Living 15 miles from anything means that opportunities for spontaneity are slim. Many times, the hankering for something in particular (a walnut scone from Texas French Bread, black bean tacos from Wheatsville, an afternoon of work at the little sunlit tables of Pacha coffeehouse) – well that hankering passes by the time I usher animals into their animal places, put on clothes suitable for public, brush my hair, load up the car and drive all the way down to the main road. It’s real easy to talk yourself out of things in this place. Some of that is because of the distance – definitely. It is nonsense these days to take a daily, unnecessary trip into town when I consider the cost of gas, the inevitable chores that will need to be done sooner than later, the nagging feeling that probably something somewhere out here needs attention. But more than that – I’d just rather not go. Why eat dinner inside of a crowded restaurant when the back porch makes us audience to the resident hoot owl who wakes up and announces the beginning of his day, just as the sun sets. Why bother lugging my computer and work files into a cozy coffee shop where the shmancy coffee drinks cost as much as a lunch, when my fresh brewed coffee’s just as good – nay – better (really).
This amounts to lots of time at home, alone, wandering through the woods with a mug of coffee and goats trailing between old oaks and damp creek beds. It means I carry our tiny camping chair down to the front pasture and pick a spot near the fruit trees while the puppies chase in circles around the garden. It’s a lot of quiet time that borders on reclusive and, while I doubt I’ll relish this constant solitude forever, there’s a chance I will. I’m ok with that.
A few years ago we came this close to selling the property for something further out of town, west of Austin, where many properties already had homes and were shiny package deals. I was ready to wash my hands of the trauma/drama that is building on slanted ground, from scratch. Jeremy got used to my daily updates of this and that property that had just popped up on the MLS – each day I’d fall in love with something new and envisioned us there all over again. “Jenna,” he’d say calmly with that steady gaze I’m so accustomed to, “you’ll miss Austin,” which I would inevitably answer with frustrated eye rolls. “Jeremeeeee! That is so not true!!! I can go to Austin whenever I want but I’ll never go – I don’t care about Austin! Trust me! This is the perfect place!” (I found the “perfect place” at least once a week). Unfazed and unwilling to backdown and – possibly – knowing me better than I know myself, “You need to be close to Austin. Jenna. Those places are too far. You will be miserable.”
It was annoying. What the heck did he know?
15+ years together and it seems that maybe he does know me because, the longer I’m out here, the more grateful I become that the solitude – while exactly what we came here to find – is easy to break. In 15 minutes I’m in east Austin. 15 minutes more and I’m on the west side of town. We are closer to my favorite neighborhoods and restaurants now than we were in the suburbs. I realize now that it’s ok to wear boots and carry the faint odor of livestock and also still crave Vietnamese food so deeply that I would maim someone just to get it. I’ve got goats, I eat my own cattle, collect eggs throughout the day, brush my donkeys in a pasture. I drink Lonestar in the back of a pickup watching the smokey piles of brush Jeremy’s burning with a football game playing on the radio. But that’s where most of my country stereotypes end. And there will always be certain non-negotiables that I cannot live without. Wi-fi, excellent artisan bread, fancy mineral water, Anthropologie sweaters, the bulk food aisle at Central Market, and the sight of city lights which will always, for some reason, be a comfort to me – even when at a distance (as they are from the hill off our main road). I’m not a city girl – never was – but I’ll never be completely country. Austin’s still home and thankfully a stone’s throw from my hideaway out here in the hills. Because sometimes a girl just needs a frothy cup of overpriced coffee in a busy little shop by the UT campus where the sound of students debating Roman government structure floats through the hiss of espresso machines. Sometimes I absolutely must have a bowl of authentic pho on a chilly fall day. So to Jeremy – thank you for not negotiating – and for knowing me better than I was knowing myself.