Move Over Harold, I Have My Own Purple Crayon

Van is a reader.  Cue the applause!  I couldn’t be happier about this, even when I’m reading the same book for the seventh time in a day.  His latest book on repeat is Harold and the Purple Crayon.  Since I’ve been reading it again and again, I’ve been trying to read it with different eyes.  Last night, a few parts hit me.

Harold, with the moon in tow, goes out on an adventure when “he didn’t seem to be getting anywhere on the long straight path.”  He winds up in one-tree forest, in the water, on a boat, on a mountain, and in a hot-air balloon before trying to find his home.  He spends a long time looking until he realizes that he was doing it wrong all along.  “He remembered where his bedroom window was, when there was a moon.  It was always right around the moon.”  Upon remembering that he could make his home anywhere, he drew the window for himself and his bed so that he could crawl in and be at home.

While there are many clear parallels to my life at the moment (even down to his obsession with the moon), isn’t this true for us all?  Very few, if any, of us take the long, straight path.  Instead, we alternate between a stride with purpose and a wander that leads us down new paths that we may have missed if we were too focused on the goal.

When we planned to leave our lives of comfort and convenience for a journey on four wheels, we had two intentions, to have adventures and to find a new home.  What I failed to realize was that the latter goal would have more to do with how I would change over the course of our travels and less to do with the places themselves.  Yes, we found places that we loved that surprised us (central Kentucky, anyone?), and we added places to our list of dream towns (Bozeman, Bend, Crested Butte…), but ultimately, our priorities for a place to call home changed in some significant ways.

Proximity to wilderness is still a top priority, but living in the middle of it is no longer something we’d prefer in this season of life.  A sense of community is still important, but what that means to us has shifted.  I’m less concerned with the specific interests and make-up of a community and more interested in general community traits like kindness, generosity, self-sufficiency, and a lack of self-centeredness.  Snow is still at the top of our list, but less because we like snow (we do) and more because I like what snow does to people.  It forces us to check any misguided notions that we are the center of the universe.  Snow makes us contend with forces greater than ourselves and helps to deflate the ego, even if just a little bit.

All this adventure has brought me a lot of introspection.  I’m different now than I was two years ago.  But as my friend Saskia recently reminded me, home is something that I’ve had with me all along.



Bottling Moonlight

Every so often I pull out the little brown notebook I carry around with me and make a list. Usually it’s a ‘to do’ list filled with things that need to be done now (mail thank you notes), things that needed to be done yesterday or last year or two years ago (buy wedding rings), and things that I’d like to do but know I’ll keep adding to the next hundred ‘to do’ lists I make (finish making scarf). But then, there’s the other ‘to do’ list. These goals are a bit more ambitious, a bit less likely to be crossed out anytime soon, and a bit more likely to feed the soul rather than my family. It is an entry on one of these lists that led me to the name of this blog.
About a dozen years ago I ventured up to Alaska with twenty or so other travelers. Having never met before, we shared a 1969 converted bus as our home away from home. Unless we were driving through the night, we usually camped out in our tents. I’ve been camping since I was a wee one, but I’d never been camping for a month straight. By the end of that month I was dirtier, more carefree, and a lot more in tune with nature. Just like I can usually tell you what day of the week it is when I wake up in the morning, during that month I could tell you the phase of the moon and how much moonlight we could expect later that night. I didn’t do anything special to follow the phases of the moon. Instead, I lived closer to nature and it just happened. Since then, it’s been a goal of mine to begin living closer to the natural rhythms of our world, to always know the phase of the moon and whether I need to carry a flashlight to close the barn door at night. Of course, put aside the fact that I don’t have a barn door to close at the moment.
Moonlight is ephemeral. Nature’s rhythms are just that – rhythms. Nature is not static. To live in closer harmony with nature’s rhythms, I need to live mindfully in the present; I need to live in nature. And while I’m not audacious enough to think that I can bottle moonlight for consumption later, I’m just audacious enough to think that I can bottle moonlight if I’m fully present right now. This blog will give me the opportunity to share my family’s experiences as we travel around this beautiful country, sleep beneath the stars, trade our central air for warm breezes, lose the day of the week but gain the phase of the moon, and try our hand at bottling moonlight.