My dearest girls,
As we embark on a year of transformation, Papa came up with the idea of writing letters to you, so that someday in the future, if you ever wondered how we chose the direction to take our – and your – lives, you could have these letters. As I sit here on our couch, in Arcata, California, I am not sure where to begin to tell you how we got to where we are – readying ourselves for a major life change, moving out, quitting a permanent, stable job (in Papa’s case), simplifying, downsizing. Beyond those changes I don’t know what will happen – I don’t know what we’ll do for income, or where exactly we will find our home place (we think it’s somewhere in the Methow Valley of Washington, so we’ll start looking there!), or how our lives together will unfold after this change. What I can tell you is why we are doing it, and perhaps, in this first letter, that is the best place to start.
What do you value? A question that is rarely asked, and difficult to answer sometimes, because we so rarely stop our busy lives to ask this very simple thing. Honestly, I don’t know if I’d have stopped to ask myself this question if your Papa hadn’t asked me! I find that in answering it I am always a bit hesitant – it’s almost as though the answer is precious to me alone, and that sharing it somehow makes me vulnerable. I suppose it makes me feel that I’m showing someone my “soft spot” to tell them what REALLY matters to me. So now I’m finding that the more I can share this with others, the more confident I feel about what my values truly are at this point in my life. Right now, today, what I value most is Family, Home, and Creativity. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? I feel like the values we have is really more like a web – where everything is connected somehow, and there are no clear categories or separation. My three core values are all attached to each other, and to the greater world around us, it is hard to talk about them individually. I value you girls so much, and so we are choosing to change our life so that you can live in a way that we believe will foster your confidence, creativity, and understanding of yourself and others. My sense of family has deepened so greatly since having children, and I find at times I am so intently focused on you both I can almost forget that there is so much else happening in the world. Luckily for all of us, the world has a way of getting our attention, otherwise I may become far too tunnel-visioned! The world we live in is such a dynamic place, perhaps now more than ever, as we watch the very climate we live in begin to change in ways we cannot ignore any longer. It is this world that draws me out of becoming entirely focused on my family, and brings in my sense of home. Home refers to both our individual place where we feel connected to the earth, as well as the earth itself. At the small end of my sense of home, I want to live in a way that makes anyone who comes to our home feel welcome and to be a place where we can all feel free to be who we are. In the broader sense of home, I want to live in a way that minimizes our negative impact on our beautiful world. I have always loved nature, and from an early age I was concerned and troubled by the way in which we humans have treated our planet and the fellow beings that inhabit the earth with us. Having children has only intensified these feelings, because now I imagine what the world will be like for you as you age – what kind of world will it be when you are my age, perhaps with children of your own? The over-consumptive lifestyle that has become the norm in today’s culture is completely unsustainable, and at some point we will run out of resources to support such consumption. We can choose to change our habits now, however, rather than having complete resource depletion finally force us to severely limit our consumption. In today’s culture, houses are bigger and bigger, while families are smaller than ever; people have more stuff, gadgets, toys, clothes, devices, etc but far less happiness and contentment. I want to explore the boundary where “not enough” meets “just right”, and find out how little stuff we can have that allows us to live simply, yet also richly. The riches will not be expressed in new cars, the latest cell phone technology, and unnecessary gadgets, but rather in the relationships we have with friends and families and our connection to the earth. Our riches will show in the food we grow, the skills we learn, the network of people who we have worked with throughout the years to build our lives. To have this dream realized, we will draw on our creativity. Our innate creativity is often untapped, or maybe it’s been squashed down over the years, as we are told in subtle and overt ways that we should all act a certain way, according to some assigned values that are given by Mother Culture which change depending on the color of our skin, the amount of money we make, and who our parents are. What Papa and I hope to create is our own life, apart from what our Mother Culture is telling us we should be doing with our lives. According to Mother Culture in the early 21st Century, Papa and I should both be working full time. We should have a couple car payments and credit card debt. We should have a TV. We should buy all our food at the supermarket. You both should be in full-time daycare/preschool. And we should most definitely never question why we all live this way. So instead we are being creative – starting with the way we think. And once you start to think creatively and questioning…, it’s like going down the rabbit hole – there’s no going back! We want our life to be of our own making, and this idea spills over into so many different things. We want to grow our own food, raise our own meat, build our own houses. And we want you to help us in all these things, and by doing all this, to learn about the world around you, to be confident in yourselves and your creative gifts, whatever they might be and wherever they might take you.
We are only in the beginning of this adventure, at the point where we have realized that the role we’ve been assigned to play by Mother Culture is not one we feel moved to perform. So we have begun to question why we have to do all the things that white, middle-class, educated Americans have to do. What happens if we don’t? What happens if we go a completely different way? We do not want to move away from people, away from communities, and be hermits in the woods. But we do want to take a step back from the current status quo, and then maybe another step or two after that. This path we find ourselves on has been years in the making, and now we find ourselves on the brink, making preparations for taking the big leap, and having faith that the net will appear. How exactly this will happen is the adventure, the journey we are on together, as we take the “road less traveled by”. For a long time now I’ve been excited to think about my future with Papa, and now, as your Mama, I am even more excited that you will be along with us on this adventure.
written by Kristin