The Change of Season

4 10 2015

Last night, while Danae ran to Sarah’s to bring some healing ointment for one of our goats, Gwendolyn asked me to help her with her homework. She seemed to be in a down mood, so I suggested we take her books out on the deck to work. As we worked our way through finding the slope of several lines, the light dimmed to dusk. It was warm enough, and we both felt relaxed under the glow of the rope lights hanging above us.

When we first moved to the house, and even before, my fear/obsession with mountain lions joined forces with my overactive imagination to form scenarios of attacks not only on the deck, but also stemming from outright break ins (this from a video I foolishly watched of a cougar breaking through a glass door and devouring someone’s pet spaniel). Tonight was different. I knew that as I grew accustomed to the place, my ear would grow keen at differentiating between leaf fall and footfall, which it has. Also, the brain has a way of working out the odds. Where, in my imagination, we’d be dodging both cougars and rattle snakes on a regular basis, we have seen neither in our weeks since coming here.

Gwen was growing frustrated with her math – more out of exhaustion than an inability to work it out. I suggested she take a nice, deep breath. In doing so, we both spotted the first bat to emerge for the evening. Then another, and another. More than 20 bats flew up from beneath the house. Two flew out in a pair, one accidentally hitting the house in an ill-advised u-turn (perhaps a little wine before dinner?), while another buzzed just behind Gwen’s head. We were entranced.

A few problems later we heard it for the very first time – the heavy footfall of a large animal up behind the house. We sat still and silent, listening and waiting for the animal to emerge into view up the hill. Gwen asked if it could be a cougar. I told her it was possible, but that I thought cougars would be more stealthy than deer, who tend to clomp around on the forest floor. When it didn’t emerge, I suggested we go upstairs for a better view. We went quickly and quietly upstairs into Kaherdin’s room (he has two windows on that side) and tried to spot what it was. It has surprised me no end that the only deer I have seen so far on our property have been skeletal remains. Once in Kaherdin’s room, the kids began fighting over who would look out what window, etc. and the footfall ceased.

The bats and the footfall were a welcome reminder of all the magic we have yet to experience here. While work on the house continues full throttle, it is important for me to take days, or sometimes even moments, of appreciation for what we have and what we are creating.

This week has been all about electrical and plumbing. Not the exciting stuff you immediately notice (eliminating knob in tube is really not the high point of a remodel), but feeling like progress, nonetheless. Butch, the electrician, has consulted with me on every detail of where to place outlets and switches, which lighting systems need to be replaced, how they should be placed, etc. I know from a discussion with Jared, our project manager, that once the electrical is finished, the sheet rock crew will return to cover up the walls. That is when the shower will look like a shower, the kitchen will look more like a room, the hallway to the master will actually become a hallway.

Things are falling into place. And while my pace becomes hectic in waves, I’m getting better at learning how to manage what it is I have to do. There is no place in the house that is private, so I sit at the deck table and work. Yesterday I did something new. The dogs had to be in their carriers because there were so many people coming and going, so many open doors. I took each dog for a walk individually up farther on Love Creek Road. First I walked Hoover, our biggest and, at 14, our oldest dog. We walked past our house and up the road a bit. Just past the bridge, we passed an area of gentle sloping hills – still wooded, of course, but not steep ridges like on our property. The creek bed widened with fewer boulders in and around the water. It was so peaceful and beautiful. Why hadn’t I done this sooner? Suddenly I resolved that walking the dogs up this road would become a regular part of my daily routine. And if this short bit of the road is this beautiful, what haven’t I seen on the two miles that it continues on? Just before we turned around, we came across a blackberry bramble. I picked one that was ripe, gently wiped the dust away from its surface and ate it. The flavor was deep and slightly sweet. Tangy without being bitter. I imagined a daily ritual with Danae and the kids when they return home after school. Each of us gets a dog and we walk up Love Creek Road. Maybe on some days we will stop and pick blackberries and bring them home to have with sugar and cream from the goats that we hoped to finally bring home on Sunday.

Today we received delivery of the Quonset Hut and had a contractor come out to build the Tuff Shed for the goats. He drove all the way from Watsonville and, from the very first moment, gave every reason why he couldn’t do the job he was getting paid to do. Every solution I threw at him, he resisted. Bottom line, his ego was out of check, and the work he needed to do in order to receive my $800, he was not willing to do. This ended with me asking, “So you’re telling me no.” He kept insisting that I pay him an additional $500 to level the ground next weekend, or that we level it ourselves and he come back next weekend. I insisted that between the two men, me and Danae, we could level the area in an hour or less. His words: “I didn’t come here to dig, I came here to build.” Yeah, no. You came here for nothing, because now you are leaving back to Watsonville without getting a penny from me. We’ll call the other guy.

The guy delivering the hut, by contrast, was local, a San Lorenzo Valley guy. He was glad to help unload his truck, even though it was stipulated that we would do the unloading.

After the stress of the morning, Danae asks what the plan for the rest of the day will be. We decide to drive to the Milpitas Tuff Shed showroom – they have not answered any of Danae’s calls regarding the building of the shed, and we learned this morning that the shed they delivered is not exactly what we ordered. They owe us – either labor or a refund. I suggest we could hit the Great Mall, while we’re in Milpitas, to buy any pieces of clothing any of us needs to fit the color scheme of the family portrait we are having taken tomorrow for my mother’s 75th birthday. Then it sets in, the thought of a fight with Tuff Shed, the thought of battling the crowd at the mall.

“Here’s the plan,” I say to Danae, “We stay home. We need the rest. We need to be pacing ourselves.”

Danae lets out a huge sigh of relief.

This morning we had morning coffee on the deck before the kids woke up. Then breakfast on the deck. Then lunch. Then afternoon coffee. As Danae and I sat out amongst the trees, a cold breeze shook loose droppings from the trees.

“It’s actually cold,” I said. “And you know what? This is the first full day we have been here, doing this.”

I thought back to earlier in the day when Kaherdin was playing the Wii. I sat down on the overstuffed chair, he climbed into my lap, and I had the mental space and clarity to genuinely take an interest in what he was doing, something I was never able to do on Garden Street.

This has been less of a move from one place to another and more an act of time travel. No cell service, corded phones, wood stove for heat, nature all around. And, truly, the Wii U could just as easily be an Atari game system. We have dialed things back to the pace we enjoyed in our youth. This is one way in which moving backwards has not only been good, but necessary for our health and happiness.

I don’t think about Garden Street anymore, except to notice that I don’t think about Garden Street anymore. The new owners can have it. I don’t miss the buzz of the Silicon Valley. In fact, I find myself becoming increasingly more reclusive. I have no desire to travel over the mountain. It’s as though we were always meant to be here. As an empathic person, I have always found being around too many people or too much energy exhausting. I am a magnet for EVERYTHING. And, for the past ten years or so, I have felt the energy drain. No matter how much sleep or how much “rest” I tried to recoup, I was never truly rested. I now understand why. Here, protected by the silence and the strength and peace of the trees, I am able to reach inside and go outside of myself on my own terms. If I need to be around people, Santa Cruz is just 15 minutes away. For the first time, my home is not in a place where my energy is drained by one neighbor running his noisy remote control car, or another talking on the phone on his front porch. I don’t need to worry if my music is bothering anyone, or if anyone will see me if I need to run to the dryer to fetch clean clothes in the nude. Here there is peace and freedom that will eventually restore my energy so that I have more of the best of me to give to my children – so much of me that they have never known or seen.

Danae and I sat on the deck taking it in for a long time, imagining the weeks to come as the house moves closer to completion. Fall is here, the light is falling to angles, casting itself onto a new season.




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