A move that offered surprising changes
As a native Washingtonian, when my husband moved our family to Texas in 1995, and then worse yet, to rural Texas in 2002, I was speechless. I was opposed to both moves, but we and our children ended up on what looked like the edge of the world on 26 acres outside a town of 1,000, an hour from Dallas.
With six children to homeschool, I prepared myself for boredom, loneliness and despair. What actually happened stunned me then — and no less now.
Surprises all around
The first thing I noticed about living in a rural community was the deafening silence. No sirens of any kind, no planes, no traffic, no neighbors.
We had privacy, clean air, huge horizon-to-horizon skies and open pastures. In fact, from Day One at what we soon named “Family Acres,” I could feel the knot of tension and stress, which I didn’t even know was there, begin to relax within me.
It took me over a year to adjust to the new reality of endless peace and quiet — and nature. Cattle, horses, goats and chickens were one thing, but wild hogs on the road, coyotes howling at night, herons, cranes, raccoons, skunks, snapping turtles and snakes galore, not to mention bugs and mud, were a lot more than I bargained for.
For some reason, no one else in my family seemed to notice any of this. My husband worked in Dallas, so his experience of our new setting was a weekend issue.
As for the kids, they were so busy exploring, swimming in the ponds, learning to fish, keeping chickens, guinea fowl, ducks, raising a calf, milking the goat, playing with their dogs and riding the horses that they just kept telling me, “Oh, get over it, Mom!”
Surprises within, too
With virtually nowhere to go but Walmart (17 miles away), in order to survive I was basically forced to go within myself and recover interests from my youth.
First, I went back to music. We bought a piano and I started playing classical music for hours a day. Yeah, Chopin!
Then I got back into freelance writing. Small magazines and rural papers were eager for writers so I found lots of opportunities for my writing. I didn’t get paid much, but money wasn’t what I was after anyway.
Then in 2012, at age 62, I went back to abstract painting, something I hadn’t done since my 20s. That, as it happened, turned into something much bigger than I expected. Who knew that color in and of itself, without any reference to objective reality, would be so powerfully moving?
The joke in all this is that leaving D.C. for rural Texas ended up benefiting me more than anyone else in the family.
To my surprise, rural life caused me to bump into parts of myself I don’t think I would ever have discovered if we had stayed in the city. I was way too busy there to ever get bored and desperate enough for the kind of self-discovery that happened to me in rural Texas.
This past October, when we sold Family Acres and moved to a town of 40,000 just five miles south of Dallas to be closer to our children, I quickly readjusted to urban life.
Right away I approached the small local paper which serves six area towns, landed a weekly column (“Art & Soul”), and began marketing my artwork to all manner of shops and businesses in Dallas.
After six months at our new house, I am already beginning to find my niche, something that never happened when we lived at Family Acres. In our 16 years in rural Texas, the way I dress and speak stood out like a sore thumb. I was regularly pegged as being Australian! Here in the Dallas Metroplex, I fit in because of the diversity of the population.
I expected nothing but misery when we left D.C. To my joy, at 69, a thousand miles from home, I feel like I’m just being born.
Follow Carolyn Ellis Art on Instagram or Twitter or visit her website, carolynellisart.com.