I am keeping up my commitment to write daily, but I don’t have a number one person in my life to write about, which was the prompt for today. Instead, I have a number one dream to write about.
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
― H. Jackson Brown Jr.
Sometimes things happen in our life that flip some kind of switch internally, things that change us in the moment irreversibly. However, when you look back in hindsight, often you will find small things that were pushing you towards that irreversible moment before you actually knew it consciously. In my forties, I picked up and left everything that I had ever known to follow my husband into another state. Prior to that time, I had never lived more than seventy-five miles from where I was born. To say that it was a serious uprooting would be an understatement. And I confess, it was exciting as hell to me. There were many difficult things about the move, don’t get me wrong. My children all chose to stay with their father when we left, even though they had lived with me ever since the divorce. That was more than hard, but I wanted them to have a choice rather than being forced to go. Unfortunately, it was at that point that my ex made his greatest ‘get-even’ play through our children. It was painful, horrific and mind-numbing at times, but the girls and I lived through it and we have strong bonds again now and are still very close. As they grew into adulthood, they began to have an understanding of what I had quietly lived through all of those years while defending their right to love their father and me equally, taking nothing away from the other by loving each parent. With all of that on my emotional plate, I stepped into a new state and a new town, full of ideas and enthusiasm. We lived in Decatur GA for a short time before moving into downtown Atlanta proper. Wow. Talk about a culture shock! I had been to Atlanta a few times while growing up, but never really into the city. It was fast, furious, crowded and BIG for my little life experiences. While I have traveled to larger cities, I had never lived in one. I am not suited to big-city living, nor really even middlin’ sized city living. I flourish in the country with wide-open spaces and elbow room around me. Before life was uprooted, I had been reading Mother Earth News, dreaming and reminiscing at the same time. I was born in a small agricultural bump in the road. Farms and citrus groves were the claims to fame of the area, as well as the annual Strawberry Festival. When the back to the land movement hit in the seventies, my parents bought a place in the country and embraced the hippie/self-sufficient lifestyle with gusto. We raised chickens, had a garden, shared a cow with another family that had more property, and generally lived a quiet, simple lifestyle outside of the functional problem areas in my family make-up. It is the worst time of my life, but it is also the number one happy set of memories that I have. I loved it, despite the snakes, the scorpions, the coons and the other miasma of wildlife that burrowed, creeped, flew and slithered in and around our small home. So when I hit Atlanta, I wanted to garden. Huh? Yep. Unlikely place, I know, to be bitten by the gardening bug. It probably has more to do with the fact that suddenly I was not working sixty-plus hours a week and caring for children. Instead we were running our own small business and I had the time to think on and do things that I longed to do. I spent hours and hours in the nice yard that we had in town, planting flowers, planting grasses, planting vegetables. My neighbors there had a stunning flower and herb garden, lined with small tomato areas. I discovered hummingbirds and spent literally hours watching them, trying to draw them into my yard as much as possible. And I read everything I could get my hands on about this life. It simply felt right. I wrote about homesteading. I read about homesteading. I talked about it online with gardening friends that were homesteading already in different ways. I had found my ‘place’ in the world, this type of lifestyle.
We eventually moved to outside the perimeter, into the sprawling suburbs of Atlanta in a beautiful neighborhood with property backing up to open sheep fields. It is there that I began to learn about prepping, about food storage, and began to really expand my gardening wings, adding fruiting shrubs and perennials to my tiny skill set. Then disaster struck. We were hit by a relatively small tornado dead-on while I was at home alone, with my husband stuck in the city. Sixty to eighty foot trees were uprooted like toothpicks. The gas line was ruptured in the front yard of our house. Every doorway out of the house was blocked with debris, fallen limbs or full-sized trees. We lost power and I was terrified, trying to get out of a house that was rapidly filling with gas fumes. I was so ignorant, I did not even know how to get out of a garage door without power. I will never forget that feeling of complete and total helplessness – knowing that I am smart but that I was stupidly ignorant of the most basic of things to do in an emergency. My very calm husband directed me over the cell phone on how to exit the house safely through the main door by that marvelous invention called the manual garage door pull. Duh. You see, most of my adult life has been spent married, and the men that I married always ‘took care of me’, kind of patted me on the head and said “Don’t worry,” so I didn’t. I trusted them to take care of things. I was often not allowed to do things because that was ‘man’s work’ or, for fear I’d either hurt myself or whatever piece of equipment might be in use, either a mower, a tool or a weedeater. In a word, I was coddled.
In the aftermath of the tornado, we only went a couple of days without electricity. The gas line was temporarily repaired, and we went about our lives using just alternate lighting (candles) and eating from the grill. We suffered relatively little, especially in comparison to some of our neighbors, who were displaced from their homes for months while repairs were made. We suffered no serious damage at all to the home we occupied. But that feeling that hit me right afterwards stayed with me, bugged me, made me aware that I was ill-quipped to handle any major interruption of life as we know it – be it weather, war, economic or any other kind of disruption. I didn’t like that feeling at all. Usually when something comes to the forefront of my mind, I act fairly aggressively. This case was no different. I read like a maniac. I began prepping in small ways. I bought non-electric items to use for times of lost power, and eliminated things from my daily routine that I thought were dangers to get too accustomed to using. I decided that living in a city, or in close proximity to one was rather foolish long-term, and began looking for places in the countryside. Now, mind you, both my livelihood and my husband’s were tied up in technology. But I had worked remotely for a small technology company out of Florida for a few years, so I knew that job portability was entirely possible for me. His job we were not certain about. He caught the bug from me and seemed quite content to go in the direction that seemed the best for long-term success and happiness. So off we went into the countryside, both armed with jobs we could work remotely with a bit of travel to our offices from time to time, a lot of ideas, a lot of ignorance and a bucketload of enthusiasm. Sadly, we only got to experience this lifestyle together for just over a year before his untimely and unexpected death, and that is one of the greatest regrets of my life. Living this lifestyle alone is something that I did only for a couple of years before being forced to return to the city to keep my job. But every single day my mind is filled with the desire to return to that life. Much of my time is spent planning for, studying about, working towards getting back to the country and providing as much as I can for myself. It is not an easy life, but it is a very fulfilling life. It is more complicated at times, even though the premise itself is simple. It puts you back in touch with natural rhythms which are missing from most of our days. It makes you aware of how fragile our systems are that support the current consumer lifestyle. And most of all, it humbles you while building you up.
Just entertain the thought though, that a whole lot of good can come from something pretty hair-raising and disastrous – a dream. That dream may start, stutter, get sidetracked, kicked around and dinged up a bit, but it still lives. It is the number one driving force in my life today. And I *will* do it again! It may not look exactly like this, but it will be beautiful and satisfying in so many ways, and my soul will be settled in my skin once again. Until then, you’ll find me dreaming and planning, learning to be patient, and smiling a lot.
Keep dreaming, I am!