Tag Archives: House Hunters International

The New Normal


photo bu Paul Mayer



We were propped up in bed watching House Hunters International—one of our ways of traveling vicariously while quarantined. The apartment hunt was in Amsterdam and we were torn between a small flat with canal view, and another with no canal view but a rooftop deck.

It was just after 1 am, May 15, when we felt it and heard it. A 3.0 earthquake eight miles deep on island, less than two miles away as a crow flies. It sounded like a sudden gust of wind, and indeed, our house did lurch a little.

“What was that?” we asked each other. We were suddenly out of Amsterdam and back on San Juan Island, Washington.

We asked each other this question, but knew full well. We didn’t live all those years in California for nothing. And so we continued with our house hunt in Amsterdam, my husband favoring the view, while I couldn’t imagine living without the outdoor space.

In subsequent days I inquired whether other islanders experienced the earthquake. Our social circle is particularly small lately due to the Coronavirus pandemic, but I asked our neighbors (there are only two), my book group, and friends on Mount Dallas.

“We didn’t feel a thing,” is all I heard from anyone. Everyone, it turns out, slept through it. And so everything returned to normal, or rather, The New Normal.

There is much to be said for The New Normal aside from the fact that the moon is brighter and there are far more stars in the sky lately. The friends on Mount Dallas are seeing islands beyond all the islands they ever saw before.

I have felt my hair grow over my shoulders and fall onto the small of my back. We’ve so many houseplants indoors now, they color the light in our home. And I take the time to walk them all out to be watered in the rain.

On clear days we step outdoors and hear nothing but birds, a symphony matinee every day. The keening of gulls carries for miles over salt water, from one bay to the next. A friend on island notes, “Something I never tire of, watching quail walk along the top of my rock wall.”

Businessmen are at home writing poetry. Children, learning to bake bread. More thank you notes than we’ve seen in decades are moving through the mail, followed, in many cases, by thank you’s on the thank you notes.

The deer and fox step closer to us now. On every walk I weed my way up the gravel drive, while my husband mows the long dirt road for all the neighbors not here yet. We keep an eye on the empty houses for them.

We are all watching seeds sprout, plants grow, buds open, and flowers bloom. At a time when we haven’t been able to see the children who have flown off, these are our children now. I am now planting Winter Blooming Honeysuckle for the hummingbirds. At a time when even an earthquake doesn’t rattle us anymore, hummingbirds move us immensely.


Filed under plants

HGTV & the NRA




Not an easy assignment I have given myself: to keep up my remodeling blog while away from home. I have been visiting my folks in their retirement home outside Boston, where Mom and I have taken to HGTV every evening.

Here one by one, every half hour, we see a fixer-upper through to completion. Oh, the feeling of accomplishment! Oh, the joy! Young people moving into a first home, empty nesters downsizing. The American dream. Or my favorite, the vicarious pleasure of living in other lands with “House Hunters International.”

The HGTV tradition began as a deliberate plan on my part to take my parents right through the news–to bypass it, in other words. I turned the channel on during one visit when ISIS seemed to morph overnight. One day we had never heard of it, the next day it was all the news. The President was calling it ISIL, the media, ISIS, and we were all asking, which is it? What is it?

And now this week, it was HGTV’s job to steer them away from the carnage in the mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. This is not the country Mom and Dad knew. But it’s the country we’ve been dealt. The one we know all too well now.

I catch up with the news online, of course, quietly, in the night. There, I tend to live in a carefully cultivated circle of intelligent friends who all feel the same way. So round and round we go in our rage over a Congress, and thus a country, held hostage by the NRA.

And I know that when I return home, there will be another heavy-hearted landmark on I 5, the road we travel frequently. The “Marysville” exit, forty miles North of Seattle, site of a mass high school shooting less than a year ago. And now, when we’re traveling through Oregon en route to San Francisco, “Roseburg.” The big green interstate signs by which we mark our progress.

The new American map.

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Filed under mass shootings