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Homeless 0-39: Homesteading

I’m supposing our search for new digs qualifies as a kind of homesteading. The wilderness we’re crossing might be more in our heads than beneath our boots, but we’re still wandering through unknown territory, imagining a home somewhere out there.

I wonder how my ancestors reacted when after months of the most tedious traveling, they stood on the Western edge of the Blue Mountains to survey the Columbia River snaking even further Westward through bare scablands, with snow-capped peaks standing between them and the fabled Willamette Valley, the so-called Eden at the end of the Oregon Trail. Most of my forebears settled East of those mountains, in the sweet high desert grassland. Hardly anybody’s Eden, but theirs.

Homesteading requires that dream, the aspiration for different and the unshakable delusion that it will be inescapably better. Why else move? It also seems to demand acceptance, to acknowledge when enough has achieved enough, and to recalibrate Utopian expectations into utilitarian ones.

We won’t be moving West this time. We’ll continue the exile, understanding exactly why, and settle for something that might well position us to slide to the far side of that last wall of mountains next time. We’ll be homeless again soon enough. A one year’s lease will qualify as home enough while we muster resources to homestead more permanent-like.

The adventure might as well get touted up as worth it when the books get balanced and the auditors remove their green eye shades and sleeve garters. In the wild west my ancestors settled, almost nobody managed to retain their homestead beyond the first generation. Most of the land was unsuited for sustainably supporting even a tough pioneer family. They settled anyway, improved the place, then moved on with the next drought or grasshopper pestilence. They did more homesteading than settling in.

Us, too.

©2012 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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