When I hear the old saying "Home is Where the Heart is," I gag a little bit. All that comes to mind are rocking chairs piled with faded, musty-smelling pillows with that saying needlepointed on and adorned with two birds holding a heart together in their beaks, circa 1983. Icky. And I have spent a lot of time thinking about the idea of "home" and have even blogged about it before, as over the past three years I have called a lot of different places home. I've loved all the places we've lived. Each one offered something unique and each was a good fit for us in a different way. But at the end of the day, I realized that underneath all the fun of the country life, beyond the animals and the fields and the foraging, I was always a little homesick for my house downtown and the familiarity surrounding it. And tonight while I was thinking about gagalicious old sayings and hanging pictures in the bathroom of my old downtown house (where I had hung different pictures upon moving in twice before,) I thought, "You know... there's some truth to that. Home really IS where the heart is."
Fall 2013: Moved from downtown to our first homestead in neighboring county south of hometown. Plan to never move again.
Spring 2015: After two brutal winters, move into cabin on the lakes homestead, back near our hometown, with the intention of fixing up the dilapidated farmhouse on the property. Plan to never move again.
Winter 2016: Shortly after the new year realize we can't stay in the cabin anymore for the cold, and that we're out of money and will never be able to fix up the big farmhouse. Make our escape in the middle of a frigid night, stay at my parents' river cottage north of hometown for one month. No plans. No idea where we'll go.
February 2016: Move back into our downtown house after fixing some broken pipes and the furnace. Hope to return to the cabin property in the spring.
April 2016: Definitely not moving back to cabin property. After initial sadness, settle in for a fantastic summer downtown and feel (mostly) great about living in the old place, yet still hopeful that we can land ourselves back in the country at some point.
November 2016: In an unforeseen turn of events, we are given the opportunity to live at the farm of some friends, north of our hometown. It's the farthest commute to town we've had, but it's where our animals went when we needed to rehome them upon our move to town. Also at this time our friend arrives home from her five month hike on the PCT and moves in with us. We move out and she moves into our house.
Winter 2016-17: Live in an undeniably cozy and idyllically rustic farmhouse taking care of cattle, pigs, sheep, geese, etc. Lots of woods walking, first time experiencing lambing season, most beautiful setting imaginable. Hygge Central! Time of stay is undetermined.
Spring 2017: All cars have broken down. Over the winter the furnace at our downtown house needed servicing three times. Martin works one full time job, one part time job, and is carrying a full course load in grad school. No time to care for animals, no money to service vehicles, and to my surprise, we're growing more and more homesick. Simple country life is seeming less and less simple every day.
Currently: Moved back downtown to the old house we bought ten years ago. Step into it and it feels like I've come home. There is no adjustment. There's no weird feeling of "I wonder when this will feel like home," or "I wonder if we're making the right choice." We are just exactly where we're meant to be. Plan to never move again.
And it makes me think, was my heart here all along? Did I just kind of scatter pieces of my heart at all those other places? If I went back to live at any of them, would it feel like home? And the answer is, I don't think so. I definitely left bits of my heart at every place, but none of those other houses ever felt as much like home as this one--though our first homestead is a close second. I ask the girls and they say it feels like all these moves have just been a big adventurous vacation. I hope they remember it only positively and not just as being a massively unstable time.
So now what? Now that our bodies are back where our hearts have always been, we're jumping into the "down-home downtown" lifestyle. LOTS of gardening. Beekeeping. Painting walls and refrigerators and playing music again. Farmers Markets, patio dinners at the brewery, impromptu porch gatherings, a pedestrian lifestyle. Sneaking off to the co-working studio across the street to blog while Martin puts the kids to bed. (Heh heh heh.) Not eating drive-thru food ever again, because we can always be home for dinner. Cooking everything from scratch. Walking everywhere. This is a simple, wholesome, good life.
I loved living in the country and the thing I'll miss most is keeping big animals. I will always miss my goats and sheep. I'm working on getting urban chickens legalized here, but so far my efforts have not ended in success... I really doubt urban goats will ever be allowed. But there are things about the city life that are just really, really wonderful. Things you can't get in the country.
I was never good at asking people to come out to our country homes. I felt like it was too far of a drive, it seemed unfair to ask anyone to make a whole big trip just to see me. As a result, I was alone. A lot. Even though I kind of chose not to have people out, it was an isolated sort of existence. I would go long stretches without seeing people outside of my family--sometimes up to a week without seeing anyone other than my husband and kids. That might be okay for some people, and I might have thought it was okay for me, but it wasn't. All it did was enhance my social anxiety when I would be around people. I believe that humans are social creatures, and even introverts need to have social experiences beyond caring for their family. (because I wasn't EVER actually alone--I was parenting 100% of the time.) Being back downtown, people drop by the house unannounced. I don't need to plan a day around someone visiting--we just sit in the yard for half an hour while the kids play, then go on. It's *perfect.*
Another benefit is the small space. I know, that sounds kind of ridiculous since the whole draw of country life is all the wide open space, but honestly, I find it pretty intimidating. I feel very vulnerable out in the open. Our downtown is in the river valley; we're protected from the wind, and we have so many huge, old trees all around us. It's wonderful to be able to walk outside and find what I need for dinner just steps from my kitchen door. Onions, kale, basil, lettuce.... all right outside on my patio or in the garden boxes alongside the side fence. It's really wonderful. I don't have time to forget that I've got butter melting on the stove when I don't have far to go! Soon we will have peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, raspberries and peaches, too. All from our tiny, beloved lot.
The most amazing part for me about moving back this time around has been my total embracing of the downtown life. The last time, I still wanted the country life, at least bits of it. (Mostly the beautiful bits.) I had hard times, feeling over the urban-ness of urban life. I would feel pangs of envy when other people would post pictures to social media of their homesteads. But this time, I'm astounded by my lack of jealousy! I remember our time in the country as a really wonderful time and I look at where I am now and I feel perfectly content. It's a really good feeling.
Maybe I'll get the itch down the road. Maybe we will go back to homesteading later in our life. Never say never, as another saying goes! But for now, I think it's safe to say we're not going anywhere for a long while. We're so very happy to be home!