Tuesday, July 7, 2009

And What It's Like Now

When Grace said I'd have to move, that her cancer had progressed to where she could no longer climb the stairs to her home and needed to reclaim the two-room cabin I was renting from her in the mountains, I cascaded into a depression. I found her cabin through an online ad and had moved in the previous summer. It had glass double-doors that looked out over a meadow and lovely brook beneath the towering pines. At dusk, deer came to the back door to graze on the ivy.

I have moved more than 50 times in my adult life, chasing jobs across the states, following dreams and half-baked notions, and often packed up and gone with the wrong-headed idea that my life would suddenly change if I could rearrange the furniture. "Be it ever so humble," a friend in recovery says, "there's no place like somewhere else." So when I had to scour the ads once more for a place, my heart filled with dread that my days in the quiet, nourishing woods were done.

And it appeared so when I visited the converted single-wide trailer on a horse farm near Meadow Vista with leaky faucets and a noisy generator, then the mother-in-law apartment above the workshop-garage in Colfax with tiny slits for windows, and finally the solitary house in the heavy brush near Applegate with hot and cold running mice.

On my slender income from writing I had a limited selection, so my heart raced when I saw the photograph of the pink house on its hillside in the online housing ad. It's a tiny place, with a single room for living, a separate bath and storage, set on a 40-acre parcel of rolling hills and oak trees overlooking the San Joaquin Valley. On my visit, trout cut the evening air with leaps at passing gnats, splashing back into the pond just outside the front door. Bullfrogs cried out for love in the dusk and red-tail hawks traced circles into the fading light. I signed my lease.

In late May, I sat on the sprawling front porch in the advancing wind of a thunderstorm and counted my blessings. The rain marched up the canyon. Black clouds scudded overhead and lightening forked down into the valley. The air carried the taste of dust. Stars winked out overhead as the clouds moved in.

Not many people can say they earn their livelihood through their writing. So, while I have lost nearly 80 percent of my clients since December to the recession, and while I cannot afford much, let alone pay bills and taxes or the insultingly high fees for healthcare, I counted my blessings as the hail banged down on the metal roof of the little pink house and wondered how I had become so damn lucky.

This morning the red-throated house finches, the jittery flickers with their white tails, the wild turkeys and their scurrying young, the magpies with black and white chevrons, the hares with jackass ears a mile long, and the mule deer hang around the yard between the glistening leaves of the oaks in the soft, quiet wind. And I am home.


Bill Stankus said...

When I was in college, my senior year, I visited the friend of a friend ... this fellow had a small place near the ocean - in fact it was next to the shore. Originally the house had been built for storing fishing nets - with a high ceiling and plenty of exposed 8x8 timbers.

After many years and occupants, all the post's beams and walls were a perfect white color. I was mesmerized by the beauty of the place and I so wanted to live there.

That was many years ago - and I too have lived in many places - but that beautifully painted place by the sea remains my perfect memory house.

Starlene said...

I love the story behind the pink house. : )

I am looking forward to the day when I can finally feel home. I'm getting closer...

BTW - unrelated things: all my pepper plants contracted various icky things and only 2 made it but they're not producing. I had to buy greenhouse grown ones. : ( I won't send you any peppers unless I drew them fair and square. Maybe next year. Also, have you every heard a writer called Kinky Friedman? I have no idea why, but when I picked one of his books up from a sidetable in a B&B and began reading, it reminded me of you.

dutchbaby said...

I'm so glad you found a place where you will be inspired to continue to bring us your beautiful descriptions, even if it doesn't come with hot and cold running mice (so funny!).

I can't wait to read more about your adventures on the forty-acre parcel in the woods. I wonder if you'll see Christoper Robbins and Winnie the Pooh lying on their backs gazing at the clouds.

A Cuban In London said...

Just in case you did not get my e-mail yesterday. I have put my review of your book up on my blog now. It is a fantastic collection of stories which I recommend everyone to buy.

I hear you, man, and the recession has hit everyone hard. For your consolation, I saw the Boss on telly the other night. He was here at Glastonbury and he brought the place down.

Many thanks.

Greetings from London.