One Pair of Cowboy Boots

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The world smells like cut alfalfa tonight, I found out as I opened the door to better hear the coyote pack. If you don’t know what cut alfalfa smells like, you might consider changing your life, as it is a don’t-miss type of experience, in my opinion. The coyotes have been evident this season, the first time I ever observed a litter of pups close up. All summer they have been entertaining the rural neighbors with their puppyhood. Older now, I see them less and hear them more. Last night one spoke just outside my bedroom window, awakening me and all my senses.

A few hours ago I watched a small herd of deer emerge cautiously from the timber, and cross the road, then run to the water’s edge and drink from the spring-fed pond, the same pond the beavers have been feverishly damming for the last couple of years. A few hours before that, I found a bag of just-picked red apples hanging from my door handle, a gift from my neighbors.

The old farmhouse I am writing this from has been slowly transformed. Externally, the loosely attached two-story antennae was taken down, and new white metal roofing was applied. Windows are being replaced, and the original wood floors have been exposed and carefully sanded and finished. It is nicer here than it has ever been, at least during my watch. Still, I am getting ready to leave. And it would be fair to ask me why.

A year ago I moved out of a condo unit I loved, a healing place with great light and safe corridors and proximity to the zoo, city gardens and the bike path. Five months ago I quit a job with flexible hours, great pay and benefits and an incredible sense of purpose. I have let loose of 95% of my possessions, and am now getting ready to hand the farmhouse keys to a young couple who are looking forward to living here for the next several years. This is the part of the note where I tell you why.

Except the truth is, I don’t know. Yesterday I read the words of a woman who was leaving behind many great things because she knew she had a book to write, and that it wouldn’t get written any other way. I wish I had an explanation like that, something like “I am working on a project about ______ and I need two years off to do it.” Or I am renting out this property so I can backpack across Europe, or walk the Camino across northern Spain, or become an entrepreneur, or care for a sick loved one. You’d get that, right?

Instead, I am the woman systematically giving up things. I have given up some things that were very hard to give up, and others that went easily. I now own less (in terms of physical items) than almost everyone I know. In fact, I may only know two or three people who own less than I do, and this cuts across every economic class. I have sold, bartered or given away my bicycle, much of my jewelry, gobs of furniture and household items, my writing desk, and my bookcases. I am preparing to sell my father’s guns, and may sell my white kayak. I feel compelled to do this, and I cannot adequately articulate why.

In the process, I continue to have increased joy, and greatly decreased worry. I have learned much about myself, but have more questions than I started out with. I feel at home in many locations. I still have the keys and invitations to the apartments and houses of friends. I don’t know where I am going. I have stopped trying to answer people who ask me where I will live. Instead I reply with honesty—that I don’t know—or smile and point at my cowboy boots, saying “I’m living in these boots right now.”

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