In the end, we moved because of a pumpkin cupcake.
We’d looked for the right place all over the country, from the low mountains in the east to the flatlands of the midwest to the big-tree northwest. We knew only that we wanted land: an expanse where we could stretch our legs and slow our minds and feel, when needed, alone. None of the options spoke to us, though, and so we prepared to return from our latest scouting trip to Washington once again empty-handed. We reasoned the disappointment away. Our kids were happy; we lived in a thriving community of trendsetting people and small businesses; we both loved our work. Maybe picking all of that up and moving it somewhere else just wasn’t in the cards.
On the last night in Washington, we bought two pumpkin cupcakes and brought them back to our hotel room. Moments later, we found ourselves arguing over the last of the crumbs but in total agreement about what to do next: find more. First to eat, of course, and then to take home with us.
In the morning, we followed increasingly low-traffic roads toward the coast, winding through the Skagit Valley and into the tiny town of Edison (pop. 133 people and one amazing bakery). Having located Breadfarm Bakery, the source of the wondrous cupcakes, we loaded up the car and our mouths. Unhurried, we walked the streets as they wove along a tidal river, following them the few blocks until the town gave way to vast, open land, bordered by mountains wreathed in clouds, a dark ocean, a watercolor sky.
And then the town of Edison lived up to its name, flipping a switch and turning a moment of resigned darkness into one of blinding, focused light.
We knew, somehow, that a part of this land was meant for us.
I’ve thought back on that moment frequently in the months since moving. What about this place made me so sure?
(Sometimes, when I’m tired and honest, I’m not so sure.)
The farm is never done. I never go to sleep at night thinking, “That’s it. My to-do list is finished.” It reminds me of those first frantic years of starting a new business: fighting to keep my head above water, realizing I didn’t know what I didn’t know. The disappointment of investing time or money into a venture that didn’t pan out; the joy (and sometimes the confusion) of taking a risk that did work. The constant feeling of being unsettled, unsure, alone.
When I started the Kinship, it was to make people feel less alone, to use what I’d learned through experience to help small businesses not just stay afloat, but dare to dream. I found comfort in the routine. I knew the directions, knew when to set sails and when to trim them, knew how to beat against the wind.
But expertise can threaten to mute the senses and make complex things ordinary. So there’s a fitting irony that those small businesses, in asking for a helping hand on the rudder, inspired me to jump back into a changeable sea. Every day, they face the question of where to turn next. Every day, they have to decide whether to trust the instinct that says, “This. Here. Now.” Every day, they open their arms to the things that scare them. Now, having moved to this beautiful, rainswept landscape, I find myself in that same place, navigating by starlight and instinct and hope.
At night, I stand in the dark – the true, pure dark – and listen to the sounds of nature. Predators stalk the landscape, and although they’re not looking for me, the part of my brain descended from long ago floods me with adrenaline and sets my heart racing. I question the part of me that knew this was right. I fight the urge to run, to close myself indoors, where everything is well-lit and warm and peaceful. Instead, I plant my feet and open my hands. I find what scares me, and close my eyes, and invite it in.