So often after telling somebody where we live, we get: "Wow, you are living the dream life." Or, "You are so lucky." And, depending on the time of year, I say, "Yep, I know," or I politely nod, hoping they will move on quickly. I apologize if you have said something like this to me and I seemed aloof; I probably didn't feel that way about you, just people I don't know.
It's tough, though. We knew when we made our decision to live here that we would be going against the grain: of "normal" family life, of parental expectations, of career considerations, of the 21st century generally. We were also taking on three huge new responsibilities all at the same time: new business, new home, and new kid on the way. Sometimes I feel like we have always lived like this, even though it has only been three and a half years. We have always lived like this as the four-person family we currently are, so imagining anything that came before now seems like a hazy memory.
This place is so loaded. First of all, there is history dripping off of every rusty barb of old wire, old door knob, worn-out apple tree and falling-down fence post. Families, long before my family, turned this place into the spectacular, intimate marvel that it is. And now we live here, on borrowed land. I feel like I could never do it justice, because this is not mine, and they (the homesteaders) didn't know me. I imagine they expected their own descendants to be living on their carefully-tended land a century after they laid claim to it. But instead, an unrelated caretaker picked by committee is now creating her own memories on this hardscrabble parcel that already has so much memory stored up in it. My little blip of time spent here doesn't amount to anything in homestead years. But the impact the homestead has had on my life will be forever.
Also, we know we won't live here forever, so putting down roots any deeper feels dangerous. I've fallen deep, and the break-up, when it happens, is going to be hard. I try to keep a measured distance, appreciate the here and now, and try not to hang on too tightly. Axel was born here: How much deeper an attachment could I have? I won't even know until we leave. And then I fear I will pine away for my lost love, with overly romanticized memories of the good-old-days. See what I mean? Loaded.
Also, there is the pressure of being in the public eye. Expectations of every history buff, environmental studies person, non-profit group, parks and rec worker, random visitor, head honcho of said non-profit, all placed on one shoulder or another as we shuffle along trying to keep up with the gardening, chickens, kids, gates, fences, foxes, sheep, cooking, cleaning, grant writing, other jobs, water, life.
The fear of going feral, or rather of giving the appearance that we've gone feral without realizing it, is always on my mind as well. Do other families bathe as infrequently as we do? Are their cars as dirty? Do they have this many spiders crawling around their ceiling? Do we seem strange now that we have accepted our unconventional life as normal for us? Do we smell bad? Do I look older? Does this prairie dress make my butt look big?
The hardest part about being the caretaker on this 1890s homestead for me is that I can't fully experience it the way I would like to: uninterruptedly. Homesteading is not my job; I have to go into town for that, several days a week. So, I'm a part-time homesteader with so many plans and ideas and wishes and dreams, feeling like there isn't enough time to see them through. So it goes.
My dream life is rich, if not completely as I want it. I bend and twist my thoughts around this from every angle, and what I come to realize is that I wouldn't have it any other way.