Woodstock, Vermont: a place for us to call “home”

“Home is both the beginning and the end. Home is not a sentimental concept at all, but an inner compass and a North Star at the same time. It is a metaphor for the soul.”

—Richard Rohr

We are moving to Vermont!!! Yes, that’s right! After 7 years of being semi-nomadic and moving every few years we are putting down some roots. And the roots that we plan to put down are both metaphorical and actual. We are buying a log cabin (that’s right, evidently we’re coming full circle to the type of home we first owned together and inhabited quite happily for the better part of 5 years) on 14 acres in central Vermont. We’ll be 7 rural minutes away (meaning we will live off a dirt road with a long driveway) from the quaint town of Woodstock.

The actual roots we hope to put down are lovely ones such as those that belong to my favorite tree, the Weeping Willow (we plan to plant one by the pond), Montmorency Cherry, Honeycrisp Apple, the lovely (and yet obscure these days due to an unfortunate blight) American Elm, and perhaps a few more. But definitely those. (https://www.tytyga.com/ is an amazing site that tells you based on your zipcode which trees and plants are a perfect match for your agricultural zone.)

We also plan to have a vegetable garden, maybe some berry bushes, and some herbs in either a hoop house or a cold frame.

Now, this may not won’t all happen the first month that we live there. AND, if when it doesn’t, then it’s probably going to be at least a year because the growing season is SHORT there. The winters are intense. Like a kind of intense that I know I am going to laugh-cry about at times. But honestly, those autumns are matchless. And, oh, to hear frogs from my own yard in the spring and summer. And to see lightning bugs again (my kids never have!!). And to experience that enthusiasm of the first real snow. And then to experience that intense almost breaking point of despair when it’s STILL snowing in March. But digging deep, and going outside anyway for a while because there’s no bad weather, just inadequate gear. And then you come inside and sit by the fire with a book and some hot chocolate glad that you got out for a hardy 25 minutes. And all of this, I’m actually receiving into my heart and soul with wide, openness.

I’m definitely not moving because I think life will be easier there. And I am also definitely not moving because I think it will be less expensive to live there. I just read a whole blog post about Vermonters who did a similar thing. Even though they moved from one of the more expensive cities in the US, they learned that home and land ownership cost more up front for the first few years. https://www.frugalwoods.com/2018/01/29/city-vs-country-which-is-cheaper-the-ultimate-cost-of-living-showdown/

And we aren’t even doing this because we think we will be happier or that this is an altogether better choice. Ruth Chang helped me a lot with that in terms of making difficult choices and how there is no clear best or better choice which is what, by definition, make a difficult choice, difficult. (https://www.ted.com/talks/ruth_chang_how_to_make_hard_choices)

So that may beg the question then why are we moving our happy, little family from mild and sunny Los Angeles to a rural Vermont?

1) One reason is: because we can! We are in the unique position where Collin can work remotely, so we aren’t tied to the job market there. In the past, Collin and I dreamed about having land and living somewhere simply beautiful. I’d look on landandfarm.com regularly and so would he. But our dilemma always seemed to be: once we move there, how do we get jobs and afford it? A great, huge thank you to Collin’s amazing company, Pure Charity, and to the globalization that current technology affords—this is no longer a conundrum. 

In terms of the kids and me: I homeschool the kids, but the schools in Woodstock are phenomenal too, so we are set either way. Either we homeschool and make our life about planting gardens, building tree forts, studying the local ecology, etc or they go to a great school in a small town. We are planning on the former, but we aren’t locking ourselves into that being necessary. However, we did only research towns/areas with healthy homeschooling communities.

2) Our 7 year journey away from our original home has taught us some key elements that we need to be healthy. Along the way we’ve been able to determine what some of our core psychological, emotional, social, spiritual, and physical needs are. A few of them are: We need enough money to not be so financially strained that we are stressed out in every other area of life. We need a healthy and positive community, and for us that means socially progressive and a general sense of shared values (i.e., Vermont’s Billboard Law outlaws roadside ads specifically so that the beauty of the Green Mountains isn’t tainted with commercialism). We need meaningful relationships too, apart from a sense of community. And, while we are leaving some of our family here that we cherish, and many friends, we are also moving back within driving distance to many of our beloved family members and lifelong friends. And finally, but quite significantly, we need to have ample time together as a family and as a couple to connect with each other and to connect with Life. Moving our family to Woodstock, Vermont meets all the above criteria.

3) We would rather spend our money on working on and owning land and a home than on keeping up with the high cost of living here in Los Angeles. We could stay here and continue to make it work indefinitely, but because we aren’t “in the industry” as everyone says here (we aren’t screenwriters, actors, producers, or people who are pursuing the entertainment industry in any way in Hollywood) there isn’t going to be a big break or turning point where we suddenly get that wind fall of cash, fame, and fortune. We aren’t counting on or hoping for a big pay day. And while our life here has been beautiful and wonderful in many ways, it hasn’t been built for sustainability longterm. We were having so much fun and enjoying our mountains, the culture, the beach, the weather, and our friends that we had started to let some of our other dreams slip away a little. Dreams of owning land, dreams of living that quiet, simple life like little Hobbits. I guess it’s just kind of like the law of motion that states “An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.” We were happily staying in motion here until from time to time some unbalanced force would cause us to re-evaluate the sacrifices we were making to stay here.

So given that, we have decided that we’d rather invest what we have now in something tangible and lasting. So that when unbalanced forces act upon us, we have roots. We have a life container to keep us grounded. A garden to work in during the spring and summer months, fruit and vegetables to gather and process in the fall, and a fire to stoke in the winter to heat our house. And maple trees to tap too. The meaningful work and play we hope to do on our land will connect us to our life there in a way that goes deeper and transcends happiness.

4) Our kids! Childhood is fleeting! I can’t imagine never having had land as a kid. The experience of connecting with public land here in California has been amazing; I’m so glad we have had the beauty of the Santa Monica Mountains surrounding us for the past few years. And we’ve made them our playground, our classroom, and our backyard. The beach too. It’s been wonderful, and it has impressed upon me the importance of preserving public land. But before my kids have left that sacred time of childhood, I want them to experience what it feels like to plant a tree and watch it grow month by month and year by year. I want them to have a grassy, flat space to practice cartwheels and a stream where they can build dams. I want to build tree forts and have a bonfire pit in our woods. I want them to marvel at how the seasons dramatically change their familiar space, and how in all of the change there is rhythm and order.

It will be more sacred than a dream come true because it will be real life. We are taking this home that we’ve built together and we’re giving it a place. A place where all the good and bad, the mundane and the extraordinary, the holidays and the every days all transpire. We’re looking forward to our life, our real life, happening in that house and on that land.

I’ll be posting here to chronicle this new chapter of our life.

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