As those who have read this blog for a while know, 2011 was an intense year for me of learning about how to love someone and also let them go with as much care and grace as possible. I managed my mother's hospice care through her death in February of that year, and then, with the help of our daughter Molly, tended my husband Richard through his death in November.
In late July, I set out for western Washington to celebrate Dad's 90th birthday with my family. It was a gorgeous day when Red and I pulled out of Cody: sunny, blue skies, and the temperature in the mid-seventies, unusually cool. As we headed north and west across Montana, the temperature soared into the high 90s, and forest-fire smoke hazed the views.
I was planting native perennial flowers from a local nursery's July sale this afternoon; the sun was hot, and I was sweaty and tired. "Why am I working so hard? Is it worth it?" Rescuing this dilapidated house and yard felt overwhelming and never-ending.
I was trying to explain to a friend why I would spend a year and a half plus a tidy chunk of money renovating my wonderful but very, very neglected mid-century modern house, and then decide to sell it when I finish.
"It's the project," I said. "I can't resist a good renovation project."
That was a weak answer, and my friend knew it. She gave me one of those you-are-crazy-but-I'm-fond-of-you-anyway looks, and changed the subject.
One of the things that fascinates me about house renovation, or any kind of restoration work (including digging invasive weeds in Yellowstone, which I'll be doing next month) is that the process of changing something outside ourselves often shifts our internal perspective as well.
It started out innocently enough: On Friday afternoon, Jeff Durham, my contractor, was trimming the outside of the new windows in the kitchen bay, which is right next to the front entry. (The photo above shows the old windows, the brick enclosure in front of them on the left is the "planter" box.) I looked at the brick enclosure, and said, "You'll have to climb over that stupid thing." "Maybe it's time to take it out," he said a grin, knowing I can't resist a challenge.
Thursday, the hottest day this past week, was replace-the-dining-room windows day. That's the last in this batch of new windows for my wonderful but long-neglected house.
We didn't pick the hottest day of the week on purpose. Thursday just happened to be when the stars aligned for my wonderful contractor, Jeff Durham, to have three helpers, plus the big forklift needed to move the 500-pound window-unit in place. Through my backyard.
I didn't blog last weekend because I was in western Washington with my family. It's so rare that the whole Tweit clan can gather (only Molly was missing) that I wanted to soak up every moment. Even my middle niece, Sienna, and her husband and kids were there from Germany, where Matt is on detail with the Army Corps of Engineers. I haven't seen them in three years!
Last Friday morning, I backed out of my garage promptly at nine am, headed for Colorado. Specifically, for the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities to attend the annual Colorado Authors' League Awards banquet. It's an eight-hour drive to Arvada, and the first six hours were glorious. (The photo at the top of the post is the Wind River Canyon, about two hours south of Cody.)
For the past week, I've been caretaking a retreat center and its resident cat, which means I drive out to the center twice a day, first thing in the morning to feed and play with Talks-A-Lot, the cat (she does talk--a lot!), and to check on the buildings. I drive back out again at the end of the work day to either let Talks in and feed her if it's been nice enough for her to be outside all day, or to hear her meow! meow! meow! lecture if the weather hasn't been nice and she's been stuck inside.
I first heard about the Indivisible movement from my 88-year-old dad in January, not long after I moved to Wyoming. In our weekly call--he lives just 15 minutes from my brother and sister-in-law, but I still check in almost every weekend, since Dad lives alone and is legally blind--I asked what was up in his world.
There is a balm in Gilead
To make the wounded whole.
There is a balm in Gilead
To soothe a sin-sick soul.
Those lines in my favorite spiritual are running through my head tonight because I sang them Sunday morning at the early service at the Episcopal Church.
I am writing this from my new desk in my newly painted, trimmed, and book-shelf-lined office. My desk, a sheet of melamine counter material that Jeff, my contractor, cut to fit and trimmed with nice wood edging, is perched it on two clean sawhorses in the window bay with a view of one of the huge old spruce trees in my backyard.
My house looks like a home for wayward boxes. There are boxes everywhere: Boxes form a half-wall between the living room and the kitchen in the "great room," boxes hide under the built-in desk in my office and stack up to the lowermost bookshelves; boxes are tucked under the workbench in the workshop and fill the pantry.