We’ve lived in Door County for one year. Have we changed?
Yes. In no particular order, here are a few ways that come to mind.
1) We aren’t working as hard. One day last week I was late to a meeting with a friend. I couldn’t find my purse; I had forgotten to print something out that I had wanted to show her. I arrived at her house flustered, feeling discombobulated. And then it struck me: I used to feel this way all. the. time.
Teaching’s main job description is multitasking: planning lessons, managing the needs of scores of children, reading their essays and giving meaningful feedback, calling parents, fulfilling committee obligations, gathering supplies, making sure my co-teachers and I were on the same page with curriculum, and then re-reading the book, for example, so I could teach it well the next day . And that was just teaching. Add that to the demands of a marriage and maintaining a house and spending time with friends.
Yes, I prefer this pace over my former one.
And the delight of seeing Dave no longer juggling the restoration of an old home with the hours he spent at his job? He’s a man who likes to stay busy, and it’s so nice to see him busy with things he likes to do and not be pulled in opposite directions.
2) We aren’t as social. We live down a very long driveway. Our closest neighbors are ½ mile away, and we have learned that Door Countians, as a whole, keep to themselves. Our neighbors are fine people, but they are not likely to be the ones initiating a conversation or inviting us over. On days that we stay in, we don’t see anyone else. We like people and were pretty engaged with lots of them in our former lives. This has been a big adjustment.
3) We’ve become less engaged with social activism. I’m sad about this one. For right or wrong, I’ve been pretty fired up about injustices of various kinds over my years. It’s why I lived more than once in an urban, poor neighborhood. And tried to be intentional about finding friends of different races or ethnicities. I made my students learn about refugees. I traveled to Uganda to help kids whose lives had been destroyed by war. On the other hand, Door County is a pretty safe place. (See my July post here about the lack of diversity.) There are lots of do-good organizations in this county, and most people’s needs here are being attended to. So I’m still figuring out if this part of me has changed forever or only until the time I find a new role to play.
4) We love beauty more. Ok, to be fair, this isn’t a change. But, I was very afraid that living around beauty all the time would desensitize me to beauty and that I would become ho-hum about it. I’m happy to report that didn’t happen.
It is weighty, how clouds change color
or how even cracking ice can be beautiful. Lake Michigan in all its moods and variations still takes my breath away.
The cardinal who comes close all winter is always striking against white snow day after day after day.
I never tire of our night sky when it is full of stars. And even when the white and grey of winter lingered on, we chased a snowy owl one day. On another, the sun hit the snow in such a way that it glistened like a field of diamonds.
5) We read more. I write more. We reflect more. The pace of our lives is slower, gentler. I wish I could report that we are better musicians as a result of our extra time. I wish I could say that my novel is finished or that Dave has taken up woodcarving as he once hoped. Instead, we are learning to be content with a life not based on productivity. Dave has learned, more quickly than I, to feel no guilt about an hour spent on the porch with a cigar and a book. We no longer feel driven. The lack of deadlines and schedules is delightful.
6) We dress differently. First off, there’s the weather. Why would anyone wear a dress or a skirt to anything when it’s 10 degrees out? Secondly, it’s vacation land. Nobody dresses up for anything. There just aren’t formal events here. So I’m in yoga pants and jeans a lot. Dave rotates between his many flannel shirts. I can imagine that I’ll be dreadfully out of style in a few years. Please friends, tell me if I become too frumpy.
7) We’re closer to the land. We spent a lot of time this year with the trees and the rocks and the dirt on our land. We cleared brush, pulled junipers. We planted a garden and delighted in the lavish gifts it gave us.
The apples from trees just off of our driveway gave us the applesauce we’ve been eating all winter. A spruce tree on my walking path was brought inside and hung with lights and ornaments at Christmas. Our local grocer butchers his own beef, from cows that feed on grasses just four miles away. We have our own “egg guy” whose chickens provide us our weekly eggs.
When we stand on this land, walk on it, kneel on it, it feels right. It feels human. It feels holy.
8) Our bodies have acclimated. When it was 46 this morning, we celebrated. It’s warm, we declared! As I write this, I am basking in the sun, thrilled to be sitting outside in just one layer of clothes. But it is only 63. A year ago, I think I would have been wearing a jacket.
We aren’t finished changing, I hope. There’s still more settling to do, more fitting in.
There are things we miss about our old life, our old selves. But for the most part, we’re grateful. It’s been a good year.