*Photo of the tile mosaic I created for the foyer to our Olean home.
By this time next week, Michael and I will be in New Hampshire. It’s exciting to be in the final last days of renovations on our Olean house, though it’s been a horrible grind to get all the work done. Despite the fact that Michael had already done so much work prior to this summer, we still had a lot to finish. Trim work is a beast, and even though a lot of it was done already it became apparent how much still needed to be done when it came time to complete it ALL. On top of the trim (which Michael is making himself, very painstaking and detailed), we also have to paint EVERYTHING. If you’ve ever painted the interior of an entire house, you know our pain. It’s just the two of us doing all the work alone, so it’s slow, grueling, and both of us crawl to the bed each night groaning with aches in our necks, hands, and backs. I’ve been employing liberal use of pain relief meds and creams to get through this month. Michael also created a last bit of concrete countertop for the kitchen, a step for the back patio, finished out closets with drywall, and cut thresholds for several doorways. Months ago, I created a tile mosaic for the foyer, and that came with its own set of problems to be solved. Now, however, we’ve been enjoying it for the short time we have left in the house. In my mind, I hope it will be a deciding factor for someone who walks into the home and, upon seeing it, will have to buy it.
As we continue the endless bits and pieces of reno around the interior, we also have work on the yard (like digging up a garden, trying to clean up all the yard waste, trimming trees, and pulling weeds). The one really big thing left, though, is the siding. Years ago Michael started the siding, got about half-way done with it, and then he had to stop either because he ran out of time and money, or he went to the hospital—he can’t remember which. One of those things stopped the work, and so it sat waiting while he went back to school for nursing, had to start working right out of school, and then subsequently had no time or energy for construction work. We expect to have to wait until we start our new jobs in New Hampshire before we can come back to Olean and finish the siding, which we hope we can complete in a couple of weekends. We’ll see what happens. No home improvement ever gets done in a timely fashion; usually these jobs are double what you expect to spend in both time and money.
The hardest part of all the last-minute balls-to-the-wall work is the fact that I really want to see people before we leave town. I have a lot of friends I want to see, and so little time to do it. I did get to have a last supper of sorts with my family over the weekend, and they threw me a little surprise birthday party. They made me cake and gave me gifts, and then we played a round of “Dictionary,” a game in which a person chooses a word from the dictionary, and we all make up definitions. It usually results in a lot of hilarity. Though dinners like this will not be so frequent anymore, we will only be a day’s travel away. We can always come back to Olean when we have a free weekend, or we can have people come visit us. A lot of people would probably think of a seven-hour drive as long and tedious, but after traveling across the country and living in Nevada (where several hours of travel between cities or towns was absolutely normal), seven hours seems like nothing. It’s a short stint. Already I find myself dreaming of life in New Hampshire, now that we finally made our decision final, and my heart is full. What fun it will be to wander the woods, take roads trips through the country, discover new parks, and meet new friends. We have a temporary place to live until we find a more permanent home, and the excitement of building our own place in the woods promises to be an adventure, even if I know the work will be hard.
Monday I met with my niece to work on our children’s book together, a project I had hoped to finish over the summer. We spent the afternoon in the library, drawing furiously in a quiet corner, whispering ideas to each other like kids in a classroom. Alas, we still have a good deal of drawing to do, but I am excited that we got to spend this summer in Olean to be able to start some of the collaborations I got going while we were here. I am lucky to know some very smart, inventive, wonderful people with whom I can create all kinds of art, especially my niece. She has been a delight to work with over the summer, and she has made my original idea so much better because of her creativity. Today Michael and I drove a washer to my sister-in-law in Jamestown, NY, and got one last dinner in with Michael’s family. Once upon a time, I might have felt sad about leaving behind the people we love, but now that we’ve spent so much time on the road already I feel as though distance no longer matters. Love travels long distances, connecting us regardless of where we go or what we do. Love doesn’t care how far away people live, and those people who truly cherish our relationships readily pick up right where we left off, even after years of not seeing each other. I know so many people who choose not to leave a place because they believe they will miss their family and friends too much, but now that I have gone away and returned, I find that those people who really matter to me are still there, still care, and still love me. If anything, the distance has made it more apparent that relationships matter, and we must make that special effort to keep them alive. If we spend time with those we love when we can, those moments become that much more poignant, rather than blending into the rigamarole of daily life and being forgotten.
For me, it’s more important now that I taste life with vigor. Ever since I hit my 40s, I have risen to a desire for more. Perhaps it has to do with a sense of oppression in my past, in which I felt I didn’t have the freedom to live the life I wanted to live, but it doesn’t really matter. What matters now is that I want to see beautiful places, to work with people who are excited to make the world a better place, and to share this beauty with those who want to enjoy it with me. I want more art in my life, and less time wasted doing things for people who don’t value my effort, my time, or my input. For a long time, I used to believe the people in my life who told me I shouldn’t expect to enjoy my work, money is the root of all evil, and life is hard. Life isn’t easy, but it doesn’t need to be devoid of daily joy. Yesterday I ate strawberries over my sink, thinking a silent thank you to the person who plucked those berries from their vine so I could eat them. Farm work is hard labor, and I don’t think many people in today’s world appreciate it enough. In making an effort to just think to myself that I am grateful someone else is willing to do that necessary work so I can do the work I must do, it somehow draws to mind the importance of paying attention to details, living in the moment, and just appreciating the little things, like good food.
What I feel most happy about on the cusp of moving is that a new effort to be more mindful in my life began in Keene, NH while we lived there for our first of Michael’s nursing contracts. We were just beginning our travel life together, and both of us fell in love with New Hampshire while we lived there, especially the woods. But I also began visiting a meditation center in Keene, and became enamored with the Monday night meditations because of what I began to learn from the insightful conversations and subsequent inner discoveries. In those months of meditations, I learned a great deal of priceless knowledge about the way gratitude changes a person’s inner landscape. I learned a lot of other deep-thought kinds of things, but ever since I began the habit of going to those Monday night meditations I have gone on an inner journey which has been just as important as the outer one in the last couple of years. It’s as if the travels we took somehow reflected the wandering of my thoughts, or maybe vice versa. The philosophical jumble is moot. I am changed. The world is still scary, lots of people have it tough, most people live with a lot of stress and anxiety, and bad things happen to good people every day…yet even though the world is the same, I am not. Instead of the dark, somber side of things I might once have chosen to see, I now stand at my sink and think a silent thanks to the person who picked the berry I am eating.
When we first took the Airstream across the country, I threw a horrible fit one night because I lost my shit and couldn’t handle the stress anymore. Granted, the evening was not going well. I can’t remember the exact turn of events, but I was beyond exhausted, we had no where to park the RV to have power for anything, lots of other things went wrong, and I fell apart at the seams. At one point I actually bashed my metal water bottle on the table so hard I dented the bottle (kudos to Airstream for building a table that didn’t even chip when I slammed that bottle on it repeatedly). Ridiculous. In a year’s time, on our way back across the country again, we had another bad series of events which I wrote about while we were driving. You can look back through my blog posts to find some of the stories about the drive back in the beginning of March of 2018. It was brutal, but this time I didn’t come unglued. In just a year of being on the road, paying more attention to my thoughts, and being more mindful, my head is now in a different place. Five years ago I never would have expected to be moving out of Olean and living a dream, but we are doing it. We didn’t need to become independently wealthy to drive across the country, but we did it by getting creative. So much of what we want out of life requires only that we SEE what is around us, waiting for us, ready for us to take it into our attention. It’s a magic of becoming aware of possibility, to see what can happen if you don’t just dream, but DO things. Plan. Seek. Enjoy. Such verbs are more than just action, they are possibility. Am I always happy every minute? No. Am I generally content? Absolutely. And there is room for more, for better, for bigger. More love, more gratitude, more joy. Always.
In a matter of days, we will travel again. Off we’ll go to the mountains, to the woods, and to the quiet. Fall is my favorite season, and I am beyond ecstatic to spend it in New Hampshire. I am also beyond ecstatic to not have to paint anything for a while. My body is ready for a break from all this reno work, and I will be so glad to finally be able to get back to writing in earnest again. The computer calls to me from the pocket of my bag, begging me to come type out my thoughts, tell my stories, finish my novels, and start the new ones. I have lots of projects waiting in line, rolling eyes and tapping toes while I slog through yet another coat of paint on the woodwork, slap more joint compound on a nail hole, or shift yet another box from one location to another. Sigh. It will be done soon. Days instead of months. The curtains draw closed slowly, but they are closing. My dear readers, go make a wish upon the lovely, glowing orb of Mars in the heavens. Tell yourself how lucky you are to see that planet without a telescope, its bright orange presence one of many beautiful things to enjoy. No matter where you are or how you live, in your life I have no doubt there is at least one thing for which you can be grateful, one thing that made your day better. Look for it, and it will be there. Like a wish. Like magic.