Today I am on the road heading south, the Everglades and New Zealand shimmering on the horizon. Monday I took a walk around our neighborhood in Asheville. It was a beautiful fall day with a few wisps of color still stubbornly clinging to the branches of the trees. The air was warm for late November but with a hint that something was about to change. A whisper in the breeze indicated that winter was on its way. As I ambled down streets I travel sometimes multiple times a day, the thought struck me that this would be my last day of fall here in the mountains, and one of the last times I would see these familiar streets until after the winter has come and gone, after the freezing and thawing, and the cold north winds have advanced and retreated once again. I was again reminded that all we have is this moment right in front of us and that that is all we really need. This moment.
Many of you might remember that this blog began with a post detailing Mary and my struggle with whether or not to remain home owners. Well, as far as this home is concerned, I think we may have answered that question.
20 Chatham Road is officially on the market.
It’s not that we don’t like this house. We are quite fond of it. We have spent quite a bit of time and money making the house into the home it it today. Walls have been removed, kitchens remodeled, and furniture rearranged ad nauseam. And please, don’t even inquire as to how many times it took us to paint the bathroom until we finally got it right. You may be wondering then why we are moving and where we are going to go?
As for the where are we going question, well, I don’t know. We don’t really have a clear vision of what’s next. We are still wondering whether ownership is what we want or not. I guess we will have to sort out that decision soon. The question of why we are going did become somewhat clearer to me recently.
It all comes down to letting go.
Why have we been thinking about selling this house for so many years now and not done anything about it? As for me, an answer to that question is that I have been afraid about what would be next. Where will we go? What about all of our stuff? I have learned to hold on to the safety and security of owning the house.
A podcast I recently listened to was on this topic of letting go. It talked about the ways we hold on to things, and that this holding on can become like a closed fist. The issue with having a closed fist is that it can be very limiting. Think about it, what can you really do with a closed fist? Sure you can keep holding on to whatever your thing is, you can pound stuff with it, and wave it in the air with indignation or just while rocking out, but that’s about it. Now, consider an open hand and how much more it can do. It can reach out to others, or be used to make something beautiful. It can reach forward and point towards the horizon. Letting go is about having an open hand.
Though we do not yet know what is next for us, we are looking forward to it with excitement and of course a certain healthy amount of uncertainty. We have had a great five years in this house. As we move forward, we hope to do so with a sense of possibility and with open hands outstretched.
As I stepped outside, the darkness of night was punched through with a million tiny pinholes of light. The rays of the sun would not begin to lighten the eastern horizon for another half hour, ushering in a new day, the last of an Outward Bound course that had spanned the New Year’s holiday bridging the time between 2010 and 2011. The dew clung heavily over all exposed surfaces, giving everything a shimmering quality with the starlight providing illumination. I made my way across the lawn of the Sunset Island base camp and looked upon the tents and personal bug shelters, where our students were still soundly sleeping. I glanced up and saw a shooting star blazing it’s short life across the canopy of the universe overhead. I walked more slowly, eyes pointed upwards. Another! At the bottom of the stairs leading into the lodge, I paused, and saw yet another shooting star. The sky above was alive this morning with spent pieces of the cosmos taking their final plunge after a journey none of us could possibly imagine. I turned to face the door, took one more lingering look at the sky above, and then placed my foot on the first stair. The coffee pot was calling, it was time to head inside again. It was time for the sailor to rest, and for the farmer to once again take prominence in my life.
For the past week, I had traveled by sea kayak through Everglades National Park and the 10,000 Islands National Wildlife Refuge with eight strangers and my co-instructor. It had been a good Outward Bound course. For me, the end of it marked the end of a period of many months of movement, of being outdoors. Since June, I have not spent much time in one place for very long. Leading backpacking trips, bicycle tours, and being away on vacation has kept me in motion. Heading inside that last morning of course felt symbolic to me of the larger direction my life will be going during the next several months. The sailor in me was returning from sea for awhile.
I am back in Asheville today, settled into my favorite chair, and ready to begin being a member of the community of people here. I will step back into the role of full-time student for the semester. I will enjoy watching the winter turn to spring. This is the farmer in me.
This concept of farmers and sailors was brought to my attention by a post I was reading this morning from a blog called The Path Less Pedaled.
[A friend] said, “There’s basically two kinds of people on this earth. There are farmers….and there are sailors. Farmers are the people that take great joy in laying down roots and are comforted by the predictable day to day routine and the dependable seasons. Sailors have to be constantly moving and looking for new experiences. There is nothing more satisfying than the prospects of a new port for a sailor. The world needs both kinds.” I’m not quite sure if I’m either wholly farmer or wholly sailor
I could not agree more. The farmer in me loves my home and community here in Asheville. He enjoys raking the leaves to the curb in the fall and going out to breakfast with friends at his favorite breakfast spot. But the sailor within me just won’t be quiet. He is a restless soul who does not tolerate sitting still for too long.
Therein lies my challenge. Can I convince the farmer and the sailor to work out a compromise? In 2010, I was able to have them coexist fairly well, though always at some level of uneasy tension between the two of them. When one of them is allowed to thrive, the other necessarily must suffer some. One thing is certain, the farmer and the sailor are both a part of me and neither is going away any time soon. And the thing is, the farmer within me learns so much from the sailor, just as the sailor is nourished by the contributions of the farmer.
What about you? Are you a farmer, a sailor, or a little of both?