My fingers were shaking and my heart was racing as I turned the key to lock my clean, empty home. Everything was out. Our beds, artwork, and vast array of books were tucked into the outbuilding we recently constructed. The canoe was nestled into our walled off, half of the garage with our bikes, gardening tools, and dishes. While my home was empty of its stuff, my mind reeled with memories as I mopped the floors. Babies born, friendships forged, songs sung, meals shared, books read, games played, projects created, gardens grown are all part of the richness that Joey and I created together within these walls and on this little plot of land.
And ever so quickly, under the cover of night, we were gone. The car was loaded down and a bit squirrely under the weight of 700 feet of line, an anchor, chain, books, games, art materials, and clothes. If you do anything with boats and you find yourself in Bellingham, WA, you must make your way to Pacific Marine Exchange (www.pacificmarine.com), a store of previously owned marine equipment and supplies. We saved an incredible amount of money there. Now we just have to share the car with our bounty.
We are spending the day with family like friends in Kirkland, recovering from three days of a mad dash to get out of the house. We are resting and getting ready for the long drive to more family and friends and finally the boat in Charleston, SC. While we all feel some sadness in leaving our chosen clan, incredible friends, inspiring community, and lovely life in Bellingham, the joys of travel are upon us.
The Snowy Owls have come to the outskirts of Bellingham this winter. They have traveled far from their arctic tundra home in search of food. As I clean out my cupboards and feel disgruntled about the amount of waste and excess I find there, I reflect on the goals of my family’s journey.
Journeys provide lessons and magic. The journey of the snowy owls brings us a glimpse of wildness and courage. These owls have come to our rooftops from a place so remote that few people ever venture there. By traveling into new landscapes and facing unknown dangers, they exercise bravery and adaptability in their necessary quest to survive. Our house is nearly packed and we plan to leave this week. We are not seeking food for our bodies, there is much more than we need here. We must then be seeking food for our souls. To find a patch of wildness, to experience the richness of personal discovery together, and to share our society’s wealth with others also takes great courage. In these moments of preparation, I have found that courage in snowy owl magic.
I hope that on our journey we will lighten our load of consumption and reduce our environmental footprint. I also hope that we can share the abundance of our privileged American life. I want to give special thanks to Crystine and Brian from Uprising Organics (www.uprisingorganics.com) for donating A LOT of organic, heirloom seeds to share with people in the Bahamas. I also want to thank Rowan for visiting the owls with us on a blustery, snowy afternoon and for helping me to contemplate the enriching process of creating art with children.
Rowan's Snowy Owl
Pearl's Snowy Owl
For years now I have watched a group of ladies run past my house on Sunday mornings headed for Galbraith. In the beginning I had no interest in joining the group. I had no interest in running, alone or with others. I had tried running a few times, but it never seemed fun. Walking always seemed more my speed. And I could walk a long way through any kind of weather. I was content with my walking pace. I was happy to go slow and notice what was going on around me.
About a year ago, walking stopped being enough. It happened one random night. I really like walking at night. This particular night was one of the first times since the birth of Juniper that I made it out of the house without her strapped to my back. I was walking through the park, enjoying the crisp air, and admiring the shimmer of the stars I was lucky enough to see. And then it happened. I needed to go faster. So, I started to run. I ran freely and joyfully. I was surprised at myself. I was actually enjoying running for the first time in my life.
And then it became a habit. Well, addiction is probably a better description. I needed to run and still do. I found that life is so much more manageable with a run under my belt. I can get pissed off at my husband, go for a run, and then come home with hugs and kisses for him. My kids will be driving me crazy, but running makes them seem angelic. I travel faster with running and can go places on the mountain and in the park that I never had time for with walking.
I started getting up with the sun and running in my backyard on Galbraith Mountain with some other mothers from the neighborhood. I soon learned how to keep up and felt blessed to have amazing scenery and awesome ladies at my doorstep. Last Mother’s Day, I joined a large group of women for an hour and a half run on the mountain. It took a few days to recover, but I did it. And then this past fall I ran the Bellingham Bay Half-Marathon. As I ran through the streets of Bellingham, looking out at the water, and being blown away by incredible wind, I reflected on my life here in Bellingham and saw clearly the healing and growth that enabled me to be there, running.
And today I finally joined that group of ladies, thanks to my neighbor Carol. Of course they were much faster and I questioned my sanity, but one must try. I soon decided that I would not complete the ten miles they had planned, but stick with my old faithful route. And at the junction where we would split, there was another group of ladies ready to run in my intended direction. So I joined them, found that they were of my pace, and followed them on new paths. We ran through snow with sunshine slanting through the trees illuminating the beauty of this magical winter morning. I made it home after two hours of frolicking on the mountain. I felt strong and capable and so very thankful that I landed in Bellingham. This place has given me the ability to put on my running shoes.
As we get closer to our departure date, I am becoming increasingly excited for the time I will have with my kids in the natural world. The boat is small, but the air will be warm and the beaches are vast. I have always needed to spend time in the outdoors. This need has become even more pronounced with children in my daily life.
With children though, the quality and focus of time spend outdoors has shifted a bit. I no longer try to see how far I can make it on a trail. I cannot be attached to preparing a garden bed AND getting it planted in the same morning. Instead, I have learned acceptance. I have been given an opportunity to learn how to be more present and aware in the here and now. As we walk in the woods, we stop to play hide and seek, finding special spots to be still and quiet. We marvel at millipeds and search endlessly for owls. In the rivers, we look at rocks and fill our pockets with treasures. In the garden, we search for worms and beetles. We take frequent snacks on garlic chives and kale, all the while singing songs and listening to birds.
Aldo Leopold said that “when we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.” Perhaps to build this sense of community with nature, we must start by thinking like children. How rich we may become, if we can all spend time each day outside, thinking like a kid, and experiencing the beauty of the present moment.
How do you put your kid hat on? How do you develop and foster a connection with the natural world? We love comments.
It looks as though we have a boat, although nothing feels absolute until the paperwork is in hand. We negotiated a realistic price for us dependent on an engine survey, which luckily checked out just fine. The check goes in the mail tomorrow. The name will have to be changed. Lazy Faire just won’t do.
We also have a great family renting our house, a huge relief. We push-off from Bellingham at the end of January. Currently, our path will take us through Colorado, down to San Antonio, and then to the Carolinas. We never have been good at traveling in a straight line. Hopefully, we will set sail out of Charleston harbor come early March. Fingers crossed for fair winds.