Are we here yet?

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“No man but feels more of a man in the world if he have but a bit of ground that he can call his own. However small it is on the surface, it is four thousand miles deep; and that is a very handsome property. “ ~Charles Dudley Warner.

I am buying a house.

It isn’t the first house I have owned; in fact, it is the latest in a long string of homes with my signature on the mortgage. But this house is different. It is the first house I have bought as a single woman. This is my “start-over” house – post-divorce, post-cancer, post 50-year milestone birthday.

The land around my former marital home had held me tightly in its rocky fist. It was a homey little spread on a hill on the New York side of the Green Mountains, where I expected to grow old working the land and raising my bees, and enjoying retirement with my then-husband. I planted fruit trees the first year we lived there, and I poked over 100 tiny plugs of lavender into holes and willed them to grow like good little soldiers. Lambs became lawn mowers in the hayfield; hens of all colors picked and scratched at the ground. Gardens were tilled, and the bees I tended at the top of hill soon filled the air with that gentle Buddha-like hum that I loved so much (and we’ll talk about bees on this blog, too, although I don’t expect to maintain any hives at #14 Vine). But the day after Christmas in 2007, I said goodbye and headed down the hill knowing it was over.

I had a number of adventures over the last three years, but this blog is about the little house at #14 Vine St. I hadn’t planned on looking for a house just yet; the ink was barely dry on the divorce decree (or should I say “degree” as it was an education in itself!) and I had piles of bills to contend with. But the Universe had other plans! Last October brought a chill in the air and new upstairs neighbors in the apartment building. Let’s just say the energy of the building changed dramatically – and I knew it was time me to find a place of my own.

So that’s where #14 Vine St. came in. On the outside, the 96-year-old house was faded, and green paint curled and clung to the old clapboard siding, unwilling to let go completely. The three of us (my agent, a friend and I) stepped into the front entry and felt a welcoming pull; a whispered “hello” from the quiet structure. The house had been empty for two years, and it almost seemed as if the walls leaned inward to greet us in its loneliness. “This might be the one,” I told my real estate agent. It had no yard to speak of – it was tucked in shoulder to shoulder with other houses on a city street. But the vibe was right.

I’ll reach back into the past along the life of this blog to tell you about that first day, and about making offers and negotiating contracts, so that you may learn along the way. I’ll tell you about the home inspection that was conducted a few weeks ago, and I’ll fill you in on the actual closing that is coming up in February. You are invited to follow along as I get to know this old house, make repairs, and give #14 Vine a new start – and myself a new adventure! But for now, I’m simply saying hello, and I hope you’ll come along for the ride!

Looking inside the box

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Winter is finally loosening its grip on Vermont. My yard is still packed high with snow, now grubby and worn. But the sun is out and promises that soon green will begin to peek out from the bare spots.

I made a move to my very own home a few weeks ago with the help of my exchange group. I was fortunate to have the support of several individuals as well as more than a half dozen strong young men from a local alternative educational facility. The move from my apartment to my home a mile away was a whirlwind – and when it was all done the little house bulged with boxes and furniture.

Between work commitments, I’ve been emptying boxes. In the days before the move I made sure to carefully pack the things I would need right away. Important papers, bill yet to be paid, telephone and address books, etc – all went into boxes that I thought I would open first and be able to access whatever I needed until I could reorganize things.

Ok, you can laugh now. We’ve all done it. We put something away in a special place, thinking we’ll remember exactly where it is when we need it. But when that day comes, we can’t find it. It isn’t where our brains say it is. We say “I know I put that here so I could find it again.” Or “Where did I put that?” And each minute that goes by without finding it, we go from room to room, stepping a little bit faster, frantically digging through piles and boxes, and finally looking in those places that we are sure we didn’t put “that”.

Sometimes we find it in one of those unlikely places. Other times, it shows up unexpectedly a week or a month or even a year from then. We may have replaced it with another “that” – and promptly found the original “that.”

I have put things down on a table, wandered off to do something, and come back to find that particular object had disappeared. I live alone, so I can’t call out “Who took my ‘that’?” or “Help me find ‘that’!” Nope – it’s all on me. I just have to wander and dig and ponder where “that” could be.

In this move, I lost my basket of tea bags. And my garlic heads. And my kitchen magnets. I’m grateful I didn’t lose something that had a shorter shelf life, like shrimp. I’m also grateful that the little box that held my bills and checkbook didn’t fall into that black hole of “thats”. So I decided to let it go. I could live without garlic for a while, keep my refrigerator clean of notes and photos, and pick up another box of tea from the grocery. I knew they would show up somewhere, someday.

Now of course, this thought doesn’t work in every circumstance. Sometimes it is important to continue to search for “that”. Our passions, for instance. Sometimes in the daily chaos, we forget where we put our hopes and dreams. They were right there in front of us, and then they were gone. We can choose to let it go and say to ourselves “It will turn up eventually.” Or we can work hard to find it again – all by ourselves. And you never know – it might be in the next place you look.

What passions have you put aside, or forgotten about because life’s routines got in the way?

Spaces Between Sounds

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I have allowed a long silence to live between posts. January is a time for rejuvenation – a month of newness, and clearing of clutter. I’m sure many of you have found yourselves attacking those piles of papers, catalogs or other nuisance flutterings with zeal; organizing them (or at least corralling them), labeling and storing, then stepping back to look at your accomplishment, with, well, a sense of accomplishment. Or, like me, you are organizing the money – beans, moolah, black line, gold, cash, income – and plotting your path for 2011. And although we all might complain about tightening the belt, it still feels good to do so. Buckling into another barely worn belt-hole and declaring an end to the pudge, whether in our spending or in our waistlines, is somehow satisfying in itself.

So the silence at Chez Universe has not meant that I have been sitting in a corner. In fact, I have been very busy! I am in the process of buying a house – my first on my own as a single woman! I am excited about this little “start-over house.” It is a project house (aren’t we all, in the grand scheme of things?) and will need lots of repairs. Just how many it will need will be answered when I have a home inspection next week. But it is a new adventure that I will share with you, dear readers!

And because I have broken the January silence with type, I want to share this link that was sent to me by a fellow wordsmith. Enjoy!

Smells Like Childlike Spirit!

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Last night’s soup swap was a great success. I marveled at the way the same basic ingredients could be presented in such unique ways. Fall and winter vegetables teamed up with lentils and beans in many dishes, but each had its own flavor and texture. A “golden” ladle was given to the soup voted as overall favorite. The winner was a cherry dumpling soup! We tend to think of soup as an appetizer; a beginning to dining or a hearty stew-like main course for lunches. So this soup (along with the others – over a dozen in all) surprised and delighted everyone. We went away with recipes and new ways to combine basic pantry items that we get tired of, or use over and over in the same way. Grandma’s acorn squash and lentil soup tastes great, but we tire of the routine.

So let’s look at something that is also always there, and can get stale no matter how much we love it – our occupations. Do you remember when you were a child, dreaming of the careers you would have as an adult? As 5-year-olds, there were no boundaries – we planned futures as firemen, mommies and daddies, doctors and pilots. I decided to ask other writers this question: What would you be if you were not a writer?

At first my colleagues insisted that they would want to do nothing else except what they were doing at present. So I asked, if skill/talent/money/whatever was not in the way, what would they choose to be? Reality should play no part in their answer – there should be no logic attached. I wanted to hear what they would do if there were absolutely no boundaries –in this imaginary world, only their spirits were in charge!

The answers were amazing –given the chance to throw aside the hackles of reality, a few stated they would be farmers, dancers, artists and singers. Without the requirements of formal education, others said they would be veterinarians, paleontologists, and physicists. The answers were exciting and eclectic – pipe organ player, rabbi, metalsmith, kitten photographer, ranch owner (where children could ride horses for free), Radio City Rockette, Indiana Jones, and many more. In the imaginary world, it didn’t matter whether we had long legs, beautiful voices, had degrees or owned acres of land – not even the sky was the limit!

So, as adults, how can we unlock the doors that hold in these dreamy wishes, and make them a little part of our reality? If we gave our spirits control of our lives, instead of allowing logic and all the other things to handcuff us to a specific daily grind, how would it change us? Of course, I am not suggesting we all live completely in a dream world of our making – we all have to pay bills and taxes, raise children and do laundry. But if we did something to fulfill a part of that inner desire, wouldn’t it only serve to make our lives better?

Instead of planning a vacation, what if you spun the globe, closed your eyes and pointed to a destination – and took off on your own Indian Jones adventure? What if you bartered for lessons in something you had interest in doing – dancing, acting, baking, or religious instruction? What if there were no boxes to define you? Dig deep – and uncover your passions!

Snow Mountains and Soup Swaps

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Snow has arrived in Central Vermont! I spent Sunday with my two friends, Otis and Ben, and we enjoyed the snow together. We tried out the hill at their country home – fabulous! Otis, who is 6 years old, discovered that if we all piled into the wood sled together, the trip down the hill was much faster! Later that afternoon, Otis, Ben (who is 4) and I went to Hubbard Park to do some more sledding, participate in a scavenger hunt, and have hot cocoa and cookies.

At home, the snow plows rumble into the parking lots behind my apartment and push the accumulation into miniature mountains of white and grey. Last night Fae and I played “Queen of the Hill” on the pile nearest the door. Fae loves snow – but like me, when her feet get cold, she’s done playing!

Each morning I discover that a kind spirit has shoveled my little walkway from the parking lot to the steps of my apartment, and cleared a path to the dumpsters as well! This person must come before dawn, as I am usually up early and have yet to find out who it is. So I am giving a shout out and a thank you to the Snow Fairy, whoever you are!

If you remember my blog of last winter, Glove is All You Need, I discovered the singles gathering of gloves in Montpelier. My goal this year is to collect those errant gloves and mittens and find a place to donate them. But this month, shoppers won’t have to expose their hands to put money in Montpelier’s meters. The city has covered all its meters with festive red baggies – everyone parks free. A good thing for shoppers and a good thing for the shops!

I am preparing beef barley soup to take to a soup swap hosted by the REACH exchange in Montpelier. This swap is a bit different than the one I wrote about last year in Soup for You. We all partake of the soup of others instead of going home with freezer-ready portions. I am considering hosting a soup swap of my own in the late winter months – it would be a fun way to spend a cold evening!

Hide Away Moon – See the Light of the Stars!

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Tonight is the new moon of the last month of 2010! To me, new moons point to rebirth and intention. Often in this holiday season we get wrapped up in the busy atmosphere of holiday preparation. It becomes a focus on a single future event, and the moment of “now” gets washed out in the anticipation of what is to come. But what if we practiced living in the now – now? Each moment can be fun. A game of Chinese Checkers with a senior citizen whom I now call “friend,” and a conversation over coffee with another newfound friend that lasted so long we closed the shop at the end of day – both are examples of the gifts that come in daily packages. Intend that you pay attention to moments like these – and enjoy them!

The sky is darkened on the night of New Moon, and on a clear night one can see more stars than usual. So I want to tell you about a man who is so passionate about the stars he felt compelled to share them with others.

In 1996, Frank Kovac wanted to show the night sky to a group of Boy Scouts, but cloud cover rolled in and the view was obscured. Kovac decided to build his own planetarium – a tall order for one man. But he had a vision and a clear intent – and he trusted that it would become a reality! Bit by bit, he built it – even hand-painting approximately 5000 stars in their correct locations in the 22-foot diameter globe. Now Kovac Planetarium is open for business in Monico, Wisconsin. Frank looked to the stars – and trusted the universe!

So tonight, look up into that darkened sky, be grateful for the “now” – and intend the future!