Settling In

My living room with that comfy couch and art on the walls.

I have my stuff! Friday morning, five weeks after Dan and Ryan and crew from Santa Fe Moving &  Storage loaded my furniture, many boxes of books, tools, art, and other household goods onto a truck to move out of my house on Altura Road, a semi-truck and trailer from Cody’s own Cook Moving & Storage pulled up in front of my house here with my load.

I meant to shoot a photo of the truck and crew, but I was so excited, I forgot. (A real bed after five weeks of sleeping on my camping mattress on the floor! My office desk and chair! My pots and china instead of paper plates and a battered camping pan! A couch to relax on in the evening instead of my little backpacking chair!)

A real bed to sleep on!

A friend said, “It’ll be like Christmas when your stuff finally comes.” Well yes, if Christmas involved a lot of sweaty work moving furniture, assembling shelves, hauling, unpacking and collapsing boxes; and many trips to the recycling center with packing materials….

By the time the Guy arrived 28 hours after the movers left, I had much of the unpacking and arranging done.

After the movers left, there were stacks of boxes everywhere…
And now, it’s starting to look like a home.

The Guy hadn’t seen the house, except online, and as I explained my renovation plans and we walked my neighborhood trails, he nodded and smiled.

“I approve,” he said in his thoughtful way when he left this afternoon. “It’s simple, it’s a good size, and it’s a great location with nearby wild in sight and in easy reach. It’s home.”

He’s already talking about a longer visit in mid-September, when Ring Lake Ranch, where we will both be working for the next two months, closes for the season. I look forward to time together exploring the Buffalo Bill Center for the West, Cody’s world-class museum complex, checking out the riding trails in the McCullough Peaks, and wandering the river.

What have I been doing while I waited for my household goods to arrive? Beginning house renovations, of course. Starting with insulating and putting up walls in the small attached garage so it won’t heat up the house in summer, and freeze it in winter.

And then choosing and ordering plank flooring to replace the ancient shag carpet in my office.

My office before floor work and painting…
And after. A much lighter and more cheerful space.

I did the painting; my contractor installed the plank floors. Painting walls in my office was the beginning of “un-browning” the house, which the previous owners had painted a shade of mocha brown throughout–including the ceilings of all of the upstairs bedrooms! The whole effect was just… dark.

Experimenting with sunny yellow to lighten the gloomy rooms. (Notice how dark the hall is.)

I picked three colors, a soft sage-green for the dominant color, plus a pale blue with hints of turquoise and a sunny yellow for really dark areas, and set to painting a wall a day. I knew I couldn’t get the whole house done in the time before I leave to work at Ring Lake Ranch on Thursday; my aim was simply to brighten select walls throughout the house.

The hall after painting one wall yellow; my office down the hall with sage green and pale blue walls–and shelves and books!

In between painting and cleaning, I’ve been tending my new landscape, both the domesticated yard and the strip of sagebrush-bunchgrass prairie outside my fence atop the river bluff.

I pruned a pickup-load of sprouts from under the neglected boxelder tree in the side yard to encourage it to grow upward and shade the west wall of the house. I cut down another truck-load of fat and half-dead Mugo pine stems, and trimmed dead branches out of the big cottonwood tree that shades the front yard.

The boxelder trimmed into a tree-shape again.

I also spent some sweaty hours crouched on the river bluff, hand-pulling cheatgrass, an invasive annual grass that not only crowds out the local wildflowers and bunch grasses, it is extremely flammable. I haven’t finished the whole strip of bluff-top, but I have made a good start by removing three yard-bags of cheatgrass and its seeds.

A yard-bag full of flammable cheatgrass and its seeds.

The renovation of the house and the tending of the yard and nearby wild are all part of my mission to restore–or as the Guy says, “re-story”–this place where I live. Bringing light back into this house gives it back its healthy and essential beauty; tending the landscape and removing invasive weeds–the bullies of the plant world–helps the community of the land withstand climate change. I am reciprocating for the gifts I receive: the shelter of the house and the joy I take from the land and river.

Botanist and member of the Potawatomi Nation Robin Wall Kimmerer calls reciprocity one of two responses that transform our commodification of the living world into a healthy relationship of giving. The first response, she writes, is gratitude for the gifts of the living world, and the second is reciprocity: what can I give these beings in return for the gifts they give me?

What I can give is my time, sweat, creative energy, and a deep appreciation of the stories of this house and the land.

Restore, re-story, reciprocate–all imply a new or renewed relationship. And that is something we sorely need these days: a new and respectful relationship with the community of our fellow humans and those with whom we share this living planet, and with life itself. I cannot change the world, but I can change my small part of it by building a reciprocal relationship based on respect and appreciation, and my own sweat, creative energy, and time. It’s part of living with love, even in–especially in–this hard time of dying.

22 thoughts on “Settling In

  • I love this concept of reciprocity, looking at our homes and land as being in relationship with the world and what it offers. Thank you for describing and call attention to what Kimmerer discussed!

    • Susan Tweit says:

      Sherri, When I heard Robin talk about reciprocity at The Geography of Hope Conference, and then read Braiding Sweetgrass, I was struck by how she described what I have done instinctively my whole life: given back to the places I love through some kind of restoration or service work. Her words not only helped me understand why I was moved to do what I do, but also helped me be more mindful of my efforts at reciprocity, and more inspired too. I highly recommend Braiding Sweetgrass, and also looking up one of Ribin’s many talks on the internet. She’s an amazing person, and a huge inspiration to me.

    • Susan Tweit says:

      Thanks, Rain. It’s looking a whole lot lighter and brighter now, but there’s a long ways to go. Good thing I like the process of “re-storying”!

  • Love the colors – love the plans – love the restory and reciprocity. You are on the right path, again. Glad to read about it and appreciate the sharing. Thanks.

    • Susan Tweit says:

      Sue, thank you! I am excited about making this place shine and opening it more to the yard and the river. And it is so rewarding to work at removing invasive weeds as a way to give my local wild more resilience to climate change. Listening to Robin Wall Kimmerer talk about the concept of reciprocity with the places we love helped me understand my compulsion to restore both ecosystems and houses, and made me more aware of how and what I am doing.

  • Debra Dolan says:

    I love the word ‘re-story’. Thanks for sharing your home with us; beautiful. I imagine that every piece of furniture etc holds a memory. It is a very personal space.

    • Susan Tweit says:

      Debra, You are right: every piece of furniture holds a memory, and all of them are what Barry Lopez would call “mementoes,” material goods that remind us of places or people or ideas. If I am going to cart things through this life with me, and expend the energy to tend them, I want them to mean something as well!

  • I remember, exactly how that feels. First sleeping on ‘chairs’ that folded out to ‘beds’ (uncomfortable either way) Still sitting on the IKEA armchairs we got for our last Swiss flat.

    • Susan Tweit says:

      Diana, Chairs that fold out to beds sounds pretty uncomfortable! I slept on a recliner a couple of times when Richard was in the hospital, and it wasn’t really sleeping, more like dozing off and waking up multiple times all night long. Once I slept in an armchair in his ICU room, and that was truly no fun. I think I got a whole four hours of sleep!

  • Susan –

    It IS lovely; you are lovely. It feels good and makes me smile to know where you are and what your world looks like. And if you’re good at anything, you’re good at making this world a better place – and writing about it.

    So happy for you,
    Jeanne

    • Susan Tweit says:

      Jeanne, I am delighted to have made you smile, and to have given you a peek at my home. I feel very fortunate to be able to move back here and to have a community–of humans and of the land–that is so welcoming. And to have the time and energy to reciprocate by making my little bit of the world a better place. Hugs to you!

    • Susan Tweit says:

      Thank you, dear Doc Chery! I’m relieved to be back, and blessed to get to live on a bluff overlooking the river. Walking along the river every morning is heaven (except for donating blood to the mosquitoes and deer flies!). Love to you and your four-leggeds.

  • Dear Susan,
    Love journeying with you through your posts about your new homes and seeing how you “re-story” every place. You are one amazing woman. I’m currently listening to Braiding Sweetgrass and it is giving me a new appreciation for the native plant garden in my backyard … inspired by you. This is the second summer for it and it is looking quite lovely. The bees are loving it, the bunnies are loving the clover I planted in the yard, and a Monarch was checking out the milkweed yesterday. Have a wonderful summer and I look forward to seeing even more how you bring out the beauty of your home.

    • Susan Tweit says:

      Linda, It’s always a treat to “hear” your voice. Isn’t Braiding Sweetgrass an inspiration? I delve back into it now and then and am reminded of how much I’ve learned from Robin over the years. And kudos to you for planting that native plant garden, and giving the bunnies clover instead of just grass. Making space for wildlife right where we live is one of the most rewarding kinds of reciprocity, I think. May your summer be full of delights!

  • Susan, Thank you for referring me here to your blog. Yes, you have been busy expressing yourself by sharing with all of us the many wonderful talents that you have and put to use on a daily basis. May your time in you new home, filled with so many “momentoes” of the past, be as enjoyable as those of the past.

    • Susan Tweit says:

      Dave, Thank you for reading my blog post and for that lovely benediction! I am fortunate in having landed in many beautiful places in my life, and especially fortunate to be able to come home to the landscape that speaks to my heart. And of course, to be able to do a little “re-storying” of this house. 🙂

  • Merna A Kerss says:

    Susan, Thank you for sharing Barry Lopez’s definition of the “mementoes” of our lives. I currently am moving and going through all I have added to my life and there is so much my cart is more of a burden then joyful memories. Thank you for helping me get some perspective on the process I’m going through and why, ” The things we choose to cart around with us “, choose being the operative word

    • Susan Tweit says:

      Merna, It’s a serious passage going through our stuff, and deciding what to keep and what to leave behind. I applaud you for doing it, and being as thoughtful as you can. I hope you’re able to leave the stuff that is a burden to perhaps be useful to someone else, and only take that which has real meaning and as you say, “joyful memories.” Blessings to you!

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