Last month marked our 1 year anniversary of leaving suburban life in Grand Rapids and transitioning to a more rural setting in Big Rapids. We’ve made a few adjustments to our home, which was pretty much move in ready, just not filled with 100% all of my décor choices and with any home, I think there’s a learning curve and time you need to take to figure out how it really works for your life and your family. Houses are not one size fits all.
Amongst the projects that we’ve tackled and the ones I’m still scheming about, there have been some realizations. Life here is just… different. Last month I was at a wedding and I told someone that I moved from Grand Rapids to Big Rapids and his response was, “On purpose!?” Yes, we intentionally moved here. I read an article about a family that moved even further off the grid, I think to New Zeeland or somewhere similar, and lived technology free with kids wandering barefoot through the woods. After my one year of living in this more serene setting, I have to say the idea is becoming more and more appealing.
But for the moment, I’m sharing just a few of the biggest lessons I’ve learned since relocating.
Photography: Hetler Photography
Regardless if it’s raining, snowing or hailing – if you want your mail, you’re going to have to work for it. The mailman does not come down our road, so we must walk or drive to the mailbox daily. And word to the wise, there are no streetlights out here so make sure you’re walking during daylight hours, otherwise you may not be able to see your hand in front of your face, much less the mailbox.
Next to said mailbox, lives a farmer and his chickens. These are free range chickens who roam wherever they please. I now know why the chicken crossed the road. It wasn’t necessarily to get to the other side, it was to guard the mailbox and their territory and I have been chased down the road on more than one occasion in fear of being pecked to death. They’re fast and they’re angry.
I’ve heard tails of how many starts are in the night sky. I certainly thought I knew what the twinkle of starlight looked like. But moving out here where they’re the only illumination in the air for miles around gives you a whole new perspective and they’re stunning. So far beyond beautiful, they’re breathtaking and I cannot imagine why anyone would want to cover their beauty with the glow of city lights.
I have an entirely new appreciation for the moon. I watched shows from the old west and wondered how they could possibly travel by night. I’ve also hear my dad and husband speak of deer who stay up all night and are really active when there’s a full moon. But until you have an uninhibited view of the world without streetlights or any electricity in the night air, I don’t think you can truly appreciate just how bright a full moon really is. And then how dark it is when it’s gone. Suddenly, I find myself fascinated with the mood and its phases. I also now very clearly understand this line “the moon on the crest of the new fallen snow gave the luster of midday to objects below”. It is so bright.
The neighbor’s dog is constantly in our yard. At 7 am, he’s pawing at my back window wanting Polly (our dog) to come out and play. Polly doesn’t really like him. I don’t really like him. He doesn’t seem to get the memo. But I don’t complain, because our dog also roams the “neighborhood” is a frequent visitor at the lady’s house next door, despite the clearly worded signs in her yard to keep the dogs out of her grass. Sorry.
There’s also sausage shaped dog that occasionally musters up the energy to wander to our yard. The chicken roam up and down the street, usually making it just to the very edge of our property. Surprisingly, there are less squirrels and rabbits than I saw in Grand Rapids but we make up for it with visits from deer, turkey, more deer and I even saw a fox one day.
You want Jimmy John’s or pizza? Then go get it, because they’re not coming to you. We did find out that if the right driver is working at Pizza Hut, he might decide to drive out to our road but that’s up to each driver’s discretion, and most will pass.
Like really quiet. And still. You can feel nature all around. Except at the very start of spring when the bullfrogs and crickets in the nearby swamp are so loud you can hardly even hear your own thoughts. But it’s such a welcomed noise, who could really care?
Since we’re in a more outdoorsy and rural part of the state, I expected to have a couple battles to pick. I was leery of camo, flannel and Wrangler jeans making their way into his wardrobe (I can thankfully report, they have not – well, maybe some flannel but that’s okay). I’ve pushed aside his desire to get chickens of our own and even the fleeting idea that we should get a goat (no thank you!!) And the notion that we now have enough space to get a bigger dog is brought up quite often.
But the stories I did not expect to tell are the ones involving him army crawling across the lawn in his pajamas and slippers because it’s turkey season and some poor little guy had the misfortune of eating breakfast on our property (don’t worry, the turkey made a safe get away). I did not expect there to constantly be a pair of binoculars on our bedroom window ledge with the sole purpose of spying on deer and a flashlight that sweeps across our hill each night to watch them sleep. I guess I was naive to think that these behaviors belonged at hunting camp, not on our back yard.
Forget about ever having clean shoes, a clean vehicle, clean anything ever again. Living on a dirt road with only a partially paved driveway means that there’s mud everywhere. Just leave a change of shoes in your car.
Hitch up the wagon and ask the neighbors if they need anything, we’re heading to town for the day’s big outing. We really only live 10 to 15 minutes away from town, depending up your final destination, but the mentality is so different. We all make sure that no one else needs anything while you’re out and there isn’t a quick grocery store to pop into if you should happen to run out of milk. If you’re shopping for clothing or life’s finer accessories, that might involve at least an hour of travel. Thank goodness for Amazon Prime.
By far the biggest lesson I have learned is that I never want to live in a subdivision or close neighborhood again. The idea of closing my blinds and putting up a fence is not appealing. While I’m not certain that Big Rapids will be our forever home, it has become home for now and I love wandering in our woods, exploring down the dirt roads and am even starting a garden this year. Country life is where we belong.