It’s October. Fall didn’t creep up on me this year; I have been fully aware of its approach, turning the pages in my calendar, looking each day in the face. That’s not my usual M.O. With my strongest talent being foresight I am always looking forward, thinking about what I’ll need in the future. It’s served me well in the past, and I’m grateful for the habit – I’ll return to that nature eventually, I expect.
Up here in northern Minnesota the days are getting shorter now – the equinox passed. It’s dark longer in the mornings, and dark earlier in the evenings, encouraging me to snuggle into the house for more hours of the day. John even broke out his flannel pants yesterday! We’ve been running our heater (or simply roasting dinner in the toaster oven heats up the house too!) for several mornings. We’ve had a lot of rain – it’s raining as I type.
The summer was everything we planned, and everything I needed it to be. I did what I said I was going to do – take it slow and allow myself to just “be.” What did that look like?
I stayed near home all summer. I let John take the car into town for his 9-5 each day, and I had my cruiser bicycle. Banana yellow with a basket. I rode my bike to the coffee shop, the post office, the hardware store (all were less than a 5 minute ride) and was content to pedal myself steadily around. No hurry, nothing flashy.
I took a part time summer job at a shop downtown Nisswa, allowing me to become part of the village. I loved it – getting to know customers, having girl-time with my co-workers. You’re familiar with the scene in the movies: there is a shop girl who opens her shop each morning. When she opens the door a bell rings, she looks up and down the sidewalk in town, you see her cleaning the glass on the front door, adjusting window displays — it was that kind of job. I’d never worked clothing retail before but the shop owner was patient with teaching me the ins and outs and I really did enjoy it. That job is over now – the streets of Nisswa pretty much roll up after Labor Day when all the tourists go back to their lives. Stores are open, but it’s quiet. In October many of the shops will switch to weekends only, or close entirely for the winter.
I didn’t guilt myself for anything: for not going to the gym as much as I “should.” For not walking on the trail as much as I said I was going to. For not unfurling my yoga mat on the lawn as often as I thought about it. I let myself go to the library and borrow books, I let myself binge watch some tv every now and then. I rested.
Which is not to say my days weren’t full; somehow they were. I have a second part-time job, a work-from-home job that keeps me busy. I did some tiny house nesting – some improvement projects. I tried to get decent meals prepped, but honestly we ate out a lot this summer. I rationalized it – we’re tired (true) we’re saving money living tiny (true) we deserve some pampering after the last year (true, but admittedly there needs to be a limit, ha ha) There aren’t that many places for vegans to dine out here, so we got burned out fairly fast – honestly just got tired of eating (that’s so sad!) but you know: it’s okay.
John did really well on making sure we scheduled fun. I’m “less good” at that than he is, so among all of his ways I’m grateful for, that’s a big one. We went to the beach for a sunset swim sooo many nights this summer. We did a lot of driving back little roads at dusk to look for deer – often with a pizza box between us and my feet up on the dash. We did some travel – scoping out the Pacific Northwest as a possible place to live, renting a house for a long weekend with friends… really filling our emotional buckets with glee. We rented kayaks and paddle-boards, we went to a baseball game.
I got my hands back in the dirt. We live in a forest, but our host plowed up a sunny spot and I planted some herbs and a couple perennials (when people ask me what I miss about my traditional life my answer is always my herb garden and my perennials) in the woods. They all made it about 2 weeks until the deer found the buffet, so there are fewer now. I haven’t used them for cooking as much as I anticipated, but nearly every day I walk the path back to the patch and check on them. Brush the sand off their leaves, upright them after storms, pinch them back. It is a routine that connects me to the earth in a small way.
We had so many fires in the fire pit! Some nights we made foil meals, but most nights I just threw a rug on the grass next to the fire ring and laid there. Talking in the dark, maybe sitting up to stretch a bit and laying back down, until we were all so sleepy that we’d stumble into the house and go to bed, smelling like campfire.
It’s been a summer of slow. A summer of simple. A summer of reflection, and grieving and examining how I feel about things now. Having both parents die uprooted me in so many ways that I didn’t expect. I feel untethered, ungrounded, floundering, without purpose. I don’t have the bandwidth for drama, and I have to work up to anything difficult. My grief is still raw – I still sometimes forget mom and dad are gone and then remember and have a good cry that is both brief and deep. I continue to allow myself to experience my emotions when they come up – which isn’t daily, sometimes it isn’t even weekly – but when they do, I acknowledged them, honor them, and then try to let them go. In the past couple of months I’ve been thinking about what I’m passionate about. I’m trying to decide what I want to do and where I want to do it. I don’t have the answers. Sometimes a moveable tiny house gives us too many options! #tinyhouseproblems
On Sunday John and I are packing up the tiny house and going to Texas for the winter. For me it’s the end of a chapter, and I’m afraid of my emotions as we leave town. It’s the end of a big life chapter: I came back to this, my hometown, over two years ago to help take care of mom and dad. It was truly an honor to be able to do that, and I have no regrets (thank you tiny house life.) Now they are gone, and we’ve emptied and sold the house I grew up in, and I’m hitching up and returning to where I lived for over 3 decades. Returning to the familiar, to my friends… I wonder what it will be like? I know that I am different. I’m probably different in ways that I haven’t even identified yet – aside from losing my parents and gaining a husband!
It’s a big change for John, too: he’s in his last week working at the job he’s held for 19 years. In the last year he experienced empty nest, went vegan, and got married. And during all that he had a severe leg break and his dad has developed some memory issues.
We are excited about next week though! We depart on Sunday. THIS SUNDAY. Emotionally I think we are both ready – physically – like packing and sorting things we are less ready – John keeps saying we should make a list. And we probably should. But – meh. It will work out. I am deadline girl. (A deadline girl with inertia, but – nonetheless….)
Saturday we’ll get the UHaul (thank you Bill) and load it. Sunday we’ll pull the house out and hitch up and go. We are taking a slower ride south – taking some time to dally along the way – we don’t know where. We do know we’ll stop in Oklahoma to visit friends at a straw bale workshop. Once we arrive, I will have about 10 days until my sprint of long work days for the event kicks off. During that time we’ll get the house parked and unpacked, hit the State Fair of Texas, and the Veggie Fair! After that, a day or three of regrouping and packing up the Element, and John and I will head out for about a 10 day road trip. McDonald Observatory, Big Bend National Park, San Antonio, Austin… then we’ll return to Dallas and I’m going to Portland for 6 days for a sister trip. The five of us decided we needed a non-occasion, sister-only get together – something happy. Then it will be Thanksgiving, and then we’ll have a few weeks before Christmas… meanwhile we will be meeting with my career coach, and looking for jobs… and then we’ll start adulting again. There’s a lot that will happen in the coming many weeks! We’re ready for the next chapter.