(“Do you think she’ll finally tell the story of how she found the house?”
“….I sincerely hope so….Get on with it!”)
Alright already. So where was I? Oh yes. It was when I found myself flat on my back, with one leg bent under myself, staring up at the sky, that I thought, “Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea after all.” That, and, “No one is going to find me, and the raccoons will eat me!”
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
So I started looking for a house. The realtor asked me what my wish list was, what things were most important. And aside from an affordable mortgage that I could live with even if disaster should strike, the thing I really wanted was a gas stove. I had grown up with one in Brooklyn, learned to cook on gas, and hadn’t had it in the previous two places I’d lived. The electric burners just don’t get hot enough. And then they do, all of a sudden, and don’t cool down fast enough. No love lost there on my part. However, I came to discover that Bainbridge has no natural gas. PNW Lesson Number 1. So unless I found a house with a propane stove – or had one put in, which is expensive – electric was pretty much going to be the standard. Crap. OK.
The next thing was, I didn’t want too much maintenance. Certainly no lawn to mow. And as much as I love to garden, I didn’t want to be married to it, so that every weekend had to be spent tilling the soil, or else, suffer the consequences of ugly, scurfy weeds. With all that in mind, and the maximum dollar figure to work with, the realtor started showing me condos and houses in communities with home owner’s associations (HOAs). And I found out that looking for a house is as much about what you don’t want as what you do want, and then narrowing the field accordingly. The condos I saw weren’t that much bigger than my rental apartment, so I didn’t see a lot of benefit there. Houses in communities had HOA fees, and rule books as thick as my resolve. I didn’t want anyone telling me what I could do in my own damn house. Paint it purple with green spots? Yes, if I wanted to. Rip out the grass and plant a flock of pink flamingoes…? You get the picture. So we started to look for a “house house”, in the realtor’s words. Something smallish and stand-alone.
There was a picture on his website of one house that kept drawing me back. It was in my price range, but it was hard to tell from a sort of aerial photo what I was actually looking at. Was that a…garden? Outdoor furniture? What? The rooms seemed nice, but how were they arranged? The realtor seemed to think it wasn’t what I wanted either, kept saying things like “steep”, and “narrow”, and so on. But he took me to see it the second day we went out in the quest for the “house house”.
Steep? He wasn’t kidding. The driveway, which appeared out of nowhere, when we first scaled it, seemed to be at a 45 degree angle. What the hell was up here? Rounding a bend flanked by a huge hemlock, we drove under a carport and there, just ahead, was the loveliest little Japanese garden I had ever seen. Now, just to back up in this story, my mother loved all things Asian. I even have a tattoo of the kanji word for “mother” on my arm in her memory. So to find this peaceful oasis full of stone lanterns and Buddha statues and torii gates was just too much. I never expected this, and the pictures definitely didn’t do it justice. I sat there in the car and stared for a moment, unable to believe how perfect it all was, this graceful house up on stilts tucked into the woods, with this beautiful garden. It was like my mother had lead me there. And right then, beyond the proverbial shadow of a doubt, I knew I had completed my quest. It didn’t matter, never mattered that the initial plan hadn’t included the garden bit; I’d figure out how to take care of it, and to fit it into my schedule. I was home.
Just to fast forward a little, past all the boring financial stuff and the repacking of everything I’d only just unpacked a few months prior, and the moving again, and so on, I learned PNW Lesson No. 2, and a painful lesson at that. If something looks wet and it’s not raining, it’s not to be stepped on. Yes, it rains here. A lot. Although not as much as people think. It’s how we can have these big gorgeous trees. And moss. Everything grows moss here, especially wooden surfaces. Not just the overt green moss but this weird sort of invisible stuff that’s akin to black ice on the roads in winter, and just as slippery; you can be walking perfectly fine and then, pow! Down on yer arse. A few weeks after I moved in, I noticed something lying on the ground next to the house, that I had to get to by walking down three wooden steps. My curiosity got the better of me. Remember that old saying, “Watch that first step, it’s a doozy”? No sooner had my foot touched that first step when both feet flew out from under me. I banged my tail bone so hard that I saw little birdies. And to add insult to injury, I kept going, hitting the second step just as hard. I slid to a stop on the ground with my leg bent under me, staring up at the sky. I didn’t know if I’d busted anything, I didn’t know exactly what had just happened, really. Only that I might become raccoon food if I didn’t get myself out of this mess.
But my predominant thought was, well, you know. Although in the retelling, those thoughts have become much more genteel. Actually it was more like &^%$#)(*&^&^^!!!
PNW Lesson No. 3. Don’t whine. No one wants to hear it. We’re too busy drinking our Starbucks from a take-out cup with a cardboard sleeve, and walking around in the rain without umbrellas (it’s how we separate the tourists from the locals). I eventually got myself up, but I can tell you, I didn’t sit down properly for two weeks after that. Welcome, Brooklyn girl, to the wonderful world of homeownership. And slugs big enough to barbeque if you could stomach all the slime. And Douglas squirrels. Winter rain on a metal roof that starts to drive you insane with all the staccato noise that never seems to let up. And oh yes. Woodpeckers who think nothing of trying to take your house apart, one peck at a time.