Monthly Archives: July 2014

Where There’s Music

Cabinet 2 Nothing’s changed and yet everything is changing at our remodel on San Juan Island. We are still strung between homes and living on a boat in Friday Harbor. I commute to Seattle once a week to water plants, sweep walks, collect mail, and run my writing workshop. There, I sleep in my clothes because realtors have been known to come to the door for showings in the early and late hours. I try not to mess a thing while the house is on the market, but to leave it picture perfect. Not really home anymore.

It’s too silent.

And the job site is still just that, a job site. Not home either. If anything, Friday Harbor Marina is starting to feel like home. Ferries come and ferries go, and the rhythm of it all…. One day I’ll be looking back at this time with a certain nostalgia, that I know.

Life is simpler on a boat. It’s amazing how much stuff one doesn’t need. Just the book you are reading and the clothes you are wearing. The elbow-to-elbow closeness of neighbors sharing the same dock. Blinded by fog, and glowing in sunsets together.

The sway of the boats in currents and gentle rolling with waves. The symphonic sounds of wind whipping through halyards and mast stays (flutes). Hulls against rubber fenders (violins). Creaking of pilings against the dock (a cello). Humming of stays (clarinets). And sleeping in our berths on board boats that are talking to each other in the night.

Things are going up, however, at the house. Until now, I had to close my eyes to picture anything we had specified. Now, with the kitchen cabinets in, I can start to see with eyes wide open. How handsome they look in an expresso brown that’s nearly black, standing about like so many waiters in a cafe wearing white shirts and long, pressed black linen aprons over pants.

The kitchen was central to our plans; it’s only right that that go first. And as the materials go up, color and texture start to come in to play. Followed by music. One can almost hear it.

Café music.

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Good Housekeeping

good housekeeping

We’ve been out on the island for about four weeks working on the house. Well the contractor has been working on the house, and we’ve been doing whatever we can to help move things along. After all, we are expecting houseguests end of the month.

After ferrying over from the mainland 2000 sq ft hardwood flooring, 300 sq ft tile, and 70 gallons of paint, Paul painted the eves and trim so the men could start shingling. Then together we whitewashed boards for the vaulted ceiling in the living room, and assembled some kitchen cabinetry—who knew it would arrive unassembled? And no, we didn’t buy at IKEA. Having fallen in love with the kitchen in the HGTV Dream Home 2014, Lake Tahoe, we drew inspiration and ideas from that. As its cabinetry was from Cabinets to Go!, that’s where we went. The salesman worked with us on customizing it to our space and our needs, but never mentioned it would all come in pieces. Lucky for him, my husband enjoys building.

Me, not so much. Lucky for me, our nephew flew out this week to assist. Now I might write. Remember writing? It had been getting away from me with all the remodeling.

So now we are three people living on a boat. Three people and a dog. It’s cozy. Both men are slim but tall. The dog, fortunately, is small.

Last weekend we had our first visitors at “the job site,” my name for the house. Bare to the bone, colorless and dusty, nothing but subfloors, scaffolding, sheetrock walls taped and mudded, electrical wires and boxes. Nevertheless, some friends from Seattle came to see what we’ve gotten ourselves into here.

What I would have given to be a fly on the wall of their Saab as they drove away!

The gardener in Lynn would be wondering why anyone would turn in a lovely patio and garden in Queen Anne for a rugged piece of old growth forest, and lose everything I will plant one day to deer.

The writer in Malcolm envies me the writer’s hut—a shed on the property that will be cedar shingled as well, and refurbished with windows, French doors, heat and electricity. While I didn’t care for the house at all, I was mad for the shed! (More about this dear little building later. Much more).

Teri, I think, would be doing the same thing as me in a heartbeat.

And Dan, the psychologist, thinks we are crazy to uproot ourselves at will and start all over again. I knew it by the eloquent way he kept commending us for our “bold vision,” and for striking out on “such an adventure”, i.e. better you than me.


Filed under remodeling

A Work in Progress

White Point Entry


The ugly little house in the woods by the bay is nearly all shingled now in red cedar. Its trim has been painted a clean bright white, reflecting light under the eves rather than the sickly green of the former siding. The roof always was in good shape.

“A good roof? Well, that’s a start,” chuckled my father when we told him of the house we had purchased on San Juan Island.

Now our house looks at home in the old growth forest where it stands. Its scent is as sweet as the trees. We started on the outside with this house, and are working our way in with a remodel. Closeness to nature has always described this move. Forgetting how late it stays light here, it’s easy to keep clearing brush well into the night. And working by the water’s edge hardly feels like work at all.

When the interior is complete, we have every intention of being back out and into the cathedral hush of the trees, mucking about on the water’s edge, or out to sea.

Living on a boat, we eat out more than we ordinarily would. One evening, climbing the darkened staircase at McMillin’s in Roche Harbor and being a little night-blinded myself, I reached for the handrail and marveled at the feel of it. Now how often do you come back to the dining table raving about the handrail? But a Douglas fir branch, debarked and organic in shape, seemed like something I had to have and to hold forever. So that will be coming into our home too, as handrails, wherever we have the opportunity to use them.

“This is the time of year to peel logs, when the sap is running,” Brian Prescott at the Egg Lake Sawmill & Shake informed us. “Otherwise, in winter, the sap goes into the roots.”

Along with eating out too often, we are also ferrying to and fro the mainland more than we would like. Sometimes in our wagon, often a rented UHaul, but always carrying material or household possessions to store in the garage. On one occasion, having picked up slate tiles for a floor and Carrera marble tiles for a wall, we fell in behind a large flatbed truck carrying logs—a common enough sight in the Pacific Northwest. But something about this particular load caught both our eyes, that plus we had over an hour’s ferry ride to stare at it.

I noticed the flower-like shape in the cut of the trunks, not like any log I’d ever seen. And my husband, for his part, must have noticed everything. For later, while out at Egg Lake Sawmill & Shake, he spotted the very same truck. It hadn’t been offloaded yet, and sure enough, it had just come across on the ferry.

If you’ve never seen a man fall in love with logs, you are missing something. The logs, we learned, were Yew, trucked up from Oregon, and Paul just had to have one. Our Yew is nearly ten feet long, milled, planed, ready to be trimmed a bit and mounted as a fireplace mantle on a yet-to-be-built rock wall that was inspired by the long log.

One of the things I love most in design is similar to what I love most in writing: the way you don’t know where the inspiration will come from, or where it may go. This happens every week in my writing workshop. Flushed faces all around the table, having written our stories, shared and enjoyed them, when everyone started without a clue that there was anything in us at all.

Paul and I didn’t know we had this house in us either.


Filed under Writing