Today I was reacquainted with the place where I live. The winter was, in short, long. It wasn’t until February that I realized just how difficult it had been for me to live out in the middle of the woods at the mouth of 1.5 million acres of wilderness — and in February, I still had two months of winter to go. Our house is twenty miles from a grocery store, and our few ‘neighbors’ are mostly reclusive, refusing to greet me if they happened to be outside shoveling snow while I walked by with my dogs. I spent an inordinate amount of time alone at home (working from my computer), and although the fires in the living room were cozy, one can only sip tea by the fire and watch movies on the couch with one’s husband for so many nights in a row before feeling somewhat limited. Even with my stereo turned up as loud as seemed well-mannered, I could always sense the deep atmospheric silence on the other side of my walls.
I wanted very badly to be able to enjoy living in the woods for the winter. And a part of me certainly loved the billows of smoke coming from our chimney, the gold interior light reflected on the snow outside, the dogs curled up in front of the fireplace. Part of me loved walking with my husband down the road, clipping into our cross-country skis and gliding across the snow together. But the other part of me — the part that came alive every morning when I stepped out of my Manhattan apartment onto the sidewalk on West 83rd Street and joined the current of people coming and going, the part of me that lights up when I have a lively chat with a barista while waiting for my afternoon cafe au lait or when I meet someone who I think I might someday invite to a dinner party — could not hang. That other part of me went hungry, grew thin and eventually cranky, eventually sad. That other part of me eventually demanded to be listened to. I decided that, although we are bound to this house in the woods in the summers (this is where we both own seasonal businesses), I will have to start spending winters in a larger community, a place where that neglected part of me can really live. This will not be easy — logistically, financially — but I have come to accept that I might not have the kind of life in which the path of least resistance is always the right path.
Which brings me to today, and its abundant sunshine, its smells of sweet pine. Today, despite all of my sour and legitimately negative feelings about living in this place for the last six months, I had this thought while driving to work (and seeing this view, below, over my right shoulder): Oh, right. I remember why I live here.