I’ve been waking up in the same place for more than forty years, and what meets my eyes is home. Familiar fields with familiar names—the trefoil field, the far field, the barn field—farmed by someone else, now, but still mine and comfortingly familiar. A yard and garden that have evolved as yards and gardens do: old trees gone, new trees planted and grown tall; a vegetable garden beside the house, expanding some years, shrinking others; flower gardens ebbing and flowing as the mood strikes.
The hill, from a distance, seems immune to the passage of time, but I know it has undergone its own evolution over four decades: clearings grown in, poplar stands logged, the sugar bush matured. The river—even the river has changed, lower now, with tag alders grown up along the edge where doomed elms once thrust their branches up and arched over the slow-moving, brown water.
And of course the house—now nearly a century old—has seen old walls removed, new walls built, windows changed, decks added, bedrooms assigned, reassigned, and then converted to other uses as children vacated them.
It’s all been so gradual that when I look at photographs from those early months and years, I am taken aback by the absence of the trees that now dwarf the house, by the dilapidated fence that for years separated the yard from the barnyard, and by the shabby wooden steps and laundry-stoop that pre-dated the spacious deck. These are the changes of a life lived in one place for a long time, and they only deepen the sense of belonging, of home.
These paragraphs from my memoir, Shifting Currents, capture the depth of my feelings about my home. And so, why am I beginning a blog about moving on in time and space? Why are we scouring the real estate listings for another place to live? And why do I think anyone else will care.
Well, first, maybe they won’t. But the pressures—real and imagined—that we’re facing are not uniquely ours. We’re just a little ahead of the huge population bulge whose members are already making plans for their later lives, something we’ve so far resisted. We’re fit and healthy and have trouble imagining frailty. But if it hits, we’d be hard pressed to live here. And, we’ve said for a long time now, better to move out while it can still be an adventure than to wait until we have no choice.
Add to that the fact that we’re among those rare folks who have not only lived in one place so long that our roots are touching bedrock, but who have a son—now a man in his early 40s—who dreams of living and raising his kids in the same place. And oops… his kids are growing up fast. If his dream is to come true, we need to take another look at our own hopes and expectations for the next years or decades—whatever we have left. (Yes, we do find ourselves uttering phrases like that more and more often.)
So. How far to downsize? To move to town? To build here on the farm, close to “home”? How to manage an emotional disconnect from the past? And how will our ultimate choice affect how we feel about ourselves over the next years, how we age, as surely we will? I’ll be musing on some of those questions—trying to apply my personal experiences to some bigger questions about time and place. Not, I assure you, taking you along on every gut-wrenching rise and dip on the rollercoaster of emotion. That would be way too scary!