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In Search of the Practical Life: New Beginnings

I’ve been stuck at home for a week. My car, even with snow chains on, can’t make it up our two kilometer, hilly, and now icy road

It’s January and a time of new beginnings. As if I didn’t have enough new beginning: leaving the city and moving to a very rural island with my family. I turned the Green Mama-to-Be book in on January 1.  Like with most “endings,” turning the manuscript in is the beginning of the actual publishing process and a time to turn back to the rest of life: cleaning up my study, life, and family rhythm.

Without the stress of a deadline forcing me to work around-the-clock during the slow, dark days of December, the anxiety of what next began to nag inside me.

So, I decided to adopt a dog

I spent two months trying to find a “pound” dog, but around here–that being in the cities anywhere from three to nine hours away– there seem to be very few dogs that make it to the pound.  We decided to try fostering a rescue dog from Iran. She was flown into the nearest airport: two ferry rides and about three hours away. It took a while to figure out when the dog should come, because this winter there have been a lot of cancelled ferries. The winds looked to be calm on Sunday and as long as we were back on  island by the afternoon, we could avoid the snow that was supposed to start following later Sunday afternoon.

We left our house at 8:45 a.m. to catch the first ferry off the island. Two ferries later, I dropped my husband in town to take a bus back to his city life. That’s the downside of island living. He lives in the city during the week and makes the money. It takes about nine hours or more to commute over, so he comes only about every other weekend. We miss him terribly when he’s gone. But more on that another post.

Then we loaded the car with dog supplies from the dog store and drove to the airport. The dog was supposed to arrive at 12:30 and then we would do a fast turn around to catch the 1:00 ferry back to the island. There are two ferries and it would be close to miss the snow. By the time we got to the airport the snow had started following. The plane didn’t make it to that airport. It was stuck at the airport almost an hour away. They wouldn’t bring the dog up to us, so I loaded both the girls in the car and we drove through the snow 45 minutes further down the road.

We got the dog, but by then the snow was falling down fast in huge, thick flakes.  We got back to our island at 6 p.m.


By the time we got to the island it was pitch dark and the roads were covered in slippery wet snow

I barely made it up the first hill. It didn’t really occur to me that I would have more issues, but as I came to the first T intersection with a real hill, my little car just failed to go any further. There we were in the car with a dog too afraid to leave her kennel, my two little girls neither of whom brought gloves or appropriate winter shoes (sheesh, bad mama), and a dying cellphone. I called my husband, now safely back in the city. “Help! We are stuck on the….” and the cellphone went dead. Ugh. I tried and tried, and then cried a bit, but the car wouldn’t go.

After about ten minutes, a car drove by heading the other direction and I flashed and flashed and honked and they stopped! Out came two angels of a hardier (and younger) stock than I. They helped me figure out and put own the chains that (thank you!) my husband had just put in the car that day. We got them on the back wheels only to discover that the car was front wheel drive. It took a while to get them on the front wheels. In so doing, I realized that my flashlight was beyond inadequate and I had no idea how car tire chains even work. I had assumed they were literally chain, but these are more like removable cleats. When they were finally on and I tried to get the car up the icy hill, sparks flew everywhere. It was terrifying. I tried. My helper tried. I tried. My helper tried. Finally he  drove zigzagging up the hill. We said our goodbyes and I drove off, ever so slowly and ever so frightened. Moments later my friend showed up in her huge truck and followed me most of the way back home. She had to stop me more than once and advice me not to go certain ways because of the hills.


I don’t know where I am in the dark

We went the long way around. We just barely made it up a few hills. It was so dark and strange. I actually turned into someone’s driveway by mistake thinking it was our road. Thank goodness the steep driveway had a turn around and I was able to drive down and back onto the road. Finally I made it to our road and up the first hill and then down such a steep and icy incline that the car literally just fell down it like a roller coaster car and managed to stay on course only because the bushes and snow piled on the sides.

How is it that I know so much about where I really live? That we don’t really see things: like how profoundly different the world is when it is truly dark, covered in snow, or when the full moon is out casting its eerie light. I couldn’t find my way easily back home just because it was dark and covered in snow. How do we really see the world I wonder?

It’s just one of the things I have been wondering now. Thanks to  our new rescue dog, I am forced to do the things I wanted to do, but wasn’t doing: waking up early and getting outside every morning. Going out and walking around under the full moon. Walking down to the end of that other road that is near mine and then walking beyond the end of the road. (What a magical wonderland it is.)

Pretty much everyday, I wonder if I have made a mistake

Not about moving to this island hinterland, but about getting a dog. It’s like parenting: if I stay in the moment I am okay. If I project my fear forward (what if my child never sleeps, learns to read, stops throwing fits, recovers from this illness), then I am a mess.

My kids are also like timid street dogs some days

Now that we live on this tiny island. My children, one who has the gift of dyslexia, are being homeschooled next door by Laura. That is yet another post. My kids love living on this island, but they also miss their friends. Yet, they have also been reluctant to try anything new. There are endless opportunities to meet new people here. There are homeschool groups, after school art and sports and crafts, and there are hang-out places. My kids have refused to do any of them.

Finally, I signed them up for a four week art class that they could do together with an amazing local artist. They would know some of the other kids and meet new ones. I could be nearby the entire time. They could be together.  I talked it up with them for weeks. I made dinner the night before, walked the dog to the point of exhaustion, and otherwise did everything possible to prepare for a disruption in our schedule. I got us in the car a half hour early so that we would have time to drive to the end of the 2 km ice-covered road and then remove the chains so as to drive on the main road.

The car didn’t make  it up the first hill. We slid back down and into our parking space. I unloaded the car and went back inside.

Maybe it will all be okay

Maybe it won’t.

I’ll just try and take it one day at a time.

If you see me, help remind me.

This image is by the dog-loving and adventure-loving photographer Adoria_the_explorer. Get inspired by her beautiful photos on Instagram.


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