After considerable urging from family and friends, and under the strictest of direction not to use my wife’s name (She-Who-Chooses-Not-To-Be-Named shall hereafter be referred to as Wife or K.,) here I am, undertaking a blog. Maybe that Creative Writing minor from college will finally pay off after yielding a stifling number of rejection slips during a briefly lived spurt of creativity years ago. Then again, it may not. While this may prove to be a venue for me to explore, share and catalogue my efforts and (I hope) successes in carving out a life that still means something past the veil of modern convenience, it could also be a glorious flop. Bear with me and maybe we can find out.
My name is Max. I was born in a suburban stretch along a busy highway in a very busy corner of Virginia. My family at one point could trace its roots back in that area for generations, even so far as having worked for the Washington family at their grist mill according to some family lore. By the time that I arrived, the walnut groves and old, white two-story house from 1876 that my dad remembered from his childhood were gone and replaced by convenience stores, a strip mall and the highway moved and widened. My grandparents told me about townships that disappeared as larger “villages” stretched and grew and became neighborhoods and then sections of a sprawling county that itself could be counted as a suburban region around the neighboring nation’s capital. Modern life had come and was fast, fast approaching before I truly understood what that would mean to me.
I chose a college in the mountains, I got a degree and only sipped at life while guzzling beer and tumbled my way through a series of jobs that ranged from night security to assistant manager in retail to driving buses and being a certified massage therapist (not nearly as good of a pick-up line as I’d imagined, it turns out) before returning to where I was born. Eventually, I found my way into a real grown-up job and moved out of my blessedly temporary digs in my parents’ basement into a small house, rented from my grandfather, which sat on the parcel that remained of the estate my father and my aunt had known growing up. This was where I found myself, on a strangely quiet cul-de-sac a stone’s throw away from a highway that never stopped, a block away in any direction from places I did not want to be after dark. And I did it digging a garden, knowing that the tiny shed which leaned over in a strong wind could be fixed up and turned into a coop.
I was dating a woman at the time who was big into gardening, something I had known my sister to be interested in but never found much connection with myself. The lady was pretty and I had space to grow in, so it was hard to deny her. And it was fun. But sandy soil meant I needed compost and that, it turns out, was fun too. All of a sudden, I was staring at the possibility of putting bits of food in my yard and getting food back, instead of dropping everything into a faceless system of bins and collections and routine. It was incredible, but one thing led to another and in short order, I had a project. After a refurbishing that shed, I had a coop and 4 chickens that my lady-friend named Noodle, Bleu, Marsala and Soup. When the time came for me to move on, I was the last of my family to leave the area but I took my new-found hobbies. I upgraded my dreams and my love-life. I found a girl that didn’t know better and married me despite adopting 3 more cats with a promise of dogs and kids to come and an order of close to 60 chicks coming in the mail. We packed up our cars and moved an hour farther west than I’d ever traveled before without paying for someone to handle my baggage.
Over the last two years, I’ve only begun a transformation that is taking me beyond hobbies, beyond philosophy, beyond what I knew of family and responsibility and is teaching me more every day about the difficulties of living on your own terms. I’ll try to keep these posts light and I will at times end up waxing philosophic, but there is a common thread that I see out here for us… take away your car, the GPS, this computer and your cable. Spend a few days with nothing but a book and the sounds outside of your house and tell me you don’t remember something deep within you. What was life like before the mental novocaine of our gadgets? Take it all away and you get to a kernel of truth: there’s something good for the soul being in touch like that. It’s not simply about knowing where your food comes from or that you have some resources if you need them. It’s not as simple as having plans to protect your family in the likely event of a zombie apocalypse. When it comes down to it, it’s a way of life that I, and K., are discovering and teaching ourselves as we go long. I call it “Living Prepared”, she just shakes her head at my plans.
So there you go: I’m a hobbyist, a tad organically-inclined, pretty nostalgic, a touch of a survivalist and a whole lot sorry it took me this long to find my home. Welcome to my home.