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.