Monday, January 14, 2019

Chance Encounters


The 'stilts' leaning near the wall have exceeded Howard's expectations in facilitating the finishing of drywall.
He discovered them on a local craigslist post and made arrangements to collect them.
The owners gave him their address in the next town which he entered into the GPS app on his phone.
I was invited to ride along, as did Jim and of course, Howard's dogs.

The precise directions delivered in the cultured tones of 'Siri' took us along familiar routes and then directed a left hand turning onto a side road. This was quickly followed by another turn onto a narrow one lane track. Although a bit unexpected, such back roads aren't uncommon here.

The track followed the bends of a steep-banked creek;  clear brown water danced and dappled in the sunlight which pierced the tangle of bare branches overhead.
The road crossed the creek bed at several points, again not uncommon in rural Kentucky.
I was ensconced in the back seat on the side where I had a good view of the creek bank.  I remarked that the route seemed an unlikely one, but the men were jovial.
"Can't back up, no place to turn around, so on we go, " replied Howard the driver.

The track ran out at last onto a more civilized road; Siri guided us across a narrow bridge and into the back yard of a simple white farmhouse.
A slender grey-bearded man was loading items into the back of a pickup; a tall woman emerged from the garage, faded tawny hair cascading below her shoulders. Around them danced a throng of barking dogs, whose tails wagged in greeting.
Katy and Dixie answered them adding to the canine cacophony. 
Jim and Howard descended from the truck, hands reaching to pat and reassure the dogs

Whenever I'm invited along on errands I have either a book or a pile of magazines to occupy me during what can become extended waiting.
Katy and Dixie subsided and I settled back, enjoying the antics of the resident dogs.

There were four of them; an elderly Golden Retriever, shaggy and white muzzled; a busy black lab; a comical small caramel-colored creature of indeterminate ancestry.  The 4th dog was black with white on his chest and missing one front leg. He lurched gamely about in the milling throng. Every few moments the man stopped his work to speak to the dogs, pat the nearest head.

I sat in the sun, turning the pages of a magazine, absorbed in the photos detailing the renovation of a country home.
After a time I wondered what was taking so long. Howard and the slender man were conversing, Jim and the tall woman were out of sight.  Immersed again in my magazine, I didn't notice Jim approaching the truck and was startled when he tapped on the window.
'You have to come in and see this house!'
I landed on the spongy ground beside him, automatically putting out a hand to the exuberant young dog.
'Why do I need to go in?'
'You'll see.'
The woman was waiting at the back door.  She had smoothly chiseled features, fine lines at the corners of eyes and mouth, stood tall in faded jeans and a warm quilted jacket.
A short entry hall led into the main house.
I looked about appreciatively.
Dark pine floors, walls painted the color of bleached linen.
Upholstery, cushions, accessories, all mirrored the rooms in my favorite magazines.
I admired a reproduction primitive hutch.
'My ex-husband made that, made most of the furniture.  I'm putting the house on the market, fully furnished.' A tinge of bitterness crept into the quiet New England voice. 'Twenty eight years. I'm not taking anything with me as a reminder.'
We finished the tour of the house making neutral conversation: houses, the work of building and restoration, mentioned the New England museums where our mutual love of early American houses and furniture had been nurtured.

We stood outside, the five of us, the four dogs, in the bright sun, in the rising wind.
There was in that random meeting a sense of fleeting recognition. 
I patted the dogs again, the gallant three legged chap, the little bouncing minx.
The men shook hands, I thanked the woman for showing us her house. 
The gentleman's eyes were kind beneath the blue bandana that covered his hair against the dust of his tasks. Glancing from me to the dogs, he laid his hand lightly on my shoulder as he said goodbye, acknowledging, I think, the kinship between all those who love animals and country places.

We've spoken several times, Jim and I, of that farmhouse with its gracious, somehow familiar rooms.
Had it been on the market 6 months ago would we have offered on it, or would we have seen the folly of taking on [again!] a five bedroom house, spaces so much larger than we need?
I've thought of the big kitchen, warmed by a wood-burning range. No central heat or air, so much to keep and maintain. Not far away if one drives the correct roads, but away from the neighborhood where we chose to remain and build this one last home.
I wonder who will live there--who will cherish the white farmhouse of many rooms so charmingly styled by other hands.


  1. Oh, you have come a long ways with the house. What a great room - lots of light and a warm heater. It was undoubtedly meant for you to build your new home in that wonderful spot on the ridge where you have such a great view all around.

    1. Chip; The house project really is going smoothly. The biggest hold-up at the moment seems to be yet one more electrical inspection. I walk up to the house at least once a day to visualize how the finished rooms will be.

  2. Your house is certainly moving along. I totally understand that feeling you got with the farmhouse visit. When we were looking, I fell in love witha 100 year old brick home and when I saw the William Morris wallpaper in the hall/stairway, I knew the house was meant to be mine. The wife and I really hit it off as I couldn't believe how I loved everything she had done. But Hubby worried about the bricks and the slightly delapidated barns. We gave it a miss but I still think about it.

    1. Jocelyn; A number of houses over the years have struck me with a sense of recognition, home-coming, perhaps. As I've thought about the house we visited, I've come to realize that the owner and her former husband had used their skills to create a classic 'look' that has never gone out of favor. What might be termed a 'vernacular' early American home would likely be less stylized in its contents and arrangement.
      Just as well the property wasn't on the market when we were looking--we might have made a less than wise move!

  3. Some houses just speak to you. They are on your wavelength and you and the people who made them so beautiful were cut from the same cloth. Ican understand the woman having to draw a complete line underneath what she was leaving behind but she sounded so sad to be leaving it . . .

    What lovely magazines - the sort that can make dreams come true!

    Love the progress on your house and I hope you can put a New England stamp on it for your final home.

    1. Jennie; Its interesting the strong feelings that a house/property can evoke. We had just finished renovating a sensible, rather nondescript house when the Amish property came into our possession five years ago. Even with the serious modifications needed to make it livable by our 'English' standards, we knew immediately that its 'farmhouse' charm was calling us. We also recognized last spring that it was time to downsize while we still could.
      I don't, of course. know the circumstances of the woman who owns the house--and it would have been completely presumptuous to ask questions. I can appreciate her need for a 'clean break' but was surprised when she remarked that she would leave behind pieces that had come from her family.
      That she had made a large investment of time, labor and skills was evident.

  4. Oh, so many unanswered questions....I think that we can all feel the sorrow mixed with hopeful determination that one must have when leaving behind a beloved home. We are at that stage in life when decisions like this are made, but our decision is to stay put, as we built this home with our own two hands and raised our children here. I hope that this kind couple is moving towards something better and that is why. People who are kind to dogs are my kind of people. I loved your narrative. Your inspirational magazines look very interesting. I love magazines. It is one of my guilty pleasures. Hope you have a lovely weekend. Your home is coming along nicely! -x Karen

  5. Karen; I wondered if the man and woman at the house were a 'couple' perhaps since the woman's divorce, ofrmaybe even brother and sister. There were similarities in their slender height and wavy grey hair. The care of the dogs was obviously a bond between them.
    We've left a number of homes over the years, the New England uprooting being the one that most affected me. I hope we have a number of good years remaining to enjoy this 'last house!'
    I enjoy magazines having to do with antiques and home styling. I no longer buy quilting magazines; I have enough patterns saved to more than see me out!

  6. What amazing progress has been made! You'll be living there before you know it! Seeing those stilts reminded me of the very 'odd duck' that did the sheet rocking when this house was under construction. As I've mentioned, we lived in a 'Fancy Fema' trailer across the driveway from our house construction and were a little alarmed to notice a truck coming down our driveway well after we had retired for the night. Turns out it was the sheet rock fellow. We never met him and were never sure whether or not he would be there on any given night. Some mornings we'd hear his truck leaving as we were getting up.

    I too was struck with a bit of sadness when reading about the house that you visited. I well remember how crushed I was when we put our Reading, Vermont house on the market. That was supposed to be our retirement home, our forever home. We all make plans and then life steps in.

    We are having a lovely snowstorm that started last evening and is still going strong. We've invited neighbors to come for a snowstorm party tonight. A big pot of Boeuf Bourguignon cooling and an Apple Tart in the oven. Let it Snow!

    1. Mundi; When life arranges a move, it seems there are always regrets, or at least difficult partings even when the new venture seems sensible. Having lived in several of the houses we built in Wyoming I realize that I didn't become too attached, although the last one might have become a permanent residence. Rather, I form what has been described as 'a sense of place'--bonding with a particular landscape or garden which I have created and maintained. My deepest roots are still with my Grampa Mac's old Vermont farmhouse and the surrounding fields and woods.
      The process of living in temporary quarters [as you have experienced!] is one that requires determined patience and optimism. I find myself losing that at times, but a sunny day and the visible progress on the house are restorative.
      Your meal to celebrate the snow sounds delicious. I intend a big baking spree once I'm moved into my new kitchen!