In 2016 my wife and I rented a house in Warsaw, Indiana surrounded by farm fields and a small plot of woods. Although peaceful compared to our lives in graduate school, there was an underlying sadness in that we had no friends nearby and our neighbors primarily consisted of the elderly couple down the road who owned the property and an accountant for a local nursing home who never seemed very interested in socializing. Over time, we grew to count the cows from the neighboring farm as our neighbors, with each having a distinct personality. Some even had names on their ear tags, though most were simply numbered. Ross is not the largest, but is the most dominant toward the other cows. Lady Ellen is curious and cautiously friendly.

Life and death are cyclical on a small farm. Periodically, one of our neighbors disappears and a younger replacement soon arrives, much like the seasons or the dense fog rolling off the nearby lake only to be burned off by the afternoon sun. Ross and Lady Ellen are probably here on borrowed time heading into a new year. I just hope that our new neighbors have names instead of numbers.