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SHOWER THOUGHTS | OUR HOME LATELY

 

I turned the spigot on in the forest shower, felt the cold water pour over me, and realized it had been more than two months since either Mark or I had showered indoors. Two months since a hot shower. I peeked through the shower curtains and looked about. Our clothes line had become a hamper—destined for dirty farm clothes stained with a scent only a livestock farm can impart. The burdock patch was growing virulently once more; Mark would need to mow soon. I would need to fill the bucket with water from the shower in order to wash out the french press for morning. I turned off the spigot and saw our shock-white cat zip through the brush. Officially a feline obsessed with being out of doors, just like his parents. There it all was: our campsite. Not bad, I thought.
—S

The shower has always been a place of great peace for me; a place where a lot of my best ideas come to the surface. My tendency has been to linger too long under the running water, entertaining novel melodies in my brain, fragmented snippets of imagined prose, and enterprising ideas for the future. In short: wasting water. That place, the slow, indoor shower, is no more. Now, my showers are gone in sixty seconds or less, filled with hurried breaths brought on from the shock of cold water and evening air. I spend less time in there—thinking, bathing—than ever before. Still, the shower that stands just outside of Pink Cameron has become the de facto epicenter of our living grounds. It is our only source of running water: our well, of sorts. We draw water from the outdoor shower throughout the day; to wash dishes, to do laundry, to cook rice, to quench the thirst of the kids we are raising about a stone's throw away from where we live. We tote a small, steel bucket—back and forth, back and forth—taking the water wherever it is needed. It can be rather inconvenient, but enlightening too. We now know exactly how much water we use on a daily basis, and it is a lot less than what we were using in the past. It's a comforting thought—more comforting, even, than a hot, twelve-minute shower. —M

Possessions—especially the wares for cooking and eating—wear a patina from being carted from our camper kitchen to our outdoor sink. In general, things are a little rougher. A bit dirtier. Things break more often. We are becoming less attached to things.

If a storm is coming, we cannot bunker down until all the clothes are off the line, all the shoes are hurled under the camper, all the dishes are brought inside, and our pots of herbs are protected. I have the thought, during times like those ones, that the vast majority of human experience did not exist so comfortably within four walls. Communities used to live, well, communally. Life was less about neighbors and more about flourishing in conjunction with others who worked towards similar goals: rearing families together, growing food and raising shelter. Sharing the toils and the bounty. With trepidation society calls this hippy commune living. In my humble little opinion, this is a disservice to millions of people who came and prospered before us; to the communities around the world who still maintain this way of life. —S

Recently Mark and I have been researching yurts, or wooden and canvas cylindrical huts that originated in Mongolia. Apart from just being interested in living in our own yurt, I found it fascinating to learn that yurts traditionally have no windows, but rather a door and a sunlight. Life was to be lived and worked outside, and a yurt only one of your many rooms in nature. Many of our family and friends tell us they could not possibly do what we are doing this summer — what with the no bathroom, and no running water indoors, and no wifi, and only 17 feet to sleep, cook, dine, and relax in. Ah, yes, but what of all the treasures that can and do exist here. Countless, unexpected treasures. I have come to know the night, with her denizens of coyotes, and foxes, and stars as multitudinous as the blood vessels in my body. I have come to know the night and I love her. —S

And I have come to know the land and love her—even the dirt and grass clippings that we track onto our pale pink, painted floor each & every time we walk indoors. She is beautiful, and rough around the edges too. “Unrelenting” would be a good word. We are always close by, subject to her mood swings. From dusty heat waves to days-long deluges of rain, we must endure. Sometimes it is terrible. But most of the time, it feels apparent just how blessed we are to live this way. A way that is not necessarily comfortable or idyllic, but one that feels right for us. The thought of separating from the land, back into a house with indoor plumbing and creature comforts and everything you need under one roof, feels alien. It is not to say we want to live in a camper permanently, but that we hope to forever blend our lives with that of the land, just as we have this summer. —M


—M&S

UP THE HAYSTACK

 

Neither of us had ever climbed a mountain. True, there are metaphorical mountains that we (all) face on what seems to be a daily basis, but this one was real—made of earth, sticks, and stones; piled nearly 2000 feet high. Haystack Mountain has been on our To Do List ever since we arrived in Vermont. It's a beautiful mountain. Its slopes are steep and dotted with trees, situated prominently at the end of a ridge that looms above the town of Pawlet. At some point during nearly every day that we have spent here, we have remarked about Haystack, resolved to summit our favorite local landmark. Yet our ascent was delayed by a quizzical rash of rain and snow on our days off, bookended by pristine, sun-splashed days on the farm. March passed, and most of April too—our return to Ohio (and Greece) rapidly approaching.

During those days and weeks we did not spend climbing Haystack, we spent gaining a real sense of calling on the farm. Strangely—at least strangely to two family-obsessed Ohioans—Consider Bardwell Farm began to feel like a home. It revealed itself as a place where we could grow and learn about a craft, a lifestyle, and ourselves. So we suddenly found ourselves faced with a new mountain: the desire to stay in Vermont.

How could we? It was a question both literal and open-ended. Literal in the respect that, when we arrived, there were no prospects for us to stay on in a permanent role. We were (and are) Kidding Interns: positions confined to a two-month period when kids are being born on the farm. But that changed in an exciting and startling way when we began discussing an extended internship. Then we began discussing becoming permanent employees. It was at that point that it became more open-ended: how could we do this? How could we move away from our families that we love so much, around whom our lives revolve? That is a question for which we simply do not have the answer.

So we are going to start climbing. We have resolved to face the mountain and seek its summit. We are going to stay in Vermont and learn how to manage a farm. We will learn how to manage a young marriage away from family. We will pledge allegiance to the land on which we stand, grounded in the knowledge that we do stand on the same earth that our loved ones do, only many miles away. It is both heartbreaking and exhilarating. Neither of us have ever felt so purpose driven before as we do now. 

We reached the top Haystack Mountain on a Monday afternoon so clear that we could look upon the Adirondacks and the shores of Lake Champlain, turn around, and view mile after mile of the Green Mountain National Forest. After a steep stretch of craggy trail—a challenge nowhere near insurmountable, but nevertheless worthy of heavy breathing and sweat on our brows—the view at the top was worth the effort. And so, we will keep trying, keep climbing.


—M

NORWAY | INTO FJORD COUNTRY

 
fjord

Our day began in a small timber cabin. I climbed out of my lofted bed, lumbered over to the coffee pot just as if I were back home in Ohio, and woke my Dad—two cups of coffee in hand. 

We were in Norway, on the precipice of winter. A cold draft was making its way into our quarters as we piled on layers, preparing for a long drive ahead—a particularly exciting drive, which I had spent the better part of the previous month planning. With scarves around our necks & bags slung over our shoulders, we embarked—stopping to pet our hosts' dogs on our way out, taking note of the layer of frost covering any & all surfaces not yet exposed to the early morning's sunlight. 

At long last, we were heading for fjord country.

village on the water
atop a mountain
cabin exterior
interior

I have long been captivated by fjords. I have swooned over photographs of long, narrow inlets of sea carved into steep glacial valleys. I have dreamed of seeing them with my own eyes; of feeling their frigid waters on my skin. The fjords are among the most dramatic of Mother Earth's many forms of land & sea. And those of Norway are considered the crown jewels. 

We drove, slowly, through the rugged mountain wilderness, bypassing pristine alpine lakes surrounded by barren vistas littered with stone. We would happen upon an occasional tree—harsh, stunted, struggling for air at an unfavorable altitude. The roads wound around the manifold obstacles of the landscape. We drove ten miles to advance five. We saw no one. Looking at one another, we remarked, "This is God's country."

By mid-morning, we were making our descent from the mountain ridges to the valleys. Back into myriad shades of orange and green; fall foliage accented by occasional waterfalls, soon to be followed by majestic expanses of deep, blue water. The Hardangerfjord. Pulling off to capture photographs whenever I could—and I longed to do so far more than I actually did—I marveled at what lay around every bend & kink in the road. The route that I had so meticulously planned had manifest in ways more magnificent than I could have even imagined.

driving in norway
dock
boats lined up
dirt path

But plans never really work out quite how you planned them, and before long we found ourselves being flagged down by a towering, kind-eyed Norwegian man. He told us that we could go no further, the road was closed, but we could catch a ferry across the fjord. We did so without a second thought, because there was no time for any: we were the last car on the ferry before it departed. And after picking up a much-needed road map on the other side, we simply re-directed.

Yes, we missed out on a large portion of the National Tourist Route Hardanger—of which hastily drawn maps & notes remain in various notebooks around my apartment—but we drove on other beautiful, winding roads (and how beautiful they were). Our travel time increased and we skipped breakfast & lunch, but we delighted in vantage points of the Hardangerfjord that we otherwise would not have seen. 

I have found time & time again that expectation means little on the road. Every step forward is an entirely new experience, planned or unplanned. And we can choose to love & appreciate it for just that reason. 

But, I am glad that I had spent enough time thinking about the route to have written down the coordinates of latitude & longitude for our final destination, in absence of a formal address. And I'm glad, too, that my Dad is a sailor who knows how to peform geographic coordinate conversions from a 'decimal degrees' format to a 'degrees minutes seconds' format. Otherwise, our whimsical, planned-or-unplanned voyage through fjord country may have ended with a night spent sleeping in a frost-covered car on the side of the road.

Instead, we laughed as we pulled up to our new abode for the night, which sat a literal "stone's throw away" from the shore of the Hardangerfjord. We were greeted by a bengal cat named Prince, whom we invited in for our routine dinner of canned fish, rice, and local beer. And we bedded down for the night, back where we started, but somewhere entirely new. 


—M

THE SEASONS | ON OBSERVATION + STILLNESS

 
canadiangoose

Life in a four-season environment can be a humbling experience. Ohio is such an environment, where there is a very real chance that you may feel the touch of winter, spring, summer, and fall in a single day. Over the course of an entire year, it is a guarantee. 

Our coexistence with nature's annual phases of change is a blessing. It is a lesson on stillness and observation, and a reminder that all things must pass. But we have to be there for it. We must show up.

Each year seems a new opportunity to be present with the changes that come and go seemingly too quickly, and to appreciate the unique state of our environment at any given time. We tend to enter into the cycle in the throes of a deep freeze; we see the local flora & fauna slowly come to life, grow, and flourish before retreating in a cherished (and currently ongoing) display of autumnal glory. 

cardinal-in-trees
cardinal

The distinctive presence of all four seasons is, without a doubt, the greatest joy of living where we do. If not for the seasons, Ohio might be (ok, would be) humdrum. But because of the seasons, we are ecologically rich. Even so, as an Ohioan it is all too easy to get out of your car, bundled in thirteen layers, after having navigated brutally & very frightening snowy roads, vowing to never leave your house again. 

We have all cursed the snow. But hear us out. There is beauty to be found in it all. Our feeling is that a little observation goes a very long way. 

canadian-geese-walking

The sky alone is seasonally contingent: migratory patterns play out, gifting us with glimpses of a vast array of species to appreciate; the sun, the moon, and the stars reveal themselves to us in different configurations; the clouds offer us snow and rain, and sometimes disappear altogether. This year, it rained on all but one day in June, giving way to two full months of drought in July and August.

There is more change, yet, on the ground. The trails we hike scarcely resemble themselves from one season to the next. The trees are constantly transforming. They are obvious, and they deserve our gratitude unabated.

Produce. Ah, produce. We pull fruits and vegetables from the earth and from branches, sustaining ourselves on a bounty only possible at a specific time & in a specific place. (Seriously, seasonal, local eating will transform your perspective on our food landscape. It will probably transform your health, too, but that's for another post.) The animals around us forage & hunt, rear their young, and plan for the seasons long before we doburying foodstuffs, growing a winter coat, doing that magic thing they do.
But what about us? Where do we fit?

backpack

Ideally, as stewards of this unbelievably complex & dynamic environment. If all of the animals around us are observing & adapting to the changes ongoing, should we not, as well? The human race is a part of the environment, not its master. There is no us and them. We are codependent from the moment we arrive in the world. And the seasonswith all of their unpredictable, volatile, and beautiful waysshould be a reminder of that.

Let us observe. Let us be still. Let us learn from the seasons; moving and growing and dying together, but always always always making way for the next.

canadian-goose-on-water

—M&S