For the past seven years, I have been coming and going between the pine woods of Florida and the mountains of western North Carolina, roughly six months in one and six in the other. It has been a remarkable time in our lives and, I think, responsible for major personal growth, both individually and in our relationship that might well have never occurred had we not taken this bold step.
Buck and I retired from working for others or having employees in mid-1997. He was 59. I was 46. He gave notice of his decision to retire, I sold my television news clipping service, we sold several other small businesses, bought a piece of land in the mountains near Asheville and started to build.
The mountain place became a “relationship” house — a great place for family and friends to gather. It also gave us an opportunity to hike the mountains, and live at 4,000 above sea level in a setting of blinding beauty. Most of the time we were there alone, the nurturing silence broken only by the cries of juvenile hawks as their parents tutored them in the hawkly art of fierce screaming, the mournful spiraling calls of screech owls, or me at the piano playing a Chopin Nocturne or another composition written by some other genius.
We eventually sold our larger home near Pensacola and built a one-bedroom “cabin in the woods” there on a piece of forested land we’ve owned for many years.
And so, in late Spring, when the “hot flats” begin to sizzle a bit, we pack up the car and the truck and head for higher ground near Asheville. I forward the mail, stop things in one place, start them in another, and try to stuff the houseplants in somewhere, along with zippered bags of herbs and spices, a canvas bag full of books and music, and whatever else I can’t live without in either place.
Then in mid-November, when all the leaves have fallen and our neighbors houses down the mountain have become visible, we repeat the process in reverse, and return to Florida.
We wanted to create two wondrous places to be at home together, so good that we would always feel longing for the one and nostalgia for the other. That’s exactly what happened. I feel a pang each time we close and lock the gate to leave the flatlands, and another stab each time we winterize the North Carolina home and head down, down, down the mountain.
I can almost sympathize with the bigamist who, truly in love, marries persons in different states.
Something I have noticed is that folks who have known us in Pensacola believe we have moved away. And to our North Carolina neighbors, we will always be “that nice Florida couple.” Presuming myself to be quite insular, I didn’t think that mattered. And for a long time it didn’t.
But now, the love of one place, that love of one’s true home, the place where I want to be digging in the dirt and growing flowers and trees when I am a very old lady, and the place where we both want to nurture the forest and provide a place of sanctuary for our family, has won out.
And so, since we cannot live parallel lives, but must make choices which take us down a particular path, Buck and I have made another bold decision — both painful and joyous: we have put our North Carolina home up for sale, and have set about dreaming a new dream in this place of deepening roots.