a few weeks before i quit my job, i was out hiking alone and enjoying the summery woodland vibes. i was thinking about what i wanted my life to look like post-conventional job. i wrote a list in my head of “agreements”- benchmark beliefs that i want to guide my life. one of these agreements was – to live and work in closer connection with nature. with the seasonal changes, this agreement has been at the forefront of my mind.
to be honest, the last three months have been a cluster. i’ve mentally moved on from living in athens, and this has manifested in my inability to stay in town for longer than a couple weeks. this is not a bad thing – i’m taking advantage of this low-commitment period of my life to travel and spend time with loved ones. right now, i’m sitting in my brother’s flat in DC – andrew and i packed up our life (including our kombucha and my sewing machine) and moved up here for ten days. andrew’s sitting in the other room working and i’m making home cooked meals, brewing tea, and shipping orders from my etsy shop. hanging out with my brother, free of the tourist-we’re-only-here-for-a-weekend-frenzy has been great, and this is certainly not something we could have done if we both had traditional jobs.
shifting between different homes and different cities, with no job or structure makes me feel lost. it’s hard to tap into a sense of self and place when you are constantly moving around. i feel disconnected from my goals and agreements, because they don’t seem to fit into this lifestyle. i know the life i want is out there somewhere, but for now it feels out of reach.
in the mix of all my travels, the seasons have quietly shifted from summer to autumn. full moons have passed and the nights have grown cooler. down in georgia, autumn has been hot and dry, and the trees are clinging to their sad brown-green leaves. but up here in DC, fall colors are abound and the air feels crisp and clean.
my first day in DC, after spending ten hours in a climate controlled box, i got lost coming into the city and ended up at theodore roosevelt island, somewhere i’d never been but i knew contained trails. i decided to have a little run, to stretch my legs and experience some fresh air. as i ran up the crest of the bridge heading to the island, the yellows of the trees reflected in the potomac river. i was overcome with joy – gratitude for my body, invigoration by the changing of the seasons, and appreciation for new experiences. i ran through paw paw groves, past mushroom filled logs, and over a swamp, smiling the whole way. as much as i had been feeling lost and disconnected, i now felt whole. dropping into the present and connecting to nature.
i get easily discouraged when i feel like i’m not where i want to be in my life, in my relationships, in my business. temporary setbacks and bad moods spread into the feeling that i’m never going to be happy (never have been happy) or have what i want (don’t deserve what i want). i live with mental illness and it’s difficult to break these negative thought cycles. in my life, i know that returning to the woods is a medicine. it’s not always insta-bliss like my run last week. mid-october, i spent a day wandering around in the mountains alone. all day, i felt out of it and ungrateful. i sat at the foot of a waterfall, surrounding by brilliant red sourwoods and framed with baby blue skies, and i pouted. i wondered why i couldn’t connect and why my mood was so sour. days later, i remembered that it’s not always about feeling amazing or even happy. it’s enough to just be, as you are, realizing that you are a complex being capable of a wide range of emotions, some of which may not be pleasant or wanted. nature doesn’t judge.
so this week in DC, i’ve been practicing dropping in to my agreement of living in closer connection to nature. i admired the full moon from the steps of the lincoln memorial at night. i sat back against a tree, crunchy leaves underneath and read a book. i stopped during a walk to catalog all the different shades of red, orange, and yellow in a small swath of woods. i listened to the rain as i fell asleep. sure, i don’t have my dream homestead right now, but i have these moments and these moments are what will one day lead my to realizing my goals.
just as autumn is a transitional time, this period of my life is transitional. i am learning how to be my own boss which is very, very challenging. i am learned how to make progress towards my goals without anyone else’s help or guidance, without a formal employment structure to pay me predictably. i am trying to kill off the jealous, insecure part of me just as the world around me is dying. i am hunkering down and preparing for the winter. to me, this is what it means to cycle as nature cycles.
a look back at the autumnal feeling coming on this time last year:
With temps still in the high 80s, I am hesitant to declare autumn’s arrival down here in Georgia, but something in the air has definitely changed. Last night we were sitting outside chatting and I declared June and October my two favorite months of the year, with December a close third. This October is already looking to be a good one.
It’s was a busy summer on all fronts. Our little homestead did a whole lot of brewing and fermenting – beer, mead, kombucha, ginger beer, and a few veggie ferments. Andrew is making turmeric soda tomorrow. He bought me lots of soy beans to try my hand at soy milk and tofu but I haven’t gotten around to it. I’ve been preoccupied with keeping the ship running – that is my gift. I make sure the kitchen knives stay sharp (sharpening them by hand with a whetstone), I make sure all the CSA food gets either cooked or preserved, I bake the bread, I clean the home, I mend the clothes, I make the toothpaste and soap and laundry detergent and an array of cleaning solutions. And of course we continue to eat delicious farm fresh meals like tonight’s eggplant, tomato, and pepper stew. Nightcapped with half a chocolate-y craft brew.
But I also plan the travel and it was plentiful this summer. We kicked everything off with a weekend in Asheville followed by a backpacking trip in Pisgah with my brother; Memorial Day weekend at Andrew’s family’s lake house; Boone for the 4th of July with Andrew’s sister; caving in Northwest Georgia; a road trip to Michigan for my mum’s family reunion; a weekend here and there in Atlanta; a short visit home to Ohio for Labor Day; and the amazing summer-cap of a long weekend in Shenandoah National Park with my brother and his girlfriend. Sometimes travel can be exhausting. But I am reflecting on all this time away and feeling grateful – grateful to be young and able, to have the privilege, to have family and friends that love us and welcome us with open arms.
In the midst of all of this and the hottest, driest summer on record, I kinda let my garden go to shit. My tomatoes all got some early fungal wilt and my watermelons got big but were kinda tasteless. Luckily all the herbs, medicinals, and native wildflowers pulled through! Right now I have everything weeded and looking pristine. I am spreading homemade compost and planted my first bed of Burssels, carrots, and spinach. My heirloom garlic is in the fridge, waiting for cooler temps before it heads into the ground.
I’ve been a lot happier lately but more on that later. I feel different.
The other night I was laying out on our long, orange couch, sipping tea and reading Foxfire 1, listening to folk music. It was the first cool night and the old house was permeated by the feeling of autumn. I smiled and captured the moment, the feeling, of change, of shedding the sticky, hot, old self, of what it feels like to hold a good book and listen to good music and look over at the love of your life and have them smile back.
Finally, Autumn, you have come. Cool mornings, warm tea, scarves, football, root vegetables, falling leaves, and fires.