cat will likely return at dusk in the next few days, so you should keep your kids inside. Unless your kids are really driving you crazy, then totally send them outside at dusk. Ha! Just kidding. Have a great day.”

***

I pulled into our cul-de-sac and exhaled fully, my shoulders relaxing with the view. I smiled at the majestic redwoods bordering the vineyards and large properties and appreciated the 1990s modern farmhouse look of our neighborhood. Little sparrows flitted about in the bushes, the only living creatures I saw on my street. As I angled toward our long driveway, I glanced at our acre of Pinot Noir grapevines off to the left, which, after their expensive make-over, were readying for our first harvest. Our stationary windmill marked the end of our grapevines. 

Rosemary and boxwood hedges lined our long driveway, and I glanced to the right at our neighbor’s house, which quickly disappeared behind our two-story garage and granny unit.  I turned away from the granny unit and pressed the garage opener. As I waited for it to open, I looked at the pool to my right and smiled at the joy that item brought my family despite its horrific green appearance when we moved in. I shuddered with the thought.

I parked the van in the garage filled with plastic tubs on one side and a workbench on the other, stepped into the entryway, and hung my purse in the tiny laundry room. With all three kids safely dropped at school and Patrick, my husband, working in San Diego that week, I smiled and breathed a sigh of relief. I had the house to myself for three hours before Brigit’s kindergarten pick-up at 1:00 and then Shannon and Alana’s at 3:00. I exhaled as I looked around my kitchen and family room. Should I wash dishes, do the laundry, or read my French romance novel set in the Burgundy region and imagine my life with my sexy French boyfriend, Francois?  

I glanced at the row of redwoods defining the border of our property behind my herb garden filled with verbena, sage, and chocolate mint. The calm of nature filled my soul. For over two years I had been loving this Northern California landscape, so different from the Southern California tropical landscape I had called home for the previous 23 years, but I still marveled we had made the move and lived in wine country with space to move and to breathe.

The book it is. House duties could wait. Also, the floor will get dirty once the kids come home, so why not save time and do it later? 

Though I missed Patrick when he was out of town, cooking duties became much easier. I made strawberry waffles and bacon for dinner one night, then blueberry pancakes and sausage another. The girls and I LOVED having breakfast for dinner, and I indulged that desire every time he was out of town. Take-out pizza, chicken strips, and hamburgers rounded out the week. 

As I scanned the worn leather couch and cherry wood coffee table in the family room looking for my book, I heard my phone ping. I found my purse and removed my phone. A voicemail alert appeared, and I listened to the message from our neighbor, Cathy.  

My stomach tightened. I furrowed my brows. I replayed the message, not quite believing what I’d heard. I looked out the front window at our acre of pinot noir grapevines and saw the neighbor’s vines across the street. Mountain lions are roaming our front yard and killing deer? I never once considered getting eaten by a mountain lion in San Diego. Is this what my ‘I-want-to-live-in-the-country’ dreams got me? My family eaten by a mountain lion? My kids never able to play outside at dusk? Me never able to enjoy a sunset happy hour again? 

I contemplated the nights I took out the garbage in complete darkness. Did I need to stop doing that? I wondered if mountain lions had already been watching me and sizing up what type of snack I would make. I didn’t want to worry every time anyone in my family ventured outside once the sun set. I wanted my country life to be relaxing and peaceful and a new adventure, not about being eaten by ferocious mountain lions. 

I looked around my house and realized I needed to prioritize. If I was getting eaten by a wild cat in my new country home, I didn’t need to worry about the dirty floor. 

The wine in our closet seemed to beckon me. No sense in saving our gorgeous, biodynamic pinot noir wine purchased at a boutique winery for another day. Soon, I might be a mountain lion snack, so why save the good wine? I needed a wine for my waffle dinner that said, “Life is short. Drink the good wine. Adopt the buddy system at night.” I opened the closet door, leered at a few gorgeous bottles, and chose the winner. 

I set it on the counter, anticipating the wine’s velvety taste in my mouth later, and pondered the mountain lion issue. The power of nature was knocking on my door, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to answer. Little was I to know that this would be the first of many unwanted knocks to land on my country door.