Monthly Archives: December 2014

Musings on Another House

Pemberton House

At home on the island, our project of late has been remodeling the master bath. For what has seemed like weeks, the door’s been off and there have been neither mirrors nor lights. The bath’s tile floor has been scattered with cabinet doors and baseboards, tub filled with discarded insulation, countertops laden with a jigsaw, fine tool drill, chiscels, screwdrivers and hammers.

I usually take my toothbrush from a drawer and a towel off the hook and go visit the guest bath, rather than risk my neck.

It didn’t have to be like this.

“I had a farm in Africa,” wrote Isak Dinesen. Well I nearly had a house that reminded me of her farm “at the foot of the Ngong Hills.”

This is the home I loved on San Juan Island. Situated in an interior valley with a white horse fence surrounding 6+ acres with a pond, bordered by over 500 acres of conservation land and a forever view. All light and sky and immense width and depth of landscape, looking off to snowcapped Olympics and The Strait of Haro, a glint of sea in the distance.

To me it was an Out of Africa moment every time I returned to visit this home. But to my husband it was just that little glint of sea.

The house was perfect. I could have moved in and put everything away, and within days been at work revising my book. Planning gardens, planting fruit trees, setting up a bocce court, horseshoes, a badminton net, who knows where it would have gone?

Instead we are in our seventh month of a remodel in a-home-that-needed-nearly-everything on Westcott Bay. I don’t know what it says about us that given a choice between a newer, lovely home in pristine condition and remodeling, we chose remodeling.

But I do know we did it for the chance to live on the water.

Yes, I might have been immensely happy in the other house with all the south facing light and vistas, but Paul would not have been. Where’d he go? I would wonder. And then I would know, down to the marina…

And in time it would have caught up with me too, the desire to live by the sea.

I know this every morning as I wake with flashing waters on the bay. Waterfowl at work or play, both resident and migratory, and what the old growth forest means to me. I’d be lost without the trees. Birds and trees, they have become me.

All that matters is being able to say, like Isak Dinesen, “Here I am, where I ought to be.”

 

 

Advertisements

7 Comments

Filed under living by the sea, waterfowl

A DIY Christmas

Tree Bird

 

Christmas is doing itself this year. I have surrendered to the environment.

Several powerful windstorms have come to visit us in our first winter on San Juan Island. Days as dark as night. Pinecones pelting windowpanes like sleet. Downed branches and trees crisscrossing roads and paths. And that incessant hum…

I have trouble falling asleep with the winds. And then I don’t know where I am when I awaken.

I am learning that living on the water is much like living on a boat. At high tide our concern is that the bank will hold. At low tide we breathe a sigh of relief—that is when we fall asleep, I think. In my dreams we’ve been swept away, much the way I feel when anchoring for the night.

“The florist delivered again!” I exclaim, as I throw open the front door in the morning. Each day after a windstorm I find fresh branches at my doorstep, from which I cut boughs to freshen our mantle, tuck onto gifts, and make arrangements with greens, pinecones and winterberries.

All the roads are softly covered in cedar and pine needles after a windstorm, as soft and quiet as a snowfall. At our front door a foyer rug of navy, salmons and green is perfect for hiding the needles coming in on every boot. Who knew?

The rug was a gift from my parents. Windstorms whistled when they lived on Cape Cod. When the wind whistled everyone wanted to come downstairs to sleep.

Interesting, a whistling there. A deep, low humming here.

Back to Christmas.

We cut down our own little tree on our property. In the house it speaks to me, telling me what it wants.

“Forget the totes full of Victorian and Venetian glass ornaments you collected over the years,” it says. Suddenly all of that is an heirloom.

“What I am is a woodland tree.”

I knew that.

Rummaging through my totes for birds, pinecones, vines and icicles, I found a few. It doesn’t get on my tree now unless it comes from the forest.

The beauty of the woodland tree is in the minimalism. It speaks of the scarcity of winter.

(note to self: don’t go overboard collecting these ornaments either).

Leave a comment

Filed under woodland tree

The Things We Can Do Without

House at night

Photo credit: Gabe Rivera

“For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone. The shell cracks, its insides come out and everything changes. To someone who doesn’t understand growth, it would look like complete destruction.” Cynthia Occelli

 

One of the surprising discoveries in remodeling a home was the delight we experienced in the demolition of things. A far giddier pleasure than I had ever imagined swept over us as walls were knocked down, decking and carpeting torn up, ugly light fixtures and mirrors carried out, and outdated kitchen appliances hauled away.

Experiencing space where there once were walls.

With every move of late we are trying to skinny down. Either it is to a smaller space, or we just want to live more minimally.

The less we have, the more consideration we can give to what we bring in.

Much like the backwards way I have finally found to edit my clothes. Except for a few random garments going off to consignment shops and thrift stores each season, I had never made significant progress until now. My formula: do it all backwards. Start with an empty closet, and piece by piece, put in what you love. That’s the only criteria, it must be loved—for whatever reason.

And as many times as I have done it now, it takes my breath away to turn off the dirt road and come down our drive. The property before me appears to drop off a cliff. It’s all water and sky, with my little writing hut seemingly floating.

Someday I’ll be writing to you from a cloud.

 

4 Comments

Filed under clothes closet, downsizing