Dissolving into a luxurious blanket of hot water, I gasp at the silver brilliance of the rising full moon as it clears the branches of my apple tree and fully illuminates my sweet little back yard. I love my hot tub! I close my eyes and reflect on where my life is right now: in the middle of major transition with no final destination clearly in mind. Letting go of almost everything I’ve worked for and claimed as my life these past 19 years, and in some ways since my teens. This situation would have caused anxiety and lack of sleep for me in previous times, but I notice a tingle of joyful energy spread throughout my body as I contemplate the wide open expanse of possibilities on my horizon. Even though my muscles are letting go of a full day spent dismantling sheds and sorting through items to go to the dump or donate or sell, my body feels content and enlivened. Maybe it’s because I’m on the right path—for me. I’ve finally let go (mostly) of listening to external advice of what I should want or do and am now, more than ever, following my own inner voice. I’m getting better at waiting for that sensation of full body yes before actually saying yes. And maybe I’m a little better at saying no….
The generosity of people blows my mind at times—it was sweet for Leslie to let me stay rent-free in her RV, but I didn’t want to outstay my welcome. Space was a little
tight (no possibility of doing yoga on the floor) and I had to walk a ways to use the bathroom in the morning, so I put an ad on NextDoor asking for an inexpensive room to rent where my dog would be allowed to sleep with me. I got a lot of responses, most of them were not inexpensive and/or didn’t allow dogs, but one woman, Kathy, said she might have the perfect place and would be glad to help me out in exchange for a bit of rent and a little garden work in her yard. Yes!! As I drove up to meet her I saw the purple front door and knew it was meant to be. Our dogs hit it off and I was glad to have some closet and dresser space as well as a backyard for Riley to explore during my morning meditation. Kathy and I shared some meals and engaging discussions about everything, quickly becoming good friends. She donated dirt to our school garden and I weeded her front yard and deep-cleaned the bathroom. Riley taught her dog how to play tug of war. And then there was the ocean, just two blocks away. Riley and I took several gorgeous walks there—he loved running along the beach at low tide, splashing in the gentle waves and looking for balls to steal from other dogs so he could play his favorite chase-me game. I still can’t believe my luck in finding a stranger who would willingly invite me into her home, just because she thought she could help me out.
It’s now been just under a year since I set off on my wandering journey in Wanda.
We wandered for 5 months, looping across the western half of the US, visiting family, spending extended time in nature alone or with close friends, and meeting people who fanned the flames of my hopeful passion to create a simpler, more sustainable way of life—one that is deeply connected to the earth we depend on and the many living beings we get to have as neighbors. One that is kind to the human soul and honors the need for rest and rejuvenation, creativity, and leisurely social interactions. As I now sit in the tiny rejuvenated ghost town of Darwin (population of around 50), I imagine smaller communities like this all over, where people gather in front of the post office, exchanging warm greetings and the latest news while waiting for the mail delivery each morning. Dogs wander freely, sharing their scent-oriented greetings, and where my dear friend, Max, says they have about 50 potlucks a year to celebrate a variety of happenings with live music and often wild costumes. During one event I attended last year we were encouraged to dress in Viking costumes so we could participate in a video whose purpose was to encourage conservation of historical mining sites like Darwin. I played a damsel in distress, screaming and flailing my arms while I was accosted by a gruff Viking with a matted wig of long red hair under a horned hat. People choose to live here because it’s very
Darwin’s main social venues
affordable, and because of the artists and creative thinkers that live here. They enjoy the freedom to do as they please, build what they want, and live a life seemingly absent of government-imposed intervention. Sometimes I think I’d like to live here, too! The downside (for me) is the long drive (about 1¼ hour) to a town that has a limited variety of stores and restaurants and it’s a challenging place to have a garden—so I will continue looking for the community that is my perfect fit. But Darwin has captured my heart, and since Max just bought a house here, I’m sure to visit from time to time.
One thing I’ve noticed is that as I commit to this search for a lifestyle I can embrace fully, and am willing to let go of many of the trappings that keep me too busy to live that life (mostly my home and job and living in an expensive and busy community), opportunities and connections seem to flow in abundance to tap on my shoulder, asking if I want to take notice or explore further. While at a singing event in the Santa Cruz Mountains in May, I met two people who live in an eco village in Port Townsend that I am very interested in checking out. Many people have expressed a similar interest in creating this type of community living (co-housing or an eco village). I also visited my friend,
Colleen, who lives in the Nevada City co-housing, where we shared two dinners with the larger community, played games with whoever was available in the common house, picked fresh veggies from the community garden for breakfast each day, and walked our dogs on the acres of wooded trails they jointly own behind the residential area. At night we soaked in the communal hot tub and dipped into the refreshing pool. Ahhh…. I feel welcome and relaxed here!
Two weeks ago I drove my daughter, Kira, to the San Jose airport, sending her off on a 13 month journey to Zambia, where she was awarded a fellowship, intending to gain experience working in global health. Her strong desire to do something helpful in the world was not satisfied by the good-paying job she’d had over the past 3 ½ years, so she quit last January and began exploring other possibilities (sound familiar?). I am so proud of her dedication to creating a more equitable human existence on our planet, and how she listened to her heart and passion, instead of succumbing to the fear of not having enough money. She will earn 1/10 of her former salary, but will gain the rewards of helping a new socially conscious company get off the ground while networking with like-minded people from around the world. After
Back in my little studio!
she left I moved back into the tiny 220 square foot studio that I built on my property to help pay for the expensive mortgage and maintenance of my 70 year old Santa Cruz home. Since I whittled down my belongings to only the things that would fit in Wanda, and only things I really need, I had very little to move in. I was delighted to look at a mostly bare closet and almost empty cupboards and refrigerator. The lack of clutter and being able to easily see everything I have gave me a luscious sense of ease. I’ve lived most of the past year out of bags and tubs I lugged in and out of Wanda and each place I inhabited for brief periods of time. I was nesting! Even though it was only for 2 weeks…
Over this past year I’ve become clear that it’s time to move on, to leave my home and Santa Cruz community behind, cutting the major roots I’ve grown over the past 38 years. I’m sure enough that I’ve signed a contract to list my home for sale in October. The real estate market is hot right now and I want to take advantage of it, even though I don’t know where I’ll go next. Sometimes I feel a deep sadness over saying goodbye to my friends, especially the fruit trees I’ve nurtured and honored in my little backyard all these years. Every time I moved into a new house as an adult, I planted fruit trees and a garden, envisioning a future where there would be a
bounty of edibles to enjoy and share. Every time my relationship ended—and I was the one to move out of the house since it hadn’t been mine when I moved in. So I said goodbye to not only my fantasy of a lasting, loving partnership, but also of receiving the fruits of my labor and my dream life of living off the land.
When I was finally able to buy a home of my own, I relished the security of knowing I would never have to leave behind my garden again. I planted over 20 fruit trees,
and incorporated edibles in all corners of my 6000 square foot lot. But turning 60 is a new phase in my life and now I’m ready to let go, looking forward to being part of a community garden some day soon, where I don’t have to do (or pay for) all the work myself. I’ve begun to sell and haul to the dump things I am now pretty sure I no longer need—even though I thought I already did that last summer when I moved out of my home so I could rent it out for a year. I’d rather let it go than pay for storage! To get the home ready for a termite inspection, I pulled down a thick mat of vines that had grown into the eaves of my home, sprinkling them with jewels of bell-shaped purple and magenta flowers. I loved laying in bed, watching the morning entertainment of hummingbirds coming to sip from the flowers framing my bedroom window… When the first snap of my pruning shears severed a major trunk of the vine, I felt a wave of
emotion: anguish at cutting this good friend I’d planted and nurtured these past 15 or more years. I stopped a moment to give attention to my feelings, letting tears flow as I released a gasp of grief, then noticed a trickle of water sliding down my leg. I followed it’s trajectory up and discovered a drip forming at the end of the freshly cut branch, as if it were releasing the pain of being cut off from it’s source of life. I recently read that scientific studies suggest that plants indicate a sense of pain when being cut into by pests (including us humans!). I always had difficulty with pruning my fruit trees, but now I think it may have been due to a sense of something deeper going on, more than just being overwhelmed by which branch to cut!
Before and after–a sad day for me!
And so my year-long journey has taken another fork in the road. I will pack up Wanda again at the end of July and head to Oregon and Washington to immerse myself in nature and a simple life of camping, plus I’ll visit some communities of interest and the eco village of Port Townsend. The last week of August I’ll be in Wyoming attending a workshop called Coming Home to an Animate World, with the intention of deepening my connection to and understanding of the natural world and incorporating its magic into my daily life. In September I will devote myself to fixing my home up to sell: painting, some repairs to the siding, and giving the yard the TLC you can’t expect from tenants. Hopefully it will sell within a few weeks and by December I will experience a whole new sense of freedom from responsibility. And an expansive horizon full of many possibilities to explore.