The post below was sent as an issue of my newsletter, Ready for Rain.
Looking back, 2019 was the year we decided to change our lives in fundamental ways. We moved away from a city we’d known for over twenty years and started a new life on a small island. We said goodbye to a house we’d owned since 2003 and rebuilt in 2010. Then, we committed to building a new one. We moved away from neighbors and friends who felt like family and built new relationships. We started over in ways both large and small. It was a big, hairy and unforgettable year.
When I look back to 2019, I can’t help but start in January when I started writing Ready for Rain without a clear idea of where our lives would lead. We had big plans for building a house along with a lot of uncertainty. There were so many things that had to work together. The builder, budget, and plans all needed to coalesce and for many months, there was always a possibility our progress would start going sideways or even backward.
In the first half of 2019, we made a big decision that pushed us forward. Our plans for construction wouldn’t be possible without selling the Hunter House in Seattle. The idea of selling a house we loved, leaving the city and our lovely neighborhood was a big step for us both. It was a one-way street to becoming permanent residents of Orcas Island. In the end, we pulled the trigger and I left Seattle with a mix of excitement and anxiety. I couldn’t help but hear the Green Acres theme song in my head as we drove away.
Moving to Orcas and into the Yurt was significant, but still a half-measure. We were not yet committed to building and could decide to stay in the yurt for years. We didn’t have to keep pushing on the construction project. In my mind, the uncertainty was an escape hatch. Or, I needed to think it was. Sachi saw it differently. She was always convinced that we’d make it work and had no choice but to keep pushing. Thankfully, most of the pieces were falling into place and creating momentum.
At the same time, we were falling deeper in love with the island. Our concerns, like finding a community of like-minded people, were easily brushed aside as our social lives became busier than expected. Every day after the move seemed to show us a different side of Orcas and reinforce the idea that we’d found a special place. I said multiple times that it felt, to me, like utopia. I still feel that way.
Our commitment to Orcas meant we needed to assimilate and for city slickers like us, it was (and is) an adventure. Like most places, Orcas has its own attitude and culture that takes time to learn. 2019 was the year we started to become island people and understand what that meant. I suspected the island might influence us, but didn’t anticipate how much. I became fascinated with the contrast between Seattle and Orcas and how the island was challenging what I thought was normal.
So much of everyday city life felt foreign on the island. There is no hustle and bustle. No traffic, no sirens, no commercial airplane noise, aside from floatplanes. Business dress is rare. The pace of nearly everything is slower and, over time, I felt the tense muscles in my shoulders begin to relax as I realized something fundamental had changed. For the first time in years, I was not in a rush and could take my time. The island promotes a slower, simpler, more self-sufficient lifestyle. It showed us we have a lot to learn when it comes to reducing waste and learning to do things ourselves. I want more of those lessons in my life.
My focus changed the day in July when we demolished the Yurt. Suddenly, we were locked in. We would now have to build. Always forward.
The demolition kicked off a new phase marked by yet another move, this time into the 500 square foot guest house where we now live with our two dogs, Maybe and Piper. It’s walking distance from the construction site and a near-perfect place for us to live for the short term. It’s basically a studio apartment over a garage.
The guest house is well-designed, but lacks conveniences like a dishwasher, counter space, and a bedroom door. It’s a tiny space stuffed to the gills with goods from merging two houses along with Sachi’s brother’s pantry when he and his family moved back to Hawaii this summer. There is no dog fence to keep the dogs from chasing deer, so dog walks are a part of every day (and night).
Because we work from home, we are always within a few feet of one another. I’ve learned to use noise-canceling headphones to pretend I have an office. Like our property, the guest house has a fiber optic internet connection that’s faster than we had in Seattle. It’s cramped, but the guest house has become home.
When Sachi is not working or relaxing, she’s cooking. It’s her favorite way to spend time and the constraints of the guest house have challenged her. Our oven, for example, is a toaster oven with just enough room to bake one loaf bread. More space would make things easier, but we eat well. If anything, the guest house is helping us appreciate how little some modern conveniences really matter. Maybe it’s conditioning us to become better island people.
Today, I’m thinking about our lives in two years, or even five. Once we’ve moved the final time into the new house, what will matter to me? Where will our happiness originate? I’m sure we’ll continue to learn about island hacks and establish a lifestyle that’s increasingly practical and sustainable. We’ll continue to work on Common Craft and I plan for writing to take more of my time.
In fact, I intend to be an author of multiple books. You heard it here first. My first book, The Art of Explanation, was published in 2012 and I’ve always known I’d write more. This was the original reason I started Ready for Rain a year ago–I wanted to practice writing. I’ll have more to say about this in 2020.
2019 was a year we’ll never forget. We chose to put ourselves through a series of changes and, in turn, challenges. And through it all, we’ve remained as close as ever. Sachi’s confidence in us is one of the real reasons we push through and I continue to be amazed by her and how fortunate I am to have her in my life.
It won’t be long until we move from the guest house into the new house and our days of packing our belongings into boxes will be over for a very long time. What a relief. It will mark the end of a three-year journey and the beginning of a new, more stable lifestyle in a location and house we’re sure to love.
As I sign off for 2019, I want you to know you have played a positive role in my life. Ready for Rain was on my mind every day and you were my muse. I felt like I was talking with you and telling you my story each week. I hope it added something interesting to your inbox. Your attention, replies and kind words gave me confidence and I couldn’t have done it without you. I will be back in 2020 with more stories and I hope you’ll choose to stay with me. Thank you and happy holidays!
I’d love to hear from you. What did you think about Ready for Rain over the last year? Hit reply to say hello!