Years ago, I nursed an escape fantasy about the kind of person I could be if I only traded my Washington, D.C. lifestyle — and its accompanying commutes and hassles — for life in northern Colorado, home to the bluest sky I'd ever seen. I would become more patient, I thought. I'd be a better mother. I'd be hardworking, hardy, determined, no longer status-obsessed. I'd definitely be more spiritual. Armed with dozens of back-issues of Mother Earth News, I imagined the plentiful gardens and orchards I would soon tend, and the goats and cows from whose milk I would craft kefir, cheese, yogurt, and ice cream. I saw my fields bordered by berry bushes and mushroom caps. The new me, homesteader extraordinaire, took shape in my mind. She hummed softly and wore curiously clean overalls with a flower tucked behind her ear. She liked canning, fermenting, fixing, darning, and knitting. She kept bees and homeschooled her children.
Sure, I had never so much as grown a tomato on the balcony. But I believed that the ancestral knowledge of how to make a living from the land must reside somewhere within me; the challenge of calling it forward quickened my pulse. How hard can the simple life really be? I asked myself while staring out the window of our D.C. condo overlooking a chain grocery store. I conveniently answered my own question: Why — not hard at all! See, I was already adopting the speech of a country dweller, instead of someone who had grown up in suburban Honolulu and whose previous idea of roughing it had been renting a vacation cabin out of pizza delivery range.