March 15, 1999
I wake up in a room with a mandala print tapestry hanging from the wall, the smell of incense in the air. Throughout the room in various places are candles ready to be used. I take inventory: Sage is there, Daegan is there. But there are no cats to be seen which is confusing. With eight cats living with us it’s surprising that not one is sleeping with us. And why is it so cold? I’m positively shivering in here.
I get up to use the washroom and the room tilts. I stagger to the bathroom just in time to throw up. I am relieved I made it as I realize that we’re no longer in Pennsylvania. We’re in Missouri and our friend has let us use her room that night.
As I walk back to bed I feel positively horrible. Every muscle aches as if I’ve been moving furniture all night. Check that, it feels like I’ve been moving furniture out of a smoke-filled house because my lungs are congested and no matter how much I cough, I can’t seem to take a full breath.
I lie back down in bed while Sage and Daegan get up and go downstairs. I drift in and out of sleep. Every few hours, someone comes up to check on me, to feel my forehead, to adjust my blankets or to bring me mountain mint tea to calm my stomach. Eventually whatever bad thing I had eaten is finally out of my system and I feel a bit better. Finally around dinner time, there is a smell of vegetable stew coming from downstairs and I’m actually a little bit hungry. A plate of food is brought up to me and Daegan comes with it. It’s the first time I get to spend with Daegan all day.
Sadly, it doesn’t stay down but eventually I am able to eat a few ice chips. It’s the first “solid” food that stays down all day. I’m glad to know I won’t dehydrate, at least.
The next morning I wake and am still miserable but I feel good enough to move to our next living arrangement, a 28 foot RV. Of course there was another surprise delivered while we slept:
The yard is filled with snow – about ten inches has fallen.
Sage puts Daegan in the sling (I’m still not feeling great), and we trudge through the snow to our next home with “Big Dae” – the person Daegan is named after and the owner of the land.
We get a quick “house tour”. The door opens in to the living room / kitchen / dining room. In the back is a small bedroom with a double bed in it.
Big Dae gives us the rundown of some of the quirks of the house:
“There’s an extension cord from the house so you can have electricity and your music. The gas stove is connected but I didn’t light the pilot light to save gas. You need to light the stove like this.” Big Dae picks up a box of wooden matches from the counter, strikes it and then turns on one of the burners. As we begin to smell a little gas, she brings the flame close to the burner and it lights. This seems easy enough, and I’ve always wanted to have a gas stove to cook with so I’m very happy.
“I’ve connected the hose to the sink so you can use it. It drains in to the driveway, though.”
She opens a small door in the corner. Inside is a toilet and nearly microscopic shower.
“This is the bathroom, but you can’t use it. We don’t have a sewer connection.”
She takes us outside and shows us a white five gallon bucket with a toilet seat leaning against it.
“You can take this in to the woods and leave it somewhere private. When it is full you’ll need to dig a hole and bury it.”
I knew this was coming – nearly everyone we knew in this part of the country had no indoor plumbing – they simply had an outhouse. But even these, with their old national geographics and their spiderwebs in the ceiling (watch out for black widow spiders, though!) were more inviting than this. There’s snow on the ground and I’m feeling sick. But there is no sense in complaining. There may be no indoor plumbing but instead there’s lots of time for me to spend with my family. It is a more than fair trade.
I’m tired and my cough is getting worse so I sit down on the couch with Daegan while Sage and Big Dae get a couple of the boxes we shipped here from the garage. Inside one I find a coffee maker and a few bottles of various oils and sauces from my kitchen in Pennsylvania. I take them out and it feels a little more like home.
Inside still another box I find a copy of 1984. I have coffee and a book. I am happy.
We go to sleep comfortably in the bed that night, the gas heater keeping us warm. About 3:30 AM Daegan wakes up. He wants to nurse but is having trouble. He tries to nurse but then starts coughing and gets frustrated and cries. We wake up and try to find a way for him to sit that he’s more comfortable and doesn’t cough so much. And then Sage starts coughing too. At least I’m feeling a little better. I have a bit of a cough but my aches are gone and my energy has returned enough that even at 4:00 AM I notice a big difference in my motivation level.
By 5:00 AM I give up. There is no more sleep to be had. I start a pot of coffee and get ready to start the day. By 8:00 AM, I go to see Big Dae and ask if I can borrow the car to go to town. I need to do some shopping. We need to start cooking our own food and that means grocery shopping. Sage needs medicine and from the sounds of Daegan’s cough, he’s going to need a humidifier soon if he’s going to sleep well.
I head in to town with four stops planned.
The first is Jean’s Healthway, the local health food store. It’s a small shop on the main road. It instantly feels comfortable, smelling of incense and soap in one section. The bulk section is huge and smells of fresh spices. I restock my spice pantry and get staples like tofu, dried beans and a few vegetables.
The next stop I make is to the Grocery Salvage store. Sage’s mom told me about this before we moved here and it’s been a blessing for them. This store sells goods that are not quite presentable for a supermarket. Cans might have a dent in them or a torn label, boxes might have a tear on the outside (but the bag inside is intact), or the expiration date may be just a little close for comfort. In exchange for that the price is reduced, often to 1/2 or even 1/4 of what it normally would cost. Here I stock up on caned beans, canned tomatoes, pasta and pasta sauce.
After that I go to Town and Country. I haven’t seen a supermarket like this since I was a kid – a small town market that looks straight out of the 1980’s. Anything I can’t get at the previous stores, I get here including Rotel tomatoes (canned tomatoes with green chile peppers in them) and because I’m going to be out for a while, I pick up lunch at the deli. For just $5 I get two pieces of catfish, dipped in cornbread and fried, french fries, cole slaw and a hush puppy.
Finally, I go to Wal Mart – there is no other department store for miles around. Here I pick up a humidifier for Daegan and cough syrup for Sage.
I load up everything in to the little hatchback and drive the 20 minutes back up in to the hills. I arrive home and Sage is sick and exhausted. I tuck her and Daegan in to bed. She’s coughing pretty regularly now as is Daegan. I realize now that I haven’t coughed since I left town. I see the other side of this. Daegan tries to sleep next to her but isn’t having any of it. Every time he lies down he starts coughing. And so, I put a sweater on him, put on his hat and out in to the world we go. Sitting up seems to be helpful and he coughs a little less. As I walk through the forest I start to see his head nodding. Every time it nods, it snaps up like a driver trying not to fall asleep at the wheel. I put my hand in front of his head, giving him somewhere to rest it and that does the trick. He’s out like a light. I make my way back to the RV, carefully sit down on the couch with him still in the sling and take a quick nap myself.
When I wake up I’m almost completely better. Sage is reading in bed, coughing every few minutes. She’s slept much of the afternoon away and it’s getting dark outside. I start thinking about dinner.
I slide the sling around so Daegan is on the back side of my hip behind my arms and get out my cutting board and begin chopping onions. Daegan watches from behind my arm, safely away from the knife. I fry the onions, some garlic and peppers in one pan and start brown rice in another. Within 30 minutes I’ve made a simple dish of red beans and rice. Sage and I eat, then Daegan nurses and then we all read one of his favourite books together. I think about how much our life had changed since the last time we’d read that book together not long before we left.
Soon it is time to go to bed. I fill the humidifier and put it in the bedroom then the three of us go to bed and close the door. We all fall asleep almost immediately but within a couple of hours I’m awakened by rain. It is raining on my head inside the bedroom. I turn on the light and I can see that the humidifier is doing a great job of keeping the tiny room humid – to the point that it’s literally raining in the room. Turning the light on was a mistake, though. Daegan notices that and he starts to cough and fuss and now he wants to nurse and Sage wakes up after that. We’re now awake after only two hours of sleep. After her nurses Daegan still shows no signs of going back to sleep. He’s coughing way too much. We spend the rest of the evening in various stages of half-sleep with one of us holding Daegan upright and entertaining him so he might fall asleep while the other catches a few minutes of sleep in the bedroom. Soon I can barely keep myself awake. To entertain myself and feel a little less isolated, I find my book. In a sing-song voice better suited for reading about the adventures of Christopher Robin, Piglet, and Pooh, I start to read.
“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen…”
Want more stories about our adventure leaving suburbia and moving with our baby to a yurt in the woods? Visit this page.