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  • Writer's pictureZach Michaud

Celebrating My Move

As of the first week of November, Old Ways Ceremonies moved from Portland, Oregon back to its roots in Maine. My roots in Maine, that is. The business and I both had our births on the west coast but, as I reference in my bio, I grew up in Maine and almost my entire family still lives here. Old Ways Ceremonies has enjoyed a joyful infancy in Oregon and the greater Pacific Northwest. Now, I hope it grows into a strong adolescence and adulthood in the New England area.

Making such a big change in some ways felt sudden and at the same time had been in the back of my mind for some time with a mix of factors tipping the scales for me. Ever since I took a permaculture class back in 2017-2018, I have been craving to work closer with the earth. And I did, but it was within a city. The sale of my house in Northeast Portland, Oregon as part of my divorce gave me some money that I wanted to invest in a new property, but I didn’t want a huge mortgage. Or any mortgage if I could help it. That wasn’t a possibility in the city and rural Oregon felt too isolated. I already felt far away from my family in Maine and rural Oregon would have taken me even farther away from them and the community of friends I had made in PDX. As much as they love me, I knew my friends would find it hard to visit the country often. The last piece that fell into place was quitting pharmacy at the end of 2022. Going full time as a Celebrant this year gave me the perspective I needed to know that I could build this business wherever I wanted to be. I suppose I could have thought the same about pharmacy, but that career was already past its expiration date where I was concerned.

Mixed with the above factors came a few conversations with friends about cohousing that gave me a crystal clear vision of my wants and needs around my next housing situation. My friends wanted to create something within the city. I realized I truly wanted a rural or small town environment, something similar to where I grew up. I took myself to the computer to look at property in Maine. I had done this directly after selling my house, but without the clarity I had recently gained. Up popped this property:

To me, it was perfect. I reached out to my realtor uncle to see if he could find me any other information and he connected me to another realtor in the area who started working with me. The house was built in 1970 and I assume it was used as more of a camp or off grid house for a while. This means it’s on a pier and beam foundation, it doesn’t have a septic system, and its primary heat source is a wood stove. Other people would have balked at this combination and the house was priced to reflect that. My permaculture training saw potential for renewable resource use and soil building opportunities. The price, based on the “undesirable” features, allowed me to afford the house and the 6.5 acres of wooded land it sits on without taking out a mortgage. This will allow me to shift my focus around work. I will be able to work as much as I need to take care of my expenses, which are relatively low. House maintenance will add some significant costs, but the shift is still immense. After a last minute, whirlwind flight out to see the house, I made an offer that was accepted.

The month of October was spent finishing the couple of weddings I had booked, packing up my apartment at the Ecovillage I lived in for the last two years, saying goodbyes to my stunned Oregon friends, and preparing for the cross country drive that started October 30th. My mother had flown out to make the drive with me. By midafternoon, the truck was loaded, my car perched atop the auto transport we trailered behind us and off we went.

Challenges of moving were inevitable, no matter how well I planned. Several of my challenges stem from the fact that the sellers of my house needed to rent back from me for a month. That has become standard in the current realty climate, but it has added extra hurdles. It pushed my move-in date to December 2nd when temperatures hover around freezing and snow has already arrived. My mother helped me realize that I should move early to avoid any weather on the road, but that has meant a month of staying with family.

Maine’s early winters meant that I had to prepare even before I set foot in my place. Firewood needed to be tracked down immediately. My rowing shell, which was so generously shipped across the continent by a joint effort between my Oregon rowing team and Bates College’s team, needed a place out of the impending snow to avoid damage. I have also been sourcing tools from family to help with some roof repair and tree removal around my chimney when I do make it onto the property.

Healthcare is in limbo at the moment. Previously, I was on Oregon’s Medicaid. I have looked into signing up for Maine’s equivalent, but without being at my physical location to collect mail, I have decided not to proceed for now. Wouldn’t universal healthcare be truly life changing? 

My business’ web presence has also been in a bit of limbo. I attempted to change my address with Google Business and my account has been suspended. I realized I had not even changed my website’s information, so I have been slowly updating that. Wedding Wire was another place I needed to change my information, but that needs special intervention. Here I am crossing my fingers that my SEO that I have worked so hard at improving has not totally tanked.

Moving is expensive! Truck and trailer rental. Storage unit rental. Gas. Lodging. Meals. Tolls. Sales tax! Extra shipping costs to the rural places in which my family, and now I, live. 

The challenges of the move have given me a few buyers' remorse moments - what have I done - but I have also seen immediate positives, some hoped for and some unexpected. The plan to drive over early was a great choice because we had beautiful sunny weather the whole way across. My family has showered me with generosity since I arrived. They are housing me and feeding me at no cost to myself. They are giving of their own resources - furniture, tools, dishes. And they have been setting me up with any local connections that they think might help me.

Key elements that I didn’t expect to find or imagined would arrive after much time had passed are already showing me that the shape of my life here will be very close to what I had hoped for. The Radical Faeries in the area have already made themselves known to me. Reverend Maureen Cotton, who I have admired from afar for years, has already started referring wedding clients to me! I have found numerous wedding venues and family funeral homes simply driving around and scanning local tourism pamphlets. I can’t wait to reach out to many of them this winter. A few brief trips to the bank or the grocery store have given me glimpses of the small town culture that I had been yearning for. It was something that I had absorbed in Maine while growing up here. It manifested itself in Neighborhood Association involvement while living in the city, and now I can see myself weaving into the fabric of the small towns surrounding me.

I’m finishing this from the public library three towns over from my father’s house. It was the only one open. There are only days until I get to move into my place. I still don’t know exactly when, but it is so close. There will be a LOT of work to do when I finally get there. I know many unexpected challenges and more positives will make themselves known.

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