The Summer of Less / More

Lately I’ve been dreaming about Colorado. C1Two summers ago Kellie and I packed her truck and took the boys to live on an 800-acre ranch for the summer. We did this for no logical reason, except that we had an opportunity and we seized it. It was a hard summer. Though the mornings were often beautiful and sunny, by afternoon the clouds rolled in and they often brought lightning and hail. Smoke, who was four at the time, complained of being bored and homesick. Stump, who couldn’t even crawl yet, wasn’t much of a diversion for him. Meanwhile I struggled to keep up with a workload of teaching online and editing while our internet was spotty and Kellie was busy building a barn.

But of course those challenges aren’t what I’ve been remembering. I’ve been remembering how every night, just after dark, my family fell asleep in one room and I sat among them, writing in the dark, listening to their breathing. I remember the garden snakes who warmed themselves on the same rocks every day, and the chickens who refused to stay inside the fence. More than anything, I remember the massive herds of elk who moved through the land every day on a schedule.

In Olympia, where we live full-time, it’s not hard to find nature. Sometimes deer walk down our neighborhood roads. It’s a ten-minute drive to the forest. I can walk the kids down to the beach and sometimes see seals swimming in the water. But visiting the beach is not the same as living in wilderness. Here in town, I can’t recreate the feeling of waking up in the mountains and walking to the outhouse through wet grass to take my morning pee, or the feeling of watching the evening slowly gather around you as the elk descend from the hills, munch grass and bugle at each other, and then disappear in time for the first stars to appear. C2I keep thinking about how this would be a good year to return to Colorado, because Stump is old enough now to play with Smoke and I can imagine them chasing each other with sticks and scrambling up the gravel road. But that adventure isn’t in the cards this year. We will not be dropping everything, packing the truck, and living in the wilderness—at least not for three uninterrupted months.

Since I can’t have Colorado, I’ve been asking myself how I can strip away my life this summer, to make room in my cells for some growth, to reclaim the balance that I lose every year over the course of nine months of teaching and working and parenting. I want my life to be quieter, with space to notice the changing sky, the ants, the birds, my own two children. And so, I’m working to identify the things that clutter my life, to reduce them in hope of making room for what feeds me.

Less internet / more real life

This might mean going to bed at the same time as my kids, lying in bed awake to take in the dark, or letting Smoke stay up late so that we can read together. It might mean keeping my Macbook closed for most of the day, unplugging my modem, and keeping my smart phone out of sight.

Less digital / more analog

Recently a friend shared this: How to Replace an Instagram with a Sketchbook. The idea is that we consider drawing our lives for a change instead of constantly snapping photos. I want to. And while I’m at it, I want to spend more time reading books and stories and essays that are printed on actual paper.

Less packaging / more slow food

No to microwaved lunches and single-serving yogurt containers. Yes to canning all of the fruits. Yes to this post by the Zero-Waste Chef: 5 Zero-Waste Baby Steps

Less driving / more walking, running, and biking

The goal is for the car to get lonely. The goal is for a tank of gas to last a couple of weeks at least.

Less stuff / more room Maybe I’ll finally get around to recycling my old computers. Maybe I’ll even read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

What will you be doing less / more of this summer?


  1. Thank you for this. I’ve been counting down these last days of school, dreading a little bit (a lot!) those endless summer days filled by me, me, me for four kids who leave disaster and “I’m bored!” in their wake. This was a reminder to find the Colorado ranch that lives inside each busy family. So, more Colorado dreaming in our New England summer, care of Goodnight Already. Thank you.

  2. I totally relate! I feel the same way, recently taking a four day trip to Mendocino with the babies I felt like I need to move to the country! But then I had an epiphany! I asked myself how can i bring that calm unstressed Jenny to everyday life? I can’t because somedays are just simply stressful, i realized, even in the country! But I do think stripping away as much as possible is a good way to minimize that overwhelming feeling. Also i’ve decided making too many rules for myself of things I’m not allowed to do because they cause stress makes me more stressed!

  3. You’re such a wonderful writer! What a great scene you depict of bedtime at the ranch. I have been trying, with some success, to curb my screen time. Before bed, I block all social media on my laptop for about 12 hours. The phone I just block completely. That way, nothing works on it. My mornings are so much calmer when I can’t check wordpress / facebook / twitter / instagram…When I reach for the phone first thing and see all my emails, I feel behind even before I’ve lifted my head off the pillow. Not a good way to start the day! Thanks for the mention and have a nice, less-is-more weekend 🙂

  4. I’m about to read that book as well- two other people have read and raved about it. I love that idea that less of somethings creates room for more of others. I think less plugged in is something that in generally creates more room and I’ve been telling myself something similar for awhile. I do feel like the Internet is this powerful energy vortex that we aren’t even aware we socket into. The few times I’ve been on retreat and unplugged- the whole world is more vibrant and I can feel and see and taste so much more. Look forward to updates on this exploration of yours.

    • It’s funny that when I’m away from the internet I don’t miss it at all, but the moment I’m in range I fall under its spell. Vortex is such a good word for it.

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