I’ve lived in multiple states and cities. We moved around a lot when I was a kid. But the most formative years, the beginning of an identity and community I resonated with began in Valdez, Alaska. I was only in Valdez for about five years, but twenty years later, I still call myself Alaskan.
This I only relevant because when I first bought the Elder Glade several years ago, my real-estate agent tried to talk me out of the purchase more than once. He expressed a deep discomfort with the idea of me, a woman, living off the beaten path with little access to amenities, and wilderness for hundreds of acres. As an Alaskan I thought I’d discovered a lower forty-eight paradise, because the cottage did in fact have electricity and running water—as well as an abundance of wild and beautiful land. Land that wouldn’t require me to shovel snow.
The story of why I left the city is a long one, and the convoluted path to how I ended up in the Oregon Coast Cascade Range is an even windier tale.
I’ll just say this, on my thirty-seventh birthday I drove out to the coast to sit by the ocean and ponder where I’d gone so far off course. While I was sitting in the sand drinking really awful moonshine, the breeze stirred my fire and I looked up at the stars. Polaris, the North Star, was staring back at me from the Big Dipper over the ocean. The symbol of the Alaska State flag was prominently in my visual, and Polaris was pointing the way home.
I realized I needed to go home. Not to Valdez, but to myself. And to do that, I needed to go home to the space within that I’d walked away from sometime in the past. Sometime in the hurried crush of survival, trying to get ahead, trying to find stability, trying to be relevant, trying so hard not to be swept under by the world—I’d been washed out to sea to tread water aimlessly for years.
That night on the beach I decided to move to the coast. I decided to rebuild. I determined I would reconnect with my voice. And I set about looking for a way to get home to myself.
Enter the Elder Glade
The Elder Glade was mine in spirit the second I climbed out of the Jeep. I knew it was a terrible mistake to be so instantly attached, so many things can go wrong in the home buying process. But I walked out into the creek, standing in the water in my sandals and said, “I love you.”
I swear, I thought I heard the glade whisper back, “I love you.”
I’d beaten my agent to the location by about twenty minutes, so when he rolled up, I met him at his car and said, “Can we make an offer today?”
He insisted that I see the interior first, but I think he knew my mind was already made. I wasn’t buying the cottage, I was buying the land. Land that spoke to me. Land that felt like a long-overdue homecoming.
It was still another six months before I left the corporate world. And a year of transitioning into part-time work for bills, full time writing, and full time cottage-steading. Coming home meant only allowing things into my life that would support the long-term goal.
The goal was to write. To become self-sustainable. To build a simpler, lower-stress life and fill it with community, beauty, gratitude, and abundance.
To accomplish this, I gave up toxic relationships, put boundaries (mostly distance) between me and people who abuse good will, letting go of expectations about my appearance--including the appearance of success. I gave up dating, but I didn’t give up wine or chocolate—I have some needs, you know. I gave up regular access to internet, the news, and the constant electrical buzz in my living space.
That’s right. No internet, cable, or cell phone on the land. The land is just the land. If I want to connect to the world, I go to the world…it doesn’t come into my space. I’ve even gotten so comfortable with the sound of the creek and the trees that I rarely listen to music in the house anymore. I’m surrounded by a symphony all day, year round.
To replace the things I removed from my life, I filled my home with animals, plants, and books. I rebuilt my art and craft space—my studio and writing areas are full of creative energy and peaceful magic.
I took up new hobbies to fill the time I would have otherwise spent on social media. Over the last year I’ve experimented with liquors, cider, bread, candles, and all manner of cooking.
Detoxing from social media and the news was harder than I thought it would be. If it weren’t for the absolute inability to get access in the Elder Glade, I might not have been able to unplug. I completely understand why people struggle. And then get drawn back in, then struggle more. Social media and the acid-inducing inhumane way people communicate with one another over the ether is a real problem.
A problem I decided I would have to limit my access to. Being an indie author means I need to do social media, have a site and a presence. I don’t have a marketing team doing my outreach. Ergo, I am still connected to the internet—but only on days I go to town, and only for two or three hours when I plunk down at a café to knock out my uploads.
In, out, dust it off. Go home and drink some scotch on the deck, and write.
Interacting with humans is a necessary function of my balance. It will surprise people to know, I classify on the extrovert scale…this is why I don’t put much stock in labels or scales.
I check in with my family once or twice a week, have regular drinks with my neighbors down the road, and meet up with friends in town for tea, coffee, and lunch. If I accidentally let my mail pile up, my local carrier does a welfare check, so I try not to worry him too much. This means wandering down the road to the mailbox in my pajamas to make sure I pick up my mail every day.
Long story short, isolation in my part of the woods can be a problem, so I make an effort to be around people, at least three times a week. Hopefully, around my healthy relationships and community, but when they are otherwise occupied I content myself with waiting tables and or service industry work. Don’t get me wrong, I wait tables because I need the money still—but just as importantly, I need the interaction in order to keep psychological balance. So I come to town to people at least three times a week.
In, out, dust it off. Go home and create.
Returning home has been about finding the center space again. It’s been about cleaning my life up in a way that allows me to hear the story, my own voice, and the music of the trees. It’s been about remembering what it’s like to sleep well, eat with love, love with wild abandon, and uncork creative energy I’d forgotten I had.
Coming home has been about finding myself in the swing on the island in the creek, sitting with my notebook staring up at sunlight patching through the canopy and completely losing time. It’s been about learning to raise chickens, and keep bees. It’s been about turning garden soil, and pruning raspberries, hunting for mushrooms in the forest, or foraging wild fruits.
It’s been so much about slowing down, hearing, seeing and remembering that when I make a trip to Portland, my teeth are on edge with all the hustle. My energy drains with the constant sound of freeway and engines, buzz of neon, and trying not to get stepped on by people playing on their phones as they boulder along the sidewalks.
I’ve fallen out of love with the city. I’ve fallen out of step with the rhythm of hurrying to be nowhere.
And I’m okay with that. The time had come. It might come again that I’ll go back, but I can’t see it in the near future. For now, I’m home and loving it. There’s peace to be had, and magic to be appreciated, and most
importantly…books to write.
In the meantime, this is where I’ll be updating, posting, and sending out my smoke signals. Welcome to the Elder Glade Chronicles. #ElderGlade #Cottagestead #BlissQuest
Homage to The BlissQuest
I should at least make a statement, a recognition of appreciation for the BlissQuest, a blog and search I maintained for well over a decade. The premise of that journey was the search for bliss, and I adored it. It was such a wonderful adventure during which I discovered that bliss was not a single destination or package, but an evolving moving target. Readers hung in there with me through some of the most ridiculous ups and downs, and I loved them for it. They believed I would find my bliss long before I knew what it even looked like.
Turns out, it looks a lot like the Elder Glade. It looks like peace and quiet and a forest full of creatures. It looks like a work schedule that allows me to write and be creative. It looks like strong community, and good people. It looks like a future that’s built on healthier relationships, and self-sustainable practices.
In short, I found my bliss. Found it at last. I know it will change and shift, but for now, I’ve got my little fingers wrapped around this new adventure and I’ll write about it from the place of being in love with the freedom and creativity of my new life. #blessed #blissatlast #createthelife
The Elder Glade History
The Siuslaw Forest runs through the Cascade Range on the Oregon Coast. This area has a significant historical background with the native American population. After the decimation and disenfranchisement of the local peoples, the logging market moved in. There are still mid-eighteen hundreds logging encampment equipment and materials on road and in the surrounding areas. I often find huge rusted spikes, chains, and or weird old clamps and items I don’t recognize when I’m wandering around looking for mushrooms.
While the lower valley and delta outlets of the county were ideal for farmland, the upper range was a lucrative lumber opportunity and remains one of the county’s larger employers and export resources.
On a sad and darker note, this county was home to an unhealthy entity. It’s not well known outside Oregon, but this state had a strong KKK community for almost fifty years. Many inhumane atrocities were committed under their flag during their bullish regime.
In short, the land and people have been traumatized in many ways over the last two hundred and fifty years. Those trauma echoes linger in strange ways. They show up in intolerance of outsiders, and a residual exclusion of race and the rejection of diversity.
The patch of Elder Glade is not exempt from the history, but it is my goal to steward the land and help it heal. This requires education, and practice, but I’m doing it slowly as I am able.
Elder Glade Cast of Characters
In my little pocket I have a pack of coyotes that surround the glade on a regular basis and howl and hoot. I’ve seen their puppies, and have watched the older coyotes play in the creek. Sierra is the mother of the puppies, and I saw her grab one of my ducks once. It happened fast. I only had two ducks and they were free ranging in the yard while I was folding laundry by the window. I saw it out of the corner of my eye. She was a streak of lightning. I went racing outside but Dilbert was long gone. Sierra had left a trail of feathers toward the puppy den across the river.
I was irritated, but a little part of me was like, “oh, okay. It’s for the puppies, it’s okay then.”
I realize that’s not the way I’m supposed to think about it. Donna, the other duck, was wandering around quacking and checking the hiding spots for her mate. I felt terrible for her and tried to explain the circle of life but she was having none of it.
I’m a bad duck mom. Donna disappeared a week later….
There are two roving herds of elk, for which I’m building a set of herder characters in my books, part elk, part human peoples. They come to graze on the island, or, during winter they jump over the fence into the garden. I usually let them keep the vegetation mowed down for me, but when they get in the garden, I do chase them off. I always forget how enormous they are until I’m clapping my hands and walking toward them. They’re massive.
I’ve spotted a cougar, but only once. I’ve seen scat from a black bear, but I’ve never spotted the bear itself.
I saw a wolf. A big, shaggy, black and gray wolf, that liquified my insides with its gaze as it lowered its head to warn me away. I didn’t need to be warned, I stepped on the gas and made off as fast as I could.
I have a pudgy rolly-polly racoon, Marvin. Marvin got into my trash once, and ate a bunch of expired Chinese takeout I’d thrown away. Then Marvin promptly vomited piles of sweet and sour pork all over the driveway.
Bad Marvin. Now I keep a bungee lock on the trash. I also suspect Marvin of thieving my vent hood caps, and the occasional loose item from around the yard. I don’t know what he wants with the hive tool or the small trowel, but I imagine he’s got a pile somewhere of knickknacks he’s pilfered. Marvin is a kleptomaniac.
There are lizards, frogs, salamanders, bats, a hundred kinds of birds (a heron, an eagle, blue jays, crows, swifts, wood peckers, robins, and more) voles, moles, pack rats, mice, nutria, and I’ve smelled mink but never seen them. Strangely, I have not seen any rabbits. The creek has salmon, and trout, as well as a few other fish I don’t know.
Those are the wild critters. I also have critters of my own; a dog, Buttercup, a cat, Furious, and five hens, Flora, Fauna, Merriweather, Rosemary, and Houdini (yes, Houdini is a hen and a master escape artist).
This spring I’ll re-bee the hives: Borg Station #1, and Borg Station #2.
I’ve yet to decide if I’ll be farming trout again this year.
The Elder Glade is the perfect home for me to write and recover from the world. My goal to be self-sustainable is ongoing. My desire to be a good steward to the land is a work in progress with a steep learning curve.
Out here my imagination is rich, well cultivated and safely protected. It makes productivity higher, and output crisper. It also means relaxation is more complete. I remember when a rest in the city might take me three days to recover from an event – out here, a day by the water is like a week of couch and bed rest in the city.
The trees are dense with moss, the forest floor a carpet of bramble, vines, and berries. It’s impossible not to write it into my work. Impossible not to be inspired.
So I’ll write it in, cultivate it, make it a character in my stories. The Elder Glade is the bridge between the real world, and my fantasy world.
Welcome to the Elder Glade. Welcome Home.