Over the summer, Emily accepted a nursing position in St. Joseph, Michigan—the culmination of three and a half years of graduate work. With this news, we quickly embarked on our first homebuying adventure. This turned out to be what is perhaps the ultimate exercise in marital compromise. While I’ve enjoyed a lot of city amenities over the last decade, having grown up in a small town, I had been wanting to move back to the country for some time. Emily was not so sure of such an endeavor but we were very lucky to find a rural property in close proximity to several towns, Lake Michigan, and within an easy drive of Chicago and Grand Rapids. Despite the horror stories we heard about first-time homebuying, our experience was as smooth as could be expected.
Our new house is a circa 1920 farmhouse on five acres in Royalton Township, Michigan. The area is mostly agricultural with specialty crops like grapes, hops, tomatoes, and fruit trees. We’ll have plenty of space to start a garden and perennial pollinator meadow and I plan to expand my beekeeping efforts. Emily will be just a few miles from work and we’ll be five miles from Lake Michigan when we need to kick back and relax.
Of course, we are feeling mixed emotions about all of this: sad to leave friends, colleagues, and neighbors in Columbus but excited to start a new chapter in a new place.
Ten years ago, I celebrated New Year’s Eve with a festive group hosted by Graeme Napier at Westminster Abbey in London. We had a sumptuous meal which we had all pitched in to help cook. Afterward, we processed around the abbey community performing some of the rituals from the Scottish Hogmanay celebration. Before midnight, Graeme led us up twisting stairs to the roof of the abbey’s northwest tower from which we watched the fireworks and spectacle of the crowds below. The night ended with a group rendition of “Auld Lang Syne” in the nave.
This year, with the temperature hovering in the single digits outside, I’m staying in and reflecting on the past year. Of course, the biggest event was our wedding which brought together and joined our families and closest friends. I finished a few woodworking projects and published a book. We traveled to San Diego, Chicago, New Orleans, and all over the Midwest visiting family. All told, 2017 was a good year for me personally.
As the clock strikes midnight, I’m hopefully optimistic that in the coming year our country will return to a path of civility, decorum, compassion, and neighborliness.
“The heft and feel of a well-worn handle; the sight of shavings that curl from a blade; the logs in the woodpile; the sentiment of huge beams in an old-fashioned house; the smell of fresh cut timber and the pungent fragrance of burning leaves; the crackle of kindling and the hiss of burning logs. Abundant to all the needs of man, how poor the world would be without wood.”
—Eric Sloane (Everard Hinrichs), A Reverence for Wood