Building a New Life

Thursday, May 29th, 2014
My house site before construction. (The boulders are Richard's spare sculpture materials.) The house site before construction. (The boulders--which I saved for landscaping--are Richard's spare sculpture materials.)

Almost 14 months ago, on April 4, 2013, Tommy Meyers drove his backhoe up the bank onto this weedy, junk-filled former industrial site and began excavating for my new house.

I worked in my office in my old house, Terraphilia, with the windows wide open, listening to the growling of the backhoe engine. What Tommy was doing, I wrote then, was "breaking ground for my new life."

Tommy Meyers and backhoe break ground for Tree House. Tommy Meyers and his backhoe commence work.

This afternoon, I picked up the Certificate of Occupancy for the new house, which means I can legally occupy what I call Creek House, in honor of the chuckling voice of nearby Ditch Creek.

The Certificate of Occupancy for Tree House. The Certificate of Occupancy for Creek House.

(I'm still awaiting the final inspection for Treehouse, the garage with studio above, and its CO.)

I have, of course, been living here since last October, when the sale on Terraphilia closed. The Building Department granted me a temporary CO then; none of us imagined I would be "temporary" for so long.

I was so delighted to receive my Certificate of Occupancy this afternoon that I took myself out to Salida Greenhouses and bought a big new blue-glazed pot to put at the street-side entrance of my front deck.

The new pot, blue to match the two pots by the front door, angled to fit into the corner of the deck railing by the front-stairs-to-be. The new pot, blue to match the two pots by the front door, angled to fit into the corner of the deck railing by the front-stairs-to-be.

Three large pots and a stock tank already sit on my front deck, making up my kitchen-garden-in-containers. I needed another pot for flowers to attract pollinators to keep my garden healthy (and make me smile at the blooms and their flying visitors).

As I filled the new pot with organic potting soil, mixed in compost for nutrients and water-retention, and carefully planted fuchsia and splashy coleus, calibrachoa and mini-petunias, ageratum and agastache, I thought about building both a house and a new life.

Fuchsia blooms I trimmed off to help the new plant get established. Fuchsia blooms I trimmed off to help the new plant get established.

I've just passed the two-and-a-half year mark since Richard died. (It was Tuesday at 11:07 am; I was at SeaTac Airport waiting for a flight home.) In the context of the nearly 29 years we were together, two and a half years is a relatively short span.

Sometimes I think I'm doing well in this metamorphosis into whoever it is I'm becoming. Other times I feel exposed and vulnerable, one giant nerve ending quivering with emotion.

Sometimes I feel like I've figured out what I'm doing and other times I feel like a kid trying on someone else's clothes.

It's a relief when I feel competent and strong, until I do something stupid or thoughtless. And then I just feel dumb, and clumsy with my new self.

Kayaking in the Columbia River near Portland Kayaking in the Columbia River near Portland

Why it is that losing a spouse has stripped me so bare? Because of the length of our partnership, I think, but also and perhaps more importantly, because of the depth of it. We really were each others' other half.

Our lives were shaped to fit the other. Not in a deforming way; each of us flourished in the shelter and embrace of the other.

Molly, Richard and me at our apartment in Boulder, Colorado. Molly, Richard and me at our apartment in Boulder, Colorado.

Without Richard, I am not only just me, I'm a me I've never known as an adult. We met and paired after one date. I was 25. He was 33. It's no exaggeration to say we raised each other while we raised Molly.

Now I am raising a new solo me. It's freeing, exciting, exhausting, and scary. And as with this house, each step is taking a lot longer than I imagined.

Unlike the CO I just received, there won't be any official paperwork to show when I'm done. Because this very figuring out who I am and how to be in this world IS my new life.

When it's over, so am I. I only hope I'll have known plenty of moments where I feel like I'm living it well and lovingly.

A sunshine-bright coleus, planted with love today. A sunshine-bright coleus, planted today.