Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanks Giving

My children are on their way home to celebrate our last Thanksgiving in this house.  My parents and mother-in-law and sisters-in-law will join us tomorrow.  This house is one we longed for, dreamed about, waited for once we purchased the unimproved land, built, landscaped, decorated, and inhabited for eleven years.  When we moved here I thought I’d stay until my children wheeled me into a nursing home.  I couldn’t imagine wanting to be anywhere else.

Over the past few years, however, I have been slowly letting go of this house, even before I knew that my husband would leave his job and it would make financial sense to say goodbye.  Kevin and I will close escrow next week on a home in Bainbridge Island, Washington.  We will take ownership of a sixty-year-old house that has been home to only one man, and his wife (and I am guessing their children) and pets (confirmed by the home inspector).  I know little more than his name.  Neal is at least eighty years old, has moved onto his final home, and his documents are being signed by a power of attorney. 

I am thankful to be moving to a home that has sheltered a single family who lived and loved in it for sixty years.  Walking through their home I gathered fragments of their story.  This couple loved to garden, they liked green paint, wallpaper borders and lace curtains, they needed a handrail to step in and out of the shower tub, they didn’t use their basement in their later years.  I will never Neal’s family, but I want them to know that Kevin and I will be good stewards of their house––which according to our realtor and home inspector has good bones, but needs some blood transfusions and organ transplants.  

It already feels like home, and this Thanksgiving I am so grateful for my husband (we began dating in November 1980), for all that we have weathered and how we have grown closer through each challenge.  New life that beckons to us in that mid-century house on Bainbridge Island and the vision of how to share this new blessing with others reveals and refines itself day by day.

I give thanks for the years in our dream house in Boulder Creek, for the hospitality we could offer through our house to church classes, coworkers for meetings, teenagers on Friday nights, family and friends in need of short and long term living arrangements.  For the joy of watching our children grow from elementary students to confident college students, and the wonder they brought home to us as they ventured out of these doors.  For the sanctuary of my very own office with my view of Betsey the Cow, a room where I wrote sermons, newsletters, and essays, from which I served a church and earned my master’s degree.  A home that had enough space and privacy for Kevin to conduct much of his international business work from “his desk” and then Jennifer’s as we dared to claim her former bedroom as an office once it was clear she was launched.

I am blessed by Thanksgiving, for sanctioned gratitude to honor the season lived here.  And as it falls away, something new is being born, so fitting as we enter Advent on Sunday. 

I pray for the new family that will be moving into our home.  Three generations under one roof—and maybe a fourth to come—who have looked for three years for a house that suits them all.  May they be blessed by this home that we gave our heart and sweat to.  May they prosper on this land, may it empower their dreams for their season in this place.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Moving Forward

When we arrived in Washington last Thursday night, we stayed at a resort hotel for Kevin’s birthday (the Woodmark, thanks to Groupon).  Walking along Lake Washington at dusk, we saw a beaver gliding in the water, then munching groundcover along the bank.  It was the first beaver we’ve ever seen outside of captivity.  We got close enough to see its bristly fur, and as we fell silent watching it, the beaver’s presence felt like a sign  meant especially for us.  Beavers build houses, and the house we live in now, and the remodel of our old house, were both done by a contractor we respect enormously, whose logo is a beaver, and who Kevin has often fantasized about working for.  A beaver appeared to us in Washington with a message to work together and build a home there.  And that’s what we’re going to do.

We’re making an offer on the blue house on Bainbridge Island tomorrow.  The house is empty and has been on the market since May when the owners, a couple in their seventies, who lived there for almost sixty years moved on.  The house, built-in 1951 boasts mid-century modern features that are coming back into vogue—an open entry and two walls of windows in the living room.  From the windows, you look out onto a landscape that includes a small view of Puget Sound over the neighbor’s roof and between cedars.  Along with water, and trees, there is light.  Light––even in the long gray Northwest winter days––will be ours as we look out onto a mature garden with camellias, wisteria, tulips, daffodils, grass, Japanese maple, benches, an arbor, a lath house and more.

The house on Maple Street is half an acre at the top of a hill in a development on the west side of the island near Manzanita Bay.  There’s a private beach for residents, a small grassy slope to store kayaks and canoes next to a set of cement steps that provide a boat launch at high tide, or access to the narrow beach at low tide.  There’s a picnic table and benches, a quiet place to write or daydream, just a two-minute walk from the house.

The house has a full basement and a perfect set-up for a studio apartment on the main floor.  The studio has a separate entrance and the best water views in the house.  My vision is to offer a writer’s retreat/bed and breakfast––editing and couching services along with a queen bed, desk, printer, network access, full bathroom and kitchenette.  We’ve already checked with the city and my dream is completely legal!

Our house (yes, I’m thinking positively) is a fixer, but in the best way.  It’s not falling apart; it’s just mid-century, like us.  Original linoleum, twenty-year old appliances, even older toilets and showers will need replacing.  We tore up a bit of carpet in the living room and there was beautiful hardwood floor underneath.  It’s livable while we modernize, a big consideration since we’re moving out of state.

The location is a long commute to Microsoft, where Kevin is one of the finalists for a job.  Kevin’s used to commuting 50 minutes or more one way, and we were looking for a lifestyle change, but try as I might, I didn’t feel at home in Redmond, Kirkland, Issaquah, or Woodinville, the closest cities to Microsoft, the way I did on Bainbridge Island (population 23,000).  And Kevin, who isn’t phased by traffic, not only took pity on me, but really wants us to live in a writers/artists community where I can flourish and live out my vision for hosting writers in our home.  He’s an incredible life partner and I’m blessed to be his wife.

He’s willing to spend two hours a day getting to and from work.  Thankfully, unlike our Bay Area, where getting to work is mostly a fend for yourself proposition, Microsoft, which employs more than 60,000 people in the Redmond area east of Seattle, provides vanpools and its own bus service.  Once Kevin gets the job (I’m thinking positive again), his commute will consist of a five mile trip to the ferry in Winslow (by bike in good weather, car in bad), a 35 minute ferry crossing where he can nap, check email, read the paper, and a 20-30 minute bus or van ride, where he can again “plug-in” and begin his work day.  The position he’s being considered for also has an international component, and because of the time difference involved, he’ll be able to work from home several days a week.

We’re looking forward to the incredibly long summer days and the opportunity to kayak in the evenings after a power nap and dinner.  In fact, all our conversations in the past few days are revolving around looking forward, to all that we need to do in order to leave this house before escrow closes, and to settle my sister, who lives with us and who will stay in this area, and ourselves into new homes.  It feels daunting when I’m churning the logistics in my own small brain, but completely manageable when Kevin and I are in conversation.  When he makes up his mind, stand back!  He knows how to get things done. 

His latest plan percolating through the night and brewed by lunchtime––Move the two of us and our three cats (with our daughters’ help wrangling them on an airplane) to our new home on Bainbridge Island in time to celebrate Christmas there with our two daughters, and possibly his mother and sisters who would help him drive up our car.  Then move my sister after us. 

I’m excited to follow his lead, and the Spirit’s, so thankful that our “something better” of “this or something better” appears to be just within reach.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Moving the Energy

The weekend before last I participated in a “Trance-formational Retreat” held in some yurts off grid here in the Santa Cruz Mountains.  It was an unusual activity for me, but I’m not working, I finished my degree, I packed too much for a house that hasn’t sold, I toured hundreds of homes online, I wasn’t motivated to write.  I wanted get on with my life, and if I couldn’t force change, I’d move energy. 
I danced blindfolded, drew a picture using symbols from the Maori tribe in New Zealand, breathed in manner designed to alter consciousness and release energy, joined a drum circle, began each morning with qijong, ate meals and had fascinating conversations with the conveners who lead sweat lodges and visioning workshops, and support themselves as transpersonal coaches, breathwork facilitators, and hand readers, among other occupations. 
In our gatherings each person was smudged with cedar and sage, the incense of burning embers wafted around us fanned by an eagle feather.  Our circle and space was claimed sacred, cleared for holy work, and a deep connection to one another.  The group wasn’t Christian or Un-Christian.  It was human, simply fully human.  Welcoming each person’s spiritual and religious journey and experience, a model not of tolerance, but of acceptance crucial for peace in our personal relationships and in the world. My Amens joined the Ahos and Namastes as we blessed each other.
When we drew, I called Jesus, my prayer partner, my husband, and a good friend from high school into my consciousness as we were asked to visualize best friends and healers in our lives. I kept them in mind as I began “to breathe.”  I had never experienced such a powerful manifestation of energy.  A paralyzing tingling called tetany coursed into my hands (a common response to breathwork, and a sign that I’ve been holding in my emotions and creativity).  Heat and comfort flowed into me from a laying on of hands lasting long after the fact.  My own touch brought the perceptible softening of another’s frame after qigong.  I have had glimpses of energy before––zinging acupuncture needles, the laying on of hands in prayer or blessing in my ministry—but the profundity of my retreat experience reminded me of how often I forget our connectedness as energetic beings, living in my private bubble.
I spoke during the weekend about the uncertainty and waiting in my life.  My husband leaving a job that was going to disappear, his search for work, listing our house for sale in July with no buyer traffic since then, our desire for a job for Kevin in San Francisco and a particular house for us in Pacifica where I could offer a writing retreat, the job not materializing, the house in contract with someone else.  I told the group that a former coworker of Kevin’s recommended him for a position with Microsoft, east of Seattle, that he applied for it and we were waiting to see if he’d be a final candidate, if we were going to leave our native California, and wondering what we’d do with our house.
I’d anticipated the retreat as time for inner work, attempting to heal very old trauma (re-birth is a big part of breathwork, healing the original trauma we all experience).  But that wasn’t the case.  My external circumstances were paramount in both my conscious and deeper mind, informing my entire weekend.
I came home with much in my head and heart to explore, particularly my Maori drawing, which I tacked up on my empty bulletin board—despite the real estate staging rule nixing personal displays.  My drawing, with its requisite symbols, resulted in a path that lead to a blue house near water and mountains in the Northwest quadrant of my paper.  A drawing that is both physic (as opposed to psychic) and prophetic.
Monday, the day after I returned from the retreat, our realtor told us to expect an offer on our house.  Thursday we began negotiating with the buyers. Saturday, Kevin and I were standing in an empty house for sale––a blue house––on Bainbridge Island with a peek of Puget Sound from the living room, wanting to call it home.  This Monday Kevin had a promising interview with the hiring manager and will return with the final candidates for another interview after Thanksgiving.
I’m not sure what is going to transpire, or in what order, but it is clear that things are happening.  After months of waiting, life is kinetic.  The energy that was pent up and waiting is moving and we are following it.