Monday, September 28, 2009

Between Here and There

There are 225 miles between Santa Cruz and Nevada City, a three-thousand foot climb in elevation the last few miles. We rented this 17-ft U-Haul, towed our car, and drove those miles on Friday. Roger did almost all of the unloading while I set up some kind of home base in the kitchen and master bedroom. We discovered upon arrival that the house we rented does not come with a refrigerator. A disappointing realization because the only large appliance we sold before we left Humboldt County last September was our refrigerator. We have never bought or rented a place that didn't have a fridge. So life there is like camping out, no matter how modern the house, when we're left with just our Coleman cooler.
This backyard also reminds us of camping. It looks like most of the campsites we've ever happily pitched a tent. This is our yard for the next six months while we search for a home and land. The squirrels and deer seem to like it here very much. Some animal I've never heard before sang a tune here in the dead darkness of night on Saturday. I listened to it as it crossed the yard, and I only knew it was moving as its call became fainter and fainter. Maybe in the coming rains and snow we'll find some tracks to give us a clue. The neighbors tell us that there are coyotes. We can't wait to hear them. This creature was definitely not a coyote, but a delightful mystery.
On the road covering those miles between here and there, we stop at this vista point with an overlook at the Carquinez Strait. It's a good place to rest half way between the sea and the Sierras. We always pack a lunch and take a look around. Lately the temps have been in the high 90s, but the dragonflies are still out and about, watching the traffic, or something.

We're tired. Another, final trip looms later this week.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Almost Gone, Except For Still Being Here

We waited all day Tuesday for a property manager to call us, to fax us a six-month lease on a house we are renting in Nevada City. This property manager has been a disappointment from the moment we met her last week. She has never come through in any way, always enthusiastically making promises that we happily accept, but always with suspicion. It's not that we won't get the place, we will, but she will take forever to let us know. It will throw off the schedule for picking up the U-Haul; ordering the high-speed internet; setting up basic phone service; putting the utilities in our name. We always have high expectations for simple levels of competence, and we are often let down. I can't understand how someone can be so sucky at their job and still keep it. How does that happen? Do people just not care anymore?

Still if all goes well with this particular transaction, we will be renting a large modern house in the hills outside of Nevada city on 1.73 acres. It will be a fine place to winter while we house hunt in earnest.
It's just too hard and absurd to shop online for a house. Things that are spectacular in photos often prove to be less stellar in the stark light of day. Take this house, for instance. Cute, isn't it? It has very little southern exposure and would take a whole lot of tree cutting to bring any sunlight for gardening. The trees closest to the house on the west, which should be cut down to mitigate fire danger, are not even on this property. "Hello, new neighbor, mind if we chop down your trees?" Or, take that gorgeous house with a million dollar view of the lakes and the coveted Sutter Buttes (west) or Sierra Buttes (east), it will be so hot there in the summer that even the snakes and lizards will slink off looking for respite. That lovely rambling house with its 'pottery barn" colors is really a triple wide mobile home (photo below) with a permitted two-story addition that is not being used for what it is actually permitted for. That beautiful cabin sided with the rich dark wood milled from its own land has no back steps, and drops off into a steep canyon. Real estate is very tricky business, and short sales (where banks have to agree to take less than what is actually owed on the house) can literally take six months to close and will drive you insane in the process.
We have been living in the upstairs two rooms of the old, uncared for family beach house for over a year now. It's amazing how small a space Roger and I can comfortably occupy together. Transitioning to a bigger space is not always easy. We don't really know how to spread out. It's not our nature. Most houses these days are absurdly big, and all boast the same currently popular features. We look at photographs online and find something almost weirdly voyeuristic about it. We are privy to the privy (double stall shower, big sunken tub with soothing jets), invited into the boudoir (always a strip of contrasting wallpaper where the wall meets the ceiling), given a place at the dining table in modern stainless kitchens (double door side-by-side refrigerator), and then slowly tour the great room with requisite cedar tongue and groove ceilings. All in homes anxiously waiting for someone to buy and love them.

When we finally walk through these places in real life, some people maintain the stage and prep the house for our audience. Others don't even make the beds or wash the breakfast dishes. We've seen bowls of cereal left on the table, cheerios floating soggily in warm milk; blow-dryers left on the bathroom counter with the cord draped across the sink; private notes on the refrigerator; personal paperwork strewn across desks; printed computer pages of dream searches for downsized houses and lower mortgages.

We're not even sure which is worse-- the beautiful antiseptic people-less staging, or the house in the throes of the utter mundanity of private lives. I always carry a camera on these outings, but mostly I look away and never take a single photo. I know some shoppers look through cupboards and drawers, I swear I can't imagine why.

The property manager never did call us. We finally called her again and found her in at her desk dealing with some personal issue that she went on about at length with Roger. The house is ours. The high speed internet will be connected on Saturday. If that's really true, you'll know about it. Wish us luck.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Oh America

I don't know why this scene jumped out at me, while we were at a stoplight at the corner of Pleasant Valley Road and Highway 20, it just did. I had to grab the camera and shoot through the window. What does it say, this dog with its lavender bow perched on the driver's lap. Is it giving me a condescending look, or is that my imagination?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Here We Are Giants

Okay, so where have we been? And where the heck are we now? This could be a long, sordid story. The kind that you would only tell to wicked children to scare them before bedtime about witches and MILs who are purposefully cruel, who say and do things they know will hurt for a lifetime. But why write of such things? Witches don't really exist, and MILs eventually wither and die, turning to dust to be scattered as far and wide as necessary, rendered powerless at last.
We are in the Sierra foothills, in Grass Valley, looking around at houses and land. We've been here since last Wednesday, when we packed our stuff, brought our kitty cat to my brother's, and rushed out of town to find our future. With our trusty computers, maps, and a dream, we are exploring the west side of the sierras, in what feels to be an inch by inch journey. Winding mountain roads and towering pines are the essence of the county before it gently rolls off to the parched lower river valley and into the heart of the state.
We are housesitting at Roger's sister's in a gated community on a man-made lake. The geese here honk early most mornings rivaling any rooster I've ever heard. A red-shouldered hawk also whistles at dawn. Unseen little mammals scatter, and dried leaves rustle in their wake. The other day, while I was making the bed I looked out the window and saw a fine and realistic statue of a buck in the backyard. It fit with the ambiance of the faux well and real bench. It was just that I hadn't remembered seeing it before. I laughed at my non-observant state, and chalked it up to the complete numbing stress we've been experiencing, when that buck bent its head and nibbled on some leaves. Yay! I was so relieved. I can still see this beautiful world.

Later we walked after dinner and marveled at the giant shadows we cast. It felt good to be that big, almost big enough so that nothing could hurt us again. Here we are giants.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Vulture Post: Better Late Than...

We missed International Vulture Awareness Day on Saturday. We missed it, even while in the throes of desperation to find something worthwhile to post here. The missing of such a thing is a clue to our state of mind. It would have been an easy post. It would have written itself. We love vultures, and yet we missed their celebration.

Too bad, I'm posting it late anyway. We're renegades that way. But you knew that about us, didn't you.

We saw this vulture once. It was scarily beautiful on the side of the road.

featherless red head
hunt for the dead
misfortune wed

Friday, September 04, 2009

happy birthday

this was a smaller display. i wanted to get the moon in the frame. other displays filled a frame twice this size.

a view of the wharf from our house.

the city of capitola (our house is in this picture) was incorporated 60 years ago. maybe it was a partnership or a sole proprietor before that. i was 7 then and it looked the same to me as it did when i was 6. beach, wharf, lagoon. a month or so ago there was a street fair sorta 60th birthday celebration for the city. wednesday evening the city bought us all a fireworks display as a last big birthday hurrah. the obnoxiously loud PA was playing "it's my party and i'll cry if i want to" as the celebratory fireworks began. the launch pad was on the end of the wharf, which by google map reckoning is about 1000 feet from our house. wow. it was LOUD. the house shook with each stunning explosion. robin hid in the back bedroom. i have never seen big fireworks up so close. i watched some and took some pictures. it was over by 9:15. aahhhh. quiet. well, relatively quiet. there were still thousands of people and hundreds of cars to disperse.

but wait, a phone call from a hospital? my mom was in emergency after complaining earlier in the day of a painful neck. tests show nothing. probably a sprain or cramp, but she has to leave the hospital and is groggy from pain meds. off i go over the infamous highway 17 to san jose, to the same hospital where i came to see my father in 1975 when he had a major heart attack. he had successful bypass surgery and died of stroke complications in 1987. mom was indeed groggy and woozy, but ready to go home. i took care of her and got back to the birthday city at midnight. i saw her thursday morning. all ok save for a sore neck.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Twenty Posts To Go

After this post, we only need twenty more to reach 1000. The question is, can we do it? It's not that there's nothing to say, it's that what ever we have to say has been said before, is being said again by countless others, and is being said more eloquently by a few. So, we have skippers and fritillarys instead of words, and twenty more posts to go. The count is on.