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.