I believe a little life update is in order. My husband and I and all of our things have moved to the wild woods of northern Wisconsin. We are returning to a summer camp (this one! check it out!) where we worked throughout college to live in community and work and learn. We will be here for a while — at least a year and quite possibly more like three years.
Everything is different.
For one thing, we moved from the city to the woods, perhaps the biggest 180-degree pivot a body can make. Here, it is beautiful and quiet, and already cold in early September. Here, there will be snow until May, thick and heavy. Here, there are trees in the hundred-thousands, millions. Here, it all feels like it belongs to us, and perhaps it sort of does. So different from the city, where nothing is quiet, nothing belongs to anyone, the snow is plowed as quickly as it falls. There are things I adore about the city, but I know that it isn’t my home. I don’t know yet if the woods are my home, but I think they could be.
For another thing, here, we live with other people. Isaiah and I have our own small apartment, but we are a part of a cohort of people with whom we share meals and work and life. Nothing isolating about these woods. This is a huge change, because our time in the city proved to be surprisingly lonesome at times, with solitude on buses and sidewalks, aloneness in crowds of people. I am a person who loves to be alone, so, in some ways, living in community in the woods stands as a greater challenge than living in isolation in a big city, but it’s a challenge that I am happy to accept. I want to be a person who sets aside her own thoughts to carry someone else’s. I know I’m not always good at this. Here, I will have to try.
For one more thing, much is expected of us. In living here, we are agreeing to spend our time and energy working for the good of the camp. For me, this means working in the kitchen with a magic chef named Thomas who is consistently making some of the best food I’ve ever eaten, meal after meal after meal. It also means doing hundreds of dishes a day, steamy and messy. For Isaiah, this means leading retreat groups on ropes courses and climbing walls and cross-country ski excursions. It also means cleaning buildings, scrubbing toilets, making beds. We also will have less access to technology, to getting things the moment we desire them, to Instagram at all hours, to Netflix.
The adjustment is big. Really big. I’m reeling a little bit, a lot, with big feelings, waffling between peace and fear, looking around at the tall trees, the earth-scent, the silence, wondering how it is that this place exists in the same universe as Chicago. How my body can travel between the two so haphazardly. How all the days still have the same amount of hours but the air is different and the ground too and the sky and I need to buy a watch because I can’t or shouldn’t just check my phone for the time all the time. I could tell you the whole story of how and why we are here sometime if you’d like, but it’s a long conversation. We moved to the woods. It’s going to be hard here, but also lovely. Our feet are on holy ground.
Right now, my time has been full of getting to know new people (which utterly exhausts me), training in new processes and procedures and ideas, and trying to settle in and feel like I live here. I have not had much time to sew, a reality which sincerely stresses me out. But I’m told that things calm down. I have dreams of the quilts I could make here in the quiet amidst the trees. I still intend to buy my new sewing machine, to be ambitious, to make clothes instead of buying them, to teach other people how to knit and quilt, to spend long winter nights stitching. I’m excited to see how my sewing practice changes in this place, these years in the woods. I have no idea what will happen, what will become of me, what kinds of things I’ll internalize. I’m living a life of shrugs and “we’ll see’s” right now, which is all kinds of terrible and wonderful.
I intend to write, still. More, maybe? Less? You can definitely find me at Synchronized Swim weekly. Eventually, this space may transition into more of a streamlined shop/blog devoted to the tiny quilt business I’m dreaming about, which may include a name-change as well, but literally who knows. I’m just in the woods! Everything is wacko! I’ll probably watch the northern lights tonight! Life is beautiful and strange and all of a sudden you’re twenty-four in the Northwoods with your husband and a bunch of strangers and you’re supposed to go on living! And you’re supposed to change and grow but you’re also supposed to stay yourself and you miss your friends but they are all changing and growing too and nothing is clear! Oh, dear readers, I’ll keep you posted. And I’ll keep myself posted too. I’ll be reading Madeleine L’Engle and Annie Dillard and trying to remember to do yoga and stitching and doing dishes in a massive dish machine and loving my husband and wondering at trees and sewing quilt after quilt after quilt and relying on women who are older than me and trying to reveal myself a little at a time to other people and trying to keep my eyes wide open.
If you’re ever in the Northwoods, please come to see me. In the morning, the lake is glassy and calm. The loons call and disappear. The earth is full and hopeful. We can keep going.