First of all, let me just say that I love where I live and I love what I am doing. I love living on a farm, surrounded by forest, neighbor to river otters, owls, and coyotes. I love tending the earth, caring for animals and living with the rhythm of the seasons. I love my sweet little family and spending my days in their presence. But I haven’t always lived like this. For me, my journey to this place seems like a simple progression of time and events that led me here. But for those folks that knew me “way back when”, in the days of hairspray and cheerleader uniforms, my evolution to the status of radical farmwife is a little hard to understand. But that’s the beautiful thing about our privileged human existence… we get to choose our paths, whether straight or meandering. I wouldn’t be who I am without the culmination of all of the people, times and events in my life. Looking back, those eight years I spent as a cheerleader forced me to step out of my natural tendency to be an introvert, and quite literally, helped me to have the confidence to speak out. (Even though the things I speak out for now are a wee bit different from “go team go”.) My twelve years (insane, right?) as a competitive swimmer gave me the strength and endurance to hoe to the end of the row. (Crazily similar to swimming laps except that I don’t normally swim with a hoe. Rhythm. Perseverance.) Playing tennis, in particular, serving the ball (something I always loved to do and prided myself in being good at, excepting the time I nailed my doubles partner square in the back) helps me now in being a proficient wood splitter. Funny little correlations, but also foundation building.
Upon graduating from high school, and having lost my father to cancer just a few weeks prior to this, and then leaving home for college shortly thereafter, set the stage for a whole new realm of evolution in my life. It was a pretty intense time. Alone. Away from home. Adjusting to a new place and having to make new friends. Making good grades was easy for me in high school. Now I was in architecture school. A whole different can of worms, to say the least. I had to work really hard just to be average. But I loved it. I loved the challenge, even though more often than not I was bleary-eyed from lack of sleep. (Not so different from life as a mama!) Throughout architecture school, I found myself being drawn to “green” architecture, sustainable design, and to the hands-on realm of “design/build”. I also minored in art, with a specialization in metals. Precursors to a life of using my hands and carving out my existence.I moved around a lot during this time. My patient mother just had to keep updating her address book. I had the privilege of studying abroad in Germany, with a classic American-style whirlwind tour of Europe to follow. But I didn’t have a lot of time. I had my college-required internship position lined up. I was moving to Oregon not long after returning home from Europe. I feel like my time in Oregon is when my passion for the natural world really started emerging. Hiking. Rock-climbing. Cross-country skiing. Visiting my buddies in Eugene (very hip place) and going to the natural food co-op. Buying fresh milk. Something in me clicked. The summer prior to my final thesis year of college, I traded office work at the Yestermorrow Design/Build School in Vermont for the honor of taking a couple of workshops there. One was being taught by my favorite architect/artist, James Hubbell. New doors opened up for me, special new relationships were forged, and I eventually secured a post-graduation position in the Hubbell studio (also home of the Ilan-Lael Foundation) in the mountains northeast of San Diego, California. Gorgeous, gorgeous environment of white sage, manzanita, and granite boulders. This was a serious blessing for me and another serious time of growth. I learned so many new skills and crafts during my time there. I learned stained glass and blacksmithing. I worked as an architect. I put together museum exhibits. But that’s not all. I learned to live comfortably in a tent with mountain lions as my nearest neighbors. I learned to tend very small permaculture gardens. I learned about responsible management of my own human waste, humanure. I took workshops in cob building, and the studio I worked at built the first (legally permitted) straw bale house in San Diego County. All of these events led me to know that what I really wanted was to live a simple, self-sufficient, hand-crafted life. The sweet folks that I worked for were amazing, but I started really feeling the pull to carve out my own place in this world. But not in Southern California. As much as I loved where I was and what I was doing, I missed lightning bugs. I missed thunderstorms. I missed the dramatic seasonal rhythm of the eastern deciduous forests. I missed being closer to my family. I knew that another change was on my horizon, I just wasn’t sure what. It was right around this time that a young woman, Jo, came to work in the studio. She was only going to be there a few months, to help put an exhibit together, but we became fast friends. As her apprenticeship was ending, she invited me to travel with her to her farm in Kentucky. So we went on a little road-trip together. And who do you suppose I met when I traveled to that farm in Kentucky? Yes, you guessed it, Eric!!!
Stay tuned for finding bliss: part two, here, next Wednesday.