My life as a house remodel

28 Feb

Today it’s taking more of an effort to enter into the moments, feel the hope, the tingling of possibilities. Walking down to the coffee shop, I only half-notice, then recollect, small gatherings of starlings clicking and writing in the maples above the sidewalk, then two brown wrens conversing, tails bent up and twitching as they shifted between twigs of the only shrub in a block of mowed lawns, the beautiful Salish Sea, in unnameable tones of bluegreen and grey lapping in, and along the way, periodic views of the light reflected off sand bottom punctuated by flat rocks and waving seaweed. Dogs joyfully wagging and sniffing, eagerly running down to the beach under the gray sky. Now I sit facing the window that looks back the way I came, wondering why I was not really present to the moments. Yet people, people are almost too present to  me. I came here to be an anonymous part of a gathering, with the possibility of seeing an acquaintance always welcome, though not likely. I came with the expectation of pleasure, in the freedom to just go somewhere on the spur of the moment wot  the health and time to do so.

But the feeling now is that nothing, nothing will develop from this, that it’s just a thing to do for a break, and I used to need breaks a lot, from my busy household, from the conflicts that sometimes arose there. And later, just to habituate myself to getting out again, no longer needed as a caregiver.  But it’s not a break I need anymore; I need to rebuild. This is not the same life I inhabited before, and I don’t know exactly what to make of it. And build I shall. I am grateful to have access to an abundance of materials, but not sure how to define the space and boundaries, scope out the project, which things to stockpile, how to lay out the work schedule and list of deliverables. Which parts of my past and current life to carefully extract, save, and re-purpose, and which to crack apart with a sledgehammer, pry away with a crowbar and cart away to be reduced to basic elements.

I become aware that two (three? more?) otters have just appeared in the water at the end of the dock and are undulating right to the shore, climbing up the rocks, and no one has seen them yet. It’s a dog, arriving with its owners above on the trail, who gives the signal, and they humans realize something is up, and soon see the curious, whiskered faces of the otters and share in the excitement, holding back the dog with a firm hold. Why are the otters so bold, suddenly, to come all the way onto shore?

The coffee shop is crowded; people are feeling a coming spring now that the Arctic air flow has gone whither it will. The baristas are maxed out and not making very good lattes–no foam; mine has developed a skin, but one must adapt. It’s not the quality of the brew that attracts me here, and I know many people would avoid it for the additional reason of their apparent lack of inclusiveness, as expressed by their refusal to carry a full diversity of free publications. As if, by limiting diversity of viewpoints in cafe owners, one is affirming diversity. I feel the location is worth it. Plus it has the right number of spots always open to stay and write without feeling one is depriving new customers.

Today I wondered if I should be keeping receipts, as I have to define a new direction of the corporation I now run, dormant after the end of my husband’s years as a software consultant. If I fire up my writing and editing as a business, I could claim 50% of meals expenses. I am far from earning anything that way, though I did earn a little in years past.

I continue to watch the scene outside. The otters have swum away, but a small flock of sparrows that nest in the rafters of the shop–apparently legally now, as someone seems to have shamed the cafe owners into removing the metal spines that formerly discouraged them–are squabbling. It’s quite a hierarchical and competitive assembly, but there is peace enough that one male is splaying out his short little wings and preening. Another looks like she has a down feather stuck in her mouth, as she works her beak to try to drop it, then suddenly flies up to the rafters, pulling the gazes of the three approaching walkers, to place it in one of the nests.

The sun is just breaking through, the caffeine is taking the edge off my dullness, and soon the post-church crowd will be here. I have some ideas from this session: since I’m planning a remodel of my house, currently at the design and semi-wild-ass estimation stage, I could use the process as a metaphor, learning from the proven efficient, effective, and articulated project development process of the design-build firm to do my life remodel. Older dwelling, adequate until now with plenty of creativity and compromise, the site of many struggles, joys, comforts, and even a legacy, needs reworking. Define needs and and wants, prioritize, budget, redesign, order materials, with a focus on local, low-impact, underutilized, restored components. Invest in a reasonable stock of beautiful new or lightly used elements that enhance value and utility and will stand the test of time. Order materials, do demolition myself  with the aid of a few skilled friends and family; identify hidden flaws of structure and systems, integrate repairs and upgrades into plan and budget; schedule contractors for phase one. And, with the otters and sparrows, take risks, be curious, but make sure the lining of the nest is insulated, even if from down fallen from my own breast..


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7 responses to “My life as a house remodel

  1. brightlittlefirecracker

    February 28, 2019 at 4:00 pm

    I often read your posts and enjoy your writing style, but usually have nothing to say. I want to mention after this one, however, that I’ve found ‘Tidying Up’ by Marie Kondo (on Netflix, or she has a book) to be incredibly helpful in getting my house straightened and the unnecessary items in our house re-homed or discarded. I don’t know precisely what the state of things at your home is, but if you are hoping to accomplish the same, I would recommend her method, it’s beautiful, simplistic, and effective. Good luck in your next adventures!

    • toesinthedirt

      February 28, 2019 at 10:24 pm

      Thank you for reading and commenting, Firecracker. It’s not really a tidy house I’m going for here, although I’m sure I would find something valuable in Marie K’s show. I certainly am clearing out things I don’t need or want, and making my home work better for how things are now. But more importantly, I’m working on establishing new patterns in my life now that I am a widow and my adult children are launching out. That may not have been clear, as I made assumptions about readers being somewhat familiar with my story from earlier posts.

      • brightlittlefirecracker

        March 1, 2019 at 4:03 am

        I am familiar with your situation, and I knew that tidying would only be a component, sorry I didn’t make that clear. I don’t have any experience with adjusting to adult children or widowhood, so I was keeping purposefully quiet on that front. All I can say is ‘good luck’, I hope it develops into something wonderful in its own right.

      • toesinthedirt

        March 1, 2019 at 8:46 pm

        I sense you are kind and sensitive, and I thank you.

      • brightlittlefirecracker

        March 2, 2019 at 8:25 am

        Yes… sensitive enough to sense I’ve inadvertently been impolite and be sorry for it, and grateful that you’re understanding and kind to me despite it. Thank you for being a quality person, this world needs more like you.

  2. jdawgsrunningblog

    March 2, 2019 at 7:26 am

    This piece was funny to me–the opening salvo’s meaning completely subverted and stripped by the subsequent vitalizing, joyfully descriptive prose–an unrestrained density that woke me up from my own quixotic sleep to the wider and larger vivaciousness of the world. You’re cool like that–there’s a substance and bombastic edge to your character–always present in your work–and can only imagine how it manifests in the classroom–that as a teacher, you’re on fire with passion and knowledge–your classroom a place where sparks are kindled and light is made.

    • toesinthedirt

      March 2, 2019 at 8:30 am

      I love my writing being described that way, and can’t help but see Dad in “substance” and Mom in “bombastic.”


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