Last week we rented a zipcar and headed into the beautiful Columbia River Gorge. When we dreamed about moving back to Oregon, this is what we dreamed about. It took us an entire year, almost to the day, but we finally did it. We have some special friends who just bought a home, right in the middle of this dreamland. Behind their home was a gorgeous waterfall to explore, and inside their home was the smell of potato bacon soup and freshly baked bread waiting to be savored. Our time was short but our souls felt refreshed.
As we drove away a few thoughts danced around in my head. One, when you don’t use a car often, it can become a romantic form of transportation, like train hoping or sailing. I never thought I would say that! Two, after a year hiatus of baking my own bread, my bones are aching, and my tummy are longing for it. It’s time my simple seeking, slow beating, dough kneading heart, come alive again. Three, I have greatly underestimated the power of choice or lack there of.
When we chose to sell our car almost two years ago we had a long list of reasons why we wanted to do so. That list still remains, but I will admit that with the growing of our family, I’ve held it looser than ever before. At that time finances felt really tight, but technically we could afford our car, we just had other things we wanted to do with our money. Getting out from under our student loans, eating good food, and having date nights with not one, but two cocktails, always sounded more attractive than owning a car. It still does! However the financial reasons for living car free were never at the top of my list and they were never the motivation that energized my legs in 10 below.
About a year into living car free, and a year ago this week, we moved back to Portland and started over. From scratch. We were at our rock bottom, with no job, no insurance, no midwife, and no home for our desired home birth. I was six and a half months pregnant. I’m sure in five years I will have a very different, perhaps more light hearted tone in my voice when I remember and share stories from the last year. It was completely nuts, to say the least. In any case, we spent the last year climbing ourselves up and out of our rock bottom but it has taken time and patience, and we are still climbing. And so using a car share as much as we would like, or buying a car is not an option in our current situation. Let it be known that we are not throwing in the towel, and we aren’t planning on buying a car anytime soon. BUT, what if we did have a change of heart, and what if we did want to buy our own car? The feelings that come from the reality of that answer have played games with my head and heart this last year. Most days I really enjoy and believe in our lifestyle, I just never realized how much that enjoyment could be connected to the fact that it was once a choice.
I grew up thinking choice was a birth right and maybe it is when you grow up in white, middle class America. For the majority of my life the choices I had and made did not leave me without, they just left me with something different. But there is a difference between choosing not to spend your $5 on a latte and not having the $5 to buy a latte. There is a difference between choosing to keep your holiday shopping simple and having to keep it simple. There is a difference between willingly scheduling your C-section and being told you must have a C-section. There is a difference between taking an hour and a half bus ride at 10 pm because you’re reminding yourself of an awesome date night that saved money allows you to go on, and taking that bus because there is no other option. You have tangible choices until you hit rock bottom, then you have the choice to make the most of what you have, the choice to be content with your life.
I am content with my life and I can’t remember the last time I was in such a sweet, peaceful place. I am blessed beyond measure and there is not a day that goes by that I don’t wake up believing that. But behind all this gratefulness has been the wrestling of these thoughts and emotions. I find it interesting how one year to the next, our lifestyle can look the same on the outside and feel so very different on the inside. You could assume that the last two years I didn’t own a car because I was a tree hugging hippie but this year I can’t afford one and that could place me under a whole other label. Which brings up something else on my heart. I am no longer interested in being defined by labels. They once felt fun and empowering but quickly they can become divisive and toxic. I don’t want to be a breastfeeding, baby wearing, organic, car free, bicycle riding mama. I just want to be a mama who loves her babies, riding her bike and baking bread. I want to enjoy things and do things, without being defined by them. In this season, this year of living without a car, I’m learning that contentment is less about the end results and outcomes and more about the story upon arriving. Our stories will always be more powerful than the text-book labels we try to put ourselves in. And choice, it is a very powerful thing.
Whole Wheat Honey Oatmeal Bread
Slightly adapted from Girl vs. Dough
1 cup water
1 cup whole milk
2¼ teaspoons (1 packet) active dry yeast
3 tablespoons honey
2 ½ cups whole wheat flour
2 cups bread or all-purpose flour
1 cup rolled oats
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 tablespoon salt
Small handful of oats
1 tbsp. butter, melted
1 tbsp. honey
Heat water and milk in a small sauce pan until it is warm to the touch. Pour into a stand mixer and add honey and yeast. Let the yeast activate for 10 minutes. Melt butter and set aside to cool. After yeast mixture is proofed, pour in the butter. Attach your dough hook attachment to your stand mixer. Combine all your flours, oats and salt in a medium size bowl and give it a quick mix with a whisk. While mixer is on a medium speed, slowly add in the dry ingredients. The dough should start to come together into a large ball. It should be slightly tacky but you don’t want it to stick to the sides of the bowl. If the dough appears to wet, you can add a tablespoon of flour at a time. Knead for 8 minutes.
Place dough in a well buttered large bowl and cover with a tea towel. Let rest for 1 hour, (or doubled in size,) in a warm draft free place. I like to place my rising dough in the oven with the light on. After risen, punch down the dough and pull dough from the sides, bringing it into the center, until you have worked all the way around the bowl. Generously butter your loaf pan then stretch out dough to fit the length of the pan. Place the dough inside and cover again with a tea towel and let rise in a draft free place for 45 minutes. While dough is rising a second time preheat oven to 400.
Once dough is risen the second time, pour melted butter and honey on top of the loaf and sprinkle with oats. Bake for 40-50, depending on your climate. Let cool completely before removing from the pan. From my impatience and eagerness to try the bread, I have learned the hard way. LET IT COOL! Slice and serve honey butter.