The Dream of Moving Out

Photograph of small farm on river bend

  • Dreaming of moving out

I love this place, especially when summer comes around, as it finally has. The hustle and bustle of Coolidge Corner and Brookline Village, the treelined streets, the many large, grassy parks, the general friendliness of the community, oh and not to forget the two independent bookstores, one of them the Children’s Bookshop. Work/school/daycare are less than 3 miles away… Who could ask for more?

Still, I often dream of moving out. I dream of it constantly, now.

But where is “out”? What does it mean?

  • Peace and quiet

“Out” for me is, first of all, into a place where I can have some peace. I’ve become very sensitive – my senses have - to the small polluting ways of city life. All summer means to me, sometimes, is the surround sound of airconditioners: on and on they drone, while their owners aren’t even at home. Across the street, the engine of a parked car has been running for an hour now, to keep it cool inside. To top it all off, a leafblower starts up close by, filling the apartment with more noise and gasoline fumes…

Then it is hard for me to concentrate on the frolicking of the Red Cardinals in the bushes outside my window, and the beautiful narcissi bending in the breeze. I resort to terrible thoughts of vengeance. Like, last year I planted some wildflowers near our front door – one neighbor called them “weeds, all kinds of silliness”. Now they’re back: a neat row where I planted them, and all over the neighborhood! All those manicured lawns, overrun by weeds… Oops!

  • That panic pushes me

But all “silliness” and petty griping aside, the roots of my pain reach beyond mere aesthetics. All those wasteful habits are guzzling away our children’s futures, polluting the air and the silence, our bodies and our souls. I read the news on peak oil, global warming, bees getting lost… and I feel lost myself. I try to keep my panic under control: I want it to be practical, constructive, realistic, rational, reasonable.

But I am overwhelmed with the feeling that everything I am doing is useless. I can’t concentrate on my dissertation, which needs to be finished by May next year. Or on my freelance writing or the potboiler that is so much fun to put together. Or on the many other projects I have knocking about in my head and on my desk. None of them will make a difference that will count.

And the small things we’re doing to make a difference don’t add up to enough.

  • Cut and run

I would dearly like to make a difference here, make it work here. I don’t like running away; it seems like a defeat to me. And everyone (who is priviliged enough to be able to)running off to the country or the wilderness would just make matters worse. But I bump up against the limits of this place, this community, and they suffocate me. Not being allowed to compost, for instance, angers me. Every time we bring up renewable energy as an alternative to our oil-heating, we are ignored. Residents only think as far as they are planning to own their appartment: any “future investments” are up to their buyers.

I don’t get shrill (except here perhaps: is this shrill?). I’m not the assertive kind. I wish I were an activist, but I crumble in any kind of confrontational situation. I can’t make this place change. So I plan our escape. I count my blessings: easy access to information, an ability to do the research, and a husband who will one day, once I have enough information, arguments and confidence, understand the wisdom and the need to execute the plan.

  • A child’s role

Amie plays a large role in my “enlightenment,” which started to burn more brightly a couple of months ago. Yes, she is almost 2 years old. But it took me at least a year to get over the shock of motherhood, to settle back into the habit of sleep and a clear mind so I could think beyond tomorrow.

Also, the rapid development of her cognitive and language skills is forcing me to more articulateness, thoughtfulness, and accountability.

Because, one of these days, she is going to ask: Why?

I dread that day, and I dream of it with a passion. And I want to be ready.

  • The plan

So here’s the plan:

  1. to be self-sufficient for a large chunk of our food: grow vegetables, plant fruit trees, keep chickens and even goats, and even, even bees
  2. to be self-sufficient for at least some of the objects we use: furniture, toys, clothes, housing, electricity and heating…
  3. to be autonomous, self-regulating, responsible.
  4. to be skillful, handy, creative, flexible.
  5. to be confident and active after questioning, discerning, investigating (a never-ending process).
  6. to be a good stewart of what little of nature is under our “control”, and respectful of the rest.
  7. to be happy and joyful.

I thought it would be a long list, but this is really all I want. Is it so much to ask for? Is it so hard to get?

Join the Conversation


  1. You have put to words just what I feel myself sometimes. We also live in a nice neighborhood, with great schools and parks and safety, and I feel privileged. And also terribly ungrateful for not feeling at home sometimes. Are we right to complain? To want something better for our children when we already have so much more than the majorities of moms on the planet? I’m not saying one or the other, it’s just a question I keep in mind. Would love to hear your thoughts on that. Thanks!

  2. Dear Megan,
    Thanks for bringing that up. I’m struggling with that too: the feeling of privilege and ingratitude. I need to think about this a little bit further: it is related to the question of whether moving out is a form of escape from the real problems (like here). Also, whether it is something only the relatively well-off can afford… Will post on this soon.

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