Here Frank and I are, enjoying ourselves during our first trip to Charleston last June. We love how wide open the sky is there!
Both Frank and I moved to New York City after graduating from college in the late 90's, in fact next August it will be 15 years since I moved here, so it is the place where we have both lived our adult lives up to this point. But, even though New York has been a very thrilling place to live, it was never my intention to live here for the rest of my life, or even for as long as I have! I really moved here on a whim after college, to try and explore the art scene. I had a bunch of friends who were moving here and it seemed like it would be a lot of fun. If someone had told my 22 year old self that I would be raising children in this city I would have laughed at them! But, our lives developed here, Frank and I met here, our art connections were here, and our friends were here, so we stayed, and really our life here in Brooklyn is rich and deep and wonderful. This is the place that I have needed to be, but it is also a hard place to live. Very slowly the little and big annoyances of life in such a huge city began to wear on Frank and I, we started to long for more space and time to pursue our art and raise our family.
In turn both of us came to a place in which inside us there was a shift and we both knew that our time here was drawing to a close. My shift came around the time that Jasper was two and I was pregnant with Carys, then I began to really evaluate the environment that I wanted my children to grow up in. Frank's shift came later and has evolved more closely for him with the cost of his time that he spends supporting our family here, and the time that he spent away from his kids because he was working so much when he was running his own decorative painting company for years. New York City is a very expensive place to live, and at some point we both began evaluating it against the fact that we were stretching our selves financially to live here. "Is it worth it?", was our constant refrain. Finally we made the decision that it was time to look into other places that might better suit our ideal lifestyle more, we love to be outdoors, we love the beach, we also love vibrant city life but with more close access to nature. We visited and seriously considered many places specifically focusing on small cities.... including the east bay area of San Francisco; Portland, Oregon; Santa Fe, New Mexico; Raleigh/Durham, North Carolina; Asheville, North Carolina; Miami, Florida.
This was over the past 3 years, and as you can imagine was an exhausting (while exciting) process, and this is where I come to the muddle that we were in at the start of 2010 that I mentioned in my last post. Through searching for our new place, we were really knee deep in hammering out who we are as a family. This whole process led Frank and I on a journey of discovery about who we are way deep down, and what that means about the choices that we are making while raising our children, making our art, and of course what we want in a lifestyle and place to live. One huge thing that come up for us was that we really did not want to live too far from our families, who are all on the east coast of the US (and my brother in England). So, with sadness we decided that anything on the west coast would have to be eliminated. Then we also know that we are not big fans of winter, so we eliminated anything north of New York City, and began focusing our search on the warmer climates of the south. At this same time, in January 2010, Frank's sister and her family moved to Charleston, South Carolina, a city that I had loved when I visited on a road trip when I was 23, but had not even thought of since then.
Early last year, shortly after their move, Frank's sister began raving about Charleston to us, everything from the weather to the beaches to the easy lifestyle to the art scene and historic downtown, she made it all sound so beautiful and livable. We were very excited to see it, and I really didn't know what to expect. When we visited them there in June, we were blown away by the city. It is a small coastal city, about 800 miles south of New York and one of the oldest cities in the US, with a very old downtown area that reminds us of Europe with a tropical twist, small winding streets, crumbly buildings dripping with history, spanish moss and palms,
and the life style that we found there was so laid back and easy, the beach is part of the day-to-day, children playing outside everywhere, riding bikes, swimming in lakes. The people are so nice and friendly.
We also found an exciting and growing art scene in the downtown area of the city, that we could see ourselves being a part of. We were thrilled to find that many old warehouse areas are being renovated into artist spaces, and there is big market for that. Something that Frank and I have always talked and dreamed of doing is to renovate an old warehouse into artists spaces, with a small gallery space, and then rent to other artists, creating an arts community. When we saw that this would be doable there, we began to really get excited.
Another thing that completely sold us on Charleston were the farmers markets, we went to two of the best farmers markets that I have ever been to, anywhere. There is a huge farming community right outside of the city and those farmers bring their goods in twice a week for huge tented markets. There are also artists and crafters selling their art, you can get lunch and wander around. There is even a bouncy castle for the kids that is inflated at the farmers market. The living really felt easy there.
So, we kept looking at each other while we were there, and we could see it in each other's eyes, we just knew that this was the place for us. We did not really talk about it until we were in the car driving away, after our time there. We turned to each other and said let's move here. It all felt so right, clear and peaceful, which was a real sign for me after feeling muddled and confused. So far, with each step, everything is falling into place in just the right ways. We keep talking with people who mention that they know someone there, and everything that we hear about Charleston confirms what we found.
It is also a four hour drive from my family's farm in the mountains in Asheville, North Carolina, which is really special to us, and we'll be able to go there so easily.
Now, the story continues with our actual plans for the move, which right now involves me going through lots of boxes and seriously culling and purging things that we don't use (and don't want to move) getting rid of things has never felt so good! Now I'm off to sort through a few bins of ancient art supplies...