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The Fairy House

“It was a blustery sort of day,” and the motley gray clouds were indecisive about rain.  Dampness and uneven light played weirdly with color, unnaturally brightening some hues while sinking others into murky shadow.  The trees swayed this way and that in the gusts of wind, whispering fiercely.  It was beautiful, and very eerie.

 

 

The trail was aptly named “Wonderland,” and although it felt that morning like an otherworldly setting for a ghost story or a dark fantasy novel, it was actually wending its way through Acadia National Park on the coast of Maine–a place less fantastic, perhaps, but to my mind, certainly not less romantic.  It was not well populated, except for Shaun and myself, and a few other determined hikers, likely due to the fitful weather.  So it was easy to feel the wind pull viciously at my hair, and see the strange play of light and shadow through the moaning trees, and believe that around any bend in the trail, one might suddenly glimpse a sullen ghost, or a fleeing dryad.  The goosebumps on my arms were not all due to the chilly mist.

We talked quietly as we walked, and eventually entered an archway of trees that formed a  lush green tunnel.  The floor of the wood was a genial tangle of rocks, undergrowth, moss and fallen leaves.  The wind dissipated among the trees.  It was an altogether friendlier place.

Rounding a bend in the trail, we saw a small, bare-headed, rain-coat-clad figure kneeling at the side of the trial ahead, just before the path disappeared around another turn.   The boy looked up at us as we approached, and we saw that he was around eight or nine years of age, golden-haired, with a small face and large eyes.  As we came closer, he stood up and looked at us expectantly.

“Would you like to see my fairy house?”

We assured him that we would.  He knelt down again and showed us his creation, which was built atop a bed of needles and twigs to the side of the trail.  It would have been easy to miss, had its architect not pointed it out to us.  The roof was a thick slab of moss.  The walls were all of stone, chosen carefully from the the trail, and an opening had been left for the convenience of diminutive house-hunters.

The boy looked at us with some concern.  “Do you think the fairies will like it?”

We assured him that we believed they would.  “If I were a fairy, I think that would like it very much,” I told him.  He seemed satisfied.

Another adult appeared around the next bend in the trail.  “There you are!” she said to the boy.  “Time to move on.”

“I was showing them my fairy-house,” the boy said proudly, indicating the two of us.  The woman held out her hand, and without a backward glance, our young acquaintance skipped away out of sight.

We admired the fairy-house for a moment more, and I snapped a photo.  When we continued on our way, the trail ahead was empty.  We never saw the fairy-house builder again.

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What Will be Left Behind

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All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another. ~Anotole France

***

Anne realized that the end of their life in this dear place drew nigh, and that she must face the fact bravely.  But how her heart ached!

“It will be like tearing something out of my life,” she sobbed.  “And oh, if I could hope that come nice folk would come here in our place–or even that it would be left vacant.  That itself would be better than having it over-run with some horde who know nothing of the geography of dreamland, and nothing of the history that has given this place its soul and its identity.  And if such a tribe come here the place will go to rack and ruin in no time–an old place goes down so quickly if it is not carefully attended to.  They’ll tear up my garden–and let the Lombardies get ragged–and the paling will come to look like a mouth with half the teeth missing–and the roof will leak–and the plaster fall–and they’ll stuff pillows and rags in broken window panes–and everything will be all out-at-elbows.”  ~Anne’s House of Dreams by L.M. Montgomery

***

Shaun is out of the Army now, and has the beard and hair to prove it.  The other day, in public, I saw him out of the corner of my eye and didn’t recognize him.  He came up and lightly tapped me on the shoulder, and I whirled around, wondering indignantly why this total stranger hadn’t just said “excuse me” to get my attention.

Because it was my husband, that’s why.

Being that Shaun is now out of the military, we have decided that it is in our best interest to move to another town.  I am the type of person who becomes content where she is, and the idea of picking up and starting over in a new place is both exciting and overwhelmingly scary.  Part of me keeps asking, “can’t I just stay here?”  We have carved out a little life for ourselves here, with great determination–not the least part of which is the house we bought four years ago.  Like Anne, I’ve sewn my affections into this place, gotten to know it, searched out its history, improved it where I could, made do where I couldn’t, and above all, made it my own.  The idea of ripping out all those little stitches makes my heart ache.  The idea of selling it to someone else–of a stranger sleeping in my room, making dinner in my kitchen–makes me slightly queasy.

Of course, I know people buy and sell houses every day, and very few live in one house for their entire adulthood.  There’s a good possibility that I am overly sentimental.  But I have an idea–maybe a silly one–that places have their own character, formed not just by appearance or by vintage, but by the people who live in them.  Our house was built and maintained for many years by good, respectable people, only to fall into careless hands in the last few decades.  It’s a nice house, a friendly sort of house, but a little sad from neglect.  We’ve done our best in the last few years to improve it, make it look and function well again.  We’re not finished–not even close.  I hate the thought of someone coming along and undoing all of our work, of not appreciating this place for its value, which goes beyond that of a mere roof and four walls.

I’m going to miss so many things about this place.  I’m going to miss the smaller, cozy rooms.  I’m going to miss the large windows, the stained (not painted!) wood trim and hardwood floors–even the places where time has buckled them into fascinating waves.  I’m going to miss the creaky stairs.  In the winter, I will really miss the old metal radiators, which both I and the cats are fond of cuddling up to on a cold day.  I will miss our wall of bookshelves.  I’ll miss watching the sunset out my kitchen window as I make dinner, and the way the plants potted on the sill press their leaves against the glass, eager to catch the warm afternoon rays.

I’m going to miss the row of maples that line the creek in our backyard.  I’m going to miss the pleasure of my neighbor’s beautiful flower-garden.  I’ll miss the gardens we’ve worked to resurrect.  I will miss the little fairy-ring of crocuses in our side yard, the first heralds of spring.  I will miss the two apple trees next to the barn, which provide us with fluffy white blossoms in spring, and the most delicious apples in autumn.  I will miss the lilac bush, and opening the dining room windows wide to bring the fragrance indoors in May.  I will miss our two birch trees, which are gold and white in autumn, and provide a natural bird-feeder in winter.  I will miss sitting at my dining room table with Shaun, watching the birds dine year-round out the window.

I’m going to miss the town and neighborhood itself–the kind neighbors, the way kids feel free to come and go as they please, the ability to walk into the village and go shopping, go out to eat, to the farmer’s market, or, for me, to go to work.  I’ll miss being able to walk to the river, which is the reason this place exists.  I’ll miss seeing all the other beautiful houses that surround mine.

I will miss seeing our grand plans for this house take shape over the years.  I will miss the part of myself that has stitched itself into the fabric of this place, that will remain here when I am long gone.

***

There is an interesting spot next to our carriage house which I ungraciously call “the Junk Heap.”  It is exactly what I call it–the place where past inhabitants of our house used to toss their refuse.  Thanks to our dog, who first alerted me to its presence by digging it up, and to natural erosion, layer upon layer of fascinating material is being unearthed–Mother Nature conducting an archeological dig in my own backyard.  I’ve picked up shards of old glass in all colors, broken bottlenecks, pieces of ceramic, lumps of coal, and bits of metal hardware rusting away into dust.  I hold the pieces in my hands and wonder what they belonged to, who handled them, why they were finally tossed out.  There is one piece, a yellow bit of ceramic with a blue stripe running across it, which looks (to my untrained eye) like it might have once belonged to a mixing bowl.  It puts me in mind of a story related to me by a former resident of my neighborhood; how, when they were children in the ’40s, he and a friend would often come to this house and rub their noses against the front screen door.  The lady of the house, a very kind woman, would always give each of them a cookie.  But his mother always knew where he had been, and would scold him, because the tip of his nose would be blackened from pressing it against the screen.

Before we leave this house I will add my own items to the Junk Heap, some pieces of cracked ceramic dinnerware and some of my less-well-turned-out ceramic projects from college.  In the tradition of ceramicists–and of our house’s former residents–I will smash my pieces and leave them to return to the earth…or be picked up and pondered over by the next person who calls this place home.

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October

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” -Anne Shirley

For the last few months, life has tumbled us around until I feel I barely know which way is up.  Just when I’ve found my feet, the floor is upended beneath me.

Outside my window, autumn at last has the landscape all to itself.  Summer was brazen and persistent this year, but autumn went about its work quietly, gently, using summer’s sunniness and warmth to highlight its jewel-box colors.  Winter is cruel and comforting by turns; spring is a celebration; summer, carefree; but autumn is content.

I have been re-re-re-(etc.)reading the Anne of Green Gables novels.  They are a welcome escape, a place where most problems are resolved to their rightful conclusions. Anne rejoices in each season at its turn, and I join her; but I have a special affection for autumn.  There is something about it that deeply satisfies me, like eating a good meal after you have been hungry, or snuggling down under clean sheets after a hard day’s work.  Autumn fills up my soul with peace and contentment.  It reminds me that however bewildering my circumstances are, there is still constancy in the world.

This is my Father’s world. O let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.
~Maltbie D. Babcock

 

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You Look So Young: Incredulous

The cashier at the grocery store had to ask for my I.D. during check-out today.  Knowing that I will probably be carded until I am age 90, I had it ready.

The cashier looked at my birth date, then at the photo, and then up at me, clearly disbelieving.  He looked down at the photo again, back at me, back at the birthdate again, and back up at me.

I was about to ask if there was a problem when he shrugged and entered my birth date into the computer.  He sighed as my purchase cleared.

“Well,” he said, “You just barely made it.”

Even official documents do not spare me.

(Also…how does a margin of six years constitute “barely making it”?)

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The Log Book: June-July 2016

Latest Projects:
-Planning a vacation to Acadia National Park in Maine!
-I’m still shuffling things around to my new studio on the other side of our duplex.  On the up side, the two spare rooms on our side are starting to look like rooms and less like gigantic piles of stuff.
-My first major knitting project is still unfinished five years later (this is a chronic problem for me).  I’m making a final push to complete it, once and for all.

What’s cooking?
Camping food:  Hot dogs and s’mores, hamburgers, tinfoil meals.  Oh, and lobster boiled over a campfire.  It was MAINE, after all.

Reading:
Everywhere Present by Stephen Freeman
The Lost Boy by David Peltzer
The Martian by Andy Weir
Murder on the Links by Agatha Christie
Redwall, Mossflower, and Mattimeo by Brian Jacques

Other happenings:
Basically, this comic:

Where Did June Go?

We’re more than half-way through 2016. Maybe my head will stop spinning by the time November does its fly-by.

July has gone by at a more leisurely pace.  We spent the first part of the month on vacation in New England.  I had my first real camping experience at Acadia National Park.  It was fun, scenic, and tiring–and it drizzled most of the time.  Vacation was capped off by attending the wedding of a dear college friend.  The rest of the month was spent trying to  beat the heat and watching my lilac bush droop from lack of rain.  August is looking pleasantly busy from here….

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Aftermath

With a week-and-a-half of vacation behind us, we drove from southern Maine back to our home in New York State.  It was an eight or nine hour trip that stretched to eleven, thanks to a lack of distinct road signs.

Relieved to be home, we hobbled stiffly out of the car and onto the back porch, fumbling for the house key.

I glanced in the back door window to our kitchen, and then looked again.

“Oh, no.”

The trash can was overturned.  Strewn around it was an array of cat food tins, lids, and the remains of the trash bag, now ripped to shreds.  Some unidentifiable sort of internal cat waste (it turned out to be a hair ball) was visible among the wreckage.  As if on cue, Juniper sauntered up and sat down with great dignity next to the mess, staring at us placidly as we gawked and struggled to open the back door.

Once inside, we stepped gingerly over the trash as Juniper minced out on to the back porch, hardly giving us a second glance.  I headed for the bathroom, which is just off the kitchen, and was again brought up short.

The cat food bin was overturned and the lid was off.  There was cat kibble all across the bathroom floor.  I bent to right the bin and noticed pieces of dry egg noodle mixed in with the cat food.  I followed the trail of egg noodles to the pantry shelf where I keep dry and canned goods.  About a half-dozen cans and boxes had been knocked off the shelf.  The bag of egg noodles was ripped open neatly from top to bottom, spilling its contents over the shelf and onto the floor.

I called to Shaun and showed him the mess.  “I’m afraid to venture any further into the house!”

He assured me that the only other damage was that the cats had pulled down a curtain hanging on a tension rod and slept on it.  “It could have been a lot worse.”

“Oh, I know!” I said, and got to work cleaning up trash and cat kibble and egg noodles and hair ball while Shaun unloaded the car.

Juniper pointedly ignored me for the rest of the evening, making a show of preferring Shaun instead.  Only after I fed her that night did she come twine happily about my ankles.  I took this to mean that I was finally forgiven.

–Just as long as I never go on vacation ever again.

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You Look So Young! Except not…

As I was getting out of my car at the post office today, two teenage boys drove by.  One leaned out the window and yelled to me, “Hi Mom!”

Clearly you skipped your optometry appointment, son.

I would almost think that this means my days of being mistaken for a fifteen-year-old are over–except last month, someone thought I was Shaun’s daughter.

There is just no escape from the awkward here.

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The Log Book: May 2016

Latest Projects:
Keeping us fed and clothed.

What’s cooking?
I cooked from scratch THREE times this month.  I never thought I’d say this, but I actually miss cooking….

Reading:
The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie
Three More Words by Ashley Rhodes-Courter
The Underdogs by Melissa Fay Greene

Other happenings:
-We bought a pick-up truck!  We’ve been limping along on one vehicle for almost five years, and getting a second was long overdue.  The new vehicle was supposed to be mine, but once we decided that we were getting a truck, it quickly, mysteriously, morphed into being Shaun’s vehicle.
-More visits from family and friends!
-We are excited to have a new niece!  She is adorable.
-On Memorial Day weekend, we traveled to Virginia for a family reunion.  It was a short trip, but fun.  Although I have to say, we both REALLY hate driving in PA.  Orange construction barrels must be their state flower.

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The Log Book: March-April 2016

Latest projects:
Recently we took the other half of our duplex off the rental market.  We like having our yard and house and driveway all to ourselves. 🙂  And now we have a little more room to spread out–six more rooms, in fact.  My “studio” is in the process of being moved over to the kitchen on the other side of the house, and all seven bins of Army gear have been relocated.
-On the de-cluttering front, I got through all the books that are on our bookshelves, but the ones in storage will have to wait for another time.  Look out, paperwork.
-Spring cleaning.  I’ve already done two “pre” cleanings, but now it’s time to really get to work–moving furniture, washing ceilings and walls, swiffering the radiators (why does the using the word “swiffer” suddenly make it sound like this will be an easy job?).

What’s cooking?
My kitchen has been seriously neglected of late, except for my blender.  It has been working hard making delicious fruit smoothies every morning.

Reading:
Mini-Farming:  Self-Sufficiency on 1/4 Acre by Brett L. Markham
Dream Home:  The Property Brothers’ Ultimate Guide to Finding and Fixing Your Perfect House by Jonathan and Drew Scott

Other happenings:
-In March, Shaun won two cook boards (which are a test of an Army cook’s knowledge). Although he was still jr. enlisted at the time, he competed at the NCO level.
-On April 1 (no joke!) Shaun promoted to SGT.  He worked hard for this promotion, and we are really proud.
-Spring must be here, because friends are asking to come visit me in the wild north again!