Monday, April 28, 2014

Our last trip

On many of the trips between our old place and our new home, I saw birds. This afternoon, two turkey vultures seemed to graze the truck. Great blue heron on at least two two separate trips. At least two, maybe three red tailed hawks, who I think of as the spirit of my maternal grandfather.

As we left our old house for the final time, the pair of geese who arrive each spring, waddled towards the road.

Jared and I glanced about, said goodbye to the house, the shagbark, the oak, the plants, the meadow, Pschorn Lane, the place our son came to be. We said goodbye to Cat Tail, the forest. The place.

This place that that taught us all we know. Goodbye, Sourlands.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

House Search Ends

I imagine our child, bathed in sunlight playing next to these windows. And, we have a bathtub. It's avocado colored!

In mid-April we bought a home. Jared and I have been transported back to when our son was a newborn. A storm of tasks, each one never encountered before, each one becoming easier with practice.

When our real estate agent sent Jared the listing via email, he said something like, "I think you should look at this right away."

At that point, the house search had me demoralized. We'd been searching for two years. We has seen some real dumps. A shack on a steep slope. A concrete block bunker with a "new" septic (a pile of plate-sized chunks of red shale) next to an intermittent stream. A purportedly buildable wetlands and floodplain of the Wickecheoke Creek. Each one Jared had something nice to say. "Look at the dogwoods and the little bluestem." Or, "It's on a quiet road."Or, "There's room for the nursery."

Jared doggedly went to municipal offices, dragging Beren along, so he could inquire about wetlands, zoning, driveway requirements, etc.

All the while, I maintained a stance of tearfulness, uncertainty, and unreasonableness. "I want to stay in this area… all my friends, my network…" I'd blubber as Jared brought listing after listing to me. We talked about all the reasons why. The taxes, the cost of a house and land, the lack of appropriate listings.

When that approach wore thin, I'd say, "Everyone says we need to be patient. Finding the right place takes time, and we're looking for something special." He'd reply, "I've been patient. We need a place to live and a place for our nursery."

You see, we'd been looking, but recently our landlords had told us they intended to put their house on the market. The clock ticked louder.

I abdicated from the process, leaving Jared to query the Garden State MLS website: East Amwell, West Amwell… 6 acres (to get farmland assessment)… 2 bedrooms… As the months passed, his queries became less specific. He looked for listings far beyond our means, just to see what was out there. Nothing.

One evening Jared turned to me and said, "I can't take this anymore. We must find a place." He had told me this before, but his delivery was different. He was despondent and desperate.

"OK. We'll find a place." I had no idea what I could do, especially since I'd done little but say "No." I put a couple projects on hold, the herbal correspondence course and La Leche League leadership process, and prepared myself to be helpful.

At some point in this process, we called a listing agent for a lot in Kingwood. A soft spoken, pleasant, intelligent young real estate agent arrived. She handed us a packet of surveys and walked us through a pretty, but very muddy and unmowed meadow and forest. She took our nursery business' card, and looked at it with interest. I realized that we had found our agent.

She sent us listing after listing. She inquired of listing agents and townships, and uncovered details about properties that helped us rule them out. "She's great. Even when we say 'no', let's say something positive," I told Jared. She understood our vision.

And so, one February evening, Jared and I looked at a listing she sent us. Two big sunny windows, floor to ceiling. Kind of like true love, I was taken.

And immediately after being taken… "Does it look close to the road? That's far away. Farther than we wanted to go. Do you think the taxes are high?" I chattered on.

We saw the house within a day or two. And then again. "It has black cohosh in the woods. Sold!" Jared exclaimed with glee. "OK, just so you know, I feel a little nervous, and saying something like than makes me really nervous. I don't want to feel rushed."

We were rushed. We'd seen nothing even close to this. Not this affordable, not this amount of acreage, not with a forest of oaks and black cohosh, not with a one acre cultivated field.

And then, there was the couple that arrived immediately after we finished looking at the place. "I love it," the guy fake whispered to his wife. "What's it like inside? It looks big." the woman asked me. "Well…you know, it was built in 1830, so the rooms are small and you know, it has it's problems." "it looks perfect to me!" she replied. My slow moving gears groaned, and my internal claws became sharper.

We visited Jared's family. They looked at this listing online. "It's perfect." "It's great!" "You should buy this."

My gears moved a bit quicker, and the doubt cleared a bit. "I don't want to push you, but I really feel like we should make a move," Jared said. "I'm nervous," I said.

We put in our bid, and as far as I know, no one else did.

Monday, April 7, 2014

High School

Limbo. Limbo. Limbo. Limbo. Limbo. Limbo. Limbo. Limbo. Limbo. Limbo. Limbo. Limbo. Limbo. Limbo. Limbo. Limbo. Limbo. Limbo. Limbo. Limbo. Limbo. Limbo. Limbo. Limbo. Limbo. Limbo. Limbo. Limbo. Limbo. Limbo. Limbo. Limbo. Limbo. Limbo. Limbo. Limbo. Limbo. Limbo. Limbo.

Imagine a world without the "Control C" command.

I remember typing reports in high school and grammar school on electric typewriters. I suppose they were great inventions at some point, but to me, stressed out sixteen year old me, they were implements of torture.

A whole page typed. The discovery of a missing paragraph a quarter page down. Retype, or scrub away at the "erasable" type with an eraser, or send the typewriter reeling back, hammering away at the correction tape.

It's 8:30 pm. It's the days before Staples and other box stores open until 9:00 pm. Roll the dice, young lady. There's no more typewriter ribbon or correction tape. Just a coarse rubber eraser in the shape of a pencil. The miniature broom attached to the opposite end is ready to brush bits of paper and type onto the kitchen floor. 

Last weekend I went to my twenty year high school reunion. Sparsely attended, but attended by many of the former classmates I wanted to see.

After hors d'oeuvres and mingling, we were called to sit for dinner. I scanned the room with my husband. Where to sit? It was a touch of high school, where will the best conversation be? Where will I be able to spend the next hours?

And honestly, it's a touch of that discomfort now. Twenty years later, I still scan a room at a party. Who to talk to? Where am I comfortable? Hardly anywhere twenty years ago. Today, a few more places, but I'm likely to drift about uneasy and feeling a little off for the first hour.

Twenty years ago, I could have tossed back some beer or a few shots and giggled, fuzzy and then madly depressed and then shaky, crazy the following day. Today, I can't rely on fermented beverages for a magic carpet ride through social situations. As I've aged, alcohol has increasingly disagreed with me, and becoming pregnant with my son three years ago so shifted my body chemistry that I cannot drink at all.

As I took a few steps across the room, a former classmate going back to grammar school said, "We're sitting over there. Join us." I sat. I looked around and saw the girls, now women (and their partners), that I sat with in the cafeteria in senior year of high school. I had a nice time.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Early Spring Walk

No spirit stealing photographs, please

"No photos of me, Momma."

We have hundreds and hundreds of baby pictures, about that many or more early toddler photos. Then, Beren started staring at the camera, grabbing the camera, or making terrible faces. The number of photos of Beren has sharply declined.

Moments after I made this photograph, Beren did encourage me to take a picture of him and show him. I did. I then asked him to photograph me. He did:

I asked what we could then photograph. "A stick. This one. This side.":