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A picture of Clayton Lake my mom took from the plane window on her way back Downeast.

Today we hit the six month mark of our stay here at Clayton Lake. I’m sorry to anyone who may have placed any bets….I’ve made it this far! :)

It’s so crazy to think about all the things that terrified me before the move. Groceries, the drive in, sickness, distance from family, keeping my sanity……we’ve adjusted quite well! We usually make it out to food shop once every week or two. The Realty road has been in awesome condition all winter…sometimes better than the paved roads. Knock on wood, but none of us have been sick all winter (I know I will regret writing that). We make sure to have visitors or travel back Downeast once a month. As far as my sanity….I feel more myself here than anywhere. :)

Thoughts from our first week here….

It was on my 25th birthday that I packed up my whole life to start a new one. It’s difficult to describe the feeling that you’re left with after driving 70 miles on a gravel road to reach your “destination”. Now, I’m using the word destination lightly. It isn’t a feeling like any I’ve ever felt. Panic stricken…alienated…a mix of the two?

Now, I know the hunters and recreational fishermen who have made the North Woods their vacation destination for years, feel the complete opposite. But when you have two boys under the age of 4 in the back seat, and you know that you’re not here for a weekend vacation, but a little more of a permanent stay, your thoughts tend to go a little static.

When we arrived at the house, I texted Mom to tell her we were still alive (we are able to communicate with our iphones because of the wireless…messages are sent through imessage). I looked at my phone a few minutes later to find that the message had not gone through. The wireless was not working and we were left with no option of contact with the outside world other than the police radio.

My detox from society began.

Silence can be a very scary thing when you’re used to a LOT of noise, to too much noise. Those first couple of days of “silence” for me were so unsettling. The house was a complete and total disaster…boxes were everywhere, the boys were being their wild selves, and the Warden was busy trying to get organized for his first day of work. It was a bit of an overload.

When the distractions were eliminated, my thoughts narrowed. I no longer had any concerns with what everyone else was thinking about at home…they were completely out of reach. Their thoughts were not accessible to me. My children, my husband, my dog, myself, and our daily routines and needs were what consumed me. Exactly the way it should be, right?

After the first couple of days, the house started looking better and I was able to get the boys used to a new schedule. It took me several days to work up the nerve to go for a walk by myself with the boys. I grew up playing in the woods. My little brother and I would go for hours behind our house exploring. I wouldn’t say that I’m afraid of being outside alone, but Evan had seen a couple of bear cross the road in just the short time since we had been there. When you’re 82 miles from the nearest hospital, your mind tends to run rampant with worst case scenarios. If something were to happen while we were on our walk, I would have to run back to the house to use the police radio or I’d have to run to the logging depot and hope someone was there so I could use the phone. The lack of control is unnerving.

After walking a little over a mile, we were able to see the lake. Andrew and I sat down at the end of the dock and watched Jackson “fish” with his fishing pole. We were alone. It was so quiet. The sun was shining and the clouds were floating by. I took a deep breath and heard nothing….but I felt everything. I had a peace in my heart that I hadn’t had in a long time. It was in that moment that I truly felt a sense of peace with my new home and with myself, that feeling you get when you take a deep breath and your whole body relaxes when you exhale. I hadn’t felt it in a LONG time.

The past year had been non stop go go go….my thoughts couldn’t keep up. I was constantly looking ahead. Looking forward to something that hadn’t happened yet and losing little pieces of the present. During that first week it was truly as if my whole being was detoxing. My focus narrowed drastically. Everything was scaled back. In that moment at the lake, my thoughts were able to catch up and everything went quiet. Everything slowed down.

I’ve never really thought about the phrase “peace and quiet”. After the last six months of living in the woods, I’ve come to realize that it takes some serious work and self evaluation to be able to be at peace in the quiet.

Rianne Ackley

About Rianne Ackley

I grew up in Downeast Maine but have recently relocated to the North Woods. I live in Clayton Lake where I am a stay at home Mom to two beautifully wild little boys and wife to a Maine State Game Warden. I am a lover of the simple things in life...a good book, a song, a rainy day, a bowl of white popcorn, etc. I have a slight obsession with all things food. Love cooking it, eating it, looking at it, smelling it, reading about it, etc. I am a firm believer that life is what you make it.