Fifty-eight Boxes, 3,200 pounds, and 775 miles later…

After packing, numbering, and inventorying 58 boxes and half-a-dozen un-numbered metal crates, hauling them to the garage, bubble-wrapping and loading 37 pieces of wall-art into Red along with other belongings not suitable for mover-transport, and then driving 775 scenic but very long miles from my Cody house to my Santa Fe condo with the movers several days behind me, I am finally settling in.

(Big thank-yous to my Cody neighbor, Kate, who supervised the loading after I left; to my Salida friend, Denise, for the much-needed massage on the way; and to my Santa Fe neighbor and friend, Liz, who welcomed me with a place to stay before the condo was ready.)

Sierra San Antonio, a volcanic dome marking where the Taos Plateau of northern New Mexico becomes the San Luis Valley of southern Colorado. 

The photo at the top of the post is my new living room, and yes, it's missing some furniture, which will arrive in about a week. Still, it's already inviting! The photo below is my Cody garage, all staged for the movers to load up. (That's what 3,200 pounds of my household looks like, if you were wondering.)

When I got to Santa Fe, my kitchen looked like… well, like it was in mid-remodel. The photos below give an idea of the destruction. Believe it or not, what you see there is a big improvement over the 1984-vintage kitchen of before. 

New counters are in, old appliances are out, and the cabinets are stripped and ready for a face-lift. 

New sink too, but not hooked up yet. 

Oh, the difference a week, a lot of scrubbing, a diligent carpenter (thank you, Alan Baca!), and a tidy plumber can make! The kitchen still lacks back-splashes, but the counter guys will return for that. It also lacks a microwave-range hood, which will be installed tomorrow if the weather allows. I've already filled the cabinets and am happily enjoying cooking in the galley-sized space. 

It's been a bit of a challenge figuring out where everything goes, not just in the much-smaller kitchen, but in the whole condo. I downsized from 2,483 square feet on two levels into 848 on one. I still have two bedrooms and two baths, but no garage. (Red is surviving outside–it's not generally as cold in Santa Fe as it gets in Cody!) 

I've hung almost all of the art, set up my desk in the office area of the master bedroom, organized linens and closets and bathrooms, arranged the furniture I have in the living and dining areas, and in the guest bedroom. I also assembled two new bar-stools for the curved breakfast-bar counter between the kitchen and dining area, and assembled the mid-century modern bar cart for the dining area. (Go, Tool Girl!)

The breakfast bar with new barstools and bar cart

Next comes unpacking several dozen boxes of books, but that has to wait until my bookshelves arrive. One set comes tomorrow, along with my dining table, and my bed. (I am sleeping perfectly comfortably on a mattress on the floor, but it will be nice to have an actual bed.) 

The sunny master bedroom with my office in the corner, awaiting bookshelves.

I love every cubic inch of the condo, especially with the warm sun streaming in on these cold and snowy winter days. My absolutely favorite space is the living room (photo at the top of the post), with the patio outside, and the tall cottonwood tree shading it in summer. The light and colors make me smile. Come spring, I'll grow a garden in pots on the patio, adding wildflowers and native plants to provide beauty, and food and shelter for native bees and hummingbirds. 

This small space already feels like a refuge to me, a place I can hide away and write without interruption. I have always been drawn to small spaces, whether the little writing hut in a yard, the tiny houses on wheels, or this cozy condo.

Which I know raises the question of why I bought my gorgeous but terribly run-down mid-Century modern house and yard in Cody. Because the project it was then called to me. Restoration–whether of land or houses–is my passion, and that house definitely deserved to be brought back to life. Now that it's ready for its next 60 years, I look forward to finding someone to love and care for the place.

For the next phase of my life though, I want a nest, and that's what I'm creating here. As the old year ends, I say, "Welcome Home!" to the new one.

My wish for all? May 2019 bring more kindness and compassion to everyone, everywhere, and less turbulence and pain. And may we all be welcomed home, wherever  and whoever we are. 

Dad and Mom in Tucson, Arizona. Photo from Audubon Magazine

Practicing Financial Sustainability: Money and Intention

Dad and Mom in Tucson, Arizona. Photo from Audubon Magazine Dad and Mom in Tucson, Arizona. Photo from Audubon Magazine

Like many of us, I grew up conflicted about money. My parents, both raised in the Depression, saved consciously and relentlessly, planning for what we would now call financial sustainability: to send my brother and me to college and then retire early.

In our suburban neighborhood, most moms stayed at home and most driveways contained two cars. Not ours: Our sole “car” was a well-worn, homemade camper-van. Mom and Dad biked to work to save money.

Tweit family hike in Florida, circa 1964 Tweit family hike in Florida, circa 1966

Other families took vacations to Disneyland or the beach; we spent our time off in the great outdoors where admission was free. Our gear came from the Army Surplus store, our clothes from Montgomery Ward.

It’s not that I was deprived; I simply didn’t know my parents’ plans and chafed against their constant financial vigilance. I vowed that when I grew up, I would be financially independent and not cheap.

In high school, I got a job at the local public library and reveled in having my own money to spend as I wished. I also started a savings account. In college, I paid my way by working at a pie shop and waiting tables.

At work in the Absaroka Mountains, Wyoming, about 1981. At work in the Absaroka Mountains, Wyoming, about 1981.

My determination to be financially sustainable paid off when my first marriage imploded and I had enough money put by to leave my field ecology job at the Forest Service to go to graduate school, where as it happens, I met Richard.

We fell in love almost immediately; agreeing on money matters took a lot longer. Eventually, I realized that while Richard had a PhD in Economics, he lacked financial common sense. He didn’t concern himself with bills or account balances. When he wanted to buy something, whether a book or a several-thousand-dollar table saw, he did, without considering the impact of that spending decision.

By contrast, I knew our budget to the penny. Whether I was buying an insanely great pair of shoes, paying the bills, or donating to causes we believed in, I spent with intent. I saved with intent too, buying financial sustainability by squirreling money away whenever I could.

Me, Molly and Richard at Reed College. Me, Molly and Richard at Reed College.

Which helped with those expenses we can’t always plan for, as when Molly wanted to go to a small Quaker boarding school instead of the public high school next door. And when, after she left for Reed College, Richard took a year off from New Mexico State University and we moved to Salida–and he never went back to his comfortable teaching salary.

Being intentional about money through times when we had it and times when we didn’t, allowed us to pay for our formerly industrial property, restore its historic shop building for Richard’s sculpture studio, and build our own house next to the studio on the pay as you go plan. (Construction took six years, without a mortgage.)

Terraphilia, the house Richard built us. Terraphilia, the house Richard built us.

It kept us afloat when brain cancer derailed our lives and our income.

After Richard died, I re-thought my financial sustainability practice: I dedicated myself to paying the remaining brain cancer bills, finishing and selling the house, and to building my new, right-sized and cheap-to-keep place. My intention was to lower my fixed expenses so I could afford to write.

Looking back, I realize with rueful amusement that I have adopted the very financial habits I so resented as a kid.

I live simply, eschewing excess stuff in favor of less clutter and more free time. I spend money on what matters most to me, whether that’s great shoes or an occasional meal out with friends. And I save for what I want instead of going into debt.

Mom posing on her honeymoon at Mt. Lassen, 1952 Mom posing on her honeymoon at Mt. Lassen, 1952

I have become my parents. Not literally, of course. My half-Norwegian, half-Scots and 100 percent cheap dad does not understand why I traded my gas-sipping Subaru for a Toyota Tacoma pickup with a topper I can camp in. My late mother, California born and bred, would wonder why I’m not out camping every weekend.

That’s the power of treating money intentionally: those are my financial decisions, not anyone else’s.

Practicing financial sustainability isn’t about how much or little money you have, it’s about intention: knowing what you want, and spending (or not) deliberately with your aims in mind. It’s learning that whatever you have can be plenty.

For something that requires thought and discipline, it’s amazingly freeing.

Creek House, my new little place, at dawn. Creek House, my new little place, at dawn.


Dreaming Home

New moon framed by utility wires.

Last night I looked up from my reading and spotted the new moon sliding toward the horizon. I leaped up, snagged my camera, slipped on my flip-flops and headed out the front door, along the deck, across the courtyard and up the stairs to the second-floor deck of the studio.

I snapped some shots of that slim crescent glimmering as it dropped past the utility wires in the alley. As the earth continued to turn, I watched the moon disappear behind the distant peaks.

I turned too, and headed to the stairs.

Creek House at dusk, with S Mountain and the Arkansas Hills in the distance. Creek House at dusk, with S Mountain and the Arkansas Hills in the distance.

As I rounded the corner, I looked down and my heart filled. There was my sweet house, the little place I envisioned as a nest for me after Richard’s death, glowing in the dusk. Home.

I did it! I thought. I made it happen.

Not by myself, of course, and not easily.

One evening in late winter, 2012, I walked the length of this long, skinny parcel, the last still-junky part of our formerly industrial property. I paced through dried skeletons of kochia and tumbleweed, past the pile of rounded boulders Richard stashed here for sculptures that would new never be created, imagining a house and studio.

My house site before construction. (The boulders are Richard's spare sculpture materials.) My house site before construction. (The boulders are Richard’s spare sculpture materials.)

They would be small and sustainable, generate solar power and require very little energy, structures that reflected the industrial past of the parcel and also would enhance the neighborhood and be a joy to live in. With, of course, landscaping that would not only incorporate the native plant community, but would provide habitat for pollinators and songbirds, along with a host of other critters large and small.

I could see it. As the stars winked on overhead, I made my wish: that I could somehow manage to make that vision real.

I have. Earlier this month, I passed the final inspections, the last regulatory hurdle on both buildings.

The tiny house-to-be with its small garage with studio above. Like the big house, it's also passive solar and will be powered by a (much smaller) photovoltaic array. The “tail,” with house and garage/studio drawn in.

Back in March of 2012, standing on what was a weed-choked former industrial dump site, I had a lot to learn about everything related to building. First, I had to subdivide this odd-shaped “tail” from the rest of the property.

I had to finish Terraphilia, the house and historic studio combination where Richard and I had lived. Which meant learning how to hang interior doors, trim windows and door openings, and to invent and put in baseboard, as well as finishing some cabinetry and figuring out how to finish the master bath.

The tub is usable, but the walls around it need finishing; the shower plumbing is in the wall to the left. The unfinished tub-shower area in the master bathroom at Terraphilia.

I had to finagle the financing to make my tiny house and studio a reality before I sold Terraphilia (where all my money lived). I had to choose the right people to design and build my new place.

And I had to figure out how to earn enough money to pay my everyday bills during the process, and to overcome my fears about not knowing anything about what I was attempting to do or not being able to make the whole complicated dream into reality.

Last night, looking down at Creek House in the dusk, I knew I had made the right decisions. That I am finally home in this new life after Richard. Home in a place that speaks my mission to live with my heart outstretched as if it were my hand. To fashion a sustainable life that honors the community of my fellow humans and the community of the land.

A happy life, too.

My evening spot on the street-side of the front deck My spot on the street-side of the front deck, next to my tiny kitchen garden.

Tonight, sitting in my evening spot on the deck and watching the last light tint the mountainsides gold, my heart is still full. I am home. Not in the forever home Richard built for the two of us. Home in the place I dreamed up to shelter me as I learned how to live on my own.

Thank you to all who helped me make that dream real. I am blessed.

New year, new moon--and long nights....

Counting My Blessings

New year, new moon--and long nights.... New year, new moon–and long nights….

This time of year as the long nights of winter yield much-too-gradually to the turn of our hemisphere toward light and warmth, I spend time deliberately tallying my blessings.

Not in a superficial, oh-isn’t-life-wonderful way.

This particular ritual is part survival, part talisman and part intention. When times seem darkest, I can usually haul myself back to the light by conjuring what I have to be thankful for.

Counting my blessings helped me weather some hard blows these past few years, especially losing both my mother and the love of my life in 2011–Mom in February and Richard in November.

It’s taken me all this time to (mostly) work through the financial and emotional aftermath, and just as I was seeing my way clear this fall came another smack to the heart that’s too close yet to write about.

Whenever I begin to curl inward and feel sorry for myself or harden in righteous anger, what works best to pull myself out is remembering what I have, not dwelling on what I have not.

So in the spirit of my intention to live with my heart outstretched as if it were my hand, here is a by-no-means-complete tally of blessings in no particular order:

  • Blanketflower and Rocky Mountain penstemon bloom over native bunchgrasses in a native meadow "lawn." Blanketflower and Rocky Mountain penstemon bloom over native bunchgrasses in a native meadow “lawn.”

    Life itself, every sweet, joyous, frantic or painful day that comes my way for as long as they do

  • Wildflowers scattered like fallen stars in my yard in the midst of town–and the myriad of bees, butterflies and other lives they summon to their company.
  • My sweet new nest, Creek House, and Treehouse, its companion garage and studio
  • Clouds drifting across the face of the rising moon
  • Blue skies, vivid sunrises and sunsets
  • My family, the extended Tweit clan, including you spouses and that wild and wonderful pack of kids, and Molly and her partner, Mark
  • The pungent smell of sagebrush after a warm rain
  • Molly in the hottest pool at Joyful Journey on her visit home for the holidays Molly in the hottest pool at Joyful Journey Hot Springs on her visit home for the holidays

    The hum of my Subaru tires on pavement; the fact that I have a car and can take to the road now and again.

  • Looking out my front door in the lung-freezing cold just now to see Orion, my favorite constellation, sparkling bright.
  • This town and my dear friends–you know who you are–who help out when I need it, who remind me of why this place holds my heart, who greet me warmly and care how I am, who teach me daily what love means.
  • Hummingbirds trilling past in summer’s heat.
  • Hearing the chuckle of the creek out my door, even under layers of ice.
  • You all, this far-flung digital community weaving a network of care and empathy, humor and wisdom as we reach for each other across the miles.
  • The delicate tracery of frost riming window panes; a feathery fall of snow.
  • Female broad-tailed hummingbird nectars at Zauschneria flowers. Female broad-tailed hummingbird nectars at Zauschneria flowers.

    The joy of restoring this formerly junky industrial parcel to a vibrant community of the land, thrumming with lives of all kinds.

  • The heft of shovel and rake, the chatter of drill and saw, the glow of work well and carefully done.
  • A brisk walk in the shelter of high peaks.
  • The cross-country skis and kayak in my garage waiting for me to play.
  • Writing: the gift and practice of creativity, and the time and sweat it takes to get words and narrative right
  • Books, stories, words; movies and music; art of all kinds
  • I look into the beauty of the earth each time I wash my hands, and I remember my love.... I look into the beauty of the earth each time I wash my hands, and I remember my love….

    Learning the feel of wood, steel and stone

  • The warm sweetness of a tomato fresh from the garden, the crisp crunch of just-harvested greens
  • That single coyote howl I heard at sunset
  • The beautiful stone basin that serves as my bathroom sink, the last I have of Richard’s work, an ambassador of the earth and of his love for it….


Happiness is a form of courage –George Holbrook Jackson

Indeed. It takes work to find the joy in life when life isn’t pretty. But as the list above demonstrates, it’s worth the effort.

Thank you for walking with me. I am truly blessed.


Treehouse (foreground) and Creek House with board-and-batten siding appearing.

Clearing Out All But the Love

Treehouse (foreground) and Creek House with board-and-batten siding appearing. Treehouse, the garage plus with studio above (foreground), and Creek House, both with Craftsman details appearing.

In a month and a day, I’ll hand the keys to Terraphilia to the buyers.

Over the next few weeks, I have to finish the master bath (it’s close); sort, pack and move the contents of the house and guest cottage; and clear out the garage and shop. Of course, Creek House and Treehouse need to be ready for me to occupy as well. Yikes.

I still have some writing deadlines to meet. But as of today, all of my spare time goes to organizing, packing, and deciding what I no longer need. So at mid-afternoon yesterday, I headed out to the garage, thinking I’d spend an hour or so downsizing my gardening supplies.

On the way I decided to clean the barbecue, which has sat unused on the back porch since Richard died a year and eight months ago. I figured I could sell it.

Now that it's clean, the 16-year-old barbecue looks pretty good. Now that it’s clean, the barbecue looks pretty good.

Only once I had spent most of an hour scrubbing, checking to make sure all three burners lit, shooting a couple of photos, and looking at new barbecues online to get an idea of what this one might be worth, I decided to keep it.

It has a history: Richard and I bought that barbecue sixteen years ago when we moved to Salida. It was our summer kitchen the whole time we lived across the alley in our little renovated 1902 brick duplex.

Of course, everything I have has a history. The fact that I am trading 4,100 square feet of space for a little over 1,400 (garage included) generally keeps the “it has a history” excuse from being too compelling. In the case of the barbecue though, I decided that it could serve as my summer kitchen again at Creek House.

When I finally made it to the garage, my neighbor Bev Gray came over to help. She cleared all of the garden-clutter off the shelves and helped me decide what I wanted to keep (who needs five dozen plastic pots?) and what could be donated to the local Habitat for Humanity ReStore store or recycled.

Tidy shelves of camping gear (above) and garden stuff (below). Tidy shelves of camping gear (above) and garden stuff (below).

By the time we finished, the piles of gardening stuff to keep had diminished considerably.

I donned my face mask–I have serious respiratory allergies–and swept that part of the garage thoroughly. Then I headed inside and took a lovely long soak in the tub in my almost-finished master bathroom tub-shower area.

After which I imagined writing a blog post. Until I remembered I needed to call my dad and check in. By the time I got off the phone, my brain was fried.

I couldn’t resist going out to the garage one more time before bed. I had to admire those newly clean, organized and spacious shelves. And move a couple of boxes of books to the “library book sale” stack in the car….

When my energy for sorting, re-purposing, organizing and packing falters, I have only to walk down to the other end of the block.

Seeing the progress there reminds me of where I’m headed, and why I’m putting all this time and effort into sifting through the detritus of my life for what I want to carry with me as I go onward.

Treehouse from the shop loading dock. (It's name comes from the vantage point of the studio, which feels like its in the trees.) Treehouse from the shop loading dock. (Its name comes from the lofty vantage point of the studio.)

It’s not a bad thing. Most of the memories that come with my stuff are good ones, or at least sweeter than sad. I have been fortunate in many ways, recent losses aside.

That the love of my life is no longer with me is undeniably hard. Still, I am determined though to walk forward with just sort of love we shared, as a way to honor our time together. That steadies me somewhat as I look at how much I have to do in the weeks ahead.

I’ll be ready when the time comes, I know. Just as I know that Creek House is exactly where I need to go as I walk this new life on my own.

With love. Always.

Dad with Colin and his little brother Liam

Road Trip!

Dad with Colin and his little brother Liam Dad with Colin and his little brother Liam last summer

This Tuesday noon, the little Subaru Forester and I will aim west on US 50, headed for my brother’s house in Olympia, Washington, 1,444 miles away, to spend the weekend with the extended Tweit clan. I’m going to celebrate two birthdays: Colin Roland, one of my great-nephews, who will be 4 years old, and Bob Tweit, my dad, who turns 85.

Before I head off what will be seven days of driving (three and a half days each way) and two days of family (and probably no blogging), here’s a bit of an update on the projects that fill my days.

Bless the Birds: The rough draft totaled 135,000 words at the beginning of last week; now it’s just over 126,000. I have to cut out at least 35,000 more words. It’s a memoir in two voices (the other one being the smiling guy in the photo below), and that makes editing tricky since he’s not around anymore to comment. (Dammit.)

Richard Cabe, my late love, 1950-2011 Richard Cabe, my late love, 1950-2011

I know the story will emerge from my careful work leaner and stronger, more compelling. Too much detail in a story is like food that’s too rich. It may taste good for a while, but it slows everything down until the story, like a digestive system, becomes tapada. (Tapada translates literally as “covered,” but in southern New Mexico, where I learned the word, it also means “stopped-up.”)

Be a Habitat Hero: What started out as a modest pilot project to inspire gardeners and birders in Colorado and Wyoming to landscape in a way that offers a habitat life-line for songbirds and other pollinators is quickly morphing into something bigger.

The project is a partnership between Audubon Rockies and the Terra Foundation, along with Colorado State University’s Plant Select program. High Country Gardens, the major online retailer of regionally adapted plants for the western and plains states, has just signed on. Check out the project’s blog and website, written by yours truly. Let me know what you think!

Creek House and Treehouse (the studio, named for its vantage point) with siding going up. Creek House and Treehouse (the studio, named for its lofty vantage point) with house wrap on and siding going up.

Creek House: The siding is going up on the exterior of the house and the drywall is textured. While I’m away, the roof will go on and the interior of the house will be painted. The garage and second-story studio are several weeks behind the house, but the wiring and plumbing are in. Both spaces feel good already.

Terraphilia Complex: Tony and Maggie came over tonight and helped me cut and bend a long strip of copper to flash the cap on the half-wall between the shower/tub enclosure in the master bath. I worried about doing the cutting and shaping myself because the copper sheet I’m using is one Richard bought. I don’t want to mess up his materials.

The half-wall dividing the custom tub/shower enclosure from the rest of the master bath. (In the right background is the door leading out to the master suite's private patio.) The half-wall dividing the custom tub/shower enclosure from the rest of the master bath.

There are still more details to be worked out in this most complex  part of the project I’ve tackled in finishing this house, but it’s inching along toward completion.

You can see that long piece of copper flashing where it catches the light in the photo to the right, just below the ash sill that tops the half-wall. In the right background is the door leading out to the master suite’s private patio.

And one last note: After weeks and weeks of hot and frustratingly dry weather, we had our first real summer rain tonight. We’ve had whiffs of rain since late June, but never enough to actually moisten more than the surface of the soil.

This evening, a thunderstorm rumbled its way down the valley, bringing a gentle rain that began falling at 5:42 pm and lasted almost three hours. It’s tough to read my rain gauge in the dark, but it looks like we may have gotten almost half an inch. That may not sound impressive, but here where our total precipitation so far this year just barely topped 3.5 inches (in over seven months), it’s huge. And welcome.

I’ll check back in next week after I return home, 11 days and 3,000 miles from now….

The first page of the two-page current issue

Hot off the press: eNewsletter and life

The first page of the two-page current issue The first page of the two-page current issue

I send out a “News from Sus[an]” newsletter by email every so often with updates on my writing, teaching and life in general. I try to put them out quarterly, but sometimes circumstances intervene, hence the gap between the January issue and the eLetter I just finished yesterday. (If you want to be on my eNewsletter list, send me an email and I’ll subscribe you. If you are and don’t, just let me know, and I’ll remove you.)

I don’t usually put the newsletter up on my website, but it’s occurred to me that I should. So here it is. Click on that link (or the one in the previous paragraph) and you should get the PDF, either downloaded or opening in a new window.

The eNewsletter is two pages long with images, it totals half a megabite and may take a few moments to load. Just be patient.

Which is great advice for life in general, and advice I’ve certainly been taking to heart since the universe in the form of three different injuries smacked me upside the head (literally, the last injury was to my face–with my own car door) and reminded me to slow down. No matter how fast life swirls around me, I’m determined to pause, take deep breaths, and not move faster than suits me.

You can see the long, curving laminate counter with the galvanized edge and the two sinks on that wall, right? You can't? I almost can.... You can see the long, curving laminate counter with the galvanized edge and the two sinks on that wall, right? You can’t? Not to worry. It’s coming soon….

It seems to be working. As I just told my Dad, despite glitches in permitting for the front-entry deck of my new house and the fact that the master bathroom in this house is still not done, and that I’ve had to set the memoir aside this week to prepare a talk for the Plant Select program at Denver Botanic Gardens on Thursday, I’m enjoying myself.

I’m enjoying finish work, even though it’s hard, the learning curve is steep, and it doesn’t always go smoothly. It’s going well, and I’m proud of my work. That makes it satisfying.

I’m enjoying building the new house, even though the glitches in permitting my front deck have meant a lot of scrambling around to get forms filed and then a lot of back-and-forth about possible solutions.

Downtown Salida and the Arkansas Hills seen from the future deck off my bedroom. Downtown Salida and the Arkansas Hills seen from the future deck off my bedroom.

It’s still not clear what’s going to happen, but I have faith that my builder and designer and I will work with the city to figure out a solution that is aesthetically pleasing, environmentally friendly and allows an accessible house. It’s hard not to enjoy a house that’s as sweet as my new one is, even though it’s still at the gangly studs and wiring stage. Look at that view out my bedroom door….

(Yes, you have to imagine the deck at door-sill height. It’ll appear in time.)

I’m even enjoying working on the talk and accompanying digital presentation because, hey, it’s about gardening in a way that restores habitat for wildlife and leaves a patch of ground in better shape than you found it–inspiring stuff.

The truth is, I feel pretty fortunate. Yes, I have a house to finish. But it’s a beautiful house. I’m doing work my late love would appreciate, and that makes me feel closer to him.

Yes, I have two construction projects going at once, something I tried to avoid. But the new house makes me smile every time I set foot in it.

Needle-and-thread grass (in foreground) and sidebells penstemon (lavender spikes) blooming in my front yard grassland Needle-and-thread grass (in foreground) and sidebells penstemon (lavender spikes behind the pot) blooming in my front-yard native mountain prairie.

And yes, the landscape I love is still in a drought and the larger world is full of war and pain and global climate change. But it’s also full of love and light and hope.

The sidebells penstemon and needle-and-thread grass are blooming in my yard. A black-headed grosbeak was warbling down by the creek this morning. It’s the end of spring, summer is coming in a rush, and I’m alive.

That last alone makes me very fortunate. Walking with Richard through death from brain cancer taught us both to love life. All of it. That’s a lesson I hope to never forget.



My tiny house this evening from the path along the creek.

Envisioning the new house

My tiny house this evening from the path along the creek. My new house from the path along the creek this evening.

On evenings with no meetings, events or house guests, all of which have occupied every night this week, I walk to the other end of the block after work to visit my tiny house-to-be.

I’m usually at the job site at least once during the day to check on what’s happening and answer questions. The place is full of noise, activity and people working. All of which are good.

But in the evening, it’s is quiet, all mine. I wander at my leisure and admire the day’s progress. I pause to get the feel of a room and imagine myself living there.

Ditch Creek where it runs past my new tiny house, with the shrubby riparian canopy my late love and I carefully restored over the past decade and a half. Ditch Creek with the shrubby riparian canopy Richard and I carefully replanted to shade and clean its flow.

This evening, I finally had time to stroll down for a visit. It was a special pleasure to follow the path along Ditch Creek, because this little urban creek, dry for ten months from July until May, is running again, burbling along.

Our terrible drought isn’t over, but an inch of rain in May rejuvenated the springs that feed the creek. It feels like life is returning to my world with its flow.

I’m still not finished with the finish work on the current house, the wonderful place my love built for us, but I can see completing the last major project in the new few weeks. That makes it easier to enjoy the project of the new house.

As the tiny house takes shape inside, I’ve begun to envision precisely where furniture, art, clothing, linens, pots and pans and kitchen stuff, books, and other special things will go.

In particular, I’m getting clearer about how much more downsizing I need to do to be able to comfortably fit into 725 square feet of house and 384 square feet of studio/guest space.

My current kitchen, more than commodious enough for two (one cook and one baker), much less the one of me now. My current kitchen, more than commodious enough for two (one cook and one baker), much less the one of me now.

(“Comfortable” by my definition means “no clutter.”)

For instance, my current kitchen boasts 26 linear feet of counter space (including the double sink and five-burner gas range top) with cabinets below and above (all except the 5 feet of breakfast bar/peninsula).

My new kitchen will have 12 feet of counter space with cabinets below and open shelving above, plus 4 feet of kitchen island/breakfast bar with cabinets below.

It’s a different configuration, so comparing the two is a bit like comparing apples and oranges. (Yes, they’re both fruit, but….) I figure the new kitchen will have about half the storage and counter space as this one.

It's hard to see the kitchen in the studs here, but the sink will be under the window, and where the wires stick out of the slab in the foreground will be the kitchen island. The kitchen at the stud stage. The sink will be under the window on the left. The kitchen island will go where the wires stick out of the slab in the foreground.

It’s well-designed, so I’m not worried. Still, I need to decide which of my kitchen things and dishes I really want to take with me, and find good homes for those that aren’t necessary and/or favorites.

As I sort through, I’m setting aside some special family things for Molly and my brother Bill’s three girls. I’ve put aside a few things for friends too. Mostly though, I’m sorting what I won’t move into two categories: worth taking to Free the Monkey, an excellent local consignment shop, or still useful but better donated to Caring and Sharing, the Goodwill-type store.

It’s not as difficult as I thought it might be to whittle down what Richard and I accumulated over the years. I work at it a little at a time. When I can’t make a decision, I envision my new kitchen as it will look, and then imagine placing the particular object there. If I can’t see it, it probably doesn’t belong.

A brief shower just before sunset yielded the grace of this rainbow over my neighborhood. A brief shower just before sunset yielded the grace of this rainbow over my neighborhood.

If I still can’t decide, I either set that particular thing aside or take a break.

The important things stand out. They’re either associated with family, or they have a special story from our nearly 29 years together, or they’re just particularly lovely and/or well-designed.

The truth is though, it’s all just stuff.

What I won’t leave behind when I move are the memories, the love we shared, and the community and landscape that nurtured both of us.

Those are what really matters.