She traded her brownstones for Blundstones.
by Ashley English
photo by Naomi Johnson
When I was 20, all I thought about was living in New York City. I would flip through the Village Voice and Paper magazine and imagine myself drinking fancy cocktails with names like “Hibiscus Swizzle” and “Earl Grey Mar-tea-ni.” I pored over the pages of Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, envisioning myself rubbing elbows with the likes of editorial giant Anna Wintour. I also thought a good deal about shoes. Gorgeous, handcrafted, high-heeled, disposable-income shoes. These days, I still spend a generous amount of time pining over shoes, but where my youthful self fancied the day I might slip on a pair of Manolos, today I hanker for farm boots.
Growing up in a series of small towns, the big city held a grass-is-greener appeal. What the Piggly Wiggly and diners in my towns lacked, New York City more than made up for. Who could settle for J.C. Penney or the Salvation Army? The big city had entire districts reserved for fashionable frolicking, both low and high-end. I had to get there, I told myself. I had to mix and mingle and savor and flourish in urban living.
While I never did make it to the Big Apple, I was able to experience city life for four years, in Washington, D.C. I had the Post delivered, ate ethnic food regularly, saw foreign films and had quite a few fancy cocktails. I found adorable clothes in vintage stores and maintained a rotating series of purses. I felt glamorous and urbane and inspired and intrigued until, one day, I didn’t anymore.
The small town life of my upbringing called to me on a regular basis. One sweltering summer afternoon (D.C. was built on swamp land, after all), after reading a passage in Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain, I made a decision. The city was wonderful, in terms of cultural experiences and shopping opportunities, but, as it turned out, it wasn’t for me after all. After a call home, my brother and his friend knocked on my apartment door seemingly moments later, ready to move my few belongings back to the mountains of North Carolina.
Not long ago, while crouching down to administer a syringe of poultry antibiotic to an injured member of my flock of chickens, I thought about just how much my life had changed. Five years ago, I met the man who would become my husband. He was already living on 11 secluded acres, 20 minutes from town. I’d been longing for a home in the country and there it was, with a wonderful person who cooked scratch-made meals and loved shopping for antiques, to boot. We’ll celebrate our anniversary this month.
Moving out of town, and certainly far, far away from the bright lights of the big city has changed the pace of my life considerably. Instead of honking horns, I hear the persistent croak of frogs. Fancy cocktails with swizzle sticks have been replaced with hard cider or local brews. And my shoes, as I reflected when trying to give my hen medicine, well, they’re far from heels. I traded those in long ago, opting for Blundstone boots, which grip gravel and traverse mountainous hills with ease. I can get them dirty in the garden and still pair them with jeans and a blouse for a dash into town for tacos. I traded in the allure of NYC’s brownstones for Blundstones and have never been happier.
Ashley English is author of four books in the “Homemade Living” series from Asheville’s Lark Books. For more of her writing, check out her blog, Small Measure, at small-measure.blogspot.com.