10 Reasons I Ditched the City and Moved to the Country

It's me, Heather! (Photo by Simon Weller)I'm Heather Donahue, previously known as The Girl from the Blair Witch Project. That was back when I was a city girl. Now I'm a country girl, living in a tiny Northern California town nestled in the Sierra foothills, and I'm mostly known as a friend, a neighbor and the lady who wrote that book about being a pot grower.

When I burnt up my LA life out in the desert, (headshots, resumes, lingerie, lint--a flaming rainbow) and moved up here, friends and family were bewildered. Often they still are. Maybe you are too. Since I'm going to start regularly sharing some rural goodness on Shine (there's a small dating pool, but a big river to swim in) I thought maybe I should try to explain. Why do I think I live in some kind of magical land? How about just the top ten things?

10. There's always parking. Really, do you know how nice that is? Not something I ever have to think about.

9. It felt like home from the first minute. Once I trusted that I wanted to be here, even though it didn't look anything like the life I had before, that trickled down into all kinds of other gut-trusting.

8. I gained the solitude I needed to get to know myself better. I live in a little barn with an unreliable internet connection and two bars on a clear day. I am undistracted. This has helped me find the time to do the work I've dreamed of, and to clarify what I even mean by that.

7. I stopped resisting change. Not only by moving here and leaving my old life behind, but just by being here. There's this week in April where the new oak leaves are a translucent chartreuse that pretty much triggers an instant dopamine dump in the brain. The tree doesn't seem to mind that green gets deeper and duller by the next week, so I probably shouldn't either. It's just how things go. One week there are poppies in the meadow, a couple weeks later it's all gone gold. It makes me notice. I like to think that noticing makes me a better listener, a better friend to all the people and things.

6. Because there aren't a lot of regular jobs where I live, you kind of have to figure out a way to make a living doing what you love. This made me question a certain kind of ambition. The kind that is concerned with dominance. In many ways, the living is easy here. It takes no big effort to reach for the stars, they're right there.

5. I live here because many afternoons look like this:

That's Mr. Vito, my dog



















4. My community has my back, and I have theirs. When it came time to launch my new business, Prettywell, I found shops to carry it and launch party co-sponsors that were genuinely supportive. My launch became less of a marketing extravaganza, more like a community event. Way less overwhelming that way.

3. Solitary or social is pretty much up to me. If I go out, chances are I will see people I know. This can turn a simple trip to the supermarket into an epic time suck, but mostly I love it.

2. Having a place where you can dance naked, bawl your eyes out or any of those human delights that in some other place would cause somebody to call the cops, are totally doable here. When you live on multiple acres, you can just go ahead and ride that premenstrual wave. Throw a plate off the deck if need be. Pick it up later. Whoo hoo!

Donahue in "The Blair Witch Project"1. I'm part of something bigger than myself. Which meant I became smaller. Getting smaller might not seem like a great thing at first glance, but it is. It gave me the space to pull my city girl head out of my ass and become part of a community. A community that is itself tiny against the broad swath of the Sierra Nevada mountains. People and trees remind me of my smallness daily. I'm responsible for them. I'm responsible for myself. My actions will have repercussions, so they best aim toward fair and strong and gentle. This might seem like a burden, to realize that even your way of being in the coffeeshop has an impact. As someone who has long considered herself a free sprit, it would have seemed that way to me. Not anymore. I feel like I'm finally earning a more generous kind of freedom. It's not just for me. Not even mostly. It's about what I'm free to contribute to all the much loved life that makes this place my home.

Bonus reason: The food is so good. Farm fresh for reals. Yum.

So yeah, that's basically where I'll be coming from with this column. Come back next week for "Why You Should Have Sex With Your Ex." Harder to avoid in the country. We're avid recyclers up here. You know, for the Earth.