Sunday, August 14, 2016

New chapter: Living tiny with the Mountain Man in Eastern Oregon's high desert

Last week I took a doozy of a leap toward my next chapter. I gave my two-weeks' notice at The Columbian, the newspaper where I've been a reporter for 4 1/2 years. Leaving Vancouver and Clark County is bittersweet. It's been my home for three decades, but it's time to begin again in a new home.

In the past five years, I've gained a reputation as the diva of downsizing. With each move, I've cut my footprint in half: 2,400 square feet to 1,100 square feet to my current 600 square feet. Now I'm doing it again. I'll be living in 323 square feet and will fulfill my dream of living in a tiny house.

I'm moving 300 miles to the high desert of Eastern Oregon. I'll be living in a 34-foot fifth wheel RV with a view of the Elkhorn Mountains (sometimes called Little Alps) to the west, the Wallowa Mountains to the east and a reservoir just below us. It's about 22 miles south of La Grande and 22 miles north of Baker City.

Here's the very best part of my new life: the Mountain Man and I finally will be together. Every day! I'm giddy thinking about our future together and the many adventures awaiting us. We can be kayaking on the reservoir in minutes. Hiking, backpacking and fishing are close by in the Elkhorns. Skiing at Anthony Lakes Mountain Resort is only 45 minutes away. We'll go Western swing dancing, camping in the tipi and playing music around the campfire. How fortunate that we found each other after age 50!

Two weeks ago, I emptied my storage unit, had a yard sale and took yet another a carload of stuff to the Goodwill. Now everything I own fits into my little apartment, my sweet home at the edge of the woods. It's crunch time. I'm editing my belongings one more time and getting rid of stuff that's no longer essential.

I'll find work in either La Grande or Baker after I arrive. I can supplement my income with freelance writing gigs and consulting contracts. I've reinvented my career before. I can do it again. I've started a book marketing business and worked for a Random House imprint, created and hosted events for an independent bookstore and became a newspaper reporter at age 52.

The hardest part is leaving my young adult children. But I'll be back to visit them, other family and friends. My roots are deep here.

Here is what will remain the same in my life. I will always be a Mighty Woman. I will keep paddling my own canoe. I am not afraid to try new things. I will continue writing stories. I am excited to start a new life with the Mountain Man, my best friend. Who knows what adventures and opportunities await just around the bend in the river?

This morning, I walked along a trail at the edge of the woods, picked blackberries for my breakfast and expressed gratitude for my sweet time in this home. I've been serenaded by owls and coyotes and have broken bread with my dear housemates, Michael and Kathleen, many times. Even after a series of unfortunate events, I've been incredibly fortunate.

Three weeks from today, I'll step into my new life. I'll gaze at the breathtaking mountains and high desert while holding the hand of the man I love. Who knew life could be this sweet?


  1. Hey Susan, I wish you two the best life can gift to you guys. Through hard work, forward thinking and a ton of love, you deserve this wonderful future. I'm retired now from Fort Vancouver NHS for 3+ years now and loving it. I'm recovering a small 5 acres in Ridgefield, trying to get the land ready for a family garden, over half an acre that I am truly looking forward to, a smaller task than you guys but still a love of the earth that I have always had. Take care.

  2. Wow! Congrats, Susan. Who knew not that many years ago when you were living a far more conventional life that this was what was in store for you. Did you even imagine it then in your wildest dreams? Definitely the Columbian's loss though I trust your awesome writing will grace the world in some other way. Be sure to let us know when that happens!