Most beginnings start at the end of something else.
Here is where our new story begins...
Before our daughter was born, my husband and I bought an old Airstream trailer and seven acres of forested land in Northern Idaho. Our greatest ambition was to escape—escape the city we were raised in, escape our confining pasts, escape ourselves.
It didn't matter to us how much square footage we lived in. We wanted to be close. And we knew that once our baby was born, we would only want to be closer.
How many hours did we work on renovating that trailer? I never kept track. But the hours show in the detail of love we painted upon every surface.
When our daughter was a year old, we moved seven hours away from the last person we knew, and bid farewell to comfort and convenience—harshly immersing ourselves in an intense world of improvisation and grit. In that tiny trailer, surrounded by acres of shadowy forest, we had no electricity, running water or plumbing. Only battery-fueled tap-lights, a faulty wood-stove, tanks of water we constantly had to refill, a makeshift composting toilet, and one another to rely upon.
The first winter was excruciating. We had to learn how to stay warm, how to entertain ourselves without Netflix, how to stay clean without a hot shower in our bathroom, and how to cook outside in an unrelenting snowstorm (more snow than we could shovel)—not to mention being new parents, and balancing a work life on top of it all. Each day brought a challenge that felt impossible. Oh, but how we thrived! And though we were roughened and weary, we were happier, and more alive, than we'd ever been.
Come spring, we were born anew with the flowers.
We spent two and a half years in the Airstream. Not only did our Ophelia double in size, but we all grew more than we could have imagined. With each winter that came, it was amazing to see how much stronger we had become over the year; and how much less cold the frigid days seemed the tougher our skins were. We were new people. Strong, vivid, clever, humble, free! We couldn't imagine ever living differently from that constant, intimate bliss.
But my husband, Harrison, worked...a lot.
An hour away he'd drive, back and forth, every day. Leaving at 5 in the morning, and often not returning home until after 8 at night. Sometimes far later, when work was most demanding.
And I was alone with Ophelia all that time. Chopping wood, keeping the stove hot (sometimes not hot enough), transporting the composting toilet to and fro, boiling water for dishes and baths, cooking alone in the sometimes frightening woods, and so on. That doesn't even cover the demand for constantly entertaining a highly energetic toddler who needed more space than a tiny trailer had to offer, and more of my attention than I had to give. In the summer she and I had much space to explore and play, but in the winter, it was quite suffocating at times. I missed my husband. The length of time away from each other was not what we had planned.
Yes, we were happy, we were well. But after years of loneliness—for Harrison and I both—it became a bit too much to bear. Something needed to change.
And abruptly it did.
One day in December of this past year, Harrison was offered a new job halfway across the country. In Kansas.
If we moved, we would see much more of each other. Ophelia would have a room to herself. Harrison and I would have a bed to ourselves again. I could cook...in a kitchen! Oh, and don't get me started on the excitement for having a hot shower in my own bathroom. And flushing toilets? I'd almost forgotten the luxury.
But how could we leave? After all we did...after all the years, memorizing every last leaf in our forest. It was our home. The greatest home we had ever known.
Harrison accepted the job. We packed up everything we owned...which wasn't much.
Seeing the walls of our little home grow bare was tragic, but still we knew it was best to move forward.
And move, we did.
I didn't think it was possible to simultaneously drive and cry like I did that first day, but listening to 22+ hours of music helped me focus on the opportunities that lie ahead. Or maybe it just numbed me. I'm still not sure.
It's been four months now.
And I'm adapting...slowly.
Things here, in Kansas, are easy.
I see Harrison so much more. And besides his career, he recently bought a CNC machine to start his own business (finally!): something he wouldn't have been able to do in our little Airstream. Ophelia has her own room. It's adorable. And in the house we're renting, she has two stories to dash around and exert all her 3 year old energy. She now can ride her little bike around in the driveway with her neighborhood friends.
Me? I take showers. I bake...a lot. (And I've gained a few fluffy pounds, thanks to being able to make cookies whenever I want. And that's all the time). I've finished the first two drafts of my 260,000 word novel and I'm preparing to send it to an editor in a few weeks. I've even started going to yoga, what with all this newfound convenience I have.
Everything is so easy. (And warm!)
But we miss the difficult.
Every day we long for the cozy-close walls of our Silver Twinkie and the trials of living off the grid in rural country. Even Ophelia mentions it at least once over dinner: "Remember in our tiny house..." "Remember in Idaho..." "Remember the mountains...the lake...the raspberry bushes...the hammock...the deck..."
Yes, babygirl, we remember. And we're thankful you have been so impressed by the beautiful life we chose for you, and that you'll always remember it, too.
And we're so glad that land is ours, waiting for us, still, to build a cottage on it one day. One day when we're ready.
But until that day comes, we three are bettering ourselves in every way we can. Saving money, going to school, starting businesses and (soon, hopefully) publishing books.
And even though we are beginning a new chapter in life, our love for the chapters behind us never fades. It's everywhere.
And now we say, hello.