Sunday, June 8, 2014

Plan B

To say 2014 has not gone according to plan would be the understatement of the year so far.
In February my husband was laid off from his job.  This happened at a time when we had just, I mean just, recovered from his previous layoff three years prior.  We had recouped financially, put the short sale of our beautiful cabin behind us and started looking for a new home to buy.  We had turned down other job offers to stay put in the Okanogan Highlands because we were happy and settled.  In short things were going pretty damn well.
And then this.  And on top of this, the owners of the property we have been living in for the last few years needed to put it on the market and we were now in no position to buy.  First joblessness, then homelessness in the foreseeable future.  I developed the remarkable talent of stuffing down my rising panic into some place deep inside my body and just learning to roll with the punches.  I believe it's true that you get stronger from what life throws at you, and I think we're living proof of that.  Although it didn't come easily.  For a while I got really bitter and angry.  Angry that for us things just kept going from difficult to even more difficult.  Bitter that other people were out enjoying what they wanted to do in life and that just wasn't happening for us.  At one point, as I was on day two of making the house look spotless so the real estate agent could take lovely photos to help sell the house out from under us, I  reached the point that I no longer cared about trying to help people, do nice things or make the world a better place.  And then the very next day someone did something so unbelievably kind and generous for us I snapped out of it.  No matter what, I am a person who genuinely wants the best for other people and will work towards making life better.  It's not their fault the owners of this property need to sell up, it's not other people's fault things are going well for them while our life is falling down around our ears, and I am not going to compromise my moral makeup of believing the best in people and life and risk turning into a resentful, twisted person.  It's not who I am and no matter what I am going to continue to be as kind as I can, honest, respectful and helpful.  I will trust that there is a reason for everything and be optimistic for the future.
For a long time we were aimless, job offers came and went, some jobs couldn't be taken as another more financially rewarding one was waiting in the wings, and then that amounted to nothing.  We didn't know if it was worth continuing to throw money towards rent when our financial reserves were dwindling and the house could sell at any point.  What we did know was we could not continue to live void of forward momentum and had to decide a path to take, whether it was the right one or the worst decision we could make.  We just had to do something.
And so we have.  We have bought a 20ft trailer and at the end of June we are moving out, putting our stuff into storage and embarking on a road trip with two children and five dogs - as I said, this could be the worst decision ever.  We intend to visit Montana, Wyoming,  Colorado, Arizona, California and Oregon before heading back up to Tonasket for the start of the school year.  We will then be desperately looking for somewhere to live for the winter and Steve should have a few months employment with a fishery he has been working with temporarily for the past three months.
That's our plan and we're sticking to it.  Hopefully.  Unless it all goes horribly pear-shaped.  Beyond this we have nothing.  There are a couple of irons in the fire, which may come to something.  We'll see.  We are being forced to live in the moment and take each day as it comes.  We moved over from Scotland seven years ago with a very healthy bank account, a good job and high hopes.  Now, as a result of personal choices, a plummeting economy and being on the wrong end of impersonal business decisions, we have nothing.  Just a little savings, a truck and trailer, children and dogs, love and good humour, and a will to believe something good shall come out of this.  I've already found a home for my sheep, my chickens are going to a friend.  Packing and planning have begun.
Wish us luck, I think we're going to need it.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Making Tracks

It's been a dry winter so far.  Enough so, that even though this is only my third winter here, it's felt wrong and I have been more and more tense as each clear day arrives.  A pressure, like that before a thunderstorm, has been building up in me.  I've been keeping it under wraps, so as not to snap at my family, but each day I stand outside and ask: "Why, why don't you snow more?"  It's felt as though the early snow on the ground has been left to taunt me.  I've been taking it personally and, until today, I have been really quite cross with Winter.
As usual I've been checking and double-checking the NOAA weather forecast to see what could be in store for us, and this week seems to be our best bet in ages for the 'chance of snow' and 'snow likely' forecasts to actually come true.
So I took advantage to run a loop on the state land across from our house before the storm came this morning.  Within a quarter mile dozens of ravens and a bald eagle rose from the ground and wheeled around me.  These birds are often the first indicator of a predator's kill and their presence must always be respected.  Sure enough deer parts were spread out over the ground, although my senses told me they were the remains from a hunter rather than a cougar or other big animal.  I felt unfazed and carried on, feeling guilty that I had disturbed the birds.
As I climbed the hill, what little snow we have got deeper and the quad track I was following disappeared.  But the hill was crissed-crossed with many, many coyote tracks and I made my choice to follow these to see where they led me.  The coyotes headed out of the state land and onto private property so I turned and followed the whitetail deer tracks which led back down the hill.  So engrossed was I with following these tracks I didn't notice the camouflage tent until I was almost upon it (well, it was camouflage).
It unnerved me.  And I veered away quickly, afraid almost to look at it,  so nervous that any noise my dog made caused me to flinch and my stomach lurch.  It seemed so odd the tent was there.  We're well out of the main hunting seasons and it's below freezing most of the time, so not exactly camping weather.  Once I was far enough away, I took stock of the situation and reminded myself there was no fire, no signs of life and no human footprints.  And I took comfort in my bear spray and the skinning knife attached to my running belt.
Then I got angry.  Here I was contently following animal tracks, but I was relieved that I had not seen any human tracks.  Even if I had come across bear, moose or cougar tracks, while I would have been on alert, they would not have instilled the same fear that I sometimes get from human tracks.  It is so frustrating that, especially as a woman, the biggest threat to my safety out here is from that of my own species.  It's wrong.  And there is nothing I can do about it except be aware, prepared and keep my 'spidey' senses on high alert when out alone.
I looped round and met the old road that cuts through the land and headed back down towards my house.  Some ravens had returned to the deer carcass but the eagle had not returned.  In its place a flock of small birds, no doubt too afraid to eat when it was there, had joined the feast, and I felt less guilty about disturbing them earlier.
And I'm glad they all had a chance to eat when they did.  Shortly after I returned home, the winter storm came, and I'm sure the carcass, the tracks and perhaps even the camouflage tent are beneath the snow now.