Do you sometimes dream of moving to rolling green hills in the country? Or to a small, perfect cabin by the sea? Maybe, like we did, you want to make the leap to a different life in a place you only dare to dream about because dreams are just for dreaming, right?
Where do you want to be?
Someone once told me that change is scary, and there aren’t any knowns–sometimes you just have to plug your nose and jump.
Moving to an entirely new place often comes with mixed emotions–the excitement and also the worry, because it feels like it requires new skills or too many goodbyes or starting over–especially when moving involves a partner or children. The stakes become higher when you have a career built at a particular company in a particular city, or your book of business is tied to all your social contacts that have been culled through years of attention and service. Or when your children have bonded with friends, or a school, or a neighborhood, or your home, and the thought of moving them feels akin to ripping them from the arms of a loving embrace. It is difficult to look at the long-term picture when you have the immediacy of a small face looking up at you asking for a playdate with the trusted neighbor.
And yet, as the beauty of a stunning, sunny Spring week bathes winter-weary souls, many folks are craving fresh starts. School is nearly out, summer is ahead, the light at the end of the tunnel feels so very near. Even without kids, people remember this time as a child when a season of possibility stretches ahead like a dramatic, unplanned adventure.
Sometimes, in our region, the desire to move happens suddenly. It might be when taking a vacation from far-flung lands, and starting the day by looking outside and thumbing through a guidebook. It might be over coffee that the decision is proclaimed that it’s a perfect day to step onto a ferry for a quick jaunt over to Bainbridge Island. And that’s when the trouble begins.
As folks meander across the Sound they take in the 360-degree picture of mountains everywhere, trees everywhere, blue everywhere, sparkles everywhere, seagulls everywhere, and small tendrils of curiosity take form. Inevitably, someone will say to the other, “This is glorious. I wonder what it would be like to live on an island?”
I remember talking with friends about the terrible risk of arriving on our island on a sunny day with cash in your pocket. All you need to do is stroll down our old-fashioned main street and grab an espresso. While the dark delight of caffeine surges through your veins, you happen to glance at the posters in the local real estate shops. There. Right there. You see it. Your perfect haven. The one on a grassy knoll. The one with blue skies all around and gnarled tree branch trim on the coffee table and a garden out back, and a porch to die for, with a rocking chair and a swing bench and potted herbs–and look! Room for the kids to run and scream and be free!
I can’t count the number of people who have arrived on Bainbridge and decided to just take a peek at a house on a sunny day with a kind real estate agent willing to take them on their madcap journey to entertain the possibility of leaving their ill-fitting urban lives behind so they can dig their hands into soil and set down roots–and they’ve fallen madly, deeply, head-over-heels in love with the possibilities of the life they’ve been wanting to live forever. A quieter life. A sweeter life. A life that starts with a view out the window that they want to see and ends with a bed in a room that they love. A place where the kids will always come back. They start to weigh the 35-minute ferry ride commute against the one in a car on a packed freeway. They think about the books and the beer on the way home while someone else sails them. And something starts to breathe and seal inside. It’s this little carefree voice that says Oh, I see. It could be like this.
As I sit here remembering the difficulty of making the decision to move to our island six years ago (even though it was my childhood home! A place I was so familiar with!) and leave our friends and home in Seattle, I am looking out the window at white magnolia blooms and puffs of cherry blossoms wrapping their sweet scent around my writing studio. Purple lilac blossoms are nudging into full bloom. The blueberry plants are beginning to form tiny hard berries. Seeds are germinating in the heat of the sun, tucked inside rich soil. Chickens are feeding on the pile of dandelions I pulled from the yard this morning, while some scratch into the earth for their daily dirt bath. Birds are singing their riot of song. I have savored the great, daily pleasure of watching small leaf buds unfurl into the air around our home, filling our yard with their lemony light as sunlight shines through their new green growth. And the bluebells with their frilly perfection! And the pink buds on the Frost Peach trees! And, and, and…!!!
As I write this, I think about the dark days of winter and all that we needed to overcome. I had a long talk last night with our kids as I was driving them home from sports practice. I explained that if there is ONE THING that I can impart to them as their mom it’s the awareness of the balancing of dark and light. The night and the day. The winter and the spring. The despair and the joy. The bad and the good. The stasis and the motion. Like the dark days of winter and all the rain, compared with this season of growth and expansion and bliss. I explained that life was composed of millions of moments of both, that life was not a perfectly positive or negative experience, that it was a thing like a wave with trough and crest and everything in between, and that if I could ask them to do this one thing: to choose the light, the joy, the good, the happy, and the honest every time they can, then that will be enough for me and my job will be done.
I think when you find yourself mired in a life that’s not the one you want, then choosing the life you were meant to live is akin to veering off the road and wandering through the underbrush. It’s not always easy at first but after awhile you get to your meadow, sit down, and unpack your picnic basket.
Because it will be your life. Your choices. Your perfection and imperfection. And it will be beautiful.
I remember some Leonard Cohen lyrics from his song Anthem that I posted at the beginning of the year, and I think it’s worth re-posting as it applies to movement and change and the wide, great frontier of the unknown–even if the desire for change is one that is more internal, rather than external: the search for a wild and woodsy inner world rich with imagination and emotion, one that might be at odds with external realities, maybe even with the doldrums of living a life that isn’t really yours. Here are his words:
“The birds they sang at the break of day. Start again, I heard them say. Don’t dwell on what has passed away, or what is yet to be. Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”
I poked around a bit to see what Leonard Cohen had to say about the meaning of his song, and with credit to the blog How The Light Gets In, I found this excerpt of Leonard’s description of the song, as follows:
That is the background of the whole record, I mean if you have to come up with a philosophical ground, that is “Ring the bells that still can ring.” It’s no excuse… the dismal situation.. and the future is no excuse for an abdication of your own personal responsibilities towards yourself and your job and your love. “Ring the bells that still can ring”: they’re few and far between but you can find them. “Forget your perfect offering”, that is the hang-up, that you’re gonna work this thing out. Because we confuse this idea and we’ve forgotten the central myth of our culture which is the expulsion from the garden of Eden. This situation does not admit of solution or perfection. This is not the place where you make things perfect, neither in your marriage, nor in your work, nor anything, nor your love of God, nor your love of family or country. The thing is imperfect. And worse, there is a crack in everything that you can put together, physical objects, mental objects, constructions of any kind. But that’s where the light gets in, and that’s where the resurrection is and that’s where the return, that’s where the repentance is. It is with the confrontation, with the brokenness of things.
– from Diamonds in the Line
It happens more often than we realize, this living of a life that’s not really the life we were meant to live. Slowly over time the tiny decisions stack up and turn into a collection of conscious and unconscious choices until there you are, outfitted in a life you can’t wait to peel off at day’s end, like a too-tight tie or high heels that pinch.
Until one day you might hop on a ferry or a train or a plane and stumble into the life you were meant to live…And you decide to set up house and put down roots and live every day like you’re riding a wave, crest and trough and everything in between. Some days will suck. Some days will be pure nirvana and you’ll wonder if you’re even real or if you’re a cartoon cut-out in someone else’s fantasy because the beauty is almost too much. Because it’s your life. And imperfect as it is, it’s how the light gets in.
And it might be on an island, this life. Or in the woods. Or tucked on top of a mountain. Or sitting on a balcony overlooking the sea. Or setting up station on a busy urban corner watching people walk by. Or anywhere at all so long as your hands are dirty and you’re making things and reading books and drinking tea. Whatever it might be, it’s yours.
So, if you’re in the middle of your stuffy office wishing you could roll up your pant legs and dangle your toes in the water, or you find your mind wandering in the middle of a corporate meeting in a brownish-grey-oatmeal-y colored room and it occurs to you that there are wild green pastures waiting to be explored, and laughter waiting to be shouted into the evening, and porches waiting to be snuggled upon, then it might be time to move. And chances are, you might need to move to an island, too. Just sayin’. 🙂
Our kids taking turns driving the tractor through freshly mowed grass. Our dog Luna didn’t know what to do with herself so she just ran as fast as she could.