Tag Archives: moving

Feet In Your Shoes

NeNe, my swimming buddy, waves from the boat ramp and I wave back from just inside the breakwater. Where’s George? I wonder, and swim to join my friend.

I almost didn’t come. NeNe didn’t answer her phone this morning, and it was pouring rain. But when she called back, said she was running late and let’s go! I bolted for the door.

And got here a few minutes early, so I watched the surfers out in Pohoiki Bay, their boards pointed out to the deep purple-blue sea, waiting for a wave.  The right wave.

Today I’ve lived in Hawaii one year. Off grid, on catchment water. I’ve learned a lot. Water is incredibly precious.

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Modern culture uses a lot of electricity – most everything is plugged in. I’ve learned that propane refrigerators need defrosting.

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I’ve learned that lava flows can just stop. And that hot flashes are real and debilitating. My generation of Boomer women is still a bit radical, but I’ve learned that the younger Millennial generation has a large contingent of counterculture souls, aching to live a bit more in sync with nature.

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The Bearded One and I have seen whales, wild pigs, owls and countless rainbows.

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We have a whole new concept of what “hard rain” is. We have hosted family and friends.

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But the best, for me, continues to be swimming in the ocean. The water is alive.

NeNe pulls her long, thick, white hair into a ponytail.

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A surfer, a white guy about our age who I don’t recognize, slides his board into the water near me as I float in the shallow water off of the ramp.  “Where’s George?” I say.

“In the car!”

The surfer looks at me and I briefly explain George is a wonderful dog, a huge black AKC champion Bouvier des Flandres who is also sometimes a pain, not listening to NeNe and wandering off and eating garbage.

“He was being a poop, so I left him there,” says NeNe, splashing into the water next to me.

“Good for you,” I say.

“I get to decide,” she says, looking as tough as she can.

“Yes, you do,” I say, and then I stand up in the water and begin to recite:

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“You have brains in your head.  You have feet in your shoes.  You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”

The surfer looks at me, eyes wide.

“You’re on your own.  And you know what you know.  And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go!”

“Did you just make that up?!” says the surfer.

“It’s Dr. Seuss!” I say and smile big.

“AH!” says the surfer. “He’s a god.”

And with that, NeNe and I head back out into the waves.

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Talk Story

Here I am at the doctor. A nurse practitioner named Linda in a bright mu’umu’u and a yellow plumeria in her graying hair follows up with me after an acclimation struggle that landed me in the Hilo ER with stomach pain from depression and anxiety on May 22.

The Bearded One is across the parking lot doing our laundry. Chatting with the Pahoa locals about dogs and moving and children. He is thriving.

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He has dealt with my depression for 20 years. It is not a Hawaii thing.  It moves in six year cycles. This one is right on time.

I’m back satisfactorily medicated, but the anxiety is new and that’s what has me back at the doctor again. My heart races and my stomach aches and roils and presses against my breath. I’ve lost 15 pounds from just eating less.  Brain stem stuff, pituitary, fight or flight stress that meds help, but as Linda says, “You also need to talk story.”  It’s a Hawaiian phrase.  Our neighbor used it when he came over to meet us.

“What do you want in your deepest heart?” she asks.

“To make our new house our home,” I say. This surprises me. It’s not to go back to Washington, which I thought about last month as we waited to get into our new home. “We’ve just been in the house a week. It’s off-grid. There’s a lot of work to do.”

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“Why did you come to Hawaii?”

I answer with the weather and the adventure of it, but later I regret not saying better that the big island of Hawaii is an amazing place — an active volcano in the middle of the Pacific Ocean with virtually every ecosystem imaginable, rainforest, desert, alpine. I’m privileged to live here, and I know it when I wake at night and smell the gardenia and puakenikeni blossoms wafting across our inflatable mattress in the dining room of the house as I listen to the ocean pounding the shore less than a mile away.

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We have no electricity or hot water, but will by July. Since we got a land line – no cell phones work at our house – the Bearded One has been ordering solar components and Eccotemp propane flash hot water heaters and researching new water catchment tanks and completely engaging in the job at hand.

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I’m trying to engage with the kitchen. The propane stove is rusty and the propane fridge is old and small. Both are being replaced.  The tiny counter is a thick block of mango wood. I set up the Igloo 5-gallon drinking water cooler in a corner by the fridge. Hawaii is a huge porous lava rock and houses have cesspools and water catchment tanks for washing and flushing, but you have to bring potable water in.  It’s heavy.

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The Bearded One and I were both raised in Texas. We fell in love in the hot spring and summer of 1977 in Waco, and when we broke up a year later, I ran as far north as I could to Seattle, Washington. Where I fell in love with the cool gray wetness, and had 16 incredibly productive years with my first husband. Three children and seven published books.

When I started to write essays and even a poem about air conditioning and mimosa trees, I went for the first time to a doctor for depression. I divorced, married the Bearded One, and we stayed within 20 miles of my first husband and all raised the kids.

We told this tale to the WWOOFers at the community farm we stayed at April 14-June 2 down by Pahoa. They are the same age as our kids, and we treated them like ours. One was from Texas. We talked about big things, how 2/3 of the world doesn’t have electricity. I felt useful, and they were compassionate to me as I crashed in the heat wave we were having.

Thinking about our Texas-sized subdivision, the biggest in the entire USA. Hawaiian Paradise Park is immense, miles of roads, paved and unpaved, each lot an acre, some areas bleak as a Texas prairie, others shaded in towering albizia trees. Rooster lots supporting the cock fights,

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small churches of every imaginable sort, plant nurseries, and car repairs dot the big roads. Our termite guy lives on 29th – Mauka (toward the mountains) We live on 8th – Makai (toward the ocean). Tom lives on 16th. These are pretty far apart. We are car dependent as ever.

But we are living differently. Our systems are low tech. We are in the tropics. The aloha spirit of everyone being connected in ohana (family) and the deep respect for nature in the presence of molten earth are real and shared attitudes. Plus everyone tells me acclimation takes at least a year. I’ve been here two months.

I meet the Bearded One in front of the Laundromat, where he is reading.

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He waves good-bye to everyone there, and escorts me to the truck. The laundry is in the backseat, all beautifully folded.

“Island time,” he says. “We are juggling and getting stuff done without setting any personal best speed records in any category. It is happening. I think we’re here for a long haul.”

“Could be,” I say. “I’m getting there. Here.”

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Pig on a Porch

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I sit on a lanai (covered porch) in a towering edible forest jungle of mangos, bananas, coconuts, papayas and palms, watching spider webs catch raindrops and listening to the doves and roosters. We are far removed from the tourist stuff here.

The roosters start at around 4am, but it’s not so bad since we go to bed at 7:30pm. In Hawaii it gets dark between 6 and 7pm no matter the season. And like the lava grit in my sandals, the rain comes and goes, an excuse to stop and sit.

We landed in Hawaii eleven days ago and spent six days in luxury at Kalani Retreat Center, electricity and internet in our room and all meals included.

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We picked up the truck in Hilo. We considered the real estate in Sea View next door to Kalani, a neighborhood started by retired circus performers, who continue their mission of performing arts in the schools and community.

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It’s right on the ocean, but the lots are just lots, and the Bearded One has got to have some kind of acreage. Heck, an acre would do, especially near the ocean. We love hearing the surf crash at night.

Then on Sunday we went to the Maku’u (Ma – koo – oo) Market and met up with Tom and Deborah, our friends and off-the-grid mentors. Tom built the first Farmlet house on the mainland, which we bought in 2006. Deborah has lived in Hawaii for 20 years working at the U of Hawaii, Computational Linguistics, publications. She’s the Professor here on Gilligan’s Island. She makes her barefoot, balmy, high-tech, two-screen graphics world work in a hut.

We drive through their rural neighborhood, stop at the labyrinth on 4th (4/10ths mile from the ocean) just to see it, then swing by the Hippie House on 8th, which entrances us all over again.

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Less than a mile from the ocean, an acre of glorious jungle landscaping, and an off-the-grid island house with a lot of soul. It’s not for sale anymore. The owner, who may be even more of a hippie and a hermit than the Bearded One, took it off the market because of the hassle…but maybe, we joke, he would be interested in selling if we left him a note? Maybe —

Monday we moved here from Kalani, to this little jungalo on an organic farm on Papaya Farm Road, surrounded by coconut and banana trees. Little bananas called apple bananas. Best we’ve ever had. $1/pound.

The jungalo has no electricity, a communal toilet and shower, and a camp kitchen on the corner of the lanai.

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A hen lays an egg on the dish shelf every day.

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Internet is usually available on the main farmhouse porch (shared with the enormous black pig Eore)

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but it’s been out for a few days, so Tuesday we drive the 10 miles to the town of Pahoa and the bakery. Where we can also get phone reception and call our real estate agent, Glenn, who listed the Hippie House last fall.

Before we moved in here on Monday afternoon, though, we went to Hilo to get the Bearded One his first pair of sandals in maybe three decades. On the way, we decided to drive by the Hippie House again, really slow.

Maybe the owner will spot the Bearded One getting out of the truck and looking at the neighboring property for sale? Maybe the Bearded One will wave and introduce himself and the owner will remember our intense long-distance interest two months ago, before he got tired of all the lookers? Maybe he’ll invite us in and give us a tour? Yeah, right.

Be careful what you imagine, at least on the Big Island. The cause and effect loop is tight here, with instant repercussions. The owner appeared with a huge bulldog, was guarded, then receptive

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then gave us an honest and leisurely tour. It needs new solar panels and wiring, new catchment system liner, tenting for termites, kitchen refinement, and an additional lanai — and sent us on our way to try and find anything better.

The bakery is open air and full of locals on laptops. The Bearded One orders a hot chocolate and goes out to the parking area to try and get a phone signal. I get the Wi-Fi password and log on.

“Glenn’s office is right next door!” the Bearded One says when he returns.  Another connection made almost effortlessly.

We spend Thursday with Glenn seeing five houses. I reject the last two before even seeing them, the roads are so atrocious. Borderline impassable. My friends and family would never make it here.

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The others that we can afford are either shacks on really rough jungle acreage or pristine Western houses on 2/10 acre lots.

Friday, the Bearded One takes the cell phone over to the corner of the farm where we discovered reception, calls the owner of the Hippie House, and makes an offer. The owner will talk to his wife and the Bearded One will call back on Sunday morning. There’s no way he can send us a message.

Then Easter Sunday morning, I watch from our screened-in cottage as the Bearded One calls. He gives the thumbs up that it is ringing. And then it starts to rain. Hard, torrential, pounding Puna rain. I can’t even see the Bearded One anymore.

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A few minutes later the Bearded One emerges from the jungle, smiling. I greet him at the hut door. “We have a deal,” he says.

I squeal with delight. “I can’t believe the phone connection held through that storm,” I say.

“That banana tree was real good cover,” he says.

Suddenly, Eore comes screaming out of the jungle. A smaller wild pig has chomped down on the base of Eore’s tail and is hitching a high-speed recreational romp around the place – both of his front hooves riding high on Eore’s butt while his back legs churn furiously to keep up with Eore’s long panicked strides. It seems plain to me there’s a huge grin on the wild pig’s face.

A good day for all. Well, maybe not Eore.

A Window of Opportunity

I climb out of the truck and reach for the house key on my key chain.  Which now has only one key, the truck key.  Oops.  I removed the house keys from both our key chains yesterday.

One of my jobs was sorting all of the keys, separating and labeling them for the new owner and it dawns on me that in the excitement of the Title Company’s call — “The papers are ready to sign!”

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— I’d grabbed only my truck key as had the Bearded One.  We are, for the first time since moving here seven years ago, locked out of the house.

“Call Kathi,” the Bearded One says, taking charge.  “I’ll look for an open window.”

“Roger,” I say.  I leave a harebrained message for Kathi the Realtor.  Her electronic realtor gizmo can open the official realtor box with a key inside.  Maybe she’s nearby.

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We hardly ever leave, I think, but for one reason or another we’ve left the house every day this week.  Garfield knows something’s up, possibly even that we’re all leaving soon.  He walks around the living room regularly inspecting his own cat carrier and luggage (he’s being adopted by my niece and her husband and 18 month old daughter) as well as the fascinating 4’x4’x4′ cube of stuff (mainly our tools) we are shipping to Hawaii.

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The Bearded One circles back around the house to report he’s found an open window, the downstairs bathroom, and he’s going to fetch a ladder from the barn.

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Kathi calls back and I explain and thank her for her willingness to come all the way from Tacoma (half hour) with the key to the key box, but we will get in, no problemo.

Meanwhile, the Bearded One is determined to save the day.  He props the ladder against the house, and heads up to climb in through the teeny window.

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“I am so much better than you at wiggling through tight places,” I say, and he takes this is as a challenge.  Yeah, right, his expression says.  We have a wee argument as I hold the ladder.

He carefully removes the screen and hands it down to me.  Then he slides open the window, examining the 9″x20″ opening and the toilet below.

I steady the ladder and watch as he leans sideways, angling his head and arms and chest through.  Then he drops his head down toward the toilet and all he has to do is get his hips through, and they will not go.

A sad state of affairs, and I am truly concerned that he not hurt himself, but, dang it, he was so insistent, and now….oh my lord….he is kicking his feet wildly, trying for purchase against empty space, stuck in the bathroom window 10 feet off the ground.

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I don’t make near enough effort to stifle my laughter.  The Bearded One is mad, but also contrite.  This apparently is a bit less humorous to him right at the moment.

We have helped each other in every way we can these past busy weeks, holding each other tenderly when we are both exhausted and a bit scared (me) and talking things through when we’re (me) grumpy with new computer stresses and playing out little disaster scenes in my head, and we are together and he is my heart and soul.

And here I am laughing at him.  I apologize.  He’s fine.  He grins.

“I thought I was skinnier than that window,” he says.

I wiggle through the window in seconds, drop down head first with one arm extended.  I couldn’t have done it without the toilet right there below the window, I explain later, modestly, after having saved the day.

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I crawl down the toilet onto the floor, slowly kneel then stand up, brush myself off and trot through the house to open the door.  “We’re in!” I say — if only for a few more days.

The Place in Pixels

Right in the middle of our big transition to Hawaii, the old Canon point-and-shoot camera dies.  The last photo I take is of the goats in the back of a man named Anthony’s pickup truck on their way to their new 5-acre farmlet in Port Orchard, five miles away.

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Goats to Port Orchard

The photo is blurry and overexposed.  My mental image is sharp, though.

The men bring each goat down the trail from the barn separately, starting with Pearl, the smallest.

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All the goats look twice as big as they are because of their thick fleece — Anthony thought they were sheep.  “Sweet Pearl my Girl,” I say to the nervous, shivering goat.  She can hardly take the almonds I offer through the dog crate bars.  These goats haven’t left this place for two years.

Anthony and his brother love the farmlet and would like for one of their family members to buy it.  Which supercharges the Bearded One and me, even as Pearl calms down considerably when the rest of her herd arrives.  The three goats huddle together and listen as we describe the farmlet and neighborhood and give our first sales pitch.  It will be on the market in March, we say.  I promise to email information and pictures.

After the brothers and the goats leave, the Bearded One and I unanimously cancel our planned shopping trip.  He has captured each of the three goats, all wild with two strange men present, then shoved them downhill and helped lift them up into the back of the pickup and into a cage.  “We are so easily traumatized,” he jokes as we slump at the kitchen table.  “Best not to move around fast or talk too loudly.”

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I nod.  I want to cry, but cook instead. The goats are really gone!  AND Suddenly I am in the surreal land of selling our home.

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Will I make a flyer and have to resize old photos, which I barely did without having a nervous breakdown for the Craigslist ad??  The Bearded One cleans the roof.

Finally after dinner, we replay our images of the day for each other, I finally cry, and we recover.  But our camera does not.  I have to buy a new one.  And capture this place in pixels.

Wide-angle, panorama, fish-eye — these are not the same.  I research and grow weary and find myself spending hours watching a video of the first house we saw with our on-line Hawaii search, an off-the-grid hippie house in Puna less than a mile from the ocean.

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I work hard to orient myself through the video’s lens, just 45 degrees at a time. I watch it over and over.  I diagram the house.  I stop and study and imagine.  Then it’s time to focus back here on the painting and sorting.

The Bearded One is going through old boxes and we laugh at a picture of him in Alaska in the mid 1990s.

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There’s even a panorama of his 1974 high school graduating class, a very big picture.  I ordered a camera with the panorama feature.

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On Sunday night, it snows.  And in the morning, as I walk past the hoophouse and compost bin to let the chickens out, I notice a half of grapefruit rind, bright pink on top of the goat hay and potato straw and white snow.  A bright Hawaiian sun.

I let the chickens out, then walk the tractor trail back to the house, stopping to admire the absolute utter perfection of snow falling on cedars.  The silence.  Everything all around me, 360 degrees, is fresh and new and magical.  The surprising gift of snow, and of leaving.

The Sorting

The large cardboard box labeled BOOKS has been sealed tight with packing tape for seven years.  The Bearded One hauls it inside from the red storage shed along with dozens of other boxes, but this is the one I dread.  It’s big and heavy and ancient history.

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“Where do you want this?” he asks.

“I don’t,” I say.

I am setting up the house like a thrift store, taping signs to the wall — Le Cuisine, Le Toilette, Le Boutique (two of our kids are in France at the moment…) — to make it fun and easy for my sister, mother, daughter and her husband when they come tomorrow to take what they want.

Shipping to Hawaii is expensive.  We don’t want to take our life’s accumulation anyway, so we are sorting, distributing, recycling, dumping, and generally moving most all of our furniture and household possessions to their next level.  All, that is, except a single 4’x4’x4′ pallet of choice items which will cost $425 to ship, and our 1991 Toyota 4-Runner that we hope will last until we die.  Its postage is $2300.

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Family heirlooms like the sewing chair, Grandma’s card table, and the photo albums are priceless and easy and have already been claimed and tagged.  Gowns from both my weddings, the Bearded One’s bomber jacket, and the stained glass window he made may have some emotional value, maybe not.  Vases, casserole dishes, candlesticks, games, two library walls of books.  It all must go.

“It’s just shameful,” says the Bearded One as he makes another trip to the shed, “how much of my crap there is.  I guess I must have thought that the Smithsonian was eventually going to call and ask for all my childhood personal effects.”

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Me, too, I think.  I have my Santa letters from 1960.  Do I chunk them?  I’ve got the writer’s disease, I’ve kept it all.  My career has been about paper.  Our eldest daughter reports that one of her first big words was “Manuscript”.  The Bearded One says we could build a house of manuscripts in Hawaii.

Now I’m alone in the upstairs bedroom where I’m making piles for each of the three kids, plus Mom and my sister.  And the time has finally come. I weigh the storage costs, the box contents, the value of a life.  I slice the tape with scissors.  I lift the cardboard top and look down at a familiar children’s book cover published in the spring of 1986.  My first book.

What’s that smell?  Musty.

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The spine is slightly warped, the paper lush and fuzzy with mildew.  Whoa, I think, surprised.  Welcome to the Pacific Northwest.  Mold dots the pages.   They’re all this way.  “What luck!” I say, ecstatic that there is no decision to make.

Growth has occurred, they are all ruined, and I can return these decomposing books to the earth from whence they came.

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Where This Is Going

“He’s grown,” says our son-in-law, the Alaska fisherman, as he sits on the couch and the puppy nibbles his sunburned neck and ears.  He, along with our oldest daughter, who is at work in Seattle this morning, and his family were in Hawaii for a week.  Roger stayed with us, and now the Captain has come to get him.  “His legs are longer.”

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Arly, our own puppy, whimpers with jealously and excitement from the other end of the couch where he sits with the Bearded One.  I’m in my rocker.  We are talking about big, important stuff, and the dogs make the conversation difficult in their barking, wrestling, puppy way.

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“I know it’s selfish,” says the Captain, “but I don’t want you to move.  It blew me away when I first heard.”  He’s the only NO in an otherwise unanimous sea of support for our latest notion, which is just days old now, but growing more real with time.

“Well, I’m as surprised at the notion as you are,” I say.  “Maybe more so.  I imagined building this farmlet and having all you Seattle kids and future grandkids drive an hour south to come see Grandma and Granddaddy and the goats and chickens on the farm.”

The Captain knows all about altered dreams.  His father died last month in a motorcycle accident after suffering a massive heart attack while speeding through the backroads of the Baja Peninsula.  It was out of the blue and shocked us all.  He
was 58, the same age as the Bearded One and one year older than me. The clan had planned all year to go to Hawaii. They never imagined their hearts would be so broken. He will be missed.

Arly yelps and lunges at Roger who yelps and lunges back.

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“It’s been a year full of transition,” I say.  “And then your dad died.  Was it just three weeks ago?  Seems much longer — ”

“Three weeks?”  The Captain looks at me and is quiet.  Time is tripping with all of us.

Can it be just days since I asked the Bearded One, “Do you want to move to Hawaii?” and he instantly said, “Yes”.  He’s not one to travel or visit, and he’s never even been to Hawaii, but he loves the idea of living in a whole different place.  Living in Alaska for a couple of years in the mid-1990s, much of it in the bush, was one of the highlights of his life.  The other was an 8,000 mile motorcycle trip across the western USA in 1982.

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The idea of moving to Hawaii came to me after a cold, gray misty walk by myself just a week ago, on December 30, New Year’s Eve Eve.  I thought about our daughter helping to scatter some of her father-in-law’s ashes in the middle of the brilliant Pacific Ocean.  And then I thought of Tom Coolidge.

Tom Coolidge was the first person to live on this road.  There was no road ’til he got here.  Just bears.  He designed and built the 1400 square foot pole house that is now the Farmlet House in 1990.

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He lived here for sixteen years, watching the road grow longer and attract more farmlets.  Now we’ve lived here for exactly seven years —

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— and Tom lives in Hawaii.  His girlfriend, a lovely woman with a Ph.D. in Linguistics named Deborah, came to our door 3-1/2 years ago.  She was in nearby Port Townsend for a retreat, she said, but she was usually in Hawaii with Tom.  He had told her about this house and said he could do the same in Hawaii for them….and she wanted to see this place for herself, would we mind?  It was our 13th anniversary, May 2, 2010.  Come on in! we said.

So when I got home from my cold and wet but thoughtful walk, I found Deborah and her blog on Facebook. And, oh oh oh!  A photo of the “Sherbet Shed” — a smaller version of the Farmlet House painted glorious rainbow colors on an acre of tropical forest in Puna, Hawaii.  The wet side of the Big Island.

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Since that moment, we’ve stepped into a bit of a rip current, whisking us through the week of Roger and Arly, energized by the vision of that beautiful little sunny house.  I’m tickled by all the positive feedback we’ve gotten — neighbors, the UPS guy, and most especially, the kids.

All the kids except the Captain, that is.  Who before our eyes, as we talk, becomes so bone-tired that we send him into the den for a nap before he drives back to Seattle with Roger.  We put the dogs outside.  The Bearded One and I whisper in the kitchen.

Two hours later when he gets up, the Captain says, “You know, lots of Hawaiians and Samoans fish with us.  There are lots of flights between Hawaii and Anchorage.”

He tells us about how he grew up living the summers in Naknek, where his dad worked all year building the family fishing business.  He knew how to filet a salmon when he was 7.

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“There’s a small house and three shipping containers on the property,” he says, “sort of a family compound.  My brothers and I talked a lot this week about how the future grandkids will be there all summer, but we’ll all be out fishing.  It’d be great if you came up and helped out.”

The Bearded One sits forward in his chair.  “Oh my yes…,” he says, and the Captain grins.

And then it hits me, and I leap up.  “Holy Moly.  The way all these farm animals tie us to this place, we’ll see more of our grandkids from Hawaii than we would from here!”

I like where this is going.

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*   *   *

A TIMING NOTE:  After roughly 3 years of weekly blogs, I’m shifting for a time to “intermittent” – whenever-the-muse-hits-me.  Thanks for reading!

A Popcorn Ceiling

For five years we’ve seen and heard them almost daily.  Hansel is now 9, Gretel is 7, and Batman, who wasn’t yet born when they moved in, just turned 5.  They have a fort on the property line, gather the eggs for us some days, and love Ruby and Garfield.  We’ve had many good-byes this week.  We’ve exchanged gifts and made many promises to visit, but the fact remains — they’re moving and after today, I won’t hear them playing anymore.

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So I transplant young cabbages, being very careful with the delicate roots, listen to distant moving van sounds, and think on the farmlet.  The change.  A part of the farmlet is leaving.  Can life here ever be as rich?

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It’s late afternoon when Gretel and Batman come over to return one last egg carton, and have one last jump on the trampoline.  “I’ll come back when I’m nine!” says Gretel to the Bearded One and me.  “And I’m TEN!”  Batman pounces on the number and smiles wide as he jumps with his sister.

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“Noooo, I will always be older than you,” says Gretel.

“You can come back when you’re 100,” says the Bearded One to Batman.

“A HUNDRED!” Batman shouts with glee.

“If we live that long,” Gretel says.

“You’ll be 103,” says the Bearded One, but Gretel is wicked smart.  “102!” she says.

“Oh, yeah,” says the Bearded One, as she bounces high above his head.

Time and space operate differently for the very young.  They transplant easier.  I am more traumatized by this move than either of these children.  The parents have promised to bring the kids by occasionally, for eggs and trampoline time.  Still, it’s their regular presence I’m already missing — the pleasant, entertaining kid sounds coming through the woods.  They’re like grandkids.

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“We better get home,” says Gretel, and just like that Batman obeys and the two children scramble to the stump stairs the Bearded One made for them.  It’s time to say good-bye.

The Bearded One asks Gretel about the new house.  They call it the Harbor House.  Has she been there?  What does she think of it?

At first she appears at a loss, and I’m not sure if she’s been there or not.  What does she actually know about the new house?

The answer eludes her for the time it takes Batman to say good-bye to Ruby the dog.  “Bye bye Woobie,” he says, and I’m so charmed and moved that all I can do is examine my dirty fingernails.

Gretel has thought of something.  “The new house,” she says while looking distinctly baffled, “has a popcorn ceiling.”

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What strange new world is this?

They race down the driveway and are gone.  Less than an hour later, their last car leaves and we wave to the entire family from the deck.

And then it’s quiet.  Their home is empty and is suddenly just a house.  I can feel the hole.

“What makes a house a home?” I ask the Bearded One, who stands at the kitchen sink eating a muffin.

“It’s the ‘OME’,” he says, with his best British accent, then pauses for dramatic effect as he paraphrases the answer — “Oh…ME.”

“Yes,” I smile all the way to my roots, “You.”

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