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Family finds creative paths to fulfilling lives

August 19, 2014

A family finds creative paths to fulfilling lives

As published in the Daily Hampshire Gazette, Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Connection is the antidote for longing. So my wife, Lori, and I were reminded when we recently visited the place where we found our selves, then each other and eventually started a family.

Five years ago, our migration from the Rocky Mountain foothills in Boulder, Colorado, to the Pioneer Valley was catalyzed by both of us being laid off, a desire to raise our growing family closer to kin, and wanderlust.

As soon as we arrived, we longed to return. Initially the urge was daily, then monthly. Then, each summer, Lori was emphatic that we schedule a visit to the place we swore we would never leave.

But we arrived in the depths of the Great Recession, without employment. And soon, with Adam’s arrival, we became a family of four. So, returning to Boulder, even for a visit, seemed untimely, unaffordable and unsettling.

Still, even as we adapted to our new community, eventually finding meaningful work, buying a home, connecting with neighbors and exploring the landscape, the longing continued.

Eventually, we reached the conclusion that, in part, we longed to return to a phase in life that simply no longer existed — the freedom of an active pre-parent lifestyle in a place of amazing beauty — and that returning to Boulder would not restore this sense of loss.

So as our recent visit approached, I found myself protectively clinging to the aphorism that “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”

That these words, attributed to the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus, have held meaning for 2,500 years helped me feel at ease with both the vulnerability and resiliency of being human.

And step into the river we did, with all eight feet. With the benefit of a two-hour time zone shift, we were at a neighborhood playground at 7 a.m. on our first full day in Colorado and we never slowed down until landing in our own beds a week later. And, as our kids approach 5 and 8 years of age, it was the most fun-filled and exhausting vacation we have had as a family.

We visited many of our favorite destinations, including our favorite parks, Zoe’s in-house day care, the Saturday farmer’s market, the downtown pedestrian mall, an indoor recreation center, restaurants, the foothills, the Continental Divide, and even the mechanical pony at the check-out line of the grocery store where Zoe use to enjoy a weekly ride (it still costs just one penny).

We also visited the mountaintop site of our wedding ceremony, on our ninth anniversary, where we restated our vows and shared with Zoe and Adam certificates that state our commitment to our marriage, each of them and our family.

And, after years of missing Boulder, the place and lifestyle, we returned home to realize that most of all, we had been longing for connection to the Boulder friends with whom we share deep, meaningful relationships.

This subtle but important distinction helps me reinterpret Heraclitus’ ancient wisdom. For while the river has changed, and we have changed, so, too, can we choose to change the way we structure our lives.

We are inspired by Colorado friends, who have creatively arranged their lives in ways that keep them connected to distant friends and family. One family — she is a native of Denmark and he a long-time Coloradan — spend six-weeks in Denmark every other summer. They report having deeper and richer connection with their Danish kin than with many of their Boulder friends. They attribute this, in large part, to the concentrated time they spend with people in Denmark versus the fragmented time they spend with friends at home.

They are not alone. Among our other Colorado friends, one family spends a month in South Africa each winter, one three weeks on the East Coast, and another three weeks in Michigan — all families with young children, who simply choose to live in a way that maintains strong connection to friends and family.

So, given our relatively flexible work schedules, we have started to imagine what it would be like to live in Boulder, for a few weeks each summer.

Based on our recent experience, this may be just the right antidote for our sense of longing.

And while spreading our visit over a few weeks might offer a more leisurely pace than what we experienced on our recent trip, any longer might be so exhausting that we would need to come home for a vacation.

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