Lessons Were Learned, and…HEY! Wait a minute!

Although spring is almost here, there is still frost on the spiderweb.

Although spring is almost here, there is still frost on the spiderweb.

My little quadrant of this sphere is slowly tilting back toward the sun, and there is now enough demi-daylight (and if my wife is reading this: I went to high school with Demi Daylight!) when I get home from work to see my newly-minted living room view. Absent the abominable Confinement Fence: the grand stump, the dirtle, my valiantly struggling saplings, all are now in easy view without standing up or hurting my neck.

The view from my living room. Imagine: being able to see out of a WALL OF WINDOWS

The view from my living room. Imagine: being able to see out of a WALL OF WINDOWS

Here and there, daffodils poke up through the soil, a couple with the tell-tale 45-degree chew-pattern of the Mountain Beaver–I hope you’re down in your hole puking your guts out!–and the trillium are starting to come up. The delicate trefoil flower brings my grandmother quickly to mind, and the Lucky Strike-scented drives in her 1972 Skylark to see them. Likely we were not far from where I now sit. All through the scene are the little hummocks and drumlins of forest moss, now covering all soil but a few haphazard square inches, thither and yon. When I first contrived of a moss garden, I had read it might take years to establish, but it is now a scant two since I transplanted the first pad. The only places uncarpeted by moss are the Elongated Applications of Weed Suppressing Mulch. Full disclosure: they are paths. They always were.

Moss. Mist.  Moss and mist will be missed.

Moss. Mist. Moss and mist, well, they WILL be missed

Spring is almost here, and soon the vine maple–also a favorite of my grandma–will unfurl their leaves, as will the mountain ash and the dogwood. I found a love for plants previously What!?! Did you hear that? It sounded like a needle being drawn across a record, or a tinkling saloon piano suddenly silenced…or some other sound effect signalling an abrupt change in tone and atmosphere! I can strike an elegiac tone as well as anyone, and leaving something undone is sad. Super sad. But intense reflection and self-knowledge causes it to become clear: really, the biggest problem here is I hate moving.

Here we have been living, unhappily squished between a road that is much, much busier than it orignally seemed and a vast second-growth forest neither quite as sensitive as we were told, nor as benign as we had hoped. No one is having any fun. Everybody is tired of Daddy-Hubby working in the yard all weekend and many evenings trying to customize a clearing and fabricate a forest. Especially Daddy-Hubby. Continually exhausted and frustrated, he’s no damn good to anyone, especially me.


A garden of Northwest Native plants and mosses? There. Now THAT is a great idea.

In short days we’ll be going less than a mile down the road, to a house two left turns off this busy street. Basketball and bicycling, scootering and skating on a wide, level cul-de-sac. I should probably invest heavily in Bandaids, but won’t worry quite so much about ‘catastrophic injury.’ We can have that vegetable garden we want, some fruit trees, I can go back to using my magical powers for killing mint (really). There are no Bigleaf Maples on the property or even on the street. I can create a Japanese stroll garden, a wood-burning firepit, hang a swing, build a playfort…a new Shoji house, a greenhouse. There is even a portion of the property that is ‘natural,’ with Douglas fir, salal, sword fern and forest debris. Hmmm…perhaps in that area I could MAKE AN ALL-NATIVE NORTHWEST GARDEN WITH MOSS! Instead of what is ‘permissible’ or ‘what I can get away with’ deciding what I will do, I am limited only by my imagination, time, and budget. Possibly also by my ability to transport building material, as I like things overbuilt and overscale (plants grow, but structures and hardscape do not).   I am positive that in time, I will have all of these; and without a doubt, pent-up demand for my favorite plants will be satisfied.


A freestanding shop, architecturally sympathetic to the primary structure, designed by ME. I didn’t have a cocktail napkin, so I used plain old paper.

And something more: I will have a SHOP! Not a corner of the garage or some such make-do; I have already sketched the structure and have my drawings out to be turned into a set of construction plans. Feasibility is underway, and by the time I have the keys to the ‘new’ house I will likely have the building permit. I will have a small building where I can put all my power and hand tools, dedicated workspace, dust collection, and art supplies. While there will be no storage inside of it (that is a manifesto, not a description), I designed the shop with broad overhangs under which can be stored kayaks, firewood, or what have you, and a covered area to one day house outdoor cooking and weather-sheltered lounging. It is NOT meant to be an ‘outdoor living room!’ I am not presently sure what to call it, but not that, so stop using your meaningless magazine words. In the shop I can make objets d’stuff and take refuge during those inevitable**ahem**lady times that are yet a few years off, as my wife is only in her early forties and my daughter now just eight…wink, you know what I’m saying, fist bumps to that guy over there, hiding out in his garage.  Necessarily, there will be a mini-fridge, good lighting, and maybe a comfy chair.

Overlooking the moss garden and the wetland from my bedroom window.

Overlooking the moss garden and the wetland from my bedroom window.


The view on that Most Sensitive of Areas, the wetland ‘buffer,’ from the stairwell.

As I look out the window, my eye is drawn to those places which are ‘missing’ something: another Alaska cedar here, there is where the ‘Pacific Fire’ vine maples would go.  I wish I had just a couple more moss pads to cover this or that spot, and I can see some early shotweed and persistent crane’s bill coming up.  I wonder what might happen with this clearing and the moss garden I have made; looking toward the wetland, I imagine four or five courses of retaining block, and I’m pretty sure two dump trucks’ worth of fill and soil, ten or so rented wheelbarrows, and an equal number of those guys who loiter in the home improvement center parking lot, and I could level this clearing and make it look like a standard suburban backyard in a weekend or two.

More likely it will go fallow and then to seed, the bracken fern will return, and the Mountain Beavers will mow down all vegetation within a couple years–those plants that do not get smothered by maple leaves.  That is just the way people are.  Without my Sisyphean efforts, the clearing will do what it has always done…and that is OK by me. It won’t be mine anymore.


Dirtle, perhaps I will miss you most of all. Then again, I can just make another one.

I began the process of building our home in September of 2009.  We built through 2010, sold our last home a month and a half before moving, and in 2011 I began the process of negotiating the sale of my business real estate.  In September of 2012 we put our ‘dream home’ on the market, took it off 2 1/2 months later, and then I began navigating the modern landscape of mortgage refinance with a lender that took a billion dollar bailout, but doesn’t really want to loan to consumers.  I closed the sale of the business property in December, and in late January bought a new  old home and sold the ‘dream house.’  We move in four weeks’ time, and are boxing up our life again.   I have been All Real Estate All The Time for almost four years. The next time someone, anyone, says to me: ‘Let’s move or do something real estate or mortgage related,’ the answer will be, GO AHEAD.  Those words should be read as though icicles were dripping off of them.

But I am now beyond any reluctance or melancholy over moving. The other night, my daughter asked me who was buying our house.  I told her it was a man and a woman who liked the house very much. “Do they have kids?” she asked me.  “I don’t think so,” I replied.  She thought for a moment.  “Good.  Kids shouldn’t live here.”

Really, I can’t move fast enough.

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7 Responses to Lessons Were Learned, and…HEY! Wait a minute!

  1. Chad B says:

    Calvin, your daughter’s words were powerful. As much as you hate moving, I can still understand why moving to a new house would be so important. Thankfully you will be in place before she is too old to care about swings, scooters, and playing games with Dad.

    I chuckled to myself when you wrote about your shop. The house I am buying has a run-down 10’x20′ shop attached to the back of the garage. I’m told that the original owner of the 3-bedroom home was married and raised 6 daughters in this house. I can’t even begin to imagine the cloud of estrogen that must have hovered below the ceilings so it is no wonder to me that he built this escape. I mean “shop”. While I intend to honor the workshop’s history as a work shop, I’m thinking that I might also like to use it as a cigar room and/or finally taking up home brewing beer.

  2. calvincaley says:

    Exactly, Chad. If I ever want to live someplace elegant again, I can do it in a condo when I am old. I am glad to hear you’ve found a place–I’ll congratulate you when you have the keys! Cigars and beer are just as at home in a shop as tools…be an American and use your beer and your power tools together! Our culture doesn’t allow for us to send the females out to a distant hut during woman-times, but we can certainly send ourselves. Good for you!

  3. I agree, moving is a pain, but it sounds like you will all be very happy in the new house. Plus all the great projects you’ll be able to do! Best wishes, and don’t forget to do some posts on how it goes.

    • calvincaley says:

      Thank you! A vegetable garden is job one for me…I want to have it made and ready to go by planting time (late April for lettuces and cole crops around here, mid- to late May for warmer season veggies). We are not even going to have TV for the first few months–nobody wants it!

  4. Pingback: Something is Still Sensitive Here. Maybe it is just me. | A Thistle in My Sensitive Area

  5. Life is all about change. Maybe the real message is life is a journey. It keeps changing and bringing all new surprises at every bend. Maybe I am really more of an observer than a philosopher.

    • calvincaley says:

      I think you are dead on, Charlie, and thank you so much for visiting! Although I know enough to know that one never ‘arrives,’ it is still surprising when you think you’ve made it to a destination, and it is really just a waystation. We thought we had made a home, and came to realize we had only checked a box off a list of things we wanted to do in our life. I could not be more excited at this point for the moving, and the moving on. Remember: whenever someone on a reality program says ‘journey,’ you have to take a drink!

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