Thanksgiving Comes Early to Murray Creek

From my perch on the steep slopes of Mt. Zion, as the Elliott family has named the peak above our home at Murray Creek, I have the luxury (so far) of watching the American economic fracas from a distance–literally and figuratively.

Our home is paid for. We live modestly, our freedom more than making up for any lack of shiny toys. We don’t own a car, sharing a fuel-efficient 2000 Honda Civic and the old ranch Blazer with Conal’s mom. We carry no debt, though we came within a whisker of borrowing money to do some major home improvements last year. Knowledgeable people advised us that using someone else’s money rather than our own was good financial sense. Thank heavens we got the willies about letting go of our debt-free status and went against that advice. We pulled money out of stocks to build our deck (now one of if not the best feature of our house). As Conal pointed out to me the other day, those stocks were worth a lot more then than they are now. We would have to fry up a much bigger hunk of nest egg to pull that off today.

My mom and I sold our big house in Seattle back in 2007 just as the market there was having a final peak of excitement. I don’t think we could have timed that sale much better if we had traveled into the future and then gone back, armed with the knowledge of what was to come. I still shake my head in amazement, wondering at our incredible good fortune. Ours was one of the very last bidding wars in our area, and a very merry, profitable war it was for us.

Though we value our life of freedom very highly, Conal and I are relatively young and can go back to work if we need to. Conal’s skills are highly marketable, and interest in his research is building around the world. His knowledge and expertise allow him to get paid well to pursue his passion. My professional skills are not nearly so unique or highly valued, but are broad-based and widely transferable. If it came down to it, I would not be worried about finding some sort of at least mildly enjoyable job. And that honestly would be the lazy way to go, ironically. We’re resourceful enough to figure out interesting, alternative ways to make a living, if we really put our minds to it.

My heart goes out to those who are losing their homes, or staging garage sales, taking on second jobs, cutting back on doing the things that give them joy, or all of the above in desperation to pay the mortgage on a house that may be worth less than they owe. I’m troubled and saddened to think also of those whose retirement plans have gone sideways, dreams evaporating along with the worth of their 401k’s. I can’t even imagine the stress and pain folks these situations must be going through. I have, however, had the experience of being laid off from a job that I depended on, and thus can viscerally relate to those many thousands who’ve lost their jobs. I wonder how bad it will get and how many people will sucked into calamity.

Even if things get a lot worse before they get better, Conal and I will be okay. If things were to get really weird, our property has an excellent well, tillable soil, and plenty of sunshine that could be harnessed to create electricity. With a big garden, some fruit trees (there are already a few growing down in the meadow) and perhaps some goats and chickens we could go “off the grid,” as the saying goes. Conal’s mom’s expertise in the area of animal husbandry and self-sufficiency would give us an invaluable resource of knowhow should the worst happen. Surviving and even thriving will be possible for us even if civilization as we know it ceases to function.

Here on my perch overlooking our private slice of paradise, you’d never know that anything was amiss. Conal is heading off into the cool of evening to gather kindling from the ample supply of downed wood that’s lying around, taking a break from working on his research projects. The evening sun is slanting streams of warm honey through the rich green boughs of the forest, while squirrels chatter and chase each other merrily about. The deep, gentle hiss of the breeze through the valley sounds like a far off, powerful river. Birds zip hither and thither among the craggy oaks doing their fall chores, and furry bees bumble about the rosemary hedge below the front porch. So much to enjoy and be thankful for.

I’m swept by a wave of gratitude for my life, my beloved cuddle buddy Conal, my family, the warm sun, clean water to drink, healthy food to eat, and a snug nest on a mountain to call home.

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