"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately… and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life… I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life…" ~ Thoreau
Where I live it is not unusual to have friends in my circle who have chosen to have no grid power, no running water, no indoor plumbing. They are building their own homes and lives and livelihoods from scratch, out in the open air. I know which friends to call rather than email if I want a response in the next four weeks and I also know that it is unlikely that some of them will pick up when I do call as they are surely outside, working the land, tending animals, or otherwise living a full and realized existence with their families.
And it's funny. Because I have plumbing and high-speed internet and hot and cold running water and all the electricity I could ever want. Yet when looking at the more bare-bones, simple life of others I see something I rarely see around me in the slightly faster pace of (small) town living: a raw awakeness and deep satisfaction in the vital details of life.
I'm not misapplying a romantic notion that their life is easy and quaintly simple. Indeed, they are among the hardest working people I know. When I say awakeness I mean a constant presence in the day-to-day experience of life. Hauling water from the spring as the sun comes up sounds like hard work, but it seems almost spiritual compared to stumbling into the bathroom and turning the knobs on a hot shower. It leads to a deep appreciation of the minutia of our experience. I know that water I hauled I appreciate more deeply that the water that gushes effortlessly from my tap.
And so while I live a comfortable life in town I strive to wake myself up and find deep satisfaction in the work of this life – mothering and keeping a home in particular. I sometimes get "how-do-you-do-it-all?" emails from people wondering how it is possible to make so much of my life by hand. But really, I'm doing very little compared with many of my closest friends. How I do it is by not having a traditional job. How I do it is by valuing process as much as product. How I do it is by almost never sitting down on my big squishy couch (except to read to my children) but instead moving throughout my day from task to task as I make my life.
Yes, there is a less involved way. Our society has taken the "easier path" to the extreme where we barely have to wake to our lives and we can serve food, care for our children, dress our family, and clean our homes with no efforting at all – just an outlay of dollars.
As for me, I won't buy frozen waffles, hire a housekeeper, or find a nanny. My kids are home with me, my dinner is from scratch, and for fun you'll find me sewing or knitting something for one of us to wear or pulling weeds in the garden. I say this not in judgement of you or others for the choices that you have made. Indeed, you and I are different people. My right answer and yours aren't meant to be alike. And I believe we each make the best choices in the moment for the life we have laid out before us. I make and do things from scratch because I love the journey from dirty to clean(ish) and back again, from grain, nut, and egg to breakfast, and from fabric to clothes.
I have made the time for what matters most to me. I love the work of creating something wonderful from nothing, be it underwear sewn from discarded t-shirts, tea from nettles foraged in the country, or laundry hung to dry in the sun. This is the joy and work and pleasure my day.
Sure, I could dry my laundry in the dryer. I have a really nice dryer, actually. It would be quicker. Easier. (And when it rains or when I'm spread too thin I do dry it in the dryer.) But carrying a basket of freshly laundered clothes up the stairs and mindfully hanging them in the sun brings me into awareness of my life. It wakes my soul. I get more pleasure from these simple acts than I ever could from watching a movie or television, surfing the internet, or going out to eat. It is the simple, humble fiber of living. It is my right answer.
I've been told before that my lifestyle choice is a luxury. Is it? Pete and I chose to cut our expenses and our income by 2/3 five years ago to make this leap of faith. This was not always how we lived. When Sage was a baby I bought store-bought baby food because I didn't believe I had the time or knowledge to make it myself. Whoa. How things change. (Lupine ate "baby food" off of my plate, chewed, mashed, or otherwise ground up for her. And we waited until she was nearly a year old before we started solids, so baby food was unnecessary on many levels.)
When Sage was three we woke up and questioned the treadmill and the many "unquestionable" choices we were making. We decided to be active rather than passive in the journey we were on and set a course to live our most together, authentic, hands-on life possible. And we've begun to do just that. It's part of why we live the life you see here, from crafting to gardening to homeschooling to foraging.
I believe that we can all have whatever we truly desire. I don't think everyone is ready for that message and if you are not it is okay. I don't mean to push you. But for those of you who believe it – chart a course. Start bit by bit by carving out time for the things you value. The things that wake up your spirit. You will reap immediate rewards – sheets that smell like fresh air or the sight of your boy in shorts you stitched yourself – and slowly you'll see this life transform. Do you belive me? Give it a shot. You have nothing to lose and so much to gain.