out the window was a snowstorm. it was february and it is wisconsin. it’s an IFTTT. we had plans for the next few days, not something we oft have…fun things booked with others. we pulled up accuweather and, between that and the ice forming on the window, had anticipatory grief, figuring all would be cancelled. we worried. if this-then that. if a snowstorm, then everything halts.
IFTTT – if this then that – i didn’t know this acronym was a thing, but i see no reason for conditional statements not to have their own acronym. “if you build it [then] they will come” made hugely popular with the movie “field of dreams”.
out the window was a snowstorm. it was february and it is wisconsin, so this is not a surprise. it is an IFTTT. but in these strange climate-changing times, the snow didn’t really stick around much. a couple days later we were out and about at the winter festival in cedarburg, traipsing around with the up-north gang. and the next day we hiked our favorite river trail. i might add – sans miracle mittens.
IFTTT should come with a caveat, some sort of warning. because there are times we may make the worst of assumptions about what is to come. we if-this-then-that ourselves into angst. we can – for sure – envision the difficult, the darkness. but, she reminded me, do we envision the blessings?
it didn’t all halt. on the contrary. instead, the snow fell and it was a magical day. by the time another day passed, most of it was gone. the temperatures were in the 40s and our day’s end on the deck around a couple firepits was dreamy.
out the window was a snowstorm. from inside, we watched it fall. we were warm and toasty. we were immersed in the work we must do right now – the IFTTT of job loss. and we were excited – with some trepidation about cancellations – for the next few days to follow.
kevin costner called and reminded us to stay focused on the hope, to stay the course, to dream of the field of possibilities, to go play after the snow falls.
“thinking notes,” ken calls them. lingering on the same note for an extra moment, an extra beat, sorting what’s next. well, technically, it would rarely just be only one beat or one moment, but that would require more explanation. i suppose most composers are familiar with this.
writing on the fly – improvisational but with a sense of theme – is surely plotting and scheming, figuring out in the nanoseconds ahead what will come. the moments you are deep into a recording and you somehow skew the rhythmic pattern – or the melodic gesture – you’ve developed, and you know that twist will change it all. your brain delivers a quick “plot twist” faceslap to your hands and you keep going. and, for the most part, no one is the wiser for the turn in the road, save for your producer.
outside the bookstore in the little mountain town the sign made us stop, nodding our heads. sometimes it’s the plot twists – and the unanswered prayers – that save us. we think we know best. we etch the plans in stone.
but those moments come and nothing stays the same, for even the tiniest twist in the road changes latitude or longitude, beat pattern, melody line. and they deliver with them the grace to play a little thinking note, take a little breath, close your eyes tightly and then reopen them – and then keep going.
i hearted the comment by one of their instagram followers. it read: “boss move. inspire when you go. inspire when you stop. along for the ride whatever’s next.” exactly our sentiments.
the wander women HAVE inspired us. they have entertained us, taken us along on their adventures, encouraged us to plan, made us dream. we have watched them thru-hike the appalachian trail, the continental divide trail, the pacific crest trail – the triple crown. we have seen them in their rv, bemoaning the ailments that aging graces us with, yet, embracing those ailments, researching, asking questions, dealing with the cycles of grief that accompany those kinds of changes and, mostly, doing something about them. they self-care through the trappings of difficulties; they are solution-oriented and flexible. they are thriving.
their latest undertaking is to ride across-country on surly bikes – rail-trailing – from “sea to shining sea”. they rode from the pacific ocean through the state of washington, into idaho and entered montana. things got sketchy in montana – this country is not yet equipped to ride straight-across – and they were riding on shoulderless roads next to semis going 70 and 80mph, gravel or wobbles threatening their every pedal.
we are proud of their decision to stop. 700 miles in and they have decided to find a new plan, they have decided their safety and the enjoyment of each day is more important than just keeping on in a precarious situation.
and yes….it’s a boss move.
the wander women’s fortitude and courage and open-armed seize of life and experiences have made us realize that, though we have not thru-hiked before, we can set it as an intention. we can picture ourselves outside, weeks, months at a time, reveling in nature and quiet and every step. we can see the toe guards and the snack bags and the ponchos and the headnets. we wonder how we might arrange amazon-drone-drops of wine every so often.
though we watch many trailhikers, many backpackers and, as you know, have a certain affinity for, among others, that elusive my-own-frontier joey, it is the wander women – kristy and annette and, on earlier journeys, lynn, who inspire us, people of the same ‘certain’ age. they made a plan and set goals – retired, sold off their homes, their stuff, paid off their remaining debt, bought an rv and have a somewhat itinerant life full of fabulous escapades.
our plan will not likely mimic theirs, but who knows. the important thing is that it is making us excited about planning, excited about deliberate movement in that direction. those amazing wander women have been active hikers together all along, for decades. they have paid attention to their growth, their middle-age-changing-bodies; they have been mindful about their self-care and their continued movement. they “get outside”. but, they had to start somewhere. our hats are off to them – kristy and annette.
i read it on facebook. her daughter had fallen in love with the perfect home and had made an offer, only to lose this perfect house they had been saving and saving and saving for to someone who offered $200,000 (that’s two-hundred-thousand-dollars) OVER the asking price. all cash. it’s insanity!
we ponder the next chapter often. we have dreamy homes in our mind’s eye and on my laptop screen, plans i have saved, photographs of houses over which we have lusted. out the window are mountains and space, oftentimes water. and never perfect grass. i’ve noticed a theme of more natural settings, without the greenscape of manicured lawn, edged and treated and de-dandelioned.
but i cannot imagine how any of that is possible. we are fortunate to live in our old house in a beautiful old neighborhood near a giant great lake. we don’t usually have tornadoes or hurricanes, ice storms or lengthy periods of time over 100 degrees with feels-like humidity pushing us to stay inside. we have winter, yes. we have snow, yes. we have very-late spring, yes, sort of. we have gorgeous fall, yes. we have thunderstorms and sometimes windy derechos, which are scary as heck. every now and then we have ice and every now and then there will be a period of time with hotter-than-heck temperatures. and we love our home…the creaky wood floors, the fluted glass doorknobs, the high ceilings, the six-panel doors, the nooks and crannies, the light. even with all its idiosyncrasies and the ever-present maintenance list, we are grateful for it.
but…the next chapter. i hear about people retiring and moving south – to florida, most often. i hear about people moving southwest – to arkansas, to arizona. these aren’t places we would choose. we have a short list at the moment: colorado, north carolina, vermont, maine. i think that’s about it for now. i’m not sure how we could afford any of those places. we don’t have two-hundred-thousand-dollars-cash-money-over-and-above-the-selling-price to entice a seller to accept our bid. my heart goes out to my friend’s daughter. buying a home these days cannot be easy – for most.
so every day, really, i tool around online looking at our top destinations, dreaming. i jaunt over to airbnb to see what it would be to live in those spots for a couple months, enough time to immerse and feel like we have gotten out of dodge. i show david pictures and we chat about the possibilities of someday. i look at calculators and equations and budget projections. yikes!
and we start to make a plan. our roadtrip. i guess we’ll see.
there’s a lot to consider and, clearly, we need a much bigger piggybank.
mostly, though, i’m guessing we will follow our hearts.
i was going to write about the gig economy. about how living a life – mostly – in that world has given me a perspective about work that is maybe a little less rigid than the perspective of one who has worked outside the gig economy. always piecing it together, always scrappy, always thinking of the next new thing to create – these are second nature. not having as much, worrying, repurposing, having thinner margins – these are also second nature. in the middle of the middle of what-next thinking, outside the box of indeed and monster and ziprecruiter and simplyhired and random sites that seriously suggest i apply for positions as a neuroscience researcher. “now what?” people will ask – mostly who don’t really know me or who are drawing comparisons with their own lives. i was going to write about all that.
but then i thought about beauty. i thought about how artists dive below the surface, try to find the depth of meaning, try to hear and see what which others might pass by, not noticing. i thought about stages and boom mics and connection and standing in front of a diebenkorn – or a robinson – deep inside, marveling. i thought about arvo pärt and his absolute tug on my heart. i thought about john denver and simplicity. i thought about recording studios and soaring string sections, cello lines that make clouds rearrange to allow in light. the weaving of intricate relationship between people and nature, between people and art in any form.
there have been moments – and i can actually remember them – when i have been driving and listening to a song and i weep or hiking and seeing something so stunning i stop and cannot move. these moments when i know, without a doubt, that it was right to turn down the business-school-accounting-program acceptance. these moments when i know, without a doubt, that i will not have the same security as the person-i-would-have-been following that route. moments when i feel a sense of pride to be a tiny part of the tapestry of what people turn to in time of rejuvenation, of rest, of crisis, of pure bliss. these moments when i know, without a doubt, that somewhere along the way what i have done with my time has touched someone, has opened them, has taken them diving with me. below the surface of this great big world – to beauty.
“get outside.” “expand the confines of your life.” “surround yourself with beauty.” the youtube backpackers wander women kristy, annette and lynn have mantras displayed at the end of their videos. we somehow stumbled upon them; likely it was because they are currently hiking the pacific crest trail and they looked to be somewhere around our age. we have watched joey coconato backpack an inordinate number of times, and we know that we cannot be joey. we can’t even be joey-like. twenty years younger than us, he is stronger and bolder and with a vast amount of experience. the wander women, though also with decades of trail-savvy, made the trail look more accessible to us.
i have been moved by them. a few years ago they talked about what they wanted in life, made a plan and deliberately went about executing their plan. they sold houses, bought a diesel pickup and an rv and started living an itinerant lifestyle that suits their mantras. they are intrepid. one foot in front of another they have ticked off many of the big thru-hikes that linger on the edges of other people’s bucket lists. and, though we have watched them in question and answer videos and in gear videos and on various trails, right now we are following their progress on the pct. amazing. “home is where you are,” annette says, in answer to a question about how they feel about living in an rv and hiking. “you bring home with you,” she explains, totally secure and happy. they are a joy to watch.
most times we pull into the driveway – arriving from anywhere whatsoever – i say, “hello, sweet house.” it matters not how long or how briefly we have been gone; i am happy to be back and i guess i want our house to know it. animating a house is not likely on the restrained-unemotional-dispassionate-disconnected-unsentimental-apathetic spectrum but then i am pretty much an antonym-icon for all that. and i love our home.
that doesn’t mean i couldn’t love another home. i fall in love every time we are in the colorado mountains. i wish i owned most of the airbnb’s we have rented, so incredibly at home we have felt in them. i fell in love with the littlehouse on washington island; it was magical and we instantly bonded. we visited a tiny town in north carolina’s smoky mountains and thought, “we could live here.” we pined over a general store for sale in a tiny town in vermont, a place we could see ourselves hang our hats. my sister’s house, my nieces’ houses, all bring a sense of security and love. each one conjures up comfort. the up-north cabin for the up-north gang is a place of tranquility and laughter. 20’s condo is a place of serenity. friends have homes that are tranquilizing, soft places for our visits.
kristy and annette and lynn carry backpacks with less than 25 pounds of weight: their tents, clothing, food, water, supplies. that makes long-distance hiking sound more doable. “be bold” “challenge yourself” “create your life” they state at the end of another video. these are not empty words, not do-as-i-say-not-as-i-do words. they are living life in just this way. home sweet home for them is most undeniably inside them wherever they go.
the woodpecker who pecked out its house in this tree was just as fearless. undaunted by the size of the fallen log, it did what it knew – it created home. just watching a woodpecker create his own digs makes rv-living or driving up our driveway look like a breeze. i imagine that as the seasons change and life and time move on, there will be other trees in other forests, other home-holes, other places to nest, other welcome mats for this indomitable bird.
at a time when redefining is imminent, i look in the mirror and start to sketch out a plan, start to dream, to re-create life. it’s all amorphous right now, but our happy house – home, sweet home – cheers me on.
plan ahead, you say? well, we thought we did. we wanted a photograph to document our shore-sitting-sipping-on-bold-coffee moment that last morning on hilton head. we carefully watched the waves and placed our mugs in the wet sand. i stepped back to take a couple photos and voila! the tide is a funny thing…something of which we have no control. and so, the coffee cup dance became the moment and our laughter sated our need-for-coffee.
life, i suppose, is like that more often than not. when i moved away from family to kenosha, the conversation went something like this: “3-5 years and we will be moving on.” it is now 30 years later. 30 years! where did that time go? what about the plan? the tide seemed to have its own way and waves of joy and challenge, growth and grief, and simply TIME have washed over me. the tide laughs in glee.
we try to plan. my sweet momma had a great sign. i wish i had it. but it was something like this:
yet, despite our measuring, our strategizing, our calculating, our PLAN, life seems to take unexpected turns. the waves roll in and the tide giggles.