Moving Back to the City

A long time homesteader moves back to the city and adjusts to a noisier, faster pace of life.

| April/May 1994

In August 1991, Deanna Kawatski told MOTHER EARTH NEWS the remarkable story of her family's homestead in Northwest British Columbia. Three miles from the nearest road and one hundred from the nearest town, she married, had two children, and lived the life we've only dreamed of. Now she offers an equally moving sequel, in which she details how Paradise was lost... and found again amid the bustle of an urban community. 

For 13 years we had been leading a self-reliant lifestyle deep in the Coast Mountains of northern British Columbia, growing all of our own food and living in almost complete isolation. Everything suddenly changed the day my husband, Jay, departed with our kids for a six-week vacation in Wisconsin. Before he left, he presented me with a letter that stated, in effect, that our marriage was over.

Occupying my time with decision-making helped me deal with my feelings of great loss and hurt. I decided that I would be the one to leave the bush, that I would go back to the city. So I made plans for the move, as well as arrangements to pick up the children, Ben and Natalia, at the airport upon their vacation return. Unfortunately, the decisive acts couldn't diminish the grief I felt while moving through my cycle of chores. I fed the chickens, collected the eggs, tended the giant garden, gathered clover in the field, and carted it to the rabbits. In the evening, I sat on the front porch breathing in the clearing and ebony spruce spires, knowing that I would have to leave it soon.

My mother and sister, Donna, drove 1,000 miles north from the Shushwap Lake region to retrieve me. Twenty-one boxes of belongings I felt I couldn't live without were lifted by helicopter from the Ningunsaw Valley and shipped south to Chase by transport truck. I also sent along the snowshoes, skis, and bikes.

As soon as the three of us entered the prominent northern town, I felt like a fish out of water. Certainly I had made trips out of the wilderness, but they averaged once every three months. Town was Stewart, with a population of 1,800 during boon times and substantially less during the bust spells. There were no shopping malls, no theaters, no McDonald's. It was a mere one-bank, one-department-store town, with a post office the size of an envelope. This new town had all of the above and more, and when we walked into a motel located on the highway, I wanted to turn and flee.

The next day the three of us happily greeted Ben and Natalia, fresh off the B.C. Air flight, and drove on to a motel in Williams Lake. Natalia realized for the first time that night that our stay away from the Ningunsaw Valley would be for longer than a couple of weeks, and she began to cry for her home. She missed the mountains and her animals. My biggest problem was the noise. Although I wore earplugs, I couldn't sleep with the racket of trains, traffic, and sirens.

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