When You Should Not Adapt in Place

Most of the people who take Adapting-In-Place, reasonably enough, are doing so because they intend to stay where they are or fairly nearby in the coming decades. They know that they may not be in the perfect place, but for a host of reasons - inability to sell a house, job or family commitments, love of place...you name it, they are going to stay. Or maybe it is the best possible place for them. But I do think it is important to begin the class with the assumption that everything is on the table. Because as little as each of us likes to admit it, it is. There will be many migrations in the coming decades, many of them unwilling and unwanted. And it is always easier (not easy) to consciously choose to step away before you are forced to leave than it is to abandon in pain and storm and disaster your home and never be fully able to return. So it is important to ask - who should not stay in place?

For some people, getting out of Dodge is the way to go. That is, I think that some people should absolutely consider leaving where they are, and doing sooner, rather than later, because they have little or no hope of successfully remaining in place.

Now some of this comes down to long vs. short term issues - and there are balances to be struck. For example, let's say you live in a place that may be underwater in a couple of decades. You love it, you are in your 50s or 60s, your kids are here. Do you have to leave? No, you don't have to, but you might want to think about your choices. For example, do you want to have to evacuate your location regularly due to coastal storms in your 80s? Do you have a support network that will make that possible, that will help you? If you plan to move when things get more acute, how likely is it you will be able to sell your house, as the area loses some of its habitability? Do you need to sell it? If you have family inland who would take you in, maybe risking that you might have to walk away is ok - or maybe it isn't.

Our homes are our homes, and our right to stay and choose them sometimes seems inviolable - but it isn't. In the next decades there are going to be a lot of migrants - and you may be one of them. Migrating and settling in a reasonably liveable place might be better - or it might not, and you might want to wait and see. But don't do it in ignorance - find out all you can. The reality is that many people do more research on what movie to see than we do about our future, and the risks and benefits of the locations we choose.

So here's my list of when to think seriously about getting out. There will be exceptions in every case - my claim is not "you definitely must go" but "think hard about what you are choosing."

1. If you have an ARM and can't reset it, are already facing foreclosure or have no reason to believe you'll be able to pay for your house. Or, if your current house was bought near the market peak and you require two ful incomes to pay for it and have little equity.

The odds are good you aren't going to keep your house in those circumstances - and the worst possible scenario for you may well be that you go into debt frantically trying to keep your old way of life open, which closes off other options. If you have a better choice, one that can provide some stability, or there is hope of selling and getting out from under, seriously consider it.

If you do end up in full foreclosure, remember the magic words - "Produce the Note." Rerquire that the company do full due diligence and stay in your house as long as you can - you might as well save up rent for the future. And unless your loan is a recourse loan (be very careful with state assisted refinances, since many of these turn no-recourse loans into recourse loans - you do not want to be paying for this forever) But do me a favor, and don't trash the place on the way out - someone else, even you may eventually end up renting a foreclosure, so don't trash what assets we've got indiscriminately.

2. If you have young children or are elderly and have close ties somewhere but are living far away from them in a community that you are not invested in. Not everyone has people (family biological or chosen) who will give you a place at the table, thin the soup to make it stretch, let you sleep on their couch and otherwise cover your back. But if you do, recognize that these people are the beginnings of your tribe. Not all of us have tribes in one place - and some of us have multiple tribes. But if you aren't rooted where you are in some deep way, if you live there primarily for a job, and you can get back to your people think about it seriously.

The people who will most need the support of their family are young families themselves struggling to make do and older people who may need some help. Sometimes these people are even usefully related to one another . Not all family is good, not every friendship can go this far, but if you have these ties, they matter, and they are essential.

3. If you have children or parents you need to care for far away. Again, this is ymmv, but if you are going to be dealing with your parents' decline, or if you don't have custody of your kids but want to spend time on them, you need to set it up in a way that doesn't make anyone rely on airline or other expensive long distance travel. That means that if they don't come to you, you go to them. It was once perfectly viable to live across the country from your kids, and say, have them spend summers with you - it may no longer be viable. I realize this will be enormously painful and disruptive to families, but if you are the resource for people very far away over the longer term, you need to find a way to be closer to one another, or accept that you may not be able to take on that role.

4. If you live in an extreme climate, likely to become more extreme with climate change, but you are not particularly and unusually well adapted to it. That is, unless we check climate change, which at this point seems unlikely, (if highly desirable) at some point, many places are going to be uninhabitable for many of the people who presently live there. Some may become literally uninhabitable over time, but more likely, what we'll see is that small populations, extremely well adapted to their environment, and extremely attuned to it, become native to many places as long as they are even marginally inhabitable. But the question is, are you one of them?

That is, if you live in a very hot, dry place, and are an expert desert dwe;;er, gifted at retaining and using every drop of water prudently, and comfortable living without lots of input or air conditioning, and happy to live on the diet that grows there well, great, you and your descendents will probably do very well there if anyone does. But if you are fond of long showers, keep the a/c on six months a year and think that hamburgers are a right, you might want to think about somewhere else. If you have severe health issues exacerbated by your climate, you might want to consider leaving.

If you need income from the sale of your house, you might want to think about it sooner, rather than later, because there will probably come a point at which the number of people who want to live there declines dramatically, and it will be even tougher to sell than it is now. Now even if some places do become uninhabitable, they probably won't do so immediately - you might well be able to live out your life where you are. But remember that it will probably become gradually and increasingly hard - the summers will be worse, the storms will be stronger, the ice pack will be smaller, your allergies will be worse. Are you prepared to be that adaptable?

5. If you live among people with lousy values. I'm on the record saying that most of us can probably get along in most places with at least some people. I don't think everyone in your town has to be like you, or that ecovillages are the only (or even the best) way to find community. That said, however, there are exceptions. And even if you can find some small community in a larger culture of rotten values, you may find that it wears you down.

Thus, if your neighborhood is chronically ridden with violence and crime, maybe it is a good idea to fight it - but maybe you'd be better off somewhere else. If you bought in a gated community full of self-centered rich assholes, and now you regret it because they are pissed about your garden, sometimes, if you can, living somewhere else might be nicer.

If you belong to a minority community, you might want to live where people like folks like you, or at least tolerate them, rather than a place that is hostile to them. If you rely on a religious community, you might want to live where you feel that the cultural values reflect your own. If you don't want to be surrounded by religious communities, you might want to live in a place with a strong secular culture.

Personally, I've always had a lot of luck finding allies where I went, even if we didn't share much. But there are root values we did have in common - integrity, kindness, a desire for community. If those things don't exist, you might seriously have to consider another choice.

6. If you don't think your children (and by your children, I mean the children in your family, even if they aren't your own) have a future where you are. Now this is somewhat speculative, and may partly contradict what I said above - you may, for example, simply not be ready to leave a place, even if you don't think it will be sustainable in the long term. But it is worth thinking about the larger consequences of committing to a place that may not have a future. If your children have to leave to get work, if your children have to leave because it isn't safe or is underwater, are your prepared to part with them? Are you prepared for your family to be parted in circumstances that might not be conducive to regular cross-country travel? More importantly, if you have land or something you hope to pass down to your kids, are you prepared not to be able to do so? Is it an asset that they will be able to do without? Again, you can't know all this for sure, but it is worth thinking about.

7. If you plan to move anyway. That is, if you have a family place or somewhere you have always planned to return to, if you can, sooner may be better than later. It takes time to build soil. It takes time to get to know people and build yourself into the life of a community. It takes time to see fruit trees come to maturity. If you were planning on going anyway after a few more years of earning, or something, now might be the right time. That said, however, I'd be awfully cautious about buying, and only recommend this *if you can* leave - either by selling your current place or if you've been renting. But building roots is important.

8. If you aren't prepared to live in the place you live as its culture demands. That is, as we get poorer and travel and transit become bigger issues, living in the country is going to be a lot different than it is now - instead of living essentially a suburban life, commuting to activities not available and relying on trucked in supplies, you may have to shop occasionally and mostly stay home in the country, making your own entertainment. Are you prepared to do that? Once upon a time the country mouse and the city mouse lived very different lives, but cheap energy changed that. It may well change back.

Urban dwellers may have to make do in tougher conditions as infrastructure problems come up. My own analogy is this - if you'd be ok living in the worst neighborhood in your city as most of the people there live now, you'll probably be fine. But if you've been affluent and comfortable and might not be forever, be sure you can afford the city and like the life. I believe strongly that city, suburb (most of them) and country all have a future - but the differences between them are likely to become more acute. If you aren't prepared to deal with those differences, you might consider moving.

9. If you live in a outer suburban housing development, particularly a fairly new one. This is the one exception I make to the question of whether the suburbs are viable. Generally speaking, I think a lot of suburbs will do fine, others will adapt in different ways - some may become more like small cities, others may be more country-like. But the ones that I think the least hope are the larger developments that were built in the "drive 'til you buy" model of the last few years, where lower income families have to move further and further away from urban or suburban job centers. If your suburb was built on a cornfield forty miles from your job, think seriously about how you will get along either in an energy constrained world or one where energy is much more costly because of carbon limitations. Do you really think anyone is going to run public transport out there? Is there topsoil? Is it a place worth maintaining and farming? Are there neighbors? Are there going to be? If you are already in a half-finished development, you really might want to get out.

10. If you are native to another place. By native, I mean that many of us have a strong sense of place, and a strong sense of belonging to a place. My husband once went on a job interview at UIL Champagne-Urbana. He recalls looking across the land and seeing the horizon and thinking "oh, there's the ocean." But of course, there was no ocean there - his misperception lasted only a second, but revealed something about his ability to live in that place - he comes from people who live on hilly land around water, and know the flat horizon as the space of the sea. It is possible that he could have adapted to the flat open land of the midwest and learned to love it - but it is also possible that one's sense of place should be respected if possible.

I know people who have never fully adapted to their place, in the sense of being truly native to it - desert born people who could never breathe comfortably in the humid air of the southeast, warm climate people who found the cold of northern winters unbearable, city folk who find the country abnormally empty and silent, water folk who can't imagine life away from a boat, country people who can't tolerate the city. Most of us can endure these things if we have to - but why not be happier if it is possible?

Not everyone is tied to a place - some people can live anywhere, others in a wide range of places. Some people can take their sense of place to wherever they go, and find a new home. But some people can't. And it is simply the case that your body, and parts of your soul are shaped by your experience - a college friend of mine once spoke of people who grew up by the sea has sharing "water thinking" and noted that she who lived in Hawaii and I who lived in Coastal Massachusetts had that in common in our way of viewing the world. More mundanely, people who grow up in hot climates develop more sweat glands, and a better ability to cool themselves than people who grow up in cold ones - our physiology is shaped by our place.

And our native knowledge of our place is valuable - in fact, it may be the most powerful tool we have. Now some of us will have to leave our native places, to journey again as people so often have. But if we can stay where we are, knowing our flora and fauna, knowing what grows where and how things smell when the seasons change and how to heal or feed or tend with what is native here is absolutely valuable - as is the ability to adapt that knowledge as our places change. So if there is a place where you feel at home, and no other constraints bind you, perhaps you will want to go there, and be there, and help other people be there.

Again, all of these examples will have exceptions. No one, especially me is saying "move now!" And some people who probably should leave will not be able to for reasons of family and obligation, underwater housing and job commitments. But do think about all your choices, as you consider where you go and stay.

In _Depletion and Abundance_ I write about Peasant economics, the economy of poor people around the world. In many cases, the best off of the world's poor are those who live in a pass-down economy - a bicycle isn't a private purchase, but one shared within the family, with close neighbors, and maintained carefully to be passed down to one's children if at all possible. The same is true of property and other high value items. We who have had so many resources thrust upon us, will need to pass down to future generations what we can. Choosing where we begin, and what we bring to this is a central part of the project of adaptation to our future.


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The problem I have had in rural areas is the at times vicious and fanatical fundamentalist christianity. Count on these people looking for scapegoats for the collapse as dictated by their fanatical beliefs.

As for cities, you are forgetting that as states go broke, police protection is going to breakdown, and street gangs are going to become even more powerful. I lived in Seattle and I just cannot imagine how bad a city of that size could get in a total collapse of the economy. However, Seattle looks better than a lot of cities.

Sharon, I'm coming to like your blog very much. Thanks for writing it.

This is a wise post, although perhaps I think it's wise because I've thought about some of these things in planning my places to live, in the past and in the future. I grew up rural, lived in a city for a long time, tried out a foriegn country, lived in a small town, am living rural again, and plan one more move to another rural place much closer to the home of my childhood, among family.

All of the places I've lived were good places for the time of my life that I chose to live there. Our present home we've lived in for fifteen years, longest I've lived in one house, and I'm now beginning to feel the beginnings of detachment from place that begins as I contemplate this final move, sometime in the next five years. It will be a good move.

Joseph, all rural areas are not like that. In most of Canada, where I live, almost no rural area is like that.

Well, the html tag didn't work so I'll start over.

May I suggest _Switch: How To Change Things When Change Is Hard_ by Chip and Dan Heath. ISBN978-0-385-52875-7. The essential thrust is to get your intellect and emotions going in the same direction. They have a web site http://www.switchthebook.com/resources


A very thoughtful piece. The idea of a tribe is something that is viscerally appealing, though not always viable today. Given your criteria, I feel very lucky that I seem to be in just the right place, with the makings of a little tribe, given some hard work.

By DerelictHat (not verified) on 02 Jun 2010 #permalink


I think I've hit every point except #1 and #9; problem is, for my boyfriend only the climate (we have 6 months of winter and already extremely unpredictable weather that makes gardening & farming difficult) one applies, and his family ties are here.

I'm going to have such a damn difficult time convincing him to come to Europe with me for that reason, even if farming and community values would be so much better for both our tastes :-(

also, something that came to mind when you wrote about selling your house if you live in an area that will be underwater in the middle-term:

it's of course a sensible, or even only, option for those selling, since I doubt many people can afford simply buying a second home somewhere safer. But it's kind of shitty that in order to sell, someone else will have to buy it, and then they'll be screwed, isn't it?

Just a thought, not really a suggestion that people shouldn't sell.

We live in a suburb of Portland, OR where many around us are nice people, but on the whole, cornucopians in denial of reality. What keeps us here is the critical mass of people in the Greater Portland area (outside our immediate neighborhood) who actually do get it.

Sharon, thanks for this thoughtful article. It provides a good jumping off point for discussions many people will be having now and in the near future.

My dilemma - we added on considerably to our modest home to accomodate my three disabled brothers we "inherited" when my mother died. Ten years later they all were able to move to group homes nearby- earlier than we expected. Now we have this very large house on six acres for only two of us. There is no way it can sell now or for the foreseeable future and when or if it does the value has dropped dramatically. I don't really want to move as we've built up a small farm here including the soil which was pretty awful. We are close enough to family and in the town nearby we are on the trainline to Chicago (where many of my family members live). However, as we approach 60 the house is an awful lot to keep up not to mention expensive. I would consider sharing it but my husband is not very keen on that idea. To me that is the solution both financially and work wise but what to do when your spouse does not agree?

Joseph is right to be worried about fundamentalists looking for scapegoats--that's already happening in some parts of the world. Sharon covered this under point #5 above. If you are atheist or agnostic and living in a place where fundamentalists dominate (the South, CA's Central Valley, eastern Cascadia, and certain other areas), consider leaving. If you are a non-Mormon living in Utah or adjacent parts of neighboring states, consider leaving. But in most parts of northern New England (VT, NH, and ME have among them one city with a population over 100k and two others in the 50k-100k range), you can get along fine even if you aren't particularly religious.

Jadehawk: You are right to consider the ethical implications of selling a place you expect to be underwater in 50 years. The issue is not limited to those places. Many of the houses built in the last decade are of poor quality, to such an extent that I would not buy a house built in the decade unless I knew who the builder was and could get multiple local people to vouch for them. How well these places will withstand 20 years of normal wear and tear is anybody's guess. That's part of the reason for Sharon's point #9, in addition to the issues of getting to any kind of work from these newer developments. Part will depend on the area: I expect developments in areas of the Northeast that won't be drowned to do better than similar areas in the South and West, mainly because the former are invariably built within the limits of pre-existing townships and the latter are frequently created out of whole cloth.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 03 Jun 2010 #permalink

A wise and beautifully expressed essay. I think the only bullet point I'd add (and maybe it's really only loosely about place) would be to "make yourself useful." I researched as a cultural anthropologist in the former USSR in the mid 90's when the economy had basically collapsed -- and absolutely the things you talk about here apply to what people faced in trying to get by. One thing that really struck me was that no family was self-sufficient, so there was always some way that they could be useful to others to form reciprocal relationships outside the "family". This could be anything from a city root cellar, to nursing skills, to an extra room, to political connections, to produce from a garden. So, it's another question to ask -- is this a place I have resources that I could share? I've been thinking about this, because I have 2 sons, 8 and 12 and I'd like to make sure they get some skills that could "make them useful" in whatever way of life emerges from the coming breakdown.

Many of the houses built in the last decade are of poor quality

so too can be houses built in earlier decades. my mid-to-late 1940s home is probably only standing because none of its various owners have had the money or the energy to tear it down and start over. judging from what i've seen while trying to renovate it, alcohol must have been heavily involved in its building; no two pairs of studs the same distance apart, no angle right nor line straight and level...

if an old house is good, i think it's mainly because some unknown number of houses just as old weren't good enough to stand as long, and got weeded out. if anything, modern structures ought to be better on average due to more standardized construction methods and more elaborate building codes. only thing i'm unsure of is the materials quality; all the lumber i see for sale these days seems no better than middling quality to me, at best, and some of it is downright deplorable.

By Nomen Nescio (not verified) on 03 Jun 2010 #permalink

I know that we face multiple, serious, and potentially insurmountable challenges in staying where we are. I grew up in the Midwest, and as much as I miss the idea of being able to grow food without irrigation, I just can't see myself there. I didn't 'fit' when I was growing up, and when I went back last to visit family I was quickly reminded of why I don't live there any more.

Sometimes challenges are better than crazy family...

if anything, modern structures ought to be better on average due to more standardized construction methods and more elaborate building codes.

You'd think, but those standardised construction methods are aimed at minimising price and build time, rather than producing decent quality results. I don't know what the situation in the US is, but I know that while UK building codes have improved on paper, enforcement of those building codes has gone out of the window, because a while back someone decided it was better for developers to hire their own building inspectors than have the local authority preside over them. You can probably guess how that worked out...

I live in a building that's been there for nearly a hundred years, so I figure it's probably not going anywhere soon. The last building I lived in had been constructed in the last 20 years, and was already showing serious structural problems.

Joseph and Eric Lund, where do the dangerous fundamentalist Christians you fear live? I'm not saying that they don't exist, but they sound to me like figures that exist in people's imaginations and in movies. Honestly I can't think of one place where I would be afraid that I'd encounter significant numbers of such people. But I may have skipped class when that topic was covered! ;-)

By Extollager (not verified) on 03 Jun 2010 #permalink

For those who decide they must relocate, but not necessarilly to any particular place, I would suggest that one of the small college towns have a lot to commend themselves. Small town living is a good way to avoid the downsides of rural, suburban, and urban living. Many have mentioned the problems that outsiders encounter trying to integrate into closed small town society, but this is less of a problem when it is a small college town. There are faculty and staff living there who came from elsewhere, and of course most of the students came from elsewhere as well, so the "locals" are accustomed to there being outsiders around. At the very least, at least there will be a community of outsiders there that one can integrate into quickly, even if it takes longer to integrate with the locals.

Of course, the long-term outlook for many small colleges is pretty poor. Many of them probably won't survive. However, even if the college goes belly up, most of the faculty and staff will have a hard time finding work elsewhere, so they may have no choice but to stay and adapt in place. Even some of the former students might hang around - there are always a few former students in most college towns that liked it so well that they never do leave.

By WNC Observer (not verified) on 03 Jun 2010 #permalink

For many of us there is no *one* right answer. I have accidentally arranged my life so all my extended family is on one side of the globe and nearly all our friends are on the other. Whichever country we choose to live in we will be sacrificing regular contact with one of those groups. Common sense does suggest that we don't rush off and live in a third place with neither friends or family :-) So housing would be half the price somewhere else, but friends are priceless. My biggest apocalyptic fear is that it will suddenly become impossible for us to change our minds in our UK vs NZ dilema, whereas now we can always think that we can always shift back to be closer to our parents when they need us.

Very thoughtful piece and many good comments/observations.

In brief, I moved to Costa Rica almost 20 years ago and was forced to down-size and go local way before it became obvious that it was a good idea. As I observe the patterns of newer arrivals, some to a community I started, it is obvious that people don't get it, there is an enormous hurdle to "voluntary simplicity" AND to beginning to grow--even a portion of-- one's own food or to transition to crops and food products which are local and inexpensive albeit unfamiliar.

Even though we have a tremendous advantage, climate, minimal needs for shelter, etc. adaptation presents a challenge very much at the personal level. Often, rather than technical skills, those who are simply able to hang out and develop relationships of trust with the locals, are those who make the smoothest transitions.

This is all well and good, but if you are a parent and you get divorced, you WILL be required to have a geographic restriction, in most jurisdictions, whether you are a custodial or noncustodial parent.

So if you hate the town you got divorced in, or if three years later you have a sick parent who needs your care: if your ex-spouse objects to your moving then you wont' have much choice in the matter, at all.

if you really think people should have the right to freedom of choice in where to live, for the very good reasons you have listed above (and I agree with you) then you should lobby to have geographic restrictions removed, and allow people to make their own choices about where is the right place to live, given ALL the factors, not just which school district is close enough for the other parent to come to soccer games at.

really fine post Sharon, one of your best.

By hugh owens (not verified) on 04 Jun 2010 #permalink

"Pass-down-economy" - love that! It's weird because all of the (few) possessions that I really value and love are ones that I often think about as something wonderful to pass down to my adult children and grandkids. This truly affects everything that I purchase these days too (which isn't much) - but the thought of passing down is always there. I don't buy books usually, use the library, but if I do it's only because they are ones that I want my family to possess and read (as all three of yours Sharon are on my shelf). Kitchen tools, same thing. Garden tools ditto. Everything else just might as well come from yard sales and 2nd hand stores... why waste money on something I'm going to wear out?

As usual I love your article... keep up your amazing work!


Gangs aren't just correlated with declining power of police protection, they're a competing system for keeping order.

If you look at the paradigm examples of organized crime (mid-19th century Sicily, prohibition-era Chicago, etc.), the problem wasn't necessarily a lack of law-enforcement resources, but a populace that considered the official government to be illegitimate.

Gangs are governmental, in that their power derives from a local population that regards them as legitimate. Stephen Levitt's TED talk mentions that they often use the sound of gunshots to show rival gangs' citizens that their current protectors have lost control, and I've seen a similar phenomenon first-hand. I lived in a bad neighborhood a few years ago, and when my roommate's (very expensive) bike was stolen, she went to the drug dealers and cried and made a scene, and they got it back for her that same evening.

There are tremendous downsides to a feudal system of government, don't get me wrong, but at the same time I see no reason to fear a street gang as being un-responsive to the community's needs. Nimble responsiveness to local concerns is actually their only important advantage in the power struggles that decide among them.

I should've proofread better; I phrased one point very awkwardly:

The sound of gunshots is meant to undermine confidence in a neigboring gang's ability to maintain order. The gang shooting into the air hope for the support of the people in this disputed territory, because they'll look like good protectors if things will settle down once they're in power. Sorry if that wasn't clear.

I've really struggled with where to live when... It makes it doubly hard when spouses come from opposite sides of the globe, as one poster also mentioned. Where we are now in the US, we live in a warm climate, track house, small lot, poor soil, and overzealous HOA enforcement. I come from the upper midwest, with a cool climate 8-10 months of the year, but strong family ties, great soil, and ample freshwater--but a place where my family will be an obvious racial minority. My spouse comes from a developing nation, very near to fresh water and fishing that comes with that, good soil, strong sense of place and community, lots of local tradition (good and bad),and poor medical care, but somewhere which will ultimately be left alone and forgotten when the day comes. I would be a racial minority, and we would have MANY demands placed us on as "rich Americans." We've tried to move back his home several times, but I've not been able to find a good job there--and my family's home has (I think) the worst economy in the country right now. *sigh* So we stay where we are for now. I suspect we'll end up back at my parent's place at some point (at least I know that they will have the mortgage paid off and a flourishing garden!)

By MamaElijah (not verified) on 06 Jun 2010 #permalink

Shasta, you seem to be suggesting that I should allow one parent to take kids away from another parent and create a burden of transport between them in the service of adapting in place. Personally, I think parents both need to be near their kids, and if you have a kid with someone and get divorced, you are both going to have to make sacrifices on location for 18 years. So no, I wouldn't support ending geographical restrictions - indeed, difficult as it is, I'd argue that having a kid together is a good reason to have to live as close as possible. This sucks, of course, when the ex is a jerk, or the place is awful, but taking care of your kid is the most important thing, right? I say this as the child of two parents (actually four parents) who made a huge number of sacrifices of precisely this sort to keep my sisters and I seeing our parents regularly and able to live a whole life between two homes. So no, I'd not be the person to argue for the lifting of geographical restrictions. It would be preferrable, of course, if the parents could work together, and I know this isn't always possible, but if not, the child getting to be with both parents more often is a greater good than any other factor I can think of.


Dear Sharon,

Thank you so much for this!"Sense of place" is the issue which vexes me the most in life. Finally, analytical help is available!--Your blog, accessed from James Howard Kunsler's. Thanks so much, again!

It is so counter-cultural to build a place to stay and pass on, often it feels a bit odd to not be planning on moving in a few years. I love our little 6 acre farm, and I don't ever, ever want to move again. We are fairly close to family (both blood and chosen), the land feels like home, and with ongoing effort, we can build it into a productive, small farm. It's a lot of work, to be sure, but it feels right.

Thanks for the encouragement to keep on keepin' on.

Sharon, thank you for this post. I am sending it to my children to explain why I am moving near one and not the other. Hoping (but not expecting) that the other will think about moving before she has to walk away from her big house unable to sell it. I hurt every time I think about it.