My dad always used to love to reference our “Fresh Country Air”, but in my eye-rolling-quick-to-assume days of youth, I always thought he was somehow referencing the pungent odor of manure. What IS “Fresh Country Air”? I simply couldn’t discern the difference between the air surrounding our rural property and the excitement that beckoned in the air that hugged the city. Why would anyone want to live in the country – there was nothing to do, nowhere interesting to eat, and certainly nowhere to shop! Clearly my dad had to be “on” something… probably too much of his “Fresh Country Air”.
However, as I have gotten older, wiser (notice I didn’t say “more mature”), and life experiences have taught me lessons I fought my darndest NOT to learn, I have finally come to realize what my oh-so-wise father was trying to get across to me. Still, unless you’ve been suffocated by the polluted, fast-paced, keeping-up-with-the-joneses city air, you cannot fully begin to appreciate what the luxury that Fresh Country Air affords you.
Living in the cities where everything is at your fingertips (for a price) was great… until it wasn’t. At what price do people live in large cities? The price of sanity. Obviously, for most people, work is what brings them to and keeps them in large cities, but for us, our lives had outgrown the need for all of the frivolity. We grew tired of the constant “look-at-me, look-at-me” attitude: lawns that needed to be photo-shoot ready, birthday parties that had to outdo the last, and the silent competitions for the nicest car, house, clothes… and for what?
Along with the addition of two small boys into our lives came some much-needed perspective… Perspective on what is important in life, and it certainly wasn’t the badge on the car we drove. Yes, we had a large house, but we had a yard measured in square feet, not acres, and there were people EVERYWHERE in every direction all the time (and now I know what a fish in a glass bowl feels like).
Yes, when I was a child growing up in a small town, I HATED it… all I wanted to do was to escape to the anonymity of the cities and wait for my life to start. Now, as a mother of boys, however, all I found myself wanting for my family was what I had as a child… acres of yard to be explored, privacy, peace and quiet, people that recognized me at the supermarket, and lots and lots of Fresh Country Air.
Do you ever wonder why life was so much better in the “good ol’ days”? Because life was simpler… values were unassuming and genuine, and families cherished their time together. I mean, people ate dinner together every night, and how many people do you know that do that? Technology and progression is great, but why do people only embrace the family values of the “good ol’ days” when they’re on vacation? Spending time together focusing on your family, getting back to nature, relaxing… why is that something we only allow ourselves a week or so of every year, only to go right back to having everyone’s face in their own personal mind-numbing screen?
When we went on vacation last year to Duluth and brought our son who was 5, and he – in the simplicity of his youthful mind – was able to prioritize sitting outside on the deck and immersing himself in nature over sitting inside on the couch and watching a movie on his iPad, I knew that we needed a change, and we needed it before it was too late… before his memories of childhood became corroded by technology.
So, we sold our house in the suburbs of the Twin Cities, and we bought a house in a great little “suburb” of Duluth called Hermantown. When others found out about our plans, we got one of two distinct responses:
- I LOVE Duluth!
Polarizing, no? I’m pretty sure that the people whose response was “WHY?!” have clearly never been here… and many of those who replied with the latter followed it up with, “I wish I could move there!” and then proceeded to reminisce about their fun-filled adventures on the North Shore. Of course there were those who questioned our sanity: “But it’s SO COLD there!” Um, we were moving two hours north in the same state… not from Florida to the Arctic Circle. Let’s keep it in perspective here people.
Was it an extreme decision? Yes, but sometimes life needs to be lived without regrets, not woulda-coulda-shoulda’s. We traded that tiny lot of land for 5 acres abundantly flowing with Fresh Country Air… air that was crisp and clean and purified by a forest of trees whose rustling leaves and bird songs became a soundtrack richer than anything money could buy.
Of course life is different in the country, and yes, we traded in a lot of things when we moved to a slower pace of life, many things I was glad to let go of. We traded privacy blinds for actual privacy, fences for walls of trees, playing inside for playing all day outside, television watching for wildlife watching, and screen time for family time. All good things.
A change in lifestyle requires a change in attitude, behavior, and thinking. Why make all the effort to move only to find yourself doing the same things but just in a different place? So, as we settled in, we began to take more time for each other… time usually spent watching mindless TV shows and playing games on our iPads after the kids fell asleep became time we shared together, talking about our day out on our front porch and enjoying the waning sunset.
And while many of us remember a childhood spent outside doing whatever our imaginations lead us to do, so many of us struggle as adults, as parents, to understand what’s wrong with our lives and our family’s deteriorating connections… the answer lies in the simplicity of our past experiences… where and why we were our happiest.
Our family has always vacationed in Duluth, but now we call this place “HOME” – a place that we love so much. We traded our week of vacation for a little bit of vacation every day… bonfires after dinner, relaxing with a book, conversations, laughter, time spent enjoying our children’s too-short childhoods, and breathing in lots and lots of Fresh Country Air.