Re-emerging

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“Bless me Father for I have sinned…”   It’s been six months since my last post.

I have struggled on many fronts, though the lessons learned have ultimately brought unexpected joys and self-knowledge. I stopped publishing because I began to feel raw and vulnerable. There was too much of me out there, as well as others whose lives touched mine.

“Try another voice? Dial it back from reality?” the suggestions only brought a sense of defeat – a stilted story of someone else. Don’t get me wrong; I adore fiction and devour at least one novel a week. I, however, can never produce fiction. So I have not stopped writing. My journals overflow with more than 4000 words a month. The editing is woefully lacking and I question whether anyone else would find solace in the words.

How does one reinvent, reemerge, recover lost ground? One thought is to compose a letter, a pen-pal style missive once a month to those who kindly support me and have an interest in my writing. If recipients were those I knew is some capacity,  and I could feel more comfortable sharing my intimate view of life, perhaps many needs could be met and the dilemma would be solved.

Thoughts and suggestions are greatly appreciated.

Alice

Useless Spring Chores

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It’s 25°s cooler today than the day before, still a balmy 68° but overcast and humid. In the distance, through the woods comes the muffled sound of a lawn mower as a neighbor begins the weekly ritual of trying to create a green space out of granite. The Ravens murmur to each other as they silently swoop overhead and the crickets thrum as they will for their short lives.

New and repaired screens are installed, final three pots are planted with saucy yellow flowers and the garage is swept. My list grows shorter and I take a break to step out onto the freshly stained, front deck and admire my little homestead. Splashes of color are appearing amid the overgrown patches I consider my gardens.

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I’m not sure what tree is shedding these blooms, I suspect the giant oaks, but like the leaves in Fall, suddenly they are carpeting all the clean spaces.

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They cling to spider webs and dance in the slightest breeze.

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They curl around the corners of every chair and table, leaving a dusty mustard-colored silt. I grabbed a broom and made a stab at ridding the deck of them. It was like pushing snow. The broom clogged and I immediately lost interest. A useless spring task indeed. I think I will just wait for the rain to wash them away…

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The Check’s in the mail…

In the long litany of things that didn’t go according to plan, a small victory has emerged. Though I doubted the insurance adjuster’s intelligence and cursed him in my mind, the one thing I hadn’t counted on was the system actually working to my favor.

There was an offer on the house after 15 months. The home inspection found mold. Buyer walked and estimate for remediation was about 4 months living expenses. Homeowner’s insurance claimed to include mold coverage, but it looked shaky.

Twelve years of paying the premiums and doing my best to maintain the dwelling finally repaid me with coverage of said mold and then some; for the niggling repairs that it will take to say good-bye to home ownership. The Check is in the mail.

I have lived in 13 homes over the past 40+ years. I have owned 5. As a couple, (i.e. two-responsible-adults-in-case-one-fails,)  four pieces of real estate bore my name. This one has always been just mine;  the joy, the headaches and the scary moments of ice storms and generators. I shared it with daughters, dogs, cats and friends, but it was always my responsibility.

“Maybe it will miraculously be fixed the next time I try it. I’ll just give it a minute…”

This has been my mantra when things got wrong around the house. I have only enough knowledge to be dangerous when it comes to electricity or plumbing. Paint covers a lot of mistakes. If things get desperate enough I will call one of the long-suffering tradesmen who have bailed me out of nasty situations over the years. We catch up on mutual friends and talk about how fast kids grow as these kind souls do their best to patch up whatever has gone wrong. They give me a cash discount because that’s just what folks around here do for each other.

I think they are tolerant of my emergencies because they see me as an eccentric who pops up every few years and they just can’t believe I hang on alone. I almost want to throw a last house party and invite them all to say good-bye to the house with me.

Over time I have become amazingly frugal and self-sufficient. I’m not blowing my horn here. It has been a long lesson in financial responsibility and what it takes to make myself happy.

Where you get your mail is home. Today’s bundle of flyers, post cards and catalogs also included a missive to the buyers who backed out of owning this little piece of paradise. They went so far as to send in a change of address to AAA!  I will put it back in the mailbox and marked it: RETURN TO SENDER – ADDRESS UNKNOWN!.

The Check was in the mail…

N.B. Comments are closed but thank you for including me in your day!

Refugee

We are accepting the house as a home, or perhaps more precisely, it is accepting us. Ravens wheel and caw, owls call, loons, ducks and geese are leaving in loud gaggles. If one dials back the human noise and pays attention, the sounds of the wild are comforting.

Alice has become more imbued in the place than I. But then, she spends many hours alone here. Instead of a large, wooded yard and a shady deck complete with cushioned chairs, she now has a small platform high above the yard. A somewhat busy road populated by joggers, dog walkers, bikers and sundry vehicular traffic entertain her. Rather than voicing alarm at the proximity of the world, she sits in silent disapproval.

There are still piles of art and tchotchkes seeking permanent homes, but order is coming to the chaos and this mini-version of the Temple house is absorbing our belongings. Winter will offer its own challenge with the addition of outerwear, but by then I think we will have this relocation under control.

Rain on the tin roof, pure comfort.

Welcome to my new town!

Life at the lake

Two women are standing in the parking lot. It’s about 6:30pm on a week night and they have just finished a long day and an early dinner. The topic of conversation is whether or not to continue the evening or just call it a day and head to their respective homes. Distractedly, both look down at the tires on their trucks, pull their sweaters tighter against the coming chill as the sun sets. “Damn! I’m going to need tires this winter!”

“I was just thinking the same thing! Oh no, what’s that going to cost?”

Such is life after 60 in the hills of New Hampshire. I head down the road to my humble cabin by the lake and stop to admire the last rays of August lighting up the edges of the water. A long, holiday weekend stretches ahead and the end of summer coincides with the end of an era…

Hello from Lake Skatutakee!

While the rest of humanity has writhed in the minutia of  politics and world events, weather and sports, I am immersed in creating a new chapter. Life has taken some bumpy turns, but I am on the other side now and beginning to shake out the camera and pen.

I never stopped writing, and what I wrote may never see the light of day. It is done and now I move forward and commit once again to pursue who I am, not what circumstances are trying to define as me.

Yesterday I took the morning off from unpacking to go to the barn. I had not ridden Night in weeks and needed some “Equine Therapy.” True to form, she was happy to see me and we had an hour-long ride down the back roads and through the woods. Night was steady and calm. We took advantage of  several chances to blast down the deserted trails.

Had my first kayak on the lake today. Friends had planned to come by for a paddle but something came up so I set out alone. It is a wide lake, lots of homes/docks/boats on our side but less across the way. There was no one else out. Though it was a cool 70 °, the sun and exercise quickly warmed me and I stripped off my layers. Two Loons popped up in front of me and I drifted quietly by. I love hearing their ancient calls. Last night the moon, though not full, was bright and clear. I heard the Loons eerie serenade from a cove across the water. They will leave in a month or so but for now I am blessed with their songs.

I have bright red apples on the tree by the patio. The poor branches are laden and threatening to snap under the weight. Never had an apple tree that I can remember. I’ve further burdened it with my wind chimes. After the night sounds fade, a slight breeze through the chimes reminds me that home is what I make it. Perhaps I shall read some of my journals for inspiration and comfort, now that they are unpacked and arranged by date.

The house in Trinidad comes to mind, though it was sparsely furnished when we moved in and we were given a ‘move-in kit” of sheets, towels and cookware. Awaiting the long arrival of our ‘stuff’ was torturous. On the other hand, we went to Jakarta with nothing. Having learned our lesson about shipping precious memories in the form of worldly goods, we arrived with little more than our clothes. When I left Jakarta, I had to part with collected treasures such as a Saté Wagon, a dug-out canoe, Roger’s collection of New Guinea poison dart blow guns, massive carvings and textiles…so many memories.

And so I start anew. Familiar art and touches of lives past surround me. Alice vacillates between confused and tired. Every day brings a little more sense of comfort.

 

And so it goes in July…

Night #1 of Staycation 2017

Friday night, kick back with movies on the couch as the thunderstorms rage.

N.B. “In America” is a monumental film

Day 1 – Saturday

Run the usual errands then read in the sun, there may have been some napping happening too.

A stiff breeze, the wind chimes dancing and all the birds calling for rain.

Another thunderstorm is brewing…

If I’m lucky it will drown the inevitable fireworks.

Day 2 of Staycation – Sunday

What do you do on vacation? Read, write, nap, cook, eat and repeat. To change the venue up a bit, I moved the grill to the deck off the kitchen.

Alice LOVES staycations:

  • Extra bones and time together
  • Lots of together time in a familiar place
  • Freedom to roam from back to front decks and follow the sun
  • Did I mention time together?

Returned to Mountain Brook Reservoir for a brief kayak. Today I pretended to be a sailboat; tacking around the pond with the wind choosing my direction. I followed a herd? flock? of 18 Canada Geese for a while as they traversed the open water. I was part of the flock…

Day 3 of Staycation – Monday

Alice watched a frenzy of cleaning – toys and bones disappeared, the floors were slippery, wet and apparently “OFF LIMITS!!” She retreated to the quiet of the front deck. Just as suddenly, it all ceased. The cleanliness program came to an abrupt halt when I realized that if I was going to ride today it had to be right now.

A Scarlet Tanager caught my eye as Night and I walked peacefully down the trail. It was so spectacular, I had to look it up in my bird books when I got home. The Mountain Laurel is in full dress – pink, deep dusty rose, stark white and all hues in between.

I love this time of year when the Mare is sleek and buff. Spring brings the awkward, unattractive stage of shedding. Polar Fleece is the layer I have shed down to after a winter of layers. Polar Fleece + wintry horse hair = itch.

My mad dash to get to the barn (along with the cleaning frenzy) was brought on by two requests to show the house from 12:30 to 5pm. Alice and I would be nomads for hours. What happened to STAY as in enjoy your own home?

After my ride, the final push on cleaning commenced. Alice avoided me. I packed a picnic of homemade Gazpacho soup, fresh fruit salad and crackers. With a quick stop for water and the NY Times we were on our way.

We settled at a table in the shade next to MacDowell Dam; I with my lunch and newspaper, Alice with a fresh marrow bone I so thoughtfully  packed for her. There was a lovely breeze and thankfully very few other folks around. Those who did appear respected our privacy; they were distant enough to merit our attention only briefly.

We circled around town then headed north to Washington. With 2.5 hours to kill perhaps a visit to the Lake Cottage would fill our time. It’s been years since I have driven down that dirt road on the 4th of July weekend. Ghosts of past celebrations seeped into my mood and I couldn’t manage more than a quick stop to let Alice stretch her legs and have a drink. Some memories are best left alone.

Finally, driving on fumes as the gas gauge lit up, we arrived back in our neighborhood. We parked at the Wapak Trail where we walk every morning. Alice was pleased to get out and pee someplace familiar.

It was good to come home. I grilled swordfish and made a green salad for my dinner. Alice was equally pleased with her usual cup of kibble. A Flicker sat in the tree above the deck and boisterously called his mate. Alice reclaimed her bones and toys. I danced with abandon to a Trace Bundy guitar solo and felt lucky to be staycationing in such a wonderful place.

Staycation Day #4 – The Fourth of July

Never make plans that are too constricting. A quick jaunt to the barn became a lovely long walk with four other riders. Not our usual fare but Night and I saw a different side of going out into the woods. It was Tuesday, “fuel for the truck” day as I focus on not using more than a tank per week. What I really should be doing for the Truck is washing, waxing and cleaning the interior. Poor Truck. Alice and I are on vacation at the moment, it’s just not your turn…

 

And so it goes…

“I miss your bees!”

“I miss them too…”

So began my conversation with a neighbor. I told him about the bear, just a roly-poly yearling I found in the backyard this morning. He said his garden was doing really well this year despite the lack of neighborhood pollinators. He has the week off. Bought himself a power washer and the plan is to wash and stain his house. I told him about my almost-buyer and my mold.

Home ownership. There have been three showing in the last three days. Should have been four but one was a no-show. Two seem interested, at least they asked follow-up questions on utility rates and building permits. I worry when I don’t have lookers. I worry when the lookers might be buyers. This is nothing but worry.  Alice and I drive the back roads slowly, stopping to admire the streams and rock outcroppings. There is nothing good about being kicked out of your home for hours at a time while unknown people are perusing your life. Some complain about things like the kitchen. I love my funky, Mexican-inspired kitchen, but it is not for everyone. On the other hand, I have turned out amazing feasts in that stilted space. Many will attest to my culinary talents.

I was collecting flowers for the showings this morning, wandering around the house with scissors and blooms in hand. As I rounded the corner of the garage,  Boo-boo the bear was hefting his butt over the deck railing. Skeedles was dancing in a circle pointing and silently miming some sign for danger. There be bears and these woods…

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In the Pink

Sixty-two…

The Inspector. If you are the buyer, his job is to strip your dream naked and point out every pimple, wart, and blemish. You have already arranged your furniture and pictured yourself sipping coffee early in the morning on the deck, listening to the birds and watching the sun rise.

If you are the seller, his job is to reduce the financial return you thought you would receive for loving, caring and ultimately giving up this home.

We have all ridden in this particular rodeo before, the dream is painted with all the changes you will make and the bones of the house support your vision despite the small bits of mold and rot.

After 12 years I am closing the chapter on this address. While there were things I knew would raise red flags with the home inspection, there are also hidden sores that break my heart (and checkbook) before I can move on. I suppose if I had a partner in my life, someone to be the voice of reason when I’m ready to pull out the 410 and exercise my right to bear arms, this would be slightly easier. Alice is not the voice of reason and Skeedles disappears with depressing regularity.

On the flip side. As I pursue the next address to put on my Christmas cards, my honed sense of what can go wrong with a house allows me to temper my expectations. I’m still operating on the concept that my next home hasn’t presented itself to me. The options at the moment are

  • an antique charmer with a wood stove, a killer view and fun kitchen but lots of years of minimal maintenance.
  • the straw bale house, bright and airy with environmental comfort but lacking my creature comforts of closets, a fireplace and a 10 minute commute.
  • a lake house with a wood stove and, well, a lake, and a 20 minute commute .
  • a tiny “walk through’ house, close to work, within walking distance to shopping, dining but with less privacy and nature.
  • a log cabin that doesn’t want pets just 5 miles from our current home.

As a newly minted renter, I am looking for a long-term situation. This is good. I’m ‘mature’ and responsible both fiscally and in my lifestyle. That is good. Now to come to a decision. For the first time in fifteen months I have some feeling of control over my immediate future.

Poof!

And just like that my Happy disappeared. It walked out the door when my realtor called at 10:00 on Friday morning – my 62nd birthday. The potential buyers ‘walked’ on the sale of my house. I crashed and burned on the steps outside the office as Sean was bringing me a box of decadent cupcakes.

So why does this feel familiar? What part of this emotion seems to taunt me with thoughts I have failed? I go back to my diaries (it was a better alternative to sitting in the middle of the living room with a gas can and a match) and I search for another “Chapter” and how it unfolded.

Though I have no lengthy entries from the period, except brief notes on the threshold of misery and the extreme happiness beyond. I do remember that particular real estate living hell. Jeff and I sold the house in Littleton and had an offer in on a farm in West Swanzey, NH. The speed bumps and road signs were blaring “Danger” but we were blind to them and the NH farm became a disaster of nightmare proportions. Ultimately we had 30 days to find a house/home/barn for two daughters, two dogs, a cat and three horses.

The farm in Lunenburg emerged and for the next 18 years it was the best move I have ever made. Childhoods were lived, milestones were passed and lessons of life were learned.

Indeed, my heart broke and I wept at the set-back this time around. Being unable to see how this would “All turn out for the best!” I chose to ignore the fact that I was now back to the beginning with no house sale.  The next day I was scheduled to look at a house way off in the back country that seemed to hit every mark on my list. If you gave me a piece of land, far up atop a hill, and I built exactly half of this house, that was it. Smaller space but perfect in every other way from the walk-out deck off the kitchen and living room, to the spacious loft and cathedral ceilings. This newer rental was in need of a good cleaning but not much else. Due to my sudden loss of a timeline for moving, I let it go.

All this is bringing me closer to finding what is next. All this is a very Therapeutic Misadventure…

Queen of the Stage…

At this point I am the Queen of house showings. After more than 15 months of living with my house on the market, I have it down to a science and a routine.

I’ve reduced the hours it takes to ‘stage’ the house and know exactly what order to execute the items on my list:

  1. Fresh flowers in not just the obvious but also surprising little places.
  2. A gentle scent, not overpowering air freshener, but a hint of pine and holidays – picture your Christmas tree here!
  3. Background music that isn’t “Muzac” but something unobtrusive and simple – piano or classic guitar solo.
  4. All personal hygiene items removed and any signs of daily life such as the coffee maker stowed. “Imagine making your coffee and strolling out to the deck in your robe as the birds awaken with song.”
  5. Hide all of Alice’s bones and toys. Put blankets/sheets covering furniture out of sight.
  6. Lastly, wash the kitchen floor and turn on the lights in every room. Sparkling floors, No dark corners and a slight smell of ‘just cleaned’ prevail.

Now that the inspections have shown the dark underbelly of what needs repair, I am focused on how to hook the next owner into seeing where they will put their own touches on this home. Tomorrow is the first showing since the deal went south and though it pains me to begin all over again, I know how to do this…

In the Pink!

It’s the Pink season for the house. Though the garden looks like a jungle at the moment, I know the next color to explode into the walkway is yellow. Right now, the last of the Peonies are imploding as a deep, burgundy rose takes center stage.

Flat water paddling

I took myself on a solo kayak this morning. The day was warm with a good breeze and high clouds, perfect for flat-water paddling. One of the perks I have working for the Chamber is access to creative projects that not only feed my mind as I work through them but provide invaluable bits of information for feeding my soul later. I’m writing and producing a Relocation magazine for the Contoocook Valley and one of the resource guides/tables I’ve worked on is where to go for outdoor recreation. Golf, hiking, skiing, boating, fishing and other pursuits are listed for those newcomers to the area.  The boating category allowed me to tap into my personal experience of kayaking the region while adding new spots to try to my list. One of those was Mountain Brook Reservoir in Jaffrey. Who know there it was there?

Bostonpaddler.com had some interesting notes that helped me find the remote launch site. Though he/she must have traversed a different part of the pond as the spectral views of Mt. Monadnock were not forthcoming on my little journey.

A deeply rutted and narrow dirt road lead to the sandy boat launch with minimal parking to the side. It was an easy put-in though the lake/reservoir was not the crystal clear, granite strewn pond I prefer. Boston kayaker.com provided and excellent map so I set out to circle the island and explore the Northwest corners.

The beauty for me of flat-water paddling is that feeling of sinking into the boat, wearing it like a second skin and playing with the nuances of weight and focus.  While these were all critical on the river paddle I took two weekends ago, the river had a steady current and obstacles to be navigated. The river was like riding a cross-country course in equine terms while the flat-water pond held the elegance and subtly of a dressage test.

I envisioned myself as a green dragon-fly slipping over the surface and darting before the wind. A slight dip of one paddle behind would bring me dancing in a circle while a couple of strong pulls propelled me easily across the wide stretches of open water.

Closing out the month

June/Enuj closes out for me with only two days of possible earth-shattering surprises left to shock me. I take comfort in the small victories over things of which I have no control.

  • A nice note from the town clerk advising me that I have been voted in for three more years of board membership with the EDA. Perhaps this has replaced Hospice as my heart-felt volunteering?
  • The insurance is going to cover at least a part of what it will take to make this house salable. Mold removal will commence soon and the queen of stage will work her magic once again.
  • Today my birthday gift from Sean arrived at the Chamber…such a good boss. My business cards, printed on lovely soft brown recycled paper declare me the Director of Membership & Marketing of the Chamber. The other side heralds me as Director & Lead Mentor of AWE.

Identity, security, respect. There is no wage to replace these…

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Enuj – as in, this month is backwards as well

Selling my home is a peeling away of the layers of self. I feel vulnerable and exhilarated; I question my integrity – do I mention the tiny little downsides of living here? Though this particular process definitely is a Guinness World Record in patience, it is beginning to dawn on me that change is finally happening.

Unraveling and finding joy in knowing nothing remains the same and no matter how hard I have tried to imagine the future it has never been the image I held in my mind. Last weekend was three packed days of packing. I made many trips to the storage unit and tucked away out-of-season treasures. Winter coats, christmas decorations, garden sculptures and books went into limbo.  This weekend it was a relief not to have to keep the house in “showing ready’ condition and to take time to ride. Night and I went out alone on Saturday, though we met other riders in the apple orchard, enjoying the cool lushness of Spring.  Today it was a slow walk through the hills with a companion who would like to lease Night for three rides a week. I rode a farm pony and led the way, rewarded with how well Night took care of her rider. There were moments of slight confusion for Night when I wasn’t on her and she looked to me for reassurance. I think they will be good for each other.

The next six weeks will no doubt bring moments of stress and worry but for now, I have a plan.  I have another garden to curate and a next chapter to write.

Backyard in Spring

On another topic, I made myself stop working and indulged in reading a post by a blogger from my past. She wrote painfully and elegantly of the ebb and flow we all experience. And she wrapped it in the cloak of a question: Why do you write?

  • Because one of these days, I’ll get it right and rainbows will appear, Unicorns will dance in a spotlight of sunshine and bluebirds will be a choir singing Disney songs.
  • Because I owe something to the writers who take me away from the routine, bringing stories and people alive for me.
  • Because there is less pressure in simply writing than in writing and publishing
  • Because I may not remember this part of life as it really was…