My goal as a child was to soak up every livable outdoor minute of the day that I could, pausing only to chew and swallow what my mother handed me, and ignore her warning calls in the gathering dark. I lived outside. I did not imagine, even as a teen and adult, working 40 + hours a week that I would not spend my life outside when I could.
My vision of the future has obviously changed over the years, evolving from the bizarre; me as a sharpish Katherine Hepburn type, living in an isolated cottage but needing a butler (?!), to the simple - my plan of just backpacking continually until one day I collapsed, died, and decomposed on a moor covered in heather.
I ever only planned the outdoor spaces that would be mine. Interiors were fleeting thoughts . . . windows, reading nooks. As a young teen I had a folder, plump with scissored pictures from discarded gardening catalogues; over and over again I cut out tiny shots of teak benches beneath drooping wisteria. I thought I would live in an actual greenhouse, wending my way through a tangle of plants to the kitchen.
As I grew older, my future environment became more ordinary. I would have a potato field. I would wear boots and overalls for the rest of my life. I'd grow asparagus and brush my face against their feathery tops. My plan, up until the moment The Simple Man squeezed my heart with his calloused, tobacco scented hand, was to graduate, buy a truck and Go. Go drive around the country: Biloxi, Texas, Savannah, Oklahoma, the Badlands. Then I would return to my first real land love, Scotland. What I would do once I hiked out of Glasgow (don't let anyone tell you Edinburgh is better, if you want real, and you like grit, Glasgow is it) no longer matters because it's been replaced with my life now. I have only a handful's worth of mourning in me over missing out on my wee adventures, because it's all been so, so good.
Good except for where we live. One third of my life has been spent in the urban northeast, an area famous for unrelentingly smashing humanity together as close as possible. I think I'm suffering from a deficiency in greeness. I am advised to take advantage of the park. This isn't what I wanted. I want to live outside. I want to cook outside. I want to grow my own food outside. I want to camp in my garden. I want to fold my laundry on a broad tree stump. I want to send my children outside. I don't want to stroll through the park a few times a week and then watch my kids scatter around the playground. That's visiting outside, not living outside. I want my children to live the seasons, not merely watch them from a window and feel their differing temperatures on their skin.
My indoors would be small, but filled with light. There would be enough land to yield the bulk of our yearly food. A tiny orchard, a grape arbour, and a pond. Chickens or quail. Energy efficient - possibly off grid - that's not a deciding factor for me. I want to breath early morning air from my kitchen garden and hear the subtle but unmistakable sounds of nature beginning the day, unadulterated by humans honking, polluting, talking on cellphones, spilling Starbucks, and the ever present thumping of the bass that occurs at all hours of the day in my neighborhood. I want quiet.
When I look back, it's easy to see that a life of voluntary simplicity, minimalism, and environmentalism have always been in my nature. These are the directions I drifted until I became conscious of this and made it intentional. For me, they are all interrelated, though I understand if it's not that way for everyone. I see my best life as one that is low impact on both myself and the earth, where the superfluous has been excised, leading me to appreciate the rest. The good news is that I can live my best life anywhere, as most people can, the sad news is that I'm living it where I don't want to be living it. And that's what my struggles over contentment are about; where we live. What, you thought I was tired of The Simple Man?
As I read over this post, I grin at the irony because here I am, endeavoring to live a life of less, reducing my desires one at a time, and all I've written is "I want." So be it; I've made my peace with what I really want. It's something I can't entirely control, passed down in my mother's description of her Dziadek's potager, the warm raspberries my Grandpapa grew, the joyously intense look on my mother's face as she plans her own garden for this year and the future; it was born in me.
I consciously strive every day to want less, accept what I have, and be grateful for the enormity of what my life has been so far. But this is the one thing I cannot get over, give up, or forget about. I suspect most of us who are mindful of our wants have that one item, or dream, we refuse to give up. My dream of the future never once included a lifetime spent inside, which is where I am most of the time by default, since we don't have a real outdoors space to retreat to. The day might come when I have to realize that it's not going to happen and readjust my view of the rest of my life, especially as this isn't a monetary issue, but rather a spousal issue (he was born here; it's complicated!). Ahem. Until then, I'm still saving those inspirational outdoor pictures . . . digitally!
Do you have a dream that won't shrivel up and die no matter how much easier it would be if it did?