A year ago last June, I packed up my boxes and disassembled my full-sized bed and pulled my ski and climbing gear out of Teresa’s gearage’s loft and moved it all to Ryan’s house, and took two carloads of unnecessaries to Goodwill and another carload to the dump. Which all sounds like a lot of stuff, but aside from my outdoor gear, I’d been living in a ten by twelve space, so there really just wasn’t that much. As part of my move-in, I revisited my storage unit — a strange mix of legal files I have to keep for the required number of years before returning them to their actual owners, my old clients; and some odds and ends and a handful of pieces of furniture. A few boxes came out of storage; their contents re-examined, and then tucked back into their boxes awaiting a garage sale or Goodwill.
The oldest stuff is easiest to let go of. That stuff is from a past life so distant it hardly feels like my own. It’s the middle stuff that’s hard to let go of: the sleeper chair and storage ottoman acquired for my first apartment after my divorce: the only real furniture I had in there, save for my bed and a folding wood table my dad made out of 2x4s or old pallets, I can’t remember which, that was my parents’ Hibatchi holder and became my mini dining table. And the BBQ table went back to its rightful owners (I think?) and the bed wound up in my parents’ guestroom when everything else went into storage and I hit the road for six weeks — the longest period of homeless I’ve had. I was on the road for work for most of that time; sleeping on friends’ couches, the rest. And during that six weeks, I worked an event down in Las Vegas and my friend Christian re-introduced me to his friend Teresa who I’d met briefly at a party before — and Teresa needed a roommate, and I needed a room, so after six weeks of being in-between, and the day after Teresa’s dog Maile gave me two paws up, I moved into Teresa’s guest-room. I bought myself a bed — the first bed I’d picked out all by myself, ever. It was a Full, because I was getting used to sleeping alone, and wanted a bed just for me, not for sharing. And, I knew that once that stage was over, that small bed was like a litmus test: I never wanted to share my life with someone with whom I wasn’t completely comfortable sleeping in a Full-size bed.
It’s those things in the middle that are hard to let go of. The sleeper chair and storage ottoman that became a safe place for beloved girlfriends after hard break-ups and shitty divorces. The bed I chose so intentionally for myself, after such a long period of in-between-ness. The bed found its way into our little guest sleeping space, which happens to be painted yellow — the color I painted my room’s walls at Teresa’s. It’s a little strange now, depending on the bedding I choose when I make the guest bed… that room can be a near reproduction of my room at Teresa’s. There’s both comfort and dissonance in that, and that’s okay. I usually choose other bedding, so that it looks different: a mix of mine and his and ours, so it’s less like a re-creation of my time before him.
The sleeper chair came out of storage — hauled over to Seattle from Bremerton, filling up almost the entire back of Ryan’s Element. It took us a whole day to go over there, get into my unit, dig out the chair and a few boxes, load up the car, spend some time with friends, then come back home. It took us another day to move it into the house, only to look at it in the future office and realize, with an unexpected degree of emotion on my part, that it just didn’t fit in the new home that I was trying to make my space in. I’m having a strange sense of deja vu writing this — so I apologize if I’ve already told this story. So back into the Element it went, back into the storage unit, back into the place that is the bridge to my past.
But none of this is what I sat down to write about today.
So perhaps I ought to get to the point. If there is one.
It’s taken me over a year of living here — and a year and a half of sleeping here — to really start unpacking. A little bit, it’s because it’s such a small space; a little bit, it’s because Ryan’s already got most of the place decorated to an absolute T, so it’s not like there’s much other than personal belongings and the occasional unanimous-love-at-first-sight-moment with a piece of furniture for me to contribute. When I was working from here full time, I picked out a different sleeper chair and a beautiful desk for the office, but we never really finished the room. This weekend, while Ryan dug in the vegetable garden (the garden where we’re putting in our fall and winter crops, and thinking of next spring and summer’s harvest) I cleaned out the entire office room, and made it ours. When we find the right credenza, and we get the mustard yellow stripe we have planned painted, and when I choose which of my photos from Nepal to enlarge and print for the walls, it’ll be our music / guest / sewing / writing / reading / photography / meditation room… which sounds chaotic, but it’s basically the room that we have to do the things we love. And Gibson has a bed in there, and when our outside guestroom is full, it’s the overflow for indoor guests. And it really is becoming ours, and that made me feel giddy all day today, even through all the Mondayishness of a Monday at the non-home office.
And two weeks ago, the neighbor’s tree split in half, and came down on top of our fence early in the morning on a Thursday. And it was disorienting to walk Gibson out the back door that morning to an unfamiliar sight of a tree occupying the space formerly leading to our back gate. The house next door has been a rental for some time, owned by someone we only met when the tree fell, a friendly man who came over to let us know he’d take care of whatever was damaged. And fairly expeditiously, he did take care of most of what had been damaged; and what he hasn’t, the former renter — who’s since moved around the block to his new house — went out of his way to help with. The whole thing was just so wonderfully neighborly.
And tonight, our neighbors on the other side sent a note because their contractor fell through at the last minute, and they needed a referral for someone who may be able to help them with a project on short notice. They’re the neighbors who own the salon a block away, where Ryan and I both get our hair cut. They also gave us an antler for Gibson when she was a baby, in part so that she could get familiar with the scent of their dog, Diesel, before the two met in person (my eyes are welling up thinking about that). And since, we’ve had I don’t know how many haircuts and dog play dates and chit chats and goodness, I just love those guys. And after adopting Gibson we’ve met and created relationships with other neighbors, and I really treasure each of them.
It’s a strange thing to realize that (un)intentionally (or intentionally, and more slowly than I expected, in fits and starts), I’ve built myself a home here. This place “felt like home” right away… and it becomes home more and more with each project we do together, each storage problem we solve together, and each crop we plant and harvest together. And we’re doing all of this at our pace, and “our” doesn’t mean mine, or his, or mine plus his divided by two. It’s something other than that, and when it’s a Monday night and I’m typing a blog post sitting on his sofa, with our little dog curled up asleep against my arm, an outstanding record on the record player, Ryan sitting on the floor tapping on his phone smelling vaguely of wet soil after spending another evening digging until past dark to create more vegetable garden for us to work and plant and harvest together, I just feel so. Incredibly. Lucky.
To be here, now, with what’s around me, around me.