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.”




Filed under living by the sea, waterfowl

7 responses to “Musings on Another House

  1. Don Brown

    you should be writing books – you write so well – I can feel what its like to be there from your posts – I wish I was there in fact.

  2. Coming soon, Don. In the next post or so I should be moving into the writing hut.

  3. It will all be worth it in the long run. We’re about to enter our 9th year of renovating a house in France. We will probably finish in about 10 years as we only get to spend a small amount of time there each year and finances are tight.
    People tell us to sell and get rid, but everything in the house has a story. From the kids crawling around, to surviving with no running water. Memories that can’t be beaten. You’ll miss risking you life to brush your teeth when its finished. (not a lot. But just enough to appreciate how much things have changed. I have that now we have running water.)
    Have a wonderful new year.

    • I admire your perseverance, Rosie Reast (see, I looked you up!), and want to suggest that maybe the people who tell you to sell and get rid of a home in France are just a little bit jealous? I know I am.

      • Possibly jealous but also aware of the many dramas we’ve had along the way. I might write about the experience one day, maybe once the house is finished in about ten years!
        We set ourselves building goals each year. This year its building a block wall and rendering the outside wall.
        Thank you for looking me up, I love hearing about your own building progress.

  4. Happy New Year!
    It’s the jouney is the phrase that comes to mind when I read this post.
    Enjoy it. ☺️

  5. Oh Natasha, you are so right and I do! But sometimes I can’t help but wonder, what if I had taken that road instead?

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