Years ago, when we still lived in a yurt and the farm was in its second season, a woman stopped by.
“It’s beautiful up here”, she said. “This is my dream: to buy a little piece of land, put up a yurt, and raise my family.”
I smiled, allowing the romance of it all to stay in her mind. And why not? It was romantic—to live up here on this hillside, sheep and chickens grazing in the pasture, an acre of vegetables growing in the garden, our family held each night in the circle of the yurt. It was all so lovely.
I said this to remind myself that we were here because it was our dream, too.
Truthfully, though, the thought that shot through my head at her declaration was the ease of a house with running water, well-insulated walls, and hard-wired electricity.
I pictured her turning on the faucet at night to make a bath for her son, then pictured myself hauling two 5-gallon buckets uphill to the yurt, pouring water in a pot and waiting for it to heat up on the stove before pouring it again into the sink. This is why Waylon didn’t get daily baths–I knew the weight of water.
Just as I let her, I let myself dream up a romantic picture of life in town:
A house with big windows and light streaming through in the morning; a clean kitchen with matching dish cloths and bowls that don’t chip from being piled on the yurt floor when we’d run out of water and couldn’t seem to find the time to run down to refill the buckets in the greenhouse; tight walls that held warmth and doors that kept the wind outside instead of offering cracks for it to whistle in; a small garden just for the family; the ease of keeping the car parked and walking everywhere.
But then I thought, what kind of job would I have to do in order to have that life?
Where would the dogs run? What about the noise of traffic?
I thought about the weight of water, how I stopped to rest a few times as I carried the jugs uphill, and how those moments of rest were filled with breath and a view of the mountains. I thought of Waylon and the amount of dirt he ate, and the strength of his immune system thanks to it.
I thought of the word easy and wondered what it really meant, because I tried the life of 9:00-5:00 inside at a desk with a salary and benefits, and it didn’t make my life easier.
What’s easy is to romanticize what we don’t have.
I remembered that I chose to be here. That this was the best way we knew how to create a life of balance, substance, and joy. I remembered that the most challenging times are also the pivotal ones that determine our path.
And I realized that there was actually nothing stopping me from having matching dish cloths.
I let my town-living daydream drift off in the wind and came back to my life in our yurt, with unfinished projects and sheep that escaped their fence and 50 families to grow food for.
I came back to it because it brings me alive.
A romantic life isn’t always easy or without conflict, but it is nourishing. As our visitor drove back to her home in town, I sent a quiet message on the wind:
Choose your path, and live your romantic life.
A year later we moved into a house we built just 100 feet from the yurt. Built with the timbers of an 1860’s-era farmhouse, we meant it to be a farm store. But after 4 winters in the yurt, and a 2 ½ year-old who loved to run, we looked at the space with it’s windows and insulation and decided to make it our home instead.
It’s still unfinished, of course. But I’ve come to accept that that’s the nature of things: constantly in flux, constantly moving. Our dishes still occasionally get chipped, but on bath nights I turn on the faucet and hot water comes out. There’s a slight draft at the bottom of the door, but light pours through the windows each day.
There are still moments I escape in my mind to another version of life, though these days it’s a traveling van-home, heading into unknown adventure.
But I always come back to this land and the life we’re growing. I come back to what’s challenging and beautiful and brings me alive.
Tell me, what’s your version a romantic life? What lights you up and brings you more alive?
Let the whole picture develop in your mind, then open your eyes and look for the ways it’s already coming to fruition.