Free-Spirited Spinster?

I stood on the front porch of the Unwound yarn shop in Blowing Rock, NC, chatting with three women I’d met just a few minutes earlier inside the shop.  They were on a day trip to the area. I was two weeks into my sabbatical year, taking my sweet old time driving down the Blue Ridge Parkway.  As travelers are bound to do, we all got to chatting.

“Where are you from?” they asked.

“New York,” I said, already trying to figure out how to answer the inevitable next question.

“And what are you doing here?”

Where to start? “I’m on my way to Brasstown, North Carolina, and decided to drive for a spell along the Parkway.”

And that’s when we jumped down the rabbit hole. Each question they asked plunged them deeper and deeper into my story. They learned I’d just gotten rid of most of what I’d owned, that I was about to start a four-month stint at the John Campbell Folk School, that my sabbatical year would culminate in my walk along the Camino to Santiago.

“You’re a free spirit!” one of the women said. 

“I am indeed.” I thought of my littlest sister Meg who introduces me to her friends saying, “This is my free-spirited sister,”   usually followed by, “you know, the one who’s getting rid of all her stuff and going around the world.”

The woman on the porch of the yarn shop continued. “When you’re done with the free-spirit part, marry a good-looking man — and make sure he’s a democrat.”

I laughed.  “I’m hoping I don’t have to end my free-spirit days in order to get married.”

She considered that and quickly agreed.

This idea–that travel is something to “get out of my system” before I “settle down”–is one I don’t know that I agree with. A few months before I started my sabbatical  friends starting saying things like, “You’re going to meet someone the day before you leave. What would you do if that happened?”

“I’d still go,” I said, matter-of-factly.  There were no other options in my book.  I do some drastic things, but canceling a whole year of adventures because I meet someone who just may want to date me? Marry me even? “If he’s really that interested, it will work out regardless.” 

“Good for you,” they would say.

Then there were those who thought, myself included, that I’d meet someone over the course of my travels. That sounded more plausible then meeting someone in my hometown the day before I left. “I’m sure he’s out there traveling the world, so I’m going to find him,” I told a couple people when pressed on the topic. Indeed, I met more than a few fascinating traveling souls, but our time together was that of two free-spirits who cross paths briefly and then go on our respective journeys elsewhere.

Sometimes I wonder if I’m not meant to simply live the life of a single woman. Not long after one of my sisters announced she was pregnant, I had visions of being the spinster aunt–the “crazy” one with the wild hair, a cottage in the woods. My niece would love coming to visit; my sister would dread sending her worried what fanciful ideas I’d put in her head.

I laugh at that thought as I sit here on the porch of my cozy cabin next to my babbling brook, the sun peeking through the clouds, my hair unbrushed.

My back porch

My back porch

A Return to….what?

Since arriving home from the Camino I have attempted to write new posts for this blog with very little luck.  I have at least six started that I never finished – they just didn’t seem to express what I wanted to convey.  Probably because I don’t really know what I want to convey.

Because really, what do you say upon returning from a year of adventures? I don’t know if it’s possible to “sum it all up” – I still feel like the whole thing is just too raw, too recent to reflect on at this point.  Many lessons learned might not even surface for a few more months – or I might not recognize them as such for years.

The two biggest changes I made are within myself – and they are changes not meant to be posted on a blog.  One has been discussed with a few friends, the other is something I’m holding close to my heart.  But it tumbled out of my mouth when talking to a friend a couple weeks ago, quite unexpectedly.  I wasn’t holding it in on purpose.  I’m not one for secrets, so I surprised myself by holding in this revelation for as long as I did (a mere six weeks).  And then surprised myself again by the choice of person I chose to reveal it to.  I wondered why that person, of all those I know, would be the one to whom my heart would choose to share such a personal thing.

Honestly, it doesn’t matter.  I could see not revealing it again for a long time. It’s not something that anyone would outwardly notice.   But thanks to this insight, I’ve noticed the change in who I am nearly every day.

So there it is…

I’m not sure what will come of this blog, the way I write it, if I write it.  I make no promises.  Perhaps I’ll get back into “the groove” and update you all on my adventures in my new hometown.  Perhaps I’ll move on to other things.  Perhaps I just needed to write and say, “I have no big message after returning from my sabbatical.”  Perhaps that’s because I didn’t really return – I didn’t go back to the apartment I left, to the town I left, to the jobs I left.  I returned – but to what?