It’s the middle of June, but I’m already dreading winter. I live in the Pacific Northwest, and you might not think of the weather here as being that bad. It doesn’t usually snow. It’s not that cold. But it’s brutal in its own way. In the way of long grey tedium and never-ending drizzle and drive-you-insane cold damp lack of light for months and months. I’ve lived here for 10 years, and I’m over it this year. I’m not doing it again.
My partner and I are gearing up for a long drive this winter. Down through Mexico and back. We’ll be traveling low-profile in our Toyota Van, hoping not to attract the attention of police or any other bad guys that people seem to like to warn us about when we mention traveling around Mexico. We’ll have our 60-pound German Shepard mix with us, and our 14-pound black cat. We’ll rent out our house on the Puget Sound for the winter quarter (easy to do in a college town), and skip the worst of the rainy season. We’ll be back in the early spring with plenty of time to plant a garden.
The summer here is beautiful, lots of people have probably told you that already. It’s true. This morning, we went down to the Farmer’s Market downtown to get fresh produce and locally processed meats for the week. Preston charmed a local artist displaying her watercolor paintings. In discussing a particular piece that he liked, a bee on a stylized flower, it came up that the colors in the painting were the same as the colors in our upcoming wedding. The artist smiled wide and gifted us with the painting for our wedding. When our winter plans came up, she told us how to best store a painting for traveling and gave us the name and phone number of a friend of hers who lives one town up the road from the tiny fishing village where we plan to stay a while in Mexico.
Wandering around the market in search of the freshest greens, we pass a woman on a bench breastfeeding her toddler. She’s smiling and telling him a story, sitting in the just-warm-enough morning sun. I only catch a glimpse of her for a minute as we walk by in the crowded market, but I think about how hard it must be to manage having a life and having a kid at the same time. I’m the age now where many of my peers have kids, and so many of them seem to stop having a life when the child is born. They go to work, pay the daycare, get a house in a “good” part of town. And that’s it. They stop doing their hobbies or traveling, or even enjoying the sun on a beautiful summer morning at the Farmer’s Market. Would we still drive to Mexico if we had a kid? I like to think that we would.
We’re going even though we have a dog and a cat who aren’t especially portable. Our cat has never lived anywhere other than our house. He isn’t trained to a harness and he is accustomed to being inside or outside whenever he prefers. Transitioning to van living is going to be an interesting experience for us all. It will be hard and inconvenient. But it would be even harder to spend another winter here, being miserable. So we’re making plans. A restrainment system for the cat that will make him feel like he has his own space, enough to be comfortable. Sleeping space in the back of the van that can be protected from muddy dog paws. A bathing system that can be versatile enough to address the needs of stinky dogs, surf-weary humans, and dinner dishes. We’re going even though it’s going to be hard. We will all meet challenges and learn and grow. We’re going because it’s what we need in order to feel alive. We’re going because that spark of sunshine, shining on that nursing mother’s face this morning, as beautiful as it is, is not enough to get me through the winter here and I don’t believe that sacrificing one’s self for the sake of others benefits anyone.