On Halloween day in 1985, I packed up my clothes, a roll up mattress and a few kitchen things, locked our rental house door for the last time, climbed in my car and headed north out of Seattle. I don’t recall looking back after nine years in the city. My husband had moved to Whatcom County two months before to start his new job. I had stayed behind to wrap up my Group Health practice in the Rainier Valley of Seattle. I was leaving the city for a rural setting and an uncertain professional future.
I knew two things for sure: I was finally several months pregnant after a miscarriage and two years of infertility, so a family was on its way, and we were going to live in our own house, not just a rental, complete with five acres and a barn. A real (sort of) farm. Since no farm can be complete without animals, I stopped at the first pet store I drove past and found two little sister tortoise shell calico kittens just waiting for new adventures in farmland. Their box was packed into the one spot left beside me in my little Mazda. With that simple commitment to raise and nurture those kittens, life seemed very complete.
I will never forget the freedom I felt on that drive north. The highway seemed more open, the fall colors more vibrant, the wind more brisk, our baby happily kicking my stomach, the kittens plaintively mewing from their box. There seemed to be so much potential though I had just left behind the greatest job that could be found in a city: the ideal family practice with a delightfully diverse patient population of African Americans, Cambodians, Laotians, Vietnamese, Muslims and Orthodox Jews. I would never know so much variety of background and perspective again and if I could have packed them all with me into the Mazda, I would have.
We started our farm with those kittens dubbed Nutmeg and Oregano, soon adding a dog Tango, then a Haflinger horse Greta, then goats Tamsen and her kids, a few geese, chickens, Fiona the Highland cow, then another Haflinger Hans and another, Tamara. I worked as a fill in locums doctor in four different clinics before our first baby, Nate, was born. Again, new commitments and life felt complete– but not for long, as we soon added another baby, Ben and then another, Lea. Then it really was complete. Or so I thought.
Twenty six years later our children are grown and gone, off to their own adventures beyond the farm, each to a different big city. A few cats, two dogs, and a hand full of ponies remain. We are grayer, enjoy our naps and the quiet of the nights and weekends. Our second larger farm seems more than we can realistically manage by ourselves in our spare time. My work evolved from four small jobs to two decades of two part time jobs to one more than full time job that fits me like a well worn sweater 24 hours a day. My husband is talking retirement in a few years. I’m not so sure for myself. I have never not worked.
The freedom I felt watching Seattle disappear in the rear view mirror meant I no longer sat captive in freeway rush hour bumper to bumper traffic jams for an hour, but now commute through farm fields, watching eagles fly, and new calves licked by their mamas. I am part of a community in a way I never could muster in the city, stopping to visit with friends at the grocery store, playing piano at church and serving on various boards. I love how our home sits in the midst of woods and corn fields, with swans overhead and salmon in nearby streams. The snowy Cascades greet me in the morning and the sunset over Puget Sound bids me good night.
It all started one Halloween day with two orange and black kittens beside me in a little Mazda and a husband waiting for my homecoming 100 miles north. Now, twenty six years and three grown children later, we find ourselves on our own yet again, still pregnant with possibility for our future together.