Since I’ve been scrutinizing my priorities and goals in life, I’ve come to the conclusion that I would really like a simple life. One that brings me close to nature with more frequency. One that I can be more active and involved in, and full of little pleasures that I can savor at leisure. Like watching the sun rise from my deck as I drink a hot cup of tea. Or being able to watch the spring bulbs break out in profusion across a country field.
All of these things have made it seem even more urgent that I find a new place to live. I’ve lived in a county west of Atlanta for eight years now (except for the one year that I lived in Shanghai). I’ve never really liked this town or the overbearing neighborhood that I live in (complete with manicured lawns and neighborhood lawn-nazis making sure that everyone nukes each weed as it appears).
I’d much rather live somewhere that pesticides aren’t seen as a must-have arsenal against weeds such as dandelions. Side note: did you realize how wonderful dandelions really are? They’re lovely in my opinion, but their leaves are also quite nutritious, their roots are medicinal, and they even pull nutrients from the deeper parts of the soil up into the topmost layer so that plants nearby can more readily take advantage of them. But the homeowners association where I live views them instead as a horrible blight to be removed at any cost.
These suburban neighborhoods, in their overzealous tidiness and symmetrical plantings, are anything but natural. I long to escape this environment and relocate to a woodsy corner somewhere that I can relax and feel as though I belong to nature instead of fighting against it. Somewhere that I can be surrounded by trees and animals and wonderful dark nights without glaring streetlights.
After looking online for some time, I discovered (or re-discovered) a neighborhood called Big Canoe in the north Georgia mountains. Even though it is a gated community, its philosophy seems to fit with mine. They value the natural setting and work hard to preserve it for its residents. Eight thousand acres of trails, woods, and nature are tucked away in Jasper, Georgia. No street lights. No lawns. No hideous lines of Leyland cypress. No ghastly deformed skeletons of mis-pruned Bradford pears. So I decided to take a look at some of the homes they have for sale.
We’ve liked what we’ve seen so far of the area. Just driving around with our real estate agent, we’ve already seen several deer, heard stories of bears hibernating under people’s decks, and seen lovely lakes, streams, waterfalls. Not to mention the gorgeous long-range views from many of its summits.
I haven’t yet found the perfect home, but I’ve found some good contenders. One house that my boyfriend and I both like is up on the mountain. Literally. It takes twenty minutes of winding (sometimes scary) roads to get there from the front gate. Its driveway requires a four-wheel drive (which luckily, I have, but my boyfriend doesn’t). Its decks hang over the side of a hill and the view is quite exhilarating. But there is no place on this rugged slope for a garden. I wonder: could I live in a house where gardening is not really possible? Even if I am surrounded by a gorgeous canopy of natural wonders, would I be willing to forfeit my small gardens of herbs, vegetables, and flowers?
It will take some real soul-searching for me to find the answer to these questions. I haven’t had the time or energy lately to devote to my garden; it’s been quite neglected this summer. My boyfriend has fought valiantly with the thorns and weeds and the overgrown beds, but it’s a hot mess at best. So at the moment, I could easily take a break from gardening, but once I feel better, I’m afraid that bug will bite me again. And then what would I do if I had no garden? And no chance of creating one except for maybe a few pots on the deck?
So I have some pros and cons to debate. What are my must-haves, and what can I live without? Finding the simple life is turning out to be not that simple.
Another not-simple aspect of this whole house-hunting thing is, of course, money. The simple life is evidently not cheap. I’m finding out that I should have socked away some serious cash if I want to move out to the country.
I also realize that I’ve never even financed a home before on my own, so this will be a huge challenge for me. My ex-husband always took care of that sort of thing. I was complacent and willing to be taken care of, never foreseeing that I would be alone one day, without the safety net of a husband or parents. I should have been more responsible, should have paid more attention to finances and practical matters. So here I am in my mid-forties wondering how in the world I’m going to make this happen.
I think living in the mountains will likely make my life more stress-free. But getting there will definitely not. I’ve never been a person who handles stress well. Any small obstacle will send me into hand-wringing agonies (and I’m not really exaggerating by much here). I obsess over small matters, lose sleep over miniscule wrongs, fret over perceived injustices. So searching for, and financing a new home, is going to weigh heavily on me for a while. Until closing is complete, and I have the keys in my hand, I’ll most likely be a basket-case.
And possibly even afterwards. But maybe, just maybe, there will be a light at the end of the tunnel. A light that comes sneaking through the trees on the mountain, washing over my peaceful deck or patio, where I can finally sit and relax. And finally have that nice, hot cup of tea.