I never thought I would be a person who preferred a life without noise. I remember hearing--maybe sometime in my early twenties--about someone who didn't own a television. My first thought was"how do they get news about the world?" Now, with it constantly at my fingertips, I do everything in my power to avoid news about the world. Each weekend, Ryan and I retreat to our Hamilton property and enjoy our TV-less weekends. My intense sense of relief from the constant stream of construction behind our camper, jets flying over, and my husband's evening Youtube addiction is ironic considering I can't sleep without digitally-generated white noise.
Maybe my desire to "enjoy the silence" is a gift from my favorite 90's alt-rock band, Depeche Mode. Maybe it's just a sensitivity I'm developing as I age, much like my husband's growing aversion to crowds. Whatever the reason, I found myself incredibly content when I arrived last weekend to a small A-frame cabin in the woods, my very own version of Walden.
I met the proprietors of this Hipcamp-listed glamping space, Camp Forever Young, on Instagram, early in our Hughes Homestead journey. Out of all of the homesteading accounts I had to choose from, I'm not sure which particular hashtag led me to them. As it turned out, our stories are eerily similar. Simona and I are the same age. They've owned their twenty acres (same size as ours) for 3.5 years. We celebrated our three year anniversary of signing on the dotted line in October. Simona and I have often privately messaged questions and encouragement, so it just seemed fitting that we try to meet while I was up in Washington State, just ninety minutes away from their land.
I reached out to Simona before booking my single-night stay. She graciously agreed to give a farm tour so that my friend Jess and her three-year-old daughter could also delight in the excitement of feeding tiny little goat kids, skittish sheep and gobbling turkeys. Our tour did not disappoint, and I learned all of the ins and outs of a working homestead, a point Ryan and I haven't reached yet because it's still just a part-time journey for us. It was inspiring, and Simona and Sean were just as nice in real life as I expected.
After bidding Jess and her daughter farewell, I trekked my way back up the hill to the tiny A-frame cabin. I unloaded my fiery red Prius, a giant beacon of city life in the middle of the lush, rainy forest. With just a backpack slung over my shoulder, I made my way up the steps into my little home for the night.
Taking advantage of a short break in the rain, I opened the giant garage-like door on the side of the cabin. A simple design, it propped up on the railing of the deck and created the perfect frame for the picturesque view. When it began to rain again, I lit the propane heater in the corner. Maybe it was the two layers of clothing I had on, but somehow I had acclimated to the chilly temps. Nonetheless, the toasty warmth spreading from the heater soon filled the cabin, and I settled under a plush blanket to read.
As night set in (at 5 pm, thanks to the woods and the last of daylight savings), the cabin grew dark. Up to that point, I'd enjoyed the simplicity of the design--naturally-scented wood plank walls, a small window at the head of the bed overlooking a gorgeous clearing in the forest, the tiny space which felt cozy, rather than cramped. Then I realized: holy smokes, it's dark. In the pioneer days, it would have been bed time, but I knew falling asleep at 7 p.m. would assure that I was lying there wide awake at 3 a.m., especially with my internal clock on Central Standard Time.
Fortunately, there was a tiny light I could turn on to continue reading my book, which I finished around 9 p.m. After one more trudge through the woods in a veil of darkness to the portable toilet, I tucked in for the night and fell sound asleep. I didn't even need my white noise. The natural sound of the tall trees swaying in the perpetual wind beat any noise my iPhone could generate.
The following morning, I woke early and thawed my fingers by the still-glowing propane heater. It was drizzling, but a gentle enough rain to open the side door and once again expand my energy into the surrounding forest. I began to write. The forest reminded me of Muir Woods, where I found myself incredibly drawn to the spirit of my grandmother, Gladys. She is the inspiration for my new book, although I've decided that her fictional coworkers in the Oakland shipyard are worth exploring too. My readers will learn the story of several empowered heroines, much like my story intertwined with my grandmothers in my memoir.
On my flight home that Monday, I began reading Nine Perfect Strangers, on loan from my friend Ryann after we took in a few episodes of the Hulu series of the same name the night before. I was only a few chapters in when "forest bathing" was referenced, and I was reminded that I found that tool in early sobriety. It was no wonder that I found the same relief last weekend. In the woods, where I'm made so tiny beside the gargantuan trees, where I draw from their strength and significance, I am truly grounded, fully present and in awe of nature. My night in the woods was exactly the cleansing I needed.