I have told several stories about our time in the yurt, but I have never explained what happened afterward. How did we go from living in the woods to living in a highrise apartment in a whole different country?
At the end of 2000, we were snowed in for 27 days. At the end of that we were scared half to death by a bear. At the same time we realized our living situation was a little uncertain. We owned our yurt but the land was owned by friends. If they decided to sell the house we would likely have to move or would, at least, lose access to the Internet – how our bills were paid. In some ways we were really independent: we got our own water out of the ground, we had a daily routine well defined of how we would do the little work – both housework and paying work, and we had a reasonably good income from our technical writing and web design businesses. But we were also dependent in other ways. All our batteries from laptop to radio needed to be charged in our friends’ house. The Internet may have been connected to our desktop computer but it was in their house as well. We did have a wireless network set up so we didn’t always have to go inside (imagine that! In 2000!) but we weren’t fully managing on our own. And it was time to do this.
My first thought was that we might have to give up. Perhaps this was a failed experiment and I should just call my old company and start full time work again. The job was available, there would likely be paid relocation expenses – not that we had much to relocate, just us, our cats and what could fit in a 300 square foot yurt), we needed only to make a call. But at the same time this really hurt. Admitting this was needed would be like admitting I was a failure.
We started out by looking for a place we could move the yurt to. Perhaps we could find somewhere with an electrical hookup and a well. We didn’t find much – only one place which was a similar dynamic. We’d be connected to the electricity of someone’s trailer next door to us. We were ready to have our own space. This was further complicated by the need to clear and level the land where we’d be living. This wasn’t really possible.
We checked with a nearby intentional community to see if they had space for us. They had space for two adults and one child. We could even bring our yurt. But they had room for only two of our four cats on their land. We weren’t willing to part with two cats. How could we choose?
For a long time I saw only two possible paths. There was moving the yurt to other land that was fully our own space, and there was throwing everything away, labeling this experiment as a failure and going back to Pennsylvania. I imagined going back, buying a new car, buying a home in the suburbs and leaving everything behind. I imagined people asking me about our time in the yurt and I would say “Yes, it was a cool idea but it’s really not something I could do. I thought we could just move there with no money or plan but we couldn’t do it. If I had been smart I would have worked for five years, saved up $50-100,000 and then set out.” while inside thinking to myself that if I’d done that I might have managed to buy our own land, maybe solar panels, and have a well drilled. But I would also have missed climbing a mountain at sunrise with my son in the sling, cooking lunch over a fire in a torrential downpour, and seeing my son take not only his first few steps but his first several thousand steps. It was an impossible situation, find a living situation that probably didn’t exist, or live with massive regret and a lifelong sense of failure.
For about a week I racked my brain with this problem. I kept saying to Sage “I know there’s got to be some other idea. There’s got to be something I’m not thinking of. And then it came to me. What if we found a more traditional home – but still nearby? And so our search got underway. We looked at trailers out in the woods, a sketchy place in northern Arkansas that was essentially a motel with a hot plate, and then we found it: A small house in the town we lived on the outskirts of. It was walking distance to the library and the town square where the health food store we always shopped at and a short drive from the other stores we would go to. Never again would we be snowed in for a month! It had two bedrooms, a bathroom, a front yard and back yard, a heater and electric lights all of which sounded magical. And the best part was the rent: We would need to pay only $190/month – in 2001!
We jumped at the chance and then promptly fell sick with the flu. We weren’t daunted, though. In fact, we loaded a few things from the yurt in to the car and headed to the house. Not having to deal with the wood stove when we were sick was a wonderful thought. We moved our few things in and Sage promptly got in to a hot bath. It seemed magical to not have to heat the water on the stove – and to have so much of it – not just a small bucket to bathe in.
And how did it work out? It was a great mix of our old lifestyle and modern living. We were able to afford to pay our bills and lived here for several years.
After a few months there, Sage’s mom decided she would also move to town. She found a trailer about a ten minute walk away from us. And so she moved in there.
Daegan started splitting his time between the two homes based on his mood. Sage’s mom would come over and ask if Daegan wanted to come over and very often he did. He would go over and then we would either stop by or call to see if he wanted to come home. Sometimes he was ready to go, other times he would decide to stay. One time in the summer he decided to stay over there for nearly three weeks, coming over to our house only for occasional visits. For the time we all lived in town he essentially maintained two residences and would go between them based on his whim.
The move from the yurt took a bit of time – we’d move things a car load at a time based on what we needed. The cats were a bit harder to move. Two of them were easy to move as they tended to hang out at the yurt. And so we put them in to carriers and brought them to the new house. The remaining two were not home often. So we would just look for them when we were picking up a load of things to bring to the house. If we didn’t see them we would leave some cat food out for them and go away. Finally after several days we were able to find one. A few days later we brought the last of our four cats to town. And at that point the yurt was empty. It felt a little sad to see it empty and to know the experience was over. On the other hand we were on to a new adventure.
“What about the yurt? What happened to that?” I can already hear you asking. That’s a story for tomorrow.