I fought our new way of life for several months after we moved in. Even though I know it’s futile and frankly, unhealthy for my mental wellness, I dug myself into a state of forcing this old house and property to prove itself to me. It’s too big, too unpredictable too…rural.
Please don’t misunderstand. I love and appreciate rural. My brother and I grew up in a rural setting on 53 acres outside of a small town. I enjoy nature, not to the extent my brother does. Still, I can appreciate wildlife, wild plant life, and all of their messy beauty. A logical question might be, why buy this place when I felt this way? Our purchase was a long-shot back-up offer, one that would come into force only if the original offer fell through, which it did. I honestly didn’t think we had a chance! Ooops.
I had hoped and planned on any form of rustic life being accompanied by a water view with a more vacation-like setting. And I’m at a point in my life where the clean lines of a downtown condo wouldn’t put me off. Oh, I know how I sound. Even writing these words I mockingly picture myself as Green Acres’ Lisa Douglas, longing for city life.
My message to the setting and the home was: prove yourself to me. Make me love you. The 150-year-old farmhouse was redone top to bottom and outfitted with new appliances and cool industrial-rustic features but on move-in day, it was horribly grimy. It was ruin-the-moment, long-term-neglect dirty, and gross. We had left behind a Molly Maid-cleaned house for its next owners and thought perhaps karma would follow us here. No such luck.
Derek happily dug right in, making improvements, planning for spring, and how he and his tractor would customize the 2/3 acre for our convenience and pleasure. For him, a big workshop and room to roam made him almost giddy. I tempered my wait-and-see attitude but he knew it was there. He only kept trying to make it all better for me.
There were lots of flies (common in country houses) and the occasional weird bug. We brought in the area pest control professional and now they’re all gone, but they were a long time going. It felt like everything I touched had an issue to deal with. As beautiful as they were, the kitchen shelves were raw wood that splintered easily. Who wants wood chips in their dishes? I solved that problem with the treatment of linseed oil. Every time I found something, like a baseboard that wowed away from the 150-year-old wall, I’d grab my caulking gun and try to improve it rather than get irritated by it. I cleaned and organized the dusty, unheated mudroom and commissioned more shelving (by Derek) for the pantry. I tried not to ruin Derek’s delight and to preserve what remained of my hope that this was all going to work out.
Then along came the pandemic. We had already set up our respective office/studio spaces shortly after move-in. I had painted mine and we had hired painters to spruce up the main floor. Derek had installed shelving and put a faux-tin ceiling over the wonky, poorly painted one in the main level bathroom/laundry room. Slowly, without even realizing it, this place that at first seemed like an impossible challenge had become a sanctuary. The full scope of our good fortune lit up in light of physical distancing.
We had already set up our work lives here, so nothing had to change when so many other people’s jobs were moved into their homes or even lost. We were so grateful. With more time to observe our surroundings, we started watching the antics of two goose families at the back of our lawn. Ricky & Lucy and Fred & Ethel have been teaching their babies to fly. I cleaned out the birdhouse and watched and waited for a bird family to move in. We’ve seen deer, coyotes and all sorts of birds. It’s blissfully quiet and we even notice a car coming down our gravel road because it’s an uncommon sound.
I had been reluctant to do anything outdoors. Part of the reason was winter, of course. Meanwhile, Derek ventured out twice a day to stoke the wood fire to fuel the furnace. (By now he must seem like a saint and some days I think he’s pretty close.) But now I want to get involved in this hinterland way of life. We’re not exactly hunting possum for dinner, but it’s definitely not the city, either.
Last weekend, while Derek used his tractor and blade to spread crushed asphalt on the driveway, I cut the lawn. It took an hour and 20 minutes of steady driving on the riding mower, and it was a nice change from typing or talking, which is how I make my living. My mind wandered as I adjusted my Tilley hat, and daydreamed about farm life. Maybe the local farmers would see my work and, recognizing my rare abilities on the lawn tractor, offer me a job driving a massive combine! That was an actual
thought delusion that crossed my mind!
Gratitude is the attitude I try to always maintain but as a flawed human, it sometimes gets hazy. It took the pandemic to bring me back to what I have to be grateful for. The simple things that worry so many others. A full belly. A roof over my head. Knowing where my next meal will come from. A partner who loves me and makes my life better. And I don’t think I’m alone in reassessing my surroundings and realizing I’ve got it good. My home just happened to have changed pretty drastically before this crisis occurred.