The Process of Escaping (Part 1)

Many of my memories of this past year are wrapped up in the pictures within this post. I regret that I was not able to write my thoughts down right away! A new year is almost here – how timely, as thinking and writing are much-needed resolutions.

We made it a habit to visit our land nearly every weekend. Sometimes, if the weather wasn’t conducive to going outdoors, we’d stay in the car looking at the mountain, drawing floor plans, and talking about our future home.

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In October we planted seeds from the giant sunflower that had grown in our garden at the little rock house. Later that month we drove down Highway 180 a bit past Kendrick Park and hiked at Red Mountain.

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In November 2014 we hosted a local gathering of “Forest Church” at our property.

In December we enjoyed our own private sledding hill while Highway 180 filled with Phoenicians who wanted to play in the snow.

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All through the winter, we enjoyed the fresh snow on our prairie.

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We drove up Saddle Mountain, northeast of our property, and soaked in the beautiful surroundings.

In the summer, my husband’s family came to visit and we enjoyed star-gazing and glow-stick fun under the dark skies.

West of Highway 180, toward Kendrick Mountain, sits an old Babbitt cabin, inhabited only by birds.

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We also camped in the forest east of Kendrick Park. We were fond of a particular spot with a spectacular view….

And then, in July, we found our trailer.

I wasn’t sure when it would happen. I crunched numbers and poured over spreadsheets to determine our different options for paying off the land and getting into a home as quickly as possible. In the end, if we were brave enough, it made the most sense to purchase a trailer, live in it while saving all the money we would have put toward rent, and instead put that money toward the down payment on a construction loan and/or paying off the land. The trailer could be lived in while building the house, and later sold to help further pay down debt. I knew that the sooner this could happen, the better – financially speaking.

In June I began spending roughly 4 hours per day looking at used trailers on Craigslist. Our price range was $3,000 – $10,000. We quickly determined that the options became much more livable as the price went up (naturally). We toured a few different trailers/motor homes in town, leaving each somewhat discouraged, usually because of the age of the units. We didn’t want to take any chances with our little boy’s health and safety, so we were perhaps pickier than other buyers would have been.

A trailer parked at Mormon Lake intrigued me. There was a simple description on Craigslist, with only exterior photos. It included two solar panels, which scored lots of points with me. I arranged for a tour, which was given to us by the owner’s neighbor parked next door. Immediately upon entry, we knew it was “home.” I called the owner and offered $9,500, which he accepted. We were over-the-moon excited!

We paid the owners to haul it to our land, about 60 miles from Mormon Lake. We were thankful for their help in making it level and showing us how the various systems worked, as well as being willing to part with it for less than blue book value. Very kind people.

Now it was time to prepare for our move.

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Where I Live, and What I Live For

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How to start a blog about sustainability and living intentionally? Henry David Thoreau is often my muse.

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and to see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived,” he writes in his book Walden: (or Life in the Woods), in a chapter named Where I Lived, and What I Lived For.

I’ve come to realize that where we live dictates so much of how we live, and subsequently what we live for. Culture – our narrative, our values and meaning,  exist in place. That is why I was very intentional about choosing Flagstaff, Arizona as the place to make my home and my life. Something about it just felt… right.

My husband has asked me numerous times why I’m so dead-set on living my entire life in Flagstaff when there are plenty of other beautiful and wild places to explore, quaint town centres to wander through, nurturing communities to set down roots within. I tell him that it’s just like falling in love – there are plenty of other attractive and wonderful people out there, but for reasons we’ll never quite understand we get stuck on one.

Back in 2009, my husband and I discovered Tumbleweed Tiny Homes. Jay Shafer’s designs not only changed the way I think about the purpose of a home, but, more importantly, the life one can live when they have minimal expenses/debt, minimal items to maintain, and minimal impact on the planet. What comes with this life is a freedom that equates to time – and the choice of how to spend it.

I refuse to participate in the rat race. I want more time to devote to caring for my loved ones and bettering my community. One of the ways I’d like to do this is by developing what I am calling an “eco-village,” somewhere in the Flagstaff area, consisting of (likely portable) alternative housing and shared common space that is maintained by the residents in a sustainable manner. And I’d like to call it Bristlecone Community.

This blog will document the process of planning and building my family’s dwelling, creating human-powered and off-grid solutions for comfort and health, finding a suitable location that could support sustainable means of transportation, communicating with City personnel, offering educational opportunities to the greater Flagstaff community, and recruiting others to share in the experience of intentional living.

What is intentional living? I think this blog post lays it out quite well. It’s being able to know who we are and what we value, and to form a lifestyle consistent with that. We are often too busy, or too afraid, to contemplate and confront the items “at odds with each other” in our lives, the items that don’t mesh with the values we claim to have. We compartmentalize, isolate, and separate.

Intentional living seeks to pull skeletons out of closets and give them a proper burial. It is bringing every aspect of “the self” into the light, holding it up against our hopes and plans for the world, and weaving the pieces together to make something beautiful… where nothing is threatening to tear the whole thing apart. It is the embodiment of community within an individual.

Intentional living does not look the same for everyone. I believe that the world’s many and varied spiritual and philosophical paths (and subsequent formation of intentional communities) have value in that they can connect us to each other, and to something bigger and deeper that many of our societal norms can often distract us from.

The idea of Bristlecone Community is a manifestation of the deepest desires of my heart – enjoying life with loved ones, (re)connecting with the earth, inspiring and encouraging others along the way, and having time.

And so begins a journey. Columnist Chris Geiger reminds us that “All journeys eventually end in the same place – home.”