It’s both a big thing and a really simple thing at the same time, and it’s not really a unique or different thing. It’s some thing that people all over the globe do all the time. People do it for all sorts of different reasons and the same reasons people do any thing; for the love of a thing, or a lack of a thing, for a better thing or a different thing.
Like divorce. We could say it’s like divorce. You suddenly, or gradually, realize that the person you are with, the life you are living with them, is no longer bearable and you decide, finally and for all, that something must unequivocally be done about the situation. Certainly it’s a simple decision; you firmly decide that you simply can not live like this with this person any longer. The process, though? The emotional, practical, physical implications of it all? Brutal. Other people’s perceptions? Humiliating, judgmental. The sheer effort involved in the very idea? Immeasurable.
Humans have a very real need for a DELETE key which just neatly erases whatever it is that they’ve written into their lives. But since there are so many different tendrils and ties and glues which bind us to the paths we’re on, abrupt changes in direction just aren’t as pleasurable as we imagine they might be in our dreams.
Here’s the thing: we’re leaving.
We’re selling out.
This simple fact has been a very real fact for us, and for no one but us, for a year now. We reached this lonely conclusion while riding back from a joyful First Night celebration in Burlington, Vermont, as we realized, for the first time, what living in a backwater, tea-party, close-minded town like Washington, NH was likely to do to our farm as a business, to us as a family, to our kids as our future. We saw with very real clarity how bleak the future really was; no industry, years of busing our children to the closest private school, and the very real likelihood that once we’d finally properly educated them, they would move elsewhere miles away and never come back. Signs of collapse were all over the place: a lack of actual farmers at the “Farmers’ Market”. A PTO spaghetti dinner cancelled due to a lack of volunteers. A town government suddenly aware of how it was getting in its own way, responding to the crisis by locking up public meeting minutes in the Town Hall instead of posting them online promptly so that we could all see the decline in black and white. A student representative to the Hillsboro-Deering School Board declaring that he had no plans to go to college. That’s right. The student representative to the school board. The kid with good grades and stuff. He’s decided not to go to college. Too expensive, he said.
Still it isn’t as easy as just packing up, putting up a For Sale sign and leaving. For one thing this place that we live in has very long and very real family history not just for us but for the extended family. For another the idea that we won’t be here in twenty years is a very new concept against the assumption, up until a year ago, that we’d be here until we died. That’s why we spent so much time and energy shaping the yard, the vegetable gardens, the orchard and the sugar bush. That’s why we’ve spent so much of our energy on town affairs. Now that we’ve realized this isn’t where we want to be, that we need to get out of the trap, we feel lost. Cut free, floundering, happy, flabbergasted, confounded. It’s a real roller-coaster.
Also? Up until now we haven’t told anyone. Not family, not friends–just a few very select realtors whom we’ve immediately sworn to secrecy. And yet, there are so many different immediate issues on a day to day basis that it’s hard not to get sucked in. People asking me when our farm stand will be open. Will we have fresh produce? What do we plan to plant this year? When will the chicks be arriving? Can I buy some chickens this year? Won’t it be fun when our kids are older and they can bike down the road to our respective houses by themselves?
“I don’t know yet, it’s been a late spring….we’ve decided not to do chickens this year so we can focus on bringing back the yard….uh….uh…..Yes, won’t that be nice? In a few years?”
The realtors, though? Like any good divorce lawyers they’ve laid it out for us. The cost layout. How to achieve our ultimate goal. What people are looking for. What we need to do make it sale-able. Like, for instance, plowing under the acre of garden we’ve cultivated for all these years and turning it back into grass. Updating the appliances for the sake of appearances, knowing full well that the next owners will tear up and re-vamp and re-model and re-paint and make it their own. Basically we need to hit the brakes, hard, so we finally stop the tremendous momentum of where we thought we were going, turn around, and go down another road in a completely different direction. Only it’s not the actual direction we eventually want to go, it’s the direction that someone else, a mysterious someone else who potentially wants to live in our current shoes, it’s the direction they possibly want to go in. Only we don’t know exactly what that is, so we’re guessing. And while we’re guessing, we’re hoping that we don’t lose sight of the direction we actually wanted to head in so that we can get back there without too much trouble.
We love this land, and this house. We are proud of the apple orchard, the blueberries, our sugaring operation. But we dislike our commute. We’re in over our heads. We dislike NH. And we have come to despise this town. And we finally, finally realized that it wasn’t an insult when the old timers told us to get out if we didn’t like it. It was, actually, sound advice. Too bad we never saw it for what it was…