Thursday, March 1, 2012

Starting to Say Goodbye

Well, we have sold our home in the Lower 48 and will move to our little cabin in the woods of Alaska as a full time home in six weeks.  The sale prompts me to consider two historical analogies.  One is Cortez burning his ships in Latin America, to ensure that his men would commit to their new venture, no looking back.  The other, which more likely occurred to you, too, is Henry David Thoreau. But he only lived in his cabin on Walden Pond (land owned by Ralph Waldo Emerson, by the way) for two years, after which he moved back into town.  My husband’s goal is to live at our off-the-grid cabin F-O-R-E-V-E-R, but we both realize that health and other matters (like wanting a real bathroom) may trigger a future change.  Now, while we are both healthy, is a good time to embark on this adventure, and never say never or forever. 

Certainly we have been working toward this step over several years of learning and actions and increasing periods of time, both summer and winter.  The cabin and outbuildings and some raised gardens have been constructed and furnished and used and tweaked.  The power systems of solar, wind, and lake pumps have been tested and adjusted.  We’ve taken classes in welding, master gardening, flying, shooting, ham radio, and first aid.  We’ve bought books on relevant “how-to” subjects.  We’ve built up our inventories of supplies with a healthy set of redundancies for every breakdown of communication, power, heat, potable water, and food we could think of.  Perhaps most importantly, we’ve read lots of stories of na├»ve people moving up to Alaska to do exactly what we plan to do.  I hope we have learned something from their hubris and mistakes as well as their perseverance.  Perhaps most usefully, we have also developed a network of friends and service resources in South Central Alaska who are knowledgeable, resourceful, and have a good sense of humor in general, and about us! 

So pretty soon it is time to leave.  Since I have moved 16 times in my life, I don’t mind moving, and since I am not a pack rat, I don’t mind paring down, but this time is more daunting.  It involves moving a great distance, of course, 5000 miles between two very different settings and life experiences.  It also involves getting rid of just about everything we own in a TX high-rise to move into a two room log cabin where our prior furnishings and even clothing won’t fit or won’t be suitable. The only things we are taking have to fit in the car that my husband plans to drive to Alaska, and are largely practical in nature, like bikes and herbs and spices and camping gear.  Some suit bags of “Lower 48” clothes (business suits, summer dresses and sandals, evening wear) will be sent to our relatives, since they are the likely destinations and company for such attire.  Having paid thousands of dollars to store a relative’s furniture for several years that neither she nor my husband wanted, we determined that long term storage is just an expensive way to postpone inevitable decision making about products which, if you liked them, you would be using!  For some, the pain of monthly storage payments advances such decisions!  In our case, we already know – we are parting with most everything. 

About 1/3 of our furniture and art and household goods have been selected by my grown son, 1/3 by my sister-in-law and 1/3 will go to a charity for foster care children.  Items I had saved by or about the children I gave to them. Genealogical files we scanned onto CDs before shipping the paper records to  relatives in each family who loves to store stuff.  Last week, I also hosted a “regifting” party for 8 friends.  All of us laid out items like belts, jewelry, hats, scarves, books, vases, games, unused make-up etc, that others could have for the taking.  It was fun.  For those of us who are not packrats, it was something of a relief to give to a friend items that are intrinsically attractive but that had bad associations for the giver, like gifts from “bad karma” relatives or past boyfriends.  Some things, like holiday china my children don’t want to inherit, we are selling or consigning.

This process has engendered mixed feelings, as you may imagine.  One is, of course, the memories and pleasures associated with various items.  The other reaction is of how silly I was to keep certain clothes or items or files as long as I did or to accumulate so much stuff that I didn’t use very often or didn’t like very long.  Those self-justifications of “someday I’ll fit back into those jeans” or "someday I’ll use this or that" did not happen, or when they did, they didn’t justify packing, moving, and storing those items as long as I did. I feel rather sheepishly selfish to have held on to items I haven’t used in several years that someone else might be able to use right now and with more pleasure than I derived from them.

It was more difficult for me to go through old papers – health records, complete and partial sermons and business articles I had written, writings by others that I’d saved for future reference.  However, the advent of the Internet and the back up services for our computers mean that most of what I need is available electronically, even “out in the boonies,” so we have pared down 10 wide filing cabinet drawers to two, in a short cabinet we will take with us.   We’ve stored music on our computers and I have many favorite books on a Kindle.  This process has encouraged me to focus on what is special and what isn't, what is necessary and what is ancillary. 

One of the joys of selling the home and moving out to the woods was calculating all of the bills, fees, insurance, and taxes that we have shed and deciding what to do with those savings.  Since these are costs most city people take for granted, I encourage readers to do this calculation, too.  How much does it cost you each month to live where you do, and do you get the safety or pleasure you want from those expenditures? Do you use the pool you own? Spend time in the yard? Use those back bedrooms? If you really only live in four rooms of your home, what would you do with any time/money you freed up if you chose a different living situations, like downsizing or renting?   In our case, we decided that with the money we will no longer spend owning a home in TX, we will leave our cabin for 3 months during the coldest and darkest months of winter to travel throughout the Lower 48, Hawaii, and Latin America.  Thus we hope to enjoy the best of off-grid and on-grid experiences at attractive times of year in lovely and interesting parts of the world.  Having known a number of vital people whose traveling days were suddenly and irrevocably interrupted by health woes, I look forward to embarking on this bifurcated existence for as long as we can, after which we will make other decisions. 

The concomitant step to parting with things is saying goodbye to friends.  Since quite a number of our very favorite people are elderly, these are bittersweet partings from people I value immensely and may not see again.  Thank goodness for Internet and phone communications.  Other goodbyes are to intrepid travelers whom we hope to see when our respective travels can intersect each other.

In the big scheme of things, life is all about saying goodbye, to youth, illusions, money, expectations, loved ones, health, etc.  I’ve said goodbye before, but not often to so much all in one fell swoop.  I think I am grieving a little.   

1 comment:

  1. I will miss you. I hope that both of you are very happy.

    Jan in Houston