Life in the Ozarks

After settling on the idea of spending the summer in the Midwest, we crash landed into a cozy little house in Southwest Missouri — a rental property owned by my family for many years, which was thankfully unoccupied at the time. With plans to sell the house in the near future, our temporary residency there would be a good situation for everyone. The house remains off the market thus giving us a place to stay, and we can generate some rental income for the property in the meantime.

And let me tell you, we were in hog heaven.

I think I took more bubble baths in the oversized tub within one month than I had in years. We fell in love with the raised deck that overlooks the big yard and honeysuckle-woven treeline, and we spent many summer dinners and wine-sipping evenings out there. The pups played in the grass while we watched the sunset fall into the neighboring field — the wide open square beside us speckled with red barns and golden haybales.

Sean and I quickly discovered a few trail systems great for hiking and biking not far from our place — the trails winding through rich wooded acreage and intersecting sparkling creeks and water features that this region is known for.

We loved being right on the edge of the Ozarks, where a quick drive would take us into the rugged rolling mountains of northwestern Arkansas or the dense national forests of Missouri, and we ventured into the surrounding topography quite often.

But before we knew it, summer was coming to a close, and we needed to make a move.

What that exactly meant, we didn’t know. But, we knew that we weren’t going back to the San Luis Valley that we had traveled from that spring…

When we arrived in the valley the previous autumn, we’d just spent a year in the breathtaking mountains of Woodland Park, Colorado.

And oh, how we missed Woodland Park and the neighboring Colorado Springs area.

We had begun to establish personal and professional connections in the time we were there, and our departure from the area was driven mostly by the opportunity to own and cultivate acreage a few hours away — a decision which weighed heavily on our minds in the months after.

We knew that we’d be so happy to go back there… knew that we had always loved living beneath the watchful eye of towering Pikes Peak, knew that we had never tired of the view of the world from the places above the clouds.

School would be starting soon, and perhaps I could once again teach college English classes at the surrounding campuses like I had before. Sean still had his basketball connections in the area, and we often talked about how it seemed an easy transition to make, this second time around.

The Colorado Springs area was once again looking like the place where we ultimately wanted to be.

But, were we ready to go?

The logistics were innumerable. What would we do about our land in the southwestern valley? What about our tiny house — the Jellybean Shasta? Where would we park it this time? And, were we ready to go back to the locker-sized shower and composting toilet after a summer spent with a bathroom that was nearly the size of the Jellybean itself? Not really. And, if we (me) weren’t willing to go back to living in the tiny house, could we go back to apartment living and all the civility that it would require (i.e. no more peeing outside)?

Plus, things weren’t exactly awful here in our new-but-actually-old home. Sean had consistently ideal roofing and handiwork requests, and my business ventures in the world of writing were steadily proving fruitful. And, when we thought about long-term plans and what we ultimately wanted on professional and personal levels, it was hard to deny the fact that, sometimes, life might be easier when you have the love and support of an immediate, physical group of friends and family — deep roots, really — that care for you.

Simply stated: when you dream of living and working independently in all spheres of life, most times it’s easier to make that happen from a place where you have strong roots.

I guess it’s sort of like that grounding feeling of being surrounded by trees and forests that I love so much.

For both of us, it seemed that being in the place where we’d spent so many years growing up was actually suprising us with its pleasantness.

So, we were torn. Fall was upon us, and we needed to make a decision. Would we go back to Colorado, back to the Springs and surrounding areas that we could never stop thinking about, back to working on a college campus and living in an apartment? Back to some of the things Sean and I rejected and left behind with the off-grid pursuit in the first place? This was juxtaposed with the option to stay closer to home, where we have family, friends, and connections — all of which might help make our off-grid homesteading dreams come true, but at the expense of leaving the Rocky Mountain dream behind.

We remained undecided, but time pressed on. The fall season would bring great change for us, no matter what decision we’d make, no matter what path we’d choose.

And so one night in early August, after emailing the chair of the English department at the Colorado Springs college where I’d taught before, I sent up a prayer as I layed in bed and stared at the dark ceiling, and listened to the soft breathing of Sean and the pups.

I guess I don’t really write or talk much about any sort of faith or spirituality present in my life. But, I will just say that it is present, and I try to make a consciouse effort to hold it at the forefront of my heart and mind.

So I prayed, and I asked for some sort of sign. I asked for a push in the direction that Sean and I were supposed to take. I prayed for a reason to take us back to Colorado, or a reason to keep us in Missouri.

And then, the next day, my alma mater called.

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