“We could live here,” I told him. “Or some place a lot like this.”
He gazed across the lush green meadow at the distant hills scarred by a long-ago fire. Where legions of ponderosa pine, heady spruce, and douglas firs once rendezvoused, the ravaged landscape had softened with the arrival of a new generation of aspen—young, for sure, but tall enough to paint the rolling contours with summer green. In a few weeks, the view that kept us captivated for the last month would transform into fall’s golden gala.
“Yes, we could,” he agreed. Simple and profound, that lengthy exchange abruptly changed the course of our life. Four months ago, on vacation in Arizona’s White Mountains, we let ourselves believe in the dream. Yesterday we celebrated our first Christmas in our new home on the Mogollon Rim, deep inside an evergreen forest. Mostly moved in, the dining room holds the last twenty boxes waiting their turn to be unloaded, but we’re here.
I still can’t believe it.
We ran away from the crazy of 2020 last August, secluded ourselves deep in the woods for a month, found some sanity and calm, and realized we couldn’t live in the urban jungle anymore. Not only that, we didn’t have to. Rob’s been retired for over six years and I’ve been a kept woman for way longer than that. So far, this is still America and we can do whatever we want to do and are willing to work and fight for.
I knew moving would be a fight. Not with Rob—with the status quo. It meant I’d be forced to clean out those closets filled with thirteen years of forgotten materialism that I’ve been avoiding like unwelcome relatives. It meant the heartache of explaining to our nearby grandchildren that we’d be living a few hours away now. We’d lose the comfort and familiarity of the best neighbors we’ve ever had. Leave us wondering how to manage doctors and hairdressers. And worst of all, my OCD self would willingly choose to dismantle my home and live in a whirlwind of chaos for the unforeseeable future.
All in order to make the dream come true.
We had to ask ourselves a few times if it was worth it and encourage each other—when the vision got cloudy—that it was. I’m sure you’ve been there and know what I’m talking about. In 44 years of marriage, this is our eighth move. But I hate doing it. I hate chaos. And stress. And starting over. I loved our last home and all the perks that came with it. No one has been more shocked than me at this drastic thing we’ve done in the golden years of our retirement. It was exhausting. My body, devoid of the vigor I had those other seven times, may never forgive me. I think I’ve accurately predicted that we will die in this house—perhaps sooner than I expected according to my angry joints and aching muscles.
But I had a dream. A dream of writing from the desk where I now sit in full view of a forest of trees. I could actually see it as it drove me every day to pull photos off the wall and fill cardboard boxes with the security I once called home. I need tranquility. I crave serenity and peace. This year has destroyed that for me. As fear has taken over our country and once friendly faces have disappeared behind masks, as elected officials have declared themselves dictators and the concept of God-given rights has morphed into perceived selfishness, and even people of faith surrender their freedom and common sense to fall in line six feet apart and avoid any semblance of assembly, the familiar became the forgotten. It was a year of hiding for most of America. Believing that a virus with a 99.9% survival rate was equivalent to the plague, everything that we once took for granted was taken from us. The simple pleasures of being with friends, returning a smile, keeping my temperature to myself, attending movies and concerts, worshipping shoulder to shoulder in a crowded church, traveling easily. All gone. Relegated to history books and tearful memories. Things are difficult now. Lonely and complicated. Easy has been stolen from us.
No longer do friends offer healing hugs—they bump elbows if they even dare to get that close. No more can we sit in a coffee shop or fast-food restaurant while children play carelessly on a jungle gym nearby. Instead, the drive-throughs are open so we can eat cold food at home or spill ketchup on our shirts in the discomfort of our cars. It’s not even considered safe by some to enjoy the outdoors—that virus is sneaky. It apparently hovers all around our own heads wherever we go. Mask up, Arizona—you’re on somebody’s radar.
There’s a lot more going on than fear over a politically charged virus, though. Unfortunately, the majority of people still believe the mainstream media, i.e. evening news, tells the truth. I’ve known since my high school journalism class that manipulation and fear is what sells newspapers and pays the bills for networks. Perhaps the biggest loss to Americans right now is their ability to think for themselves.
Maybe people are beginning to wake up. I’m not sure. It’s hard to tell what they can see while they stay hidden behind worthless masks. I’ve thought about it a lot from where I now sit watching squirrels race up pine trees, listening to them leap onto the roof of our house here in the woods. Oblivious to the chaos of boxes in our new home or the lies of corrupt politicians and censorship testing our First Amendment rights, they just live life on their own terms, enjoying the piney jungle gym in our back yard, breathing free the way God intended.
While we were in the Adirondacks a few years ago, my husband bought a hat with the inscription, The mountains are calling and I must go. That’s why we’re here. We’ve returned to the simple life where we laugh at our dog’s delight as he races across the acre of treed land we call our own. Every day we listen to the soothing sound of swaying trees in a cool wind. Wake up to the delight of fresh fallen snow and fall asleep at night under a canopy of stars I’d forgotten exist.
The mountains offered us peace. Ravaged as they have been by manmade fires just as all our lives have been this year, they, too, are healing and life has returned. “I lift my eyes to the mountains and realize my help comes from the Lord, their Maker.” It was time. Time to go after the dream of tranquility and sanity. For us, that could only be found here, on the Mogollon Rim.
The mountains were calling and the only choice we had was to listen and come home.