The Big City

Yesterday was a Jonah day–in the one-thing-went-wrong-after-another sense–but in spite of it, we hopped a ferry to Seattle and did the aquarium. It was Mimi’s first trip on a boat, and she loved it.








Getting there


We’re getting there. I don’t want to post more pictures of the house until I have it in order. Our furniture arrived on Monday … so the house is full of boxes and furniture, but I can’t unpack or arrange things because we’re still waiting on the carpet to be installed next week. So we are back to shuffling between piles of boxes, living with a few bits and pieces of things (albeit more than we had for the ten days we camped in the house before our things arrived). Even when the carpet is in, we need shelves for the books and the pantry before everything can be unpacked. Until then, we are painting, painting, painting. Bedrooms and TV room are done. Upstairs hall and stair need a second coat. I primed the front hall today. Library is coming. Pantry is coming. The small annex between the service-level rooms is coming.

Extended domestic chaos is wearing on me. I painted with gusto for the first week. Then I began to feel tired. Ill. Unmotivated. Despair, that’s what it is. I began to feel despair. We closed on Low House yesterday, and while it happened in the end, there was a lot of unpleasantness and misunderstanding leading up to it that made it hard to keep plugging.

I write books about people who lose–or give up–everything and start over again. I am not my characters. I would never choose to give up my stuff. While I am not nearly as brave as the people in my head, I am starting over in a way. Slowly. Another new town to drive around. Another house to put in order. The rhythms of another home to learn, again.

Just now I was able to look at the realtor photos of Low House for the first time since we left it. It was mildly painful. There it is, in the photos, all cleaned up and sparkling, spare in its neatness and order. Whereas things here are in chaos. Can we get Mimi enrolled in preschool? That weighs on me. She misses playtime with kids and I miss having time–any time at all–during my day when I am not responsible for her tiny and highly friable emotional well-being.

We have all been troopers. And we are all tired now.


Work zone





We’re hitting the painting hard to get it done before the new carpet is installed. We’re hitting the carpet installers hard to get them in before the furniture arrives.

I’m gratified by how much difference a coat of paint makes. All my own colors. No wall color is as odious as the color the previous owner picked out, you know . . . ?


On the ground







On Thursday we were scheduled to stop for the night in Spokane. We got to Spokane before 2pm. “Let’s keep going!” we said … and so we rolled into our own driveway around 9pm that evening, having crossed two major mountain ranges, three states, and one enormous Seattle rush-hour traffic jam.

We are farther north than we’ve ever been before. Deep in summer it isn’t full dark here until 10:00, and full daylight (with roosters crowing) by 6:00. I must get blackout shades for Mimi’s room; she’s been up at the crack of dawn, though she really shouldn’t be.

It all needs a lot of polish and love. The previous owners obviously loved this place, and gave it a lot of attention when they first lived here. Whether or not they consciously neglected it when money problems started is a question I can’t answer, but they had about four kids (heights through the years ticked on the kitchen wall) who ran the house hard.

Our furniture has been delayed to July 27 at the earliest … but probably later. That’s okay. We’re in a race with it to repaint and have fresh carpet installed. Today is delivery day: our new washer and dryer will come, so I can finally wash clothes (thank God). Sparks’ grill, so we can do some cooking. The lawn tractor, to tame the waist-high weeds in the yard.

Rough as the place is, I still like it here.


The house


Hi, it’s me again. The above is–ha ha–not our new house. It’s the nearby estate, which was modeled from English estates the builder had visited and admired.

It’s an appropriate picture, though, because our new house, in spite of being a 1960s tri-level, has a surprising number of very English Country House-type rooms. In the back of my head Margaret Schlegel says, “a small house with big rooms, and lots of them”. That’s exactly what we have.

The house has been renovated at least once, and we’re going to do some minor renovations again, which makes the floor plan imminently sensible and much more livable than it was originally. Originally, one entered the house through a front door that was half-a-flight above the ground. Previous owners turned the original garage and workshop into two living rooms and an entry hall.

This: we have a real Hall. You enter the house at ground level, into a real room-sized room with a slate floor, two large coat closets, and plenty of room for chairs and demilune and umbrella stand and boot trays. Can you imagine? I’m going to paint the walls dramatic deep blue or green. That combined with profuse white trim, lots of my blue-and-white crockery (umbrella stand, fish pot, some plates on the walls) will make it feel like a calm, cool, yet dramatic place to sit down and get your wet Seattle duds off.

Just to the left of the Hall is a large open entry onto the Library. This is a long living room with lots of windows and a pellet stove at one end. I’m going to fill a wall with bookshelves and order squashy chairs and sofas, put my red Turkey carpets on the floor, my Bierstadt prints on the walls (which I will paint palest green), and get those IKEA occasional tables with glass display cases under their tops. It will be like a real Enlightenment library. Local specimens will go in those display cases. On rainy winter days it will be a lovely place to curl up with a book.

At the far end of the Hall is a doored-off room the previous owners used as the master bedroom, but we will use as the TV room. It’s also a long room, with two tiny basement-type windows, a woodburning stove at one end, and a large storage closet at the other. No particular decorative plans, though some shelving and two IKEA sofa beds will go there.

Up half a flight of stairs from the Hall, you find yourself on the service floor. An open kitchen/dining area has French doors onto the previous front garden, which has now been fenced off and turned into The Secret Garden. It has a little wooden deck and a little laid-stone patio, lots of tall Northwestern pines across the street, and that seven-foot privacy fence all around.

The kitchen appears to have been laid out by drunken monkeys. I’ll live with it for a couple years, then we will remodel with IKEA cabinets in white or medium brown, black countertops, stone backsplash tiles, pale blue walls, and those ceramic floor tiles that look like wood.

Off the kitchen is a full bath (yeah, one of those houses). There is also a bedroom-sized utility room that houses the laundry, the water heater, a freezer plug-in, a large folding/sorting table, and lots of shelves. Can you imagine, a REAL laundry room?!?!

To the other side of the bathroom is . . . well, I guess it’s technically a bedroom. Like the utility room it’s maybe 9×9 or 10×10, somewhere in that area, and I’m going to turn it into a walk-in pantry. Shelving all around. Food. Cleaning supplies. Toiletries. Occasionally-used appliances. I want to paint the walls of this one a crazy color, too–another deep blue or green–and get those natural-pine shelving units. And maybe a sparkly light fixture.

Thus endeth the service floor. Up another half-flight, you end up among the bedrooms. There is another full bath up there, and three small bedrooms, and what was the house’s original living room, with its original front entrance. The room is gigantic, with vaulted ceilings and picture windows. And we’re going to use it for the master suite. It’s more than big enough to accommodate a bath and closet. Blue-green walls, our white bedroom furniture, curtains with a bold cream-and-brown pattern (sigh).

So you see . . . a very livable house with lots of places for everything. Can’t wait to get my claws in it.


Red Admiral

I love butterfly names. Monarch. Viceroy. Widow’s Cape. Red Admiral. Someone should write a swashbuckling flintlock fantasy with principal characters all named after butterflies.

It is Red Admiral season, here. They love my coneflowers, which have been fruitful and multiplied in the six summers since I first planted them. I shouldn’t have bothered planting anything else (except, possibly, monarda).








We are Waiting. Waiting for it to be time to move. In the meantime we are packing boxes and saying goodbyes, but in truth we are caught in The Space Between. There are no contemplative cups of coffee, no relaxing at the end of the day, no long walks secure in the knowledge that all is right in the world. We–specifically I–may not appear active, but neither are we at rest. We are wound tight.

Low House is sold. We have passed the home inspection and the radon inspection and the termite inspection, agreed upon repairs and reparations, left keys with the realtor and power of attorney with our lawyer. The moving truck is scheduled. This house–where I have lived longer than I have lived anywhere since I was in junior high school–is no longer ours. It just has our stuff in it. Our overwhelming mountains of stuff; where does it come from? How much can we get rid of? How can we get rid of it?

And then there is the house Out There. Sparks had been eyeing it online for nearly a year. We spent fifteen minutes there. Our realtor was wishy-washy about it; it was a short sale and the floor plan, he said, was “weird”. But we went to look. The floor plan is actually awesome. It actually has a ton of things I never thought I would have, in a house. It has a huge workshop for Sparks. It has a play structure for Mimi. It has three and a half acres of waving grasses and space, with wild turkeys gobbling in the distance. In those fifteen minutes I folded my arms against the drizzle and said “I like it here.”

So we bought it. Without looking at the crawlspace or attic. Without tasting the water. Without flushing the toilets or driving by at different times of day to see what the traffic is like. It was a leap of faith. Just like everything else in life.

Less than two weeks until all our stuff is put on a truck and taken somewhere out of our control. We will be Out There for my birthday.

We hope.