On the conveyor belt of city life in eastern America, I used to have to remind myself that wild places exist. That they were alive with me right then. Stopped at a traffic light, with urgency filling the air, I’d breathe deep into my belly and imagine the sounds there now, the smells that might be penetrating the air, how the light looked…
Eventually, I knew that was the life I had to live. Wilderness wasn’t just a place to visit one week of the year, for me it was a lifestyle that I knew I had to find my way into somehow. It was a rhythm I wanted to fall into, something that I wanted to be with everyday – like some kind of abstract mentor.
Years earlier, rather by chance, a hotel receptionist had pointed me in the direction of a place she thought I might like to explore on my travels. At the time, I was living in Portland Oregon and was just enjoying a few days of driving north to explore (and escape the city hum for a spell). She described a remote, little-known town about an hour from where we were, surrounded by beautiful wilderness.
In a nutshell – I went, explored, and promptly fell in love.
It was my first time really connecting to a place, and this new category of relationship was surprisingly profound. I would write short stories placing my characters in that landscape, I’d dreamily browse land listings online from wherever I lived at the time – Oregon, North Carolina, Arizona, Kentucky…
And when my mind felt too busy and life seemed too quick, this is the place I’d travel to in my imagination.
Fast forward many years, years full of sacrifice, compromise, living in the suburbs, in the city, in a treehouse, planning, trying, failing, taking a new career path, trying again, failing again, taking another new career path… and I’m here, with my husband who shares the same deep love.
The love of the Washington wilderness.
Now we are its inhabitants – living in a county twice the size of Rhode Island, bordered to the north by British Columbia, with not a single traffic light of any kind.
This part of northeastern Washington is, I still feel, a secret hidden gem of a place. With a landscape comparable to Yellowstone – just no geysers or buffalo – but without all the traffic. There only exist a few paved roads, which all lead over high mountain passes in order to get to any sizeable civilization, so the feeling is one of being tucked away from it all.
When Going Into Town Day comes along, usually bi-weekly, an entire day is blocked out to make the drive, run all the errands, and make the drive home again.
These are the sacrifices we make to live in a place where ravens chortling and wind moving through towering coniferous trees is the soundscape whenever you step outside. Some nights a little sleep is lost as the sound of wild animals, making a victorious commotion over their prey, wafts through the open windows.
Though sometimes harsh and demanding of respect, but offering endless amounts of inspiration in exchange, this landscape absorbs its dwellers into a slower, older way of life. At least, it has us.
When we aren’t working, our hours are spent wandering the woods, learning the plants and trees, making things by hand into the late hours, playing music, sitting outside with our reading, tending our nourishment with home-cooked meals, and exploring. Lots of exploring.
While we love the place we live deeply, anyone who has visited Washington knows that this is a state with much to offer, from the coziest small towns to absolute geographical splendor unmatched anywhere else I’ve been.
We have access to ghost towns in the middle of nowhere, the snow-capped Cascades to the west, the most enchanting rugged coastline and temperate rainforests, and endless amounts of beauty in between.
Washington is the canvas we’ve picked to create a life on – a future with family, with wheeled homes, gardening and homesteading, quiet reflection, creativity, and ample exploration. We’ll be sharing glimpses into this life as it unfolds over on our blog www.washingtonslastfrontier.com if you’d like to sign up for little postcards from the wilderness (straight to your inbox).
There is so much more to come!