My mom’s side of the family were early pioneers. They came over shortly after the Mayflower and took a covered wagon out west settling in Kansas. They lived in mud Hogan’s and survived however they could in a new land. My dad’s side are from Italy and came later - my great grandmother traveled on her own in her late teens, to meet her brothers who had already settled in upstate New York. They were brick makers - cutting clay from the Hudson River. I come from hearty stock. Strong women who had to make it work.
It's no surprise that I tend to attract pioneer spirited women into my life. Michele and I met when our kids were little and they had just arrived in Fairfax. The fact that her most recent home was Mendocino meant she was rooted in the land. As I got to know her, I found out she grew up in California Gold Country and that her parents had run a gas station. Her mom had three kids, all close in age, by the time she was in her early 20's. She set up her sewing machine in the gas station "office" and would make clothes for the kids, take in odd jobs and make sure their home was filled with beautiful things even though they didn't have much money. My favorite Michele growing up story is that her mom let her drive to school when she was 10! She sat on a pile of pillows and coasted most of the way, but she did it. Until the principal called her mom and explained that she could not let her 10 year old daughter drive to school!
Michele and I have always joked about “packing the wagons” when we want to get back to the land and out of the crazy tech based culture we are currently living in. At the time we meant covered wagons. But as I worked on a piece of art for her to honor her move back to Mendocino, I realized she has a wagon! A Volvo wagon -it hit me all of a sudden that we call long cars “wagons”and it’s still a part of our language and culture. I have a mini van but it’s also a modern day wagon. I’m prepared for most adventures at any given moment. The back of my car currently has: a bag of beach toys (even though it’s December), blankets for sitting on sand or grass, cloth grocery bags, a cooler bag for cold items, a kids potty from Ikea, sun hats, baby powder, diapers (Dax no longer needs them, but someone else might!), yoga mat and more. Even though we are just braving getting kids to school, going for a hike, to the beach or on a road trip, we are prepared and perhaps it goes back to where we came from - women striking out most likely not because they wanted to but because they had to - to be safe, to make a better life for themselves and their children, to find work for their husbands and brothers. But none the less, it was an adventure that they survived and maybe even thrived in.
At this point in history packing the wagons might happen due to climate change. My thoughts are always looping back to how can I help my kids have a stable future in an unstable world. I want them to learn to grow food, build shelter, make things of value. Maybe it's a romanticised version of the post apocalyptic world but I feel like our future depends on us learning the things we have cast aside in the name of progress and convenience. And I want to pack my wagon and head north, to find land and community and a connection to something deeper that will last even if everything else doesn't. In the meantime, I'll visit Michele on The Farm and get a glimpse of what it's like to really pack a wagon and head back to the place that is truly home.
Sometimes I wonder if I was born in the right time... I long for a bygone era and yet I dream of a future that holds the best of technology mixed with the “old ways” that are so much gentler on us and the earth.