It’s only when we allow ourselves to be lost that we can really truly find ourselves. I figured that basic truth out by accident. When Yoda and I first left on our five month road trip, hitting the open road was an act of desperation. I was running away from my broken life. I was more lost than I had ever imagined possible, and by leaving the life I had lived for the previous 15 years I essentially dove deep into the dark abyss of the unknown and become even more lost by driving around the country without a plan. I surrendered to the unknown because I had no other choice. It was only through that surrender that I was able to shed parts of my life that weren’t working and allow those parts that were working to grow.
It’s been over four years now since I left my old life behind, and I’m still rebuilding and still learning to live an authentic life. It takes a lot of courage to live a life that is so radically different than the life I had scripted for myself when I was younger. I draw a lot of courage to keep striving for a better tomorrow from the stories of other people who have likewise turned their lives upside down and worked hard to create new futures for themselves.
I met one of these people last summer when my boyfriend and I were road tripping to New Mexico’s hot springs. We intentionally veered off course and drove to Pie Town, New Mexico, a hamlet with a population of only about 153 people, to meet Kathy Knapp, the owner of the Pie-O-Neer Café. I had long heard about Kathy and the delicious pies that she bakes from my friend Beth Howard (author of Ms. American Pie and Making Piece). Little did I know that by meeting Kathy I would not only be filling my belly with pie, but I’d be filling my soul as she shared her story with me.
When we met Kathy, she greeted us with warm hugs and then promptly served coffee and three slices of pie for us to devour as we got to know one another (coconut cream pie, cheery cherry pie and very berry pie). Kathy used to be a very successful business woman in the advertising industry. The short version of her story is that she owned a thriving jingle company and split her time between Dallas and California. Yet despite the financial rewards of her career, she wasn’t happy.
In 1995, while on vacation with her family, she drove through Pie Town and discovered that the town had no pie. Her mom was convinced that a town named Pie Town needed pie, and so together they bought a defunct trading post and turned it into the Pie-O-Neer Café, which her mom operated while Kathy continued her big city corporate life. Years later, Kathy was finally ready to admit that she was wanted more out of her life than her life was giving her. So she left her business and moved to rural New Mexico to take over running the Pie-O-Neer Café. It wasn’t an easy transition at first, but over the years everything began to fall into place.
Kathy is funny and energetic, and has that certain glow about her that I’ve begun to recognize in people who have dug down deep to figure out what will make them happy, done the messy work to heal themselves, and learned to fully embrace their authentic selves. She’s the first to admit that living in a dusty rural town in the middle of New Mexico wasn’t the life she initially pictured for herself. But it is the life that now makes her wildly happy.
In our initial e-mail exchange when I told Kathy I was coming to Pie Town to meet her, she said “We pride ourselves on making pie that makes you feel better… body and soul.” She was right about that, meeting her and eating her pie really did nourish my soul. I really think it’s because Kathy infuses her pie with the passion and love that she has for her new life.
**A short film about Kathy, “Pie Lady of Pie Town,” is currently making the rounds on the festival circuit. I can’t wait to see it!