Our lives are bound up in calendars, smartphones and social media. There is always a job to do, somewhere to be.
Not on Thanksgiving, though. It’s a time to slow down, to get back to the basics: family, food and fellowship.
But for the Bonny family, Thanksgiving is a way of life. A little more than a year ago, they decided to unplug from our culture of false connectivity. It may sound strange for a couple in their early 30s, but for them, it is freedom.
Miles Bonny, a celebrated Kansas City DJ and musician, had grown frustrated with the hardships of full-time artistry. His wife, Jesse, a stay-at-home mom, had given birth to their second daughter.
She came up with a plan to live on less. They built a solar-paneled trailer, packed up their Kansas City home and hit the road for a new start in Tres Piedras, in northern New Mexico. They recently put the finishing touches on their new house, made of straw bales, adobe, wood and the like. They’re back in KC this week to celebrate the accomplishment with family.
Solar panels supply their electricity. They have no TV, no Internet. The community they live in is filled with like-minded people.
Miles works part-time at a youth shelter. Jesse is learning about growing food in the desert. Six-year-old Luna says she likes living in a house she helped build and enjoys her new friends. Georgia, 2, sums up her feelings in a smile and one word: “Ribbit!”
The jump, skip and hop to living rurally started with the kids, Miles and Jesse say. Their lives used to be all frozen pizzas, busy calendars and checking boxes off the list that society sets for us. You know, look a certain way, have a specific kind of job and status updates galore. But parenthood changed that.
Jesse quit her job at Nordstrom when she was pregnant with her first child. She knew she wanted to stay at home. She started looking into midwives and home births — the first among her circle of girlfriends to do such a thing. It just seemed more natural, she says. And as she looked to simplify life, a domino effect began.
“I fell down a rabbit hole,” she says. “Motherhood motivated me to expand my knowledge. Fabric diapers, growing herbs, doing research on farming and becoming more self-sustaining. It led us here.”
She found the Tres Piedras community, where the vibe is very Wild West DIY. They live near both a forest and mountains. Her next project is getting the community to reopen an old school. She hopes it can double as a recreation center.
“Life is different,” she says. “The pendulum is swinging the other way. I put a lot less pressure on myself to be perfect in the ways of the world. I am more relaxed. It wasn’t easy, building our own home. But it’s rewarding, having done it, to be self-sustaining and see your work. But I also know it’s OK to eat junk food sometimes or go crash out at a hotel and watch TV.”
Miles says he has a new perspective on life and appreciation for Kansas City, a place that has become the vacation hometown to their new lifestyle.
“I’m not lost in the matrix,” he says. “I am in the moment, experiencing what is happening right in front of me. Most people spend more time, trying to make more money to buy more things that they think they need. We need less, we spend less and we have so much more.”
He’s still working on his music. He plans to build a studio out of straw bale next year. His friends and fellow musicians ask him questions about going off the grid. Two years ago, he made an album, “Lumberjack Soul,” the title a joke about his scruffy beard and love for flannel shirts. Now, he really is living like a lumberjack, he says, laughing.
“I’m meeting more people who want to make the change,” he says. “I tell them you can’t have fear. The more I learned to trust my gut, the more I lost fear and found freedom. I’m with my family. Everyone has their own concept of freedom, and whatever yours may be, you should live that.”