One of my favorite storytellers is here today. Molly Greene is a woman with a load of chutzpah and the consistent ability to keep me amused and keep the Crayolas out of my ears. We often bounce ideas, vent, and discuss foibles and follies, and when you need a cheerleader, Molly is right there. Today she’s sharing about a simpler—albeit less comfortable—time in her life and the wisdom that came from it. Thanks to Molly for being my guest, and I hope you all enjoy! Don’t forget to check out her new book, Mark of the Loon, which was released this month.
I was a baby when I got married at 22 (and yes, if I had it to do over again, I would try to talk myself out of it). My husband was my best friend, and I assumed we would be a couple forever. Not so. But we had some outrageous adventures during the ten years we were together. We traveled, we (I) dreamed about our future, we bought and sold property. We had a few successes, and we definitely crashed and burned more than once.
At heart, I was a planner and a back-to-the-lander. Still am. My goal from the time I could remember was to live in the country, grow my own food, raise goats and have a flock of chickens trailing after me around the yard. My ex-husband humored me, and we sidled up to that vision a couple of times (a great garden and poultry). But our closest brush with the lifestyle was Willits.
Two years into our marriage, we bought 40 acres in Northern California. The town of Willits is nestled in an inland valley 30 miles or so from the gorgeous Mendocino coast. Back then, it was best known for the Skunk Train and Frontier Days, a week-long 4th of July celebration and the oldest continuous rodeo in the State of California. It was a backwater cow town and the pot growers were a discreet fringe who had only begun to move in (we weren’t among them).
Our adventure didn’t last, but it was a year to remember. The property had a rustic old rundown barn and a half-built house clad in cheap T-111. We figured we could make it liveable in a few months (ha!). The general plan was to live in our camper in the barn and work on the remodel during the summer, then move into the house before the rains came.
The latrine was an acre away, a shovel with a roll of TP threaded over the handle. Amazing what you can tolerate when you’re a kid. We swam in a nearby pond and took showers using a neighbor’s hose (with their permission). My husband was an expert fisherman who wrapped his own graphite stock. He brought along a slew of raw fishing rods (a.k.a. blanks) sans eyes (the guides that hold the line) and wrapped there in the barn. Finished rods in hand, he approached local vintners and traded state-of-the-art fly fishing gear for wine. We didn’t have running water, but we had a dozen cases of BV Cabernet splits stacked beside our camper door. Life was great, baby.
I found seasonal employment picking wild blackberries. It was hot, sweaty work, but a blast for a city girl living her dream. I ended my days scratched and covered with purple juice. Half my take ended up inside me, half in the bucket. The hubby found employment mending fences on a cattle ranch. I have great memories of that stretch of time. I still have and cherish the ancient “Ukiah Soda Works” bottle we found intact in a streambed. The 100 year old Boy Scout hat I snitched from an old cabin on the hill above us hangs in my guest bathroom. I have vivid memories of getting smacked – hard – in the forehead by a rake handle when I stamped on the tines, and the huge timber rattlesnake I saw slipping through the leaves at the back of our wooded lot.
Of course, the work took twice as long as we planned, and our savings evaporated when the well we paid dearly to drill didn’t locate any water. That was the end. We packed up and headed home. My well-laid plans did not work out. It wasn’t the first time I was disappointed, but this failure devastated me for reasons I am not willing to explain. Looking back, I was awfully young to think I should be perfect, and it took a long time to let that expectation go. Now I’m happily far-less-than-perfect and conscious that each adventure rolls into the next. Each life choice populates the opportunities to come. Every relationship leaves us – if we choose it to be so – with better tools to navigate the next.
Now my idea of camping is a cheap motel, and my favorite life lesson is resilience. I have evolved into an extremely tenacious person. I still get knocked down, but not for long. And I’ve altered my perception of our time in Willits: Now I view it as the hilarious, character-building adventure that it was. We traveled, picked a spot, shopped for real estate, bought a place, moved into the barn, and made it work – for a while.
I was naive and unprepared, but I’ve come to relish the naiveté. I don’t want to lose it in certain areas of my life. That fresh-faced kid who thought she could do anything is still inside me. I may be a little more realistic now, maybe willing to slow the pace, release rigid expectations of how the outcome must look. Life doesn’t always fit our picture, but if we’re willing to adjust the lens, we can capture the adventure and stay open to where this particular snapshot of time will lead. No guts, no glory!
About the Author: Molly Greene is a writer, blogger, and author of contemporary fiction with a bit of suspense. Her debut novel, Mark of the Loon, is available on Amazon and she is currently working on a sequel, Rapunzel. Visit Molly’s website and follow her on Twitter.