Margaret Roach's friends worried that she would be alone, unanchored and miserable when she left behind the rewards and demands of her extremely successful career at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia and fled to her former summer home in upstate New York to begin a new life. This fresh start was an abrupt change from the regimented schedule of her city life. Suddenly there were no meetings, event-crammed calendars, paychecks, obligations, perks, clout, or rules.
City Margaret wore designer clothes and lived a highly organized life. Country Margaret wore pajamas whenever she wanted to and had a blank calendar. But Margaret had always been something of a loner. And since she loved the country and was an avid gardener and bird watcher, after several years of threatening to leave corporate life, and after careful research of her financial condition, she finally yielded to her inner voice and chucked it all.
Two questions that Country Margaret had to answer if she was to find any peace and comfort in her new life were: "Who am I if I am not mroach@marthastewart dot com any longer?" and "How do I go about reinventing myself?"
Margaret's first days in the country were spent divesting herself of most of her wardrobe, categorizing and alphabetizing a vast array of CDs, and sorting freezer containers and matching the containers with their lids. She seemed at loose ends, which was quite predictable, given her circumstances.
Before long, she realized that the state of solitude had its very own stresses. An avid bird watcher, Margaret was not a cat person by any means; however, a stray black and white cat she had seen once or twice during her weekend trips decided rather tentatively to take up residence on her property. And though terribly afraid of snakes, she was actually residing in rattlesnake territory. When Country Margaret attempted to step out her door and her left foot landed on a snake, was this an omen?
City Margaret had practiced yoga, studied the Zen masters, attended retreats, and consulted with a psychiatrist. If anything, she had a tendency to overthink things. Living so close to nature now gave her the opportunity to slow down and absorb the patterns and rhythms of nature. But learning to sit, to just be, to pay attention, was turning out to be more difficult than she had ever imagined.
Margaret became intimately acquainted with the lives of the frogs, the birds, the snakes, and, of course, the cat. She read vociferously and often looked things up, just out of curiosity, not out of necessity. Through her research, Country Margaret even learned to identify animal scat, deposit by deposit. She tended her garden and coddled her compost. She loved growing her own food and preparing fresh vegetarian meals.
Through trial and error, Margaret learned to frighten away snakes by stomping on the ground, to create a popular and very successful garden blog, and to become a cat person. What did Margaret learn from her drastic change in lifestyles? That change is never easy, but it's possible, and sometimes it's the right course to take.
Reviewed by Carole Turner on March 28, 2011