Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. ...Ralph Waldo Emerson
Chapter 1 * Seeking Walden
It’s said that if you want to figure out your life’s passion, look at what you loved as a child. When I was growing up, I loved Barbies. You might think, there’s a girl who’ll go far, what with Astronaut Barbie and Internist Barbie and Professional Figure Skater Barbie. Actually, I predate all those ambitious, take-the-world-by-the-horns Barbies. In my time, back in the sixties, all Barbie did was sit around and look hot and wait for Ken to ask her out.
But I also loved to read, especially fairy tales like Sleeping Beauty, and stories about gutsy, courageous girls like Jo March and Laura Ingalls. And when I wasn’t reading or hanging out with Barbie, Midge, and Skipper, I was playing in the woods behind our house. Maybe I was living out fantasies inspired by Sleeping Beauty’s forest hideaway, or Laura’s “Little House” series, but I found my bliss climbing trees, building forts and riding my bike around Woodland Hills, a new development perched on the rural edge of St. Cloud, Minnesota.
My husband, John, was an outdoorsy kid too, with a childhood a lot like mine. (Minus the Barbies.) Your mother sent you outside to play after breakfast, and except for lunch, you were supposed to stay there until it got dark or dinnertime, whichever came first. But then, you didn’t really want to be indoors anyway. Certainly not John—from what I can tell, he lived “The Dangerous Book for Boys.” He’d roam nearby woods and fields with his little gang of friends, playing Robin Hood or cowboys and Indians, coming home so dirty his mom would have to hose him down.
Later, as a young husband and father, John got his fresh air nurturing a small vegetable plot for his family. But it could be the outdoor activities so many of us love as adults, like camping, hiking, and gardening—and I hear vacations on working farms are getting popular!—are a way to free our inner tree-climbing, mud-lovin’ child. To return to a simpler time, when most people lived on farms—or at least knew a farmer. A time when you spent far more of your life outside than in.
Whatever it is, I never stopped loving the outdoors, and John never lost his longing for wide open spaces…a love and longing we indulged with our mutual passion for gardening. But there came a time when we both yearned for a deeper connection with the land…for a more peaceful life, one more attuned to nature’s pace. Okay, that sounds pretty highfalutin’—all we thought we wanted was more room for a kitchen garden, and a little quiet in which to enjoy it. Whatever our goal, our journey to that life began the day we reached our tipping point with urban noise and traffic and crowds…when John and I bucked our play-it-safe, risk-averse natures and decided to leave the city. Little Farm in the Foothills is the tale of our fifty-something leap of faith, to seek out a slower, simpler, and more serene lifestyle on a rural acreage. And embrace a whole new way of living.
Who’d have guessed how complicated “simplicity” could get. Or that serenity and reinventing your life was no match made in heaven.