Bright Beginnings

*Photo from our room at the lodge in the woods with my birthday flowers gracing the space. 

After a long, hard month of constant work, finally my husband and I are rewarded with a small respite in the woods of New Hampshire. It’s been two years, nearly to the day, since we began our travel life in Keene. Both Michael and I fell in love with the region around Mount Monadnock for so many reasons, not the least of which was the woods; being here still feels like a dream or a vacation. When you dream about doing something for a long, long time, it can take a while to believe you’re actually doing it. We took a lot of time to deliberate the decision to come here to make ourselves a home base, a safe little cove in the woods where we hope to be able to enjoy the splendor of the outdoors for the rest of our lives. Our eventual goal is to build a tiny cabin in the woods, along with another cabin or two for guests, and to have plenty of acreage to preserve against development. We want to make as little impact on the woods as possible, to be able to enjoy it and hand it off to future generations of our family to enjoy, too. That’s the goal, eventually. For now, we are renting a pair of rooms in a lodge, the same place we rented when we first came to Keene, and we are searching for property to buy. Meanwhile, we still have lots to do.

Last week my birthday came and went with only a quick dinner at a local ice cream stand in Olean (Twist ‘n’ Shake on Constitution Ave. is my favorite spot) in the midst of a flurry of packing what we would need to take to New Hampshire the next day. Michael still worked on a few finishing flourishes around the house while I ran from room to room digging through the many boxes containing what’s left of our worldly possessions. It amazes me how much stuff we still own, despite selling the majority of our furniture and giving away so much of the unneeded clothing and household junk. We’ve had a lot to sort and shuffle from place to place, and we will have to do it again when we find a home to buy. Though I think a lot of people are stressed by such circumstances, I honestly feel excited about where we’re headed with our lives. It’s a lot of work, sure, but I get to wake up every day now to the sound of trees and birds, the fresh air, and the green. Even if this place isn’t mine, I have a screened porch where I can sit and enjoy the quiet anytime I want. What could be better? I actually enjoy the fun of exploring new homes, too, so as we get to imagine the possibilities for where we plan to live, we get to tour lots of places with a real estate agent. I love it.

Since our arrival in New Hampshire only a few days ago, it’s been a whirlwind of activity. We did take a day off from work to give ourselves time to recoup from all the hard work, but we had to unload our supplies and find a place for everything in the lodge, and then I had a job interview while Michael squared away paperwork for his new job at the hospital. Since he’s taking a big pay cut to have a regular position at the hospital (travel pay is quite a bit better), I am taking a job at a local Montessori school as a teacher’s assistant to help make up the difference in income. It won’t cover all the loss, but it helps, and I’m excited to be around little ones again. Young children help us remember what’s important in life, and remind us of the delight of exploration and the wonder of discovery. I’ve missed that energy lately, and I began my education career at a Montessori school in Olean nearly 30 years ago. Working at that school gave me the foundation of so much positive influence for parenting and teaching later, and I am thrilled to begin serving as an educator in that environment once again. It makes me smile to think about getting civilized about school again, and look forward to the positive influence of the orderly, creative, and intelligent design of Maria Montessori’s legacy in my life. Years and years ago I discovered that Maria Montessori’s birthday is the same as mine, one hundred years to the day. She was an incredibly ambitious woman who revolutionized education so much that even decades after she developed her scientifically-proven method, it still seems progressive to most of the education world in the US. Working in public schools squashed my spirit, especially after being in the calm, nurturing classrooms of a well-run Montessori school. And now I shall return to my education roots. It feels right.

Though we still have plenty to do to settle ourselves in the Keene area, we also still have plenty to do in Olean. It weighs heavily on Michael, because he is the one who really has to do the hardest work on the house. We still have siding to finish, a big job which will require help, and we’ll need to do it in what little time we have on weekends. It’s not going to be easy. Plus, we still have the Airstream sitting patiently, waiting for us to come to its rescue while it sits forlorn in a friend’s yard. The innards having been removed may make it impossible for us to use it as a means to transport the remainder of our belongings, since we aren’t actually sure how roadworthy an Airstream is without the structure of walls on the interior. If anyone knows, we’d love to have you comment below. We don’t want to compromise the Airstream’s integrity with too much weight inside it, especially since we have to travel over the Green Mountains of Vermont to get here. Hopefully when we buy a house here we’ll have a driveway or spot in a yard where we can park it. We still want to rebuild the interior so we can travel with it again. Baby steps. The Aluminum Falcon will be reborn one day, better than ever, a phoenix from the debris of demo.

Now that we are living in New Hampshire, I will be grateful to have more time to dedicate to my writing again. It’s been such a grind every day with the Olean house that I haven’t had much time to write. After years of building my writing up to the point of publishing and daily goals, it felt awful to give up so much time to reno work. I hated it. Though I needed a little break for a week or so to get back some creative flow, after a month it almost felt as though I was crushing my creative energy under the exhaustion of so much physical exertion. I’m so glad to finally be away from that house and getting back to a routine of what I really need to be doing. Writing is what I do, it’s when I feel most myself; without it I am a rudderless boat in a fast-running current. Don’t get me wrong—I didn’t give up writing entirely, but a lot of writing I would have been doing needed to wait until the reno work was done. What I discovered in the process, however, was that I need to have more work balance so I can stay true to my writing goals, even when we later have to build our cabin in the woods. I dropped the ball on a lot of projects I had started, including the publish date of my sequel, and my August newsletter to my email list. These are bad things to let go, and I have already decided never to do that again, not for any reason. When you work for yourself, it can seem to others as if it’s okay to do other things, especially if your work is still not putting out big financial returns. Mostly I’m good at ignoring what others think I should be doing, but I allowed the reno work to consume me for the last month. Never again. Mistakes are how we learn, and so I shall move forward with knowledge and experience.

So, while I stare out the window at the trees as they wave in the wind, and I continue to enjoy the flowers my hubby got me for my birthday, I think about what’s next. Day by day we inch forward into the life we want to build. We are finally living where we want to be, we have jobs secured, we are in the woods for the moment. While we consider homes to buy and time for finishing the Olean house, we also must still sally forth with the mundane tasks of cooking meals, shopping, walking the dogs, and cleaning. Balance is a fine line, a tight rope of stability where you have to focus on every step carefully, rather than thinking about the height. It’s hard to stay in the moment, but it’s worth the attempt. Living in the now means enjoying the taste of your food, breathing deeply, being grateful for what you have around you right here and now. Though Michael and I feel relieved and happy to be in New Hampshire—and it does matter where you live—I still believe that mindset is the biggest asset in any situation. No matter what is happening around you, if you can center yourself with goals, be present, find even a small tidbit of gratitude, and see the good…all things are possible. All things. Begin by finding your strengths, and build on them. Find your worth in what you’ve survived, and be the good. When we look for ways to help, look for the moments to be of service to others, to contribute in even the smallest of ways, beauty arrives at your doorstep. I stand at the threshold of possibility now, just as I did two years ago, and again 30 years ago. The cycle of what we learn returns in many ways if we pay attention, and none of our mistakes are wasted. We carry them with us as unpolished stones until we decide to take them out and notice them again. Life is a river full of stones. Ride the current without a rudder, or stick your hand in the water to find out what’s beneath the surface—the choice is yours.

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