"I write so that my handful of pebbles, cast into still waters, will create a ripple."

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Trading Paradise For a New Zip Code

Six weeks ago my husband and I joined the exodus of Baby Boomers out of  California.

Leaving our state was a wrenching emotional decision, but the hardest part was explaining our decision to friends and family. We mentioned a slower lifestyle, a desire for four seasons, fairer tax rates, better hunting and fishing. It’s hard for them to understand. I get it. I’ve lost friends and family to the moving van.

So why did we trade paradise for newer zip code?

I’ve been a resident of the Central Coast long enough to watch the county fill with new Southland arrivals armed with passion for volunteerism, winemaking and dining out that transformed our sleepy burg into a world class wine region (at least until the water runs out.) Together, my husband and I have 120 years of history in the area. While we were rearing our family, most of our relatives lived within a thirty-minute drive. On holidays, aunts and uncles dropped by with gifts.

But, with all that familiarity the short track in our brain got lazy. It had already stored every decision we would ever need. We had our medical, church and shopping tracks down pat. We’d traveled every road on the Central Coast in car, truck, Jeep and motorcycle. We were living without wonderment, in a daze of half-interest and putting things off until tomorrow.    

 Always we yearned to see the other side of the mountain. We’d spent years traveling the West looking for that special place. Our family thought we were lookie-loos as we drove through Washington, Nevada, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana and made appointments with realtors to show us their “banana belts.” Some we liked: Chilawack, BC, Coleville, WA, Garden Valley and Boise, ID, Grand Junction and Fort Collins, COHelena, MT, Tensleep, WY. Some seemed foolhardy, and none seemed like home.       

Then one day we saw it. Someone produced escrow papers and I managed, in a single stroke of the pen, to overrule my every trepidation. Now we have a lovely house with a woods, and pasture for three feeder calves. We have an orchard, a chicken coop and a mini vineyard. Ag and forest exemptions. Our insurance and tax bills are a fraction of what they used to be. And no sales tax!

As perfect as it is, the house is only a backdrop for the movie of our lives where every sunrise brings a smile and every cloudburst catches me outside doing the happy dance. My brain is filled with street names and utility companies. My internet provider involves a receiver on our red cypress pointed at a tower two miles away. The measly local newspaper arrives in the afternoon, filled with news about people I don’t know. The neighbor’s dogs bristle and snarl.

I grapple with huge gulps of silence in a house that needs laughter and I wonder if I will ever have enough friends to fill it. The first week the silence was so profound that I could hear deer nibbling grass outside. Now I hear the distant train, turkeys stalking through dried leaves. The orchard fills with fruit, ripens and droops with peaches, plums and pears.

I’m afraid to close my eyes for fear I’ll miss something. The irises bloomed and disappeared before dandelions took over the lawns. The meadow grass ripened and a neighbor cut and baled it before we could get our tractor moved. This morning had a tang of fall and a flock of geese flew into our meadow while I picked blackberries at the springhouse.

Before the move I toted tons of valuables to the thrift shop. I would probably cry if I could remember what I gave away. But apparently none of it was necessary for the me that I'm morphing into. I'm using this time to reinvent myself. (More on that next time.) But I make it a rule to meet someone new every day—preferably over a meal or coffee. I’ve rediscovered the joy of living in the moment.

No doubt when the days turn gray and damp, I will pine for the gorgeous Central Coast. I will probably grumble about the fog and pop Vitamin D. I will suffer the indignities of being snowed in. (We’re in a banana belt. Two feet of snow. Melts out the next morning, I’m told.)  I’ll teach classes in writing memoir. I’ll write another book. I’ll publish the first in my historical novel series set in SLO County

I was afraid I would feel like I’d lost part of myself when I moved. Instead, I’ve gained a bigger world. It's more authentic, living in the moment. I hope I never forget the lesson.

Has anyone else experienced a live-changing move? Care to share?