Twenty years ago, Holly and I were living in the woods. I had left my position at a university in 2000 because we wanted to live close to the land, and we had some friends with property where we could all learn together. We were young, and we were enthusiastic and optimistic, though not so much about society in general as confident in ourselves. We believed we could help change the world, with our bookshelves full of Foxfire anthologies, Back to Basics, The Encyclopedia of Country Living, and essays by folks like Wendell Berry, Wes Jackson, and Aldo Leopold. This wasn’t a complete leap of faith; all of us came from families where we grew up with some combination of gardening, camping, backpacking, building, or farming. We weren’t against technological innovations, but we were trying to be intentional about our lives and livelihoods. We wrote poetry, painted landscapes, and hosted literature-themed dinners. There were some hardships and frustrations, but, looking back, it was idyllic.
On September 11, 2001, we were working on the cabin. I was in the front yard, prepping lumber for a window repair. We got a call to turn on the news, that the US had been attacked. We spent the rest of the day listening to NPR on a little battery powered radio. The news did not slow down over the weeks and months ahead. Congress authorized US forces to be used in response to the 9/11 attacks on September 18. By October 7, the United States and United Kingdom invaded Afghanistan in an operation they named Enduring Freedom.