The Seed of Change

From one Washington to Another –

Bitter Cold Clarity brings a Change in Direction

It’s the first week of May.  Four friends bounded by lifetimes of sibling-ship head into the Olympic Peninsula Wilderness for a good hike, some hot springs and a night of camping to bid farewell to one of them heading across the country the following day.

It’s your typical Northwest day around the temperate rainforest: cold, dense fog and constant drizzle.  We hike 2 miles in and as the elevation increases, so does snow level.  We reach our destination and a foot of snow welcomes us with a small clearing under some trees to pitch our tents.  We hit the Springs and I don’t want to get out, but I know the time must come for my bare skin to withstand the cold once more.  I put on every warm layer I have, all wool.  When the sun goes down, the temperature hits the 20′s and there’s a forecast for more snow.  We endure a long night of cold huddled together in our tents that do nothing more for us than create the illusion of shelter.

After a morning soak to “warm up,”  we get the heck outta there and hike back.  This is when the moment of clarity strikes. Clarity so strong,  the kind that comes with something you already knew, but weren’t willing to see out of pride. Like a relationship that’s past its prime but you go on convincing yourself and others is just perfect for you because admitting otherwise would be all too easy.

“It’s May and it’s Cold.  I want to be where it’s warm.”  A simple preference.  I’ve lived in the Northwest for 4 years trying to adapt to the weather, and I have a bit (wool and long-johns are essential), but… I think it’s time to admit the fact that I prefer to feel the warmth of the sun upon my skin during the spring and summer months.  All the wonderful release of pride…

With this harmonic alignment between thought and feeling, -heart and mind- it suddenly felt like someone literally stopped me in my tracks and turned me in another direction and said, now go this way.  The feeling of my life changing direction.  So my old home located in a suburb outside of DC became the destination.

My friend, heading to the east coast offered me a spot in the car.  I desperately wanted to say yes, but told him it was too short notice and that even if I had just a few days notice, I think I’d be able to wrap up my commitments: a gardening job, new house/roommates I’d just moved into a week prior to the trip, place for my stuff, my car, my garden babies and my work at the farmers market.

So, wrestling with whether I’d missed my chance to get away from another cold spring and summer in the Northwest I went back to my farm home on San Juan Island, WA.

The following Thursday, a farm intern from the East Coast came to me and told me he was leaving to go back to New Hampshire.  Things weren’t working out for him there like he’d hoped and had another opportunity he didn’t want to miss come up back home.  He was taking the Southern Route.  Without a thought, I heard myself say, “Can I come?”  Without hesitation, Jake answered, “Sure.” I was 1/2 kidding until I realized his day of departure was a few days away and I remembered what I had told my friend the previous week –  A few days notice, eh?  Okay, I get the message.

Needless to say, all my commitments fell into place seamlessly, everyone bidding me blessings on my travels back to the East Coast.  I made the decision to leave the island on Friday,  We left on Monday – backpack in hand, adventure before us and bound for Virginia.

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To Dream The Ever-so-Possible Dream:Letting Change Become The Habit

Winter has arrived early here in Virginia as we have our first ice storm/snowfall of the year, being the first time to snow in October since the late 70’s (according to a Va native).  The beautiful colors of our east coast fall are still vibrant as the changing leaves do their best to hang on for dear life while the wintry weather gusts try to take hold of the season.  We sit here nestled in our lil ‘suburban homestead’ falling victim to the urge to break out “Let It Snow” considering it the perfect song for what we are experiencing, nevermind the “No Holiday Music Before Thanksgiving” rule I try to abide by.

We are getting a fire going with our “burnables” trash.  My mother sits making dolls for the upcoming holiday craft fair we’ll be vending at this year.  Any “normal” person walking into the scene around me right now would consider us taking the wintry weather a little too far.  Yes, any normal person would think this, but my family and I are anything but normal (truly, who is?).  We’ve been considered “those hippies”  from California for as long as I can remember – from my mom trying to implement her all-natural lifestyle choices in the new suburban frontier her and my dad settled into to raise us kids.  She made our clothes, preserved food and maintained a garden for years until she began a career in teaching.

The truth of the matter is, eventually the homemade clothes became less and less as my siblings and I begged for the cool name-brand clothing that we believed to be so popular at the time. The garden was let go of with less time to maintain it and along with it the canning and preserving went too.  The only thing I remember remaining a constant was the compost bucket.  That stinky, old plastic ice-cream tub that sat just to the right of the sink we re-used for collecting kitchen scraps.  I remember being told to dump into our pile that sat at the edge of the woods, but never did anything with. I never questioned why we did this, nor did I care at the time either.  I was just a kid obeying orders, most of the time. To be honest, when I moved to the Northwest and began work on a farm, I took pride in knowing what compost was, all because of that damn ice-cream tub operation.  Anyways, the composting seemed to be the life-line to the vision my parents had shared as young kids in love. That one constant of an organic lifestyle not so far off, just further down the road… because as life would have it, we became accustomed to the modern comforts and convenience of the suburban lifestyle.

Currently, my father is in his last year of work before retiring from a government career  that took him and my mother overseas to Germany and Austria for the past 6 years.  With his retirement from a 30 year run on the horizon, my parents are revisiting their dream.  They have decided to head back to California where they have property to realize the old homestead they once held dear in the hearts as a younger couple with their whole lives ahead of them.  Some would consider this a dream long gone and no longer attainable as though it’s too late.  But the compost bucket is still kickin’ and has spoken – my parents may be attempting the dream many years later than what they first imagined, but still have the same youth in their hearts that’s been driving them all along.

Meanwhile, in our years apart, I’ve grown to have a similar dream – living “off the grid,” building a self-sustainable homestead. Currently, I committed to helping my parents with their homestead sharing the knowledge and experience I’ve gathered from living in the Northwest.  As you know, I’ve been experimenting this summer while care-taking here at the home in Va until I went off to travel a bit more.  I returned 2 weeks ago from my travels to meet my parents here and get to work renovating the house to prepare for selling/renting.  Although the experiments fell to the wayside while I set off on my travels,  they laid the groundwork for nowWhat can we do now to begin making the transition from our industrialized habits of comfort and convenience to sustainable practices of comfort and convenience.  We have to rethink our traditional mentality and unlearn habits to begin making different choices that become “new” habits.  And so the transition process goes – “we must be patient with ourselves while learning something new.” (Elizabeth Gilbert, writer)

Some might say, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”  or to make these’ greener’ lifestyle changes within a suburban or urban atmosphere are impossible.  My response?  Nothing is impossible – be open, give something different a try and you never know, it just might snow in October 😉

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