The rain is falling lightly on the buildings and the cars,
I’ve said goodbye to city friends, department stores and bars,
The lights of town are at my back, my heart is full of stars,
And I’m gonna be a country girl again.
~ Buffy Sainte-Marie, "Gonna Be A Country Girl Again"
The trees may be scary
but hidden among them
is your house.
You may have noticed that I have been mostly absent from my blog of late. Last week this was due to a short business trip, but other things are afoot right now as well – mainly, Ron and I are in the process of moving.
Under the best of circumstances, I have never been good at moving. I know I'm in good company here; most women hate moving almost as much as do most cats. It is a deeply traumatic thing for both; it shakes us to our very core. Cats may forget their litter box training. Women may find themselves wishing for a Xanax when normally they would not touch one. Worlds turn upside down.
Nevertheless, Ron and I are officially in moving mode. Further, we are moving out to the periphery, if not the middle, of nowhere, and I’ll be frank: this is a very big move for me.
The place we have been living in for nine years was always a compromise for us. I wanted to be in town near life's little necessities, such as good restaurants and a Costco, and Ron has always wanted to live out in the country, and in fact did for many years, back before he knew me. With our present house, a tree-blessed three-quarters of an acre in the ’burbs of Houston, we had, for nearly a decade, our little piece of semi-rural life within the city. We had squirrels and birds and possums and even horses near by (there's a stable just down the road from us), and we had a big fenced yard with plenty of room for the Canine-Americans to romp about. We had enough privacy for endless hours of nekkid backyard pool time in the summer, and we could see the stars and planets at night. Yet we were close to all of the conveniences we could ask for.
Although over the years we’d talked to the landlord many times about buying this place and building a larger house on the property, he was never quite ready to sell. Recent circumstances finally forced him to put the house on the market, but local property values had skyrocketed to the point where he had to ask way more than we were able to pay. He did ultimately find a buyer, though, resulting in the inevitable.
The challenge was finding an affordable place big enough for us, our six animals, my 5,000 books, and our two home offices. This meant getting a bit outside of the big city. And so it came to pass that I found myself willing to at least consider moving out to the country – not out to B.F.E., mind you, but just out where there was a little more space.
To Ron, country living has always meant peace and quiet and privacy and "being able to pee off my back porch – or even my front porch – if I want to." Not that he generally wants to; he just likes the idea of being able to do so with impunity. He also likes to shoot his guns once in a while – tin cans, mostly, and you can't do that in the city. To Ron, rural living has always equaled paradise.
I was never so enthusiastic. To me, thoughts of "the country" yielded, more often than not, disturbing visions of rusty trailers, meth labs, snarling pit bulls or scraggly German shepherd mixes tied to trees, and toothless guys with mullets. On the other end of the spectrum, in my distorted p.o.v., were the landed gentry: overstuffed country squires with their big-haired, big-butted women and overfed, spoiled kids, living on million-acre ranches that looked like golf courses. Ron kept trying to assure me that there’s a lot of territory – geographically and demographically – in between those two extremes, but I was having none of it.
There were times, too, when my halfhearted attempts to envision a pleasant life in the country were intruded upon by a still small voice that hissed, "Out there, no one can hear you scream..." I tried to temper these visions and voices with thoughts of verdant meadows and huge shade trees and sweet summer breezes and maybe a goat or two and perhaps even a mule some day (both Ron and I think mules are very cool)... but the mullets and the tweakers and the lurid news stories of bodies of missing women being discovered in the woods kept encroaching on my mental space.
I wasn’t always a ruralphobe; as a child I had big dreams of living on a farm. I've always loved animals of all kinds and still do (even today I love the smell of horses, crap and all), and once upon a time I thought it would be heaven to be a farmer. My dad's relatives were Kansas farmers, so we got to spend time on a real working farm every summer when I was growing up. But that was vacation time, not work time, and we never stayed for more than a week or so. Thus I managed to go through my childhood with a truly idealistic view of farm life; watch the movie Big Top Pee-Wee and you'll get an only slightly exaggerated idea of what I thought it would be like.
When I grew up, as most of us must do eventually, I learned that living on a farm means real work, which all too often entails getting up before sunrise. That thought is deeply unpleasant to me, as I still have trouble accepting that there is a five o’clock in the morning as well as that far more tolerable early-evening version. Given the unpleasant realities, I lost all interest in the farming life or country living. But when a series of recent circumstances rearranged my thinking, I found myself newly willing to consider venturing out of the city a little bit – though certainly not to live on a farm or ranch.
Or so I thought.
At the beginning of our hunt for a new place, Ron and I considered several areas a bit north and west of Houston, where there are miles of lovely land with trees and meadows and very gently rolling hills. No, it’s not the Texas Hill Country, but parts of it are foreplay for the hills, and some spots are arguably more beautiful than the Hill Country, which, let’s face it, is sort of dry and scrubby and craggy in places, and, overall, is more grayish-green than deeply green.
Ron still had a hankering for acreage, or at the very least for a smaller town surrounded by pretty places. As for me, I was actually starting to get excited about the prospect of finally moving from the flatlands, and I emailed a friend of mine, naming some of the little towns we were considering. I mentioned one in particular that we were interested in because I knew my friend was familiar with it. Here's what he wrote to me about that little burg:
...a more wretched hive of scum and villainy you will not find ... it looks idyllic, but is rank with nosy neighbors, aggressively conservative types, spoiled rich kids with money, illicit drugs, etc. I found that the less I had to interact with the locals, the more I liked it.
I suspect some of the pastures outside Houston will prove greener than others.Well, that set me back a bit.
But Ron and I didn’t give up – we couldn’t afford to – and as it turned out, my friend was right: there are greener pastures. We found one of them on, of all places, the ranch of a famous Texas oil millionaire and sports-team owner. It's a real working ranch nine miles outside of a small town that's about an hour away from Houston. The house is large and rambling, full of natural light and gleaming wood floors, with the big front porch that Buffy Sainte-Marie sings about in the chorus of the song I quoted above. The place is surrounded by lots of trees and gently sloping land (very gently sloping; it's still flat compared to the Hill Country) – land we can pretend we own, but for which we don’t have to pay taxes.
And all around are pastures full of livestock that we can enjoy looking at, listening to, and smelling (when the wind is right), but won’t actually have to lift a finger to care for. (Even so, I still would like a goat of my very own. And maybe at least a miniature donkey.) We’re set back from the little farm road quite a bit; our driveway is about half a mile long. All in all, it's a lovely parcel of calm and silence under an endless Texas sky – which still, admittedly, isn’t as big as the Montana sky, but it’ll do, especially on a starry night.
I'm still trying to wrap my mind around the fact that very soon, when we use the term, "Meanwhile, back at the ranch…" we’ll mean it literally. Or when we’re visiting friends and we say, "Well, we gotta get back to the ranch"… well, you get the idea.
I admit I am still a tad uncomfortable about moving "way out there," even though it’s not nearly as "out there" as many places are, and maybe not even as "out there" as Ron would ideally want to be. And you may very well think I'm crazy or, at the very least, overly sheltered, to even be concerned about this. I also acknowledge that Houston is an easy place to dislike, and nearly all the people I know who used to live here are glad they don't any more. But over the years I've fallen deeply in love with this sprawling city, with all its quirks and graces, and I'll miss it. On the other hand, it's not all that far from where we're going.
Ron and I want to eventually move to some place more dramatically beautiful – perhaps to the Rockies (part of me still considers that part of the country "home," since I lived there as a child), or perhaps to New Mexico or Northern California. For now, though, The Ranch will do.
And so it is that we find ourselves frantically weeding out what we don’t want to keep, packing what we do want, and tending to dozens of details great and small, while still trying to keep the rudiments of our business going during this transition period. Oh, yeah, and I’m tying to think of a way to break it to the cats that we’re moving to a new place.
Most of all, I’ve had to make an effort to close myself off to what I loved about this place we’re leaving, and focus on what’s ahead. It feels like a good move. As Buffy put it, "The lights of town are at my back, my heart is full of stars."
You said it, Buffy.
PS ~ Just in case any of you were worried, rest assured that my heart is still full of snark as well as stars; I’ll be back to full snarky mode here as soon as possible. And speaking of being full of stars, eventually I’ll even get around to changing over to the new template I (sort of) designed.
Labels: But enough about me...