Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Patience, I Know, Patience

Our house has been on the market for a week.

Our house: main listing photo.
A week is nothing in the scheme of things, but our hopes were up. We were told that home inventory on Bainbridge Island is scarce, that homes in our price range are being snapped up in mere days. One agent predicted a “feeding frenzy” of multiple offers and a bidding war by the end of the weekend.

Our hopes seemed to be confirmed when we saw our professional listing photos last Tuesday night and our view of our house rose literally from the tiny details we’ve been absorbed with, to a grander aerial view, thanks to a camera with a hover copter attachment and iPhone app.

Aerial view of our property. Professional photos by Cascade ProMedia.

Our listing went live last Wednesday afternoon and more than 50 realtors and half a dozen potential buyers walked through at Thursday morning’s open house. Many of the realtors had seen the home in its sorry state when it was listed three years ago. They were amazed at what we’d accomplished; we were aglow with compliments. “It couldn’t have gone any better,” our agent said.

My husband and I spent the three-day weekend unpacking at our new house, taking a break from the final projects at the old—unpacking knick knacks that hadn’t been unboxed since we put our house on the market in California in July 2011—while more buyers and agents looked through the house.

Finally unpacked: Knick knacks and photo albums have been boxed up for 3 years.

We thought we’d be signing counter offers over a glass of wine with our agent in Gig Harbor on Monday afternoon. But the weekend drew to a close and the only things piled in our living room were empty boxes and packing paper.

Unpacking at the new house.
One family had been on the verge of making an offer. After sleeping on it, they decided they needed to be closer to the town and ferry terminal. Another didn’t like the bedroom configuration. Another thought the yard was too much work.  My husband and I can add a fence around our rooftop turf but we can’t do anything about those issues.

Sometimes all we can do is wait. And waiting is uncomfortable.

A dear friend is waiting to hear about a job. She was one of two finalists. She should’ve known two Fridays ago, then last Wednesday, but still no word. “Patience, Iago, patience,” I counsel, finding a villain’s (Jafar from Alladin) words useful, not just this once, but often.

Patience, I know, patience, is what I must tell myself when patience feels a luxury.

I don’t need scores of people tromping through our house. We certainly didn’t experience that in California. After the initial open house we had only one family come through. Five months later, after selling their home, they made an offer. The market is no longer abysmal (we lost so much money on that sale), but our house in Boulder Creek was unique, and so is our house on Bainbridge Island.

Our former house in Boulder Creek California.

I don’t care if the business cards keep piling up on the kitchen counter—evidence of frequent showings—what I do care about is finding the next right owner for this house.

The pile of business cards grows.

It’s easy to appreciate the d├ęcor and mid-century modern design and studio apartment now that the house is renovated; it will only need routine maintenance. But if you’re not a gardener, it’s not easy to see a quarter acre of landscaping and another quarter acre of island wild, and embrace the responsibility and challenge of maintaining it.

Our mid-century modern home restored.

I know there’s a gardener out there who will be amazed at the variety and unique collection of rhododendrons, Japanese maples, and perennials thriving on this property. There’s a gardener who will delight in discovering the richness in this land and will happily dig in the trowel to keep the weeds at bay, one who will stop to look up at fledgling eagles crying out overhead, will step away from the Spotted Towhee’s ground nest accidently discovered at the base of rhodie to pull out her camera and snap a photo, who will harvest raspberries and rhubarb and serve them to his family, who will scatter seeds from the columbines and alstroemerias in the wild side of the yard, one who will catch a glistening glimpse of the Sound over the neighbor’s roof and the great billowing clouds skating across the sky.

Spotted Towee hatchlings and one egg. Discovered 5/27/14.

Rhubarb and raspberry beds in foreground.

I’m looking for a gardener who will kneel in the dirt with her Hori knife and give thanks for the great privilege of stewarding this land and dwelling in this place.  

I do what I can to find that gardener: send Facebook messages and email to everyone I know in the Greater Seattle area with a link to our listing, email our local nursery and Rhododendron Society chapters in Oregon and Washington.
Rhododendrons off the master bedroom deck.

 “Your house will sell,” our agent says. She would buy it herself if it weren’t for the yard work (my point confirmed) she jokes. I too know it will sell, but I want it to sell soon, and at a price where we actually make some money, so we can get on with our lives. We have a project house to fund, and we’re counting on the proceeds from this sale to finance the project. Our livelihood depends on it.

The project house awaits.

I will buyers to materialize, imagining them wandering the yard in its June glory. My husband and I walked through in naked November, the maples bare, the perennials like Persephone, underground for the winter. And still we knew this was the next right place for us. Who will come after us?

A new path leads from the driveway through the backyard to the laundry room.

Please share our listing and help us find out.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

A Wholly New World

The Comet Ace is headed from Tacoma to Portland, cruising through the Sound at a speed of 16.7 knots. The Evergreen State oil tanker has been sitting at the Manchester Naval Fuel Dock since 15:50 yesterday. The Carnival cruise ship was docked in Seattle this morning, but is long gone.

I know all this thanks to (thanks to my prayer partner for telling me about the website) the perfect place for a nosy neighbor like me to find out who and what is plying the waters between my new home in Manchester/Port Orchard and Seattle.
The Evergreen State in port at the Manchester Fuel Dock
Today I took my first walk to the local library, several blocks downhill. A block southwest Mt. Rainier and the entirety of Blake Island are visible, but turning my attention from the natural world, I saw newly remodeled homes, new homes under construction, derelict homes hidden behind derelict fences, empty lots of grass, and just two homes below mine: a 50 –year-old rusted trailer with an attached lean-to.

This is a neighborhood in transition. And I am now a part of it.

It’s also a neighborhood alive: My next-door neighbor weed-whacked the grass in our drainage ditch before I moved in on a day I just happened to be here bringing a load of belongings in my minivan. He and his wife have two have young children who play and ride plastic John Deere trucks in their yard, making the lovely squealing sounds of childhood, and have a best friend across the street.

The mother of the best friend introduced herself and her son last week with a plate of chocolate chip cookies. Right now, two teens are throwing a football in the vacant lot across the street, talking the whole time (one more than the other). Last week, in the vacant lot above me, I saw two pheasants land and browse for food in the tall grass while I was pruning the long-neglected bushes in my garden. The next day, a man mowed the field down in a riding mower.

Male pheasant

Riding mower man 

A couple is walking past the house right now, headed possibly, to the one restaurant or one pub (or maybe Carmen’s Hair Haven) near the waterfront. You don’t have to be at the waterfront to see the water. The Seattle skyline and Cascades are visible to the east from our living room, dining room, my office, the upper deck and lower patio.

Our view with the help of the zoom lens

In the week we’ve lived here the view has been hazy in the mornings, the orange sun lighting the eastern horizon that’s mostly shining water that gradually, like my own blurry eyes, comes into focus to reveal the distant landscape, skyscrapers, and mountain peaks.

The morning sun heats the dining room and each day I step out of bed to find an array of cats (we have five) sprawled across the carpet baking in the sunspots in varying stages of what I call comatoast.

Right now I’m sitting on the second story deck of our rental house with its glass railings, looking over the roofs of neighboring houses at an expansive water view while my husband is camped out overnight, yet again, at our old house, working heroically on the last items of our remodel and move.
Our deck railing and neighbor with kids house
As the sun sets with help from a zoom lens
I join him most days, but I get tired, hungry, cranky, twice as fast as he does. His patience and stamina (thanks to wasabi peanuts and 5 hour energy), determination and drive know no bounds. He’s always been this way, wholly devoted to the project at hand. And now, the project is our livelihood, so it seems even more right and fitting that this time giving his all will be appreciated and rewarded.

A number of people have asked why we’re moving, and I suppose I haven’t been clear enough: We can’t afford to stay.

We need the money. My corporate executive husband could not find a job in his field. My writing retreat income (our sole income) was just over $10,000 for the year. All our resources are committed to our business, and they’re not enough, so we are selling our assets: our home.

It might’ve been a last desperate act, a resignation and giving up the one thing we could call our own.

But it’s not. It’s another bold step into the unknown, into the I-don’t-know-what’s-next-but-let’s-find-out life we’ve been living for almost three years now (when we first made the decision to let go of Cisco before it let go of Kevin). I am betting my life on my husband, and that seems right and fitting, too.

There were moments when I was afraid to trust that much, times when I wanted cosmic insurance, days and years when I wanted the future laid out before me like hopscotch squares so I could know the rhythm and sequence and pattern and follow it and win. I am thankful that the story of order and fear is part of my past and not in my present, and I pray not in my future.

What I do know is that our house—I’m already calling it “my old house” looks incredible—as we’ve hired a crew to do landscaping and refinish our wood floors (things we just couldn’t do ourselves in the timeframe we have) as it heads for the MLS. I am confident it will sell quickly, and I’m asking the universe for a big number. We could use it.
Our rooftop turf in the mist

The landscapers have redefined all our garden beds

Our living room with refinished original oak floor

We have permits in hand for our project house and we’ll be financing that construction with the proceeds from our sale, and my husband will again be using all his creativity and imagination and his hands and arms and drills and saws to bring another derelict property into glory.
Repaired waterfront deckat the project house

landscaping work at the project house

Today I was pruning years of dead branches off the few roses at our rental house and thinking about the love and care it could use as well (maybe that’s why we’re the new renters). Standing under a cloudless sky, Puget Sound and Seattle beyond it in my sight, I thought of a line in a Taize chant “you alone O Lord are holy” and how a former pastor (now my soul sister) changed the line, so that I and everyone at our church learned it this way: “you and all your world are holy.”
Rainbow at our rental house on moving day

Creator and creation: holy. The roses: holy. The Cascades: holy. The home my husband and I transformed: holy. Our relationship transformed by our united purposes and cleaving together as one as never before: Holy.  

First morning in our new house: two bald eagles overhead