Saturday, June 09, 2012

Settling In

After years of dreaming, nights of denial, months of planning and days of exhausting effort, at long last, I am settled in to a new life here in North Dakota.

My new office.
As I type this, I’m cozy in my new camper trailer, The Mae Flower – named for the spirit of the Pilgrims and my mother, Iva Mae, who grew up on this very spot. Right now, there is a tremendous storm – pummeling rain, loud thunder, flashes of lightening – the whole bit. It went on all night long – it was glorious and made for a cozy sleep.

Being here is surreal and yet, oddly familiar. It’s been many years since I slept on this land. When I was a kid and our family visited during summers, we would stay in my mother’s childhood home. That same house - now in full decay and being devoured by Nature - is about 50 feet from my camper. 

Mama Iva's childhood home.
A week ago today, Kirk and I began the process of packing up my belongings at #16, our expansive unit at Hearthstone. I didn’t think I had much stuff but spreading out luxuriously over a 4-bed/4-bath, tri-level home is a bit too easy.  I rented a 17’ U-Haul and we barely got the door shut. Worst part is, half of that stuff I’d liberated from the NoDak farm over the years and it was headed right back.

Last box off the truck!
This last week has been the most physically exhausting, emotionally draining experience that I can recall. The packing, boxing, schlepping, sweeping, cleaning, crying and sweating prit’near ravaged my soul.

And let’s not forget the two-day long-haul drive to get here – 976 miles, about 17 hours, plus those super expensive gas stops and meal/sanity breaks. We got a late start on Sunday and didn’t get in until midnight on Monday.  (There was a temporary setback when two back inside tires were blown on the U-Haul outside Jamestown, ND but U-Haul totally came through and got that sucker patched up within an hour.) 

My two main engines: Brent Nabben and Kirk
Every night of this very long week, we’d fall into bed completely drained – physically, emotionally and mentally. (I’d sleep so hard, I was cutting the pillow in two.) Then, wake up the next morning, take in the reality of our situation and push on, moaning and wincing with each step. Our bodies were bruised, cut and sore.

Even communicating was tough. I’d either “get leaky” (start crying) or we’d get, what Kirk calls, “the mumblies” – just a string of noises that may have been actual words in the brain but come out of one’s mouth with key parts missing. 

My new bedroom!
But beyond the body drag, it was the relentless thinking that wore me out. So many details to remember…

I still don’t have a trailer – where will I live?
How will I pay for the trailer? Will I have to borrow money from my mom?
Don’t forget to get insurance on the trailer! There’s hail, y’know!  
Where will I get a PO Box – Walhalla, Neche or Cavalier? Does it matter? 
Did I switch all my payments to the new bank? 
How quickly can we plant everything? I’m already months behind!
Cancel the Netflix! Cancel the WSJ! Cancel the Denver Post! Cancel the Renters Insurance!
How will I get to New York in early August?
Can I get Brent to watch the garden when I’m gone for a week for the Smile Train shows?
Did I say goodbye to everyone?
What if my iPhone doesn’t come through for the Internet hook-up?
Did I buy the right tools? 
Are my boots sturdy enough? 
Where are my seeds? They need to be on top of the pile! 
What if Kirk forgets me?
Don’t forget to get all your work done!
Will I have to eat potatoes and Walleye all summer?
Where is the cord for my camera?
Does my family think I’m crazy? 
Do I have enough Diet Coke? 

A roadside reminder while hauling the camper for the first time.
And most of all:

Am I doing the right thing? Is all this worth it?

That last one, my gut would always answer with, “Yes, you are. Anyway, it’s too late now - the wheels are in motion.”

Leaving Colorado was excruciating. Frankly, I didn’t realize how much I loved the place until I saw the Rocky Mountains in my rear view mirror. With Kirk driving the U-Haul ahead of me, crammed with every last scrap of my worldly belongings, I felt a surge of raw emotion and let out a bellowing wail, followed by a long, hard sob. It felt like one big Velcro action, a very big rip. 

Ah, Denver.
Colorado prepared me for this next adventure, though I didn’t realize it at the time; it was a stepping stone to the Midwest. Fact is, I could have never moved straight from San Francisco to NoDak, the cultural transition would have killed me. (Too much parking! Not enough sushi!) And let’s not forget that I had grown not a single plant outdoors until my move to the Centennial state. All this gardening business began in Colorado's  arid climate and sandy soil, in that first 5x5 raised bed on Milwaukee Street. Since then, my interest has grown like, um, a weed - a very intense one with deep roots.  

My plot, pre-planting.
The day we dropped off the U-Haul in Grand Forks and went shopping for camper trailers in Fargo, we met four – count ‘em – FOUR people who had moved to NoDak from Colorado. Weird, no?

1.     Lady behind the counter at the U-Haul office -“We lived in Denver in the late 60s, early 70s. Beautiful place.”
2.     Young Air Force cadet standing in line behind me at the U-Haul office - “You’re from Denver? That’s where I’m from.”  He was so homesick, poor thing.
3.     Nosy patron at Al’s Diner who overheard my mention of certain relatives and popped in to say hello. She pissed me off on a deep level when she said, “You just moved here from Colorado? Oh, you’re going to regret that.” It was all I could do not to stab her in the stomach with my fork. Instead I just yelled, “I JUST LUGGED ALL MY SHIT HERE, LADY, DO NOT SAY THAT TO ME.”
4.     Sales guy, Brendan Heisler, who sold me The Mae Flower at Outdoor Recreation in Fargo. He wasn’t pushy or phony – a rare mix in sales. He proudly showed us his Harley Davidson with the Colorado plates still on. Clearly, he was homesick too. We liked Brendan a lot, I did not feel like stabbing him at all. 

My new kitchen!
I’m starting to fall in to a daily routine, starting with my morning pep talk to the plants. (“I’ll bet you’re wondering why I’ve gathered you all here today…”) I’m moving in to the camper bit by bit, fetching items from the shed on an as-needed basis – toothbrush, underwear, forks and bowls. I was all set to take a shower late last night when I realized – no soap. Had to wait until this morning since it was raining.

(This morning, I discovered the shower leaks into the hallway so I’ll have to deal with that. Oh yeah, and my truck won’t start so I am missing the Kings game right now. – Kirk is texting the play by play.)

I had my first pangs of loneliness today too, nothing fatal, but I opted to focus on getting the shed fixed up to fight it off – it worked. The shed is going to be the seat of my empire someday but right now, it’s just a big, dirty metal building filled with boxes, pioneer antiques, couple of snowmobiles and old farm equipment.  

I've got work to do.
The raining has stopped and the sun is setting over the prairie. I think I’ll go dig out my guitar. 

Evening entertainment - beer and lightening.

 Tomorrow: Mowing lessons!

[Apologies – I’ve taken tons of great photos from the trip on my Canon SLR camera but alas, I cannot find the cord to download them on to my computer. Hopefully, I’ll find it tomorrow and can showcase better quality photos.)


Anonymous said...

What an adventure! I'm rootin for you Sista!


fyrchk said...

I'm so excited for you! Please let me know of anything you may want/need. I'd love to send you a care package! Like I told you at brunch the other day, you are the most amazing woman I know! xoxo

Diane Drake said...

As I read your post, I smiled & giggled the whole time! I'm SO excited for you! What an incredible adventure! If you're ever lonely & want to talk, call anytime. Love you bunches & praying for you every day. xoxoxo DiDi

Lisa said...

The Mae Flower is gorgeous -- love your kitchen. Congrats! Can't wait to hear more!

Heather Clisby said...

Thanks for all the encouragement and support! It does get lonely out here but once those weeds start, I'll be too tired to notice. Thanks for the care package idea, Tami. Just got a new mailing address: PO Box 113, Cavalier, ND, 58220. Any organic (or non-mainstream) munchies would be most appreciated! And yes, keep those prayers coming...

Maria Talero said...

Hey, this post cheered me right up - it's got all this amazing life-energy pouring out of it! Bravo and congratulations on your bold new "beachhead" in North Dakota (guessing there are no actual beaches nearby).

Maria said...

Heather...going to live vicariously through you on this incredible adventure you're on, if you decide that this needs to become communal living, please send me an invitation. From Colorado, 17 hours...from Arizona??? My husband has mandated i take the summer off. A retreat to NoDak might be in order to renew my soul and spirit. I can pack a tent, organic goodies, and be on my way...but I will wait until the weeds pop up in order to lend a hand (and back!). Looking forward to this incredible chapter you are writing in your life. Godspeed....