I've been silent for a while, as some of you have gently pointed out. Thank you for looking for me, wondering where I've gone, missing my voice. Someday, when I'm able to begin writing in earnest, it'll be you that I think of when I first take up my shaky, frightened pen.
When we left our heroine, she had just blasted across the country and was living in a hotel, scouring the countryside for an appropriate home for her family. She had kept her hopes and her camera up, found stories everywhere she went, and posted them to you episode after riveting episode. And just when we were about to reach the stunning conclusion...
she stopped. It was a cliffhanger. Where did she go? What will happen next?
Well, I'll tell you. But it isn't stunning, and it isn't a conclusion. We moved into a house in a neighborhood to wait. And along with the waiting for the house in California to sell, and the waiting for the right house or land-to-build to come up here, I waited for what to say to you about all of this to come to me.
Because I didn't want, on the one hand, to complain and be ungrateful. We have a beautiful, friendly neighborhood, very manageable rent with flexible terms, good location, and a nice house that became available precisely when we needed it. On the other hand, I didn't want to be unrealistic and gloss over the parts of this that are difficult. We are country people in a lot of ways now, and this is not the country or a country home, by far. So I wanted to wait until I could offer you a philosophical point of view instead of whining, glossing, or even just facts. But philosophy is a capricious muse. Sometimes she comes willingly, other times she makes us wait.
We spend a lot of time in our lives wishing for something else. I think this is human nature, and probably rather helpful to us. It keeps us improving. I wonder sometimes whether I spend more or less time wishing for something else than other people, but I suppose that comparison is as pointless as most others. Maybe that's why the times when I've been able to say, yes, this, and nothing else, please are so clear in my memory. Because they're so few.
I stopped beneath the red oak tree in my front yard in Georgia one early-autumn day, on the way to the garden to gather vegetables and eggs. A breeze blew, not a hot summer breeze, but one of the first really cool ones of fall. I had goats, a garden, chickens, and a fenced acre of green grass that represented my goal of buying a milk cow in the near future. I was writing a novel in the afternoons while my little boys napped and my older children played together. I was beginning to make entire meals from what we grew on our land. We had built friendships for ourselves and our children. Our home was a retreat, out of town, far back off the road, tucked in among the trees.
I had spent so much time striving and trying and reaching that I was stunned to feel that if my life went on indefinitely exactly as it was going at that moment, I would be happy forever.
When that life came apart, I felt that I'd been foolish. I was embarrassed to have been so simple, and not to have been wiser instead. We moved to California, and I tried with everything I had to create that life again. But California has proven herself, twice now, to be a hard mistress for us. We had to live very far from my husband's work in order to afford "the country". The price of water and the onslaught of pests made it phenomenally difficult to achieve any degree of the self-sufficiency that's always been one of my goals. There was a list of reasons that we left, but these were at the top.
Now we're here, where it's safe, and relatively inexpensive, where there's rain and possibility. We're waiting for things to play out, wondering where we'll be in six months or a year. I'm wondering just how much of each box to unpack, which pictures to bother hanging on the wall. And at the same time, I'm wondering what all of this can teach me. Inside, I have this struggle. In my hands, and in my mind, are the skills to grow what we need to feed us. But this beautiful, shady, grassy yard doesn't belong to us to dig up or cover over as we would. Farm animals, needless to say, are not welcome here. And yet, here is where I've got to be for now, and it's my choice, as it always is, to open up and gain something useful from this part of my life, or close down and be forever sorry for the lost opportunity. I'm determined to do all I can to bloom here instead of wither.
So here are the questions that Philosophy has finally given me: How can we keep moving toward goals that we feel are worthy and attainable, but we can't reach right now, while remaining grateful for and willing to learn from what's available today? It's so easy to lose sight of one while straining to keep our focus on the other. If what we thought was the finish line moves, can we square our shoulders and continue to plod onward without giving up, or becoming blind to the beauty of the landscape that is around us? When we find ourselves on an apparent detour, can we step back and realize that there is no detour at all, just the loopy, zigzaggy, adventuresome road of life?
Not so grateful that we become complacent and let our goals fall to the wayside. Not so wrapped up in them that the journey toward them becomes flat and colorless. It's a delicate balance, I think.
This little flowerpot on the front step makes me smile every time I go by it. It was left here by the owner of the house, and it contained one struggling petunia. Over the next few days, between rain showers, my three-year-old dug up the petunia, mixed black beans in with the soil, and scattered the mess all over the steps. We swept it up and dumped it all back in the pot, and I was astonished to walk by a week or so later and discover these beautiful bean plants happily shooting up out of their container.
And why, I wonder now, does this seem to fit? Why do these bean plants make me so ridiculously happy? They remind me of us in some strange way. Country plants in a tidy neighborhood flowerpot, growing like mad where they happened to fall.
Maybe they're a reminder that although we're not where we're going yet, we might be halfway there.