Chapter 1: It Was All Going So Well…

I was taking another stab at the many-months-long holy grail of a real estate quest – a house with some but not too much acreage, in a clearing large enough to let in precious sunshine when available, yet surrounded by lush, life-packed Pacific Northwest forest, not too far from town, not too close — you know, that Goldilocks kind of thing. One day, a friend of a Facebook friend, someone I’d never met, posted an announcement that they were selling their house and property, a post that included a link to the listing.

HomeAt first glance, it wasn’t much to look at. No disrespect to vanilla lovers, but the house was inarguably plain vanilla – no ribbons of fudge, not one chocolate chip, no cherries. Just boring, overused clear-grain fir trim, likely the least attractive laminate flooring on the market, spray-on wall and ceiling texture, etc. Taken one at a time, these are mostly minor offenses. Combined, for prospective buyers with very different aesthetic preferences, it’s not just a home purchase, it’s a remodel project. But the bigger offense, the criminal shortage of windows looking out on that beautiful forest on the property, meant a much pricier remodel.

I’d never heard of the street that the house was located on, so I couldn’t immediately tell where, in or out of city limits, it was. My wife Laurel and I had learned the hard way to be thorough before getting in a car, having driven, it seemed, to every nook and cranny of our town, chasing after our fantasy on the strength of what would almost always turn out to be a deceptive mirage of photos, mere tricks of the light.

And so, I copied the address and pasted it into Google Maps in satellite view, and in the blink of an eye, there it was, the fantasy: two acres, the vast majority of which were wooded, the woods served as a buffer between the house and the nearest main road, and the house was sited in a clearing with southwest exposure, and plenty of space for gardens and our dog.

This was the fantasy because this was NOT going to be the latest whim, like, say, the previous five years, living in a large, modern, minimalist house with a killer view that looked cool like this…

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…but offered absolutely no possibility for enjoying the massive deck, yard, or walks in the neighborhood, thanks to noise from the interstate, downhill from the property, noise that echoed up the hill as if to say it told us so. No, this was the fantasy because it was to be our final house, and it was to be about what was outside as much as what was in.

Our son Julian had grown and was preparing to leave the nest, and so this home would be where we would live out the rest of our lives, hopefully our second fifty years; years during which, we had decided, we’d fully embrace our inner artists.

Laurel had been diving deep into her painting for several years at this point. I had band practice once a week and performed periodically. I’d been dabbling in photography for a while, and I always wanted to write a novel, maybe learn how to write poetry, but I hadn’t prioritized it as it needed to be. Laurel wrote prose and poetry in journals for years and was toying with the idea of at least one project that involved her painting and her writing. We fashioned a lifestyle change, whereby we fully supported each other in our pursuits in the arts. We began sharing work with each other more often. We took our notebooks, and Laurel a sketchbook, out into the world to enjoy some food and drink, often with our pal Hollie, overall dedicating more time to our craft.

We talked for the first time about growing old together, in love and art, in a park-like setting, and at long last we’d found the spot.


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