This afternoon, while raking leaves, I turned up several bright plastic beads, a battered spoon, the top half of an action figure, a Bic lighter, a dolly’s bottle, and a miniature football washed of all its color over time. I put each of my discoveries on a ledge, each a clue about the people who had spent time in my garden before it became mine.
We moved into our new house a week ago. After years of searching far and wide for the right place to retire, we have landed in the foothills of California’s Sierra Nevada. We are roughly equidistant between our grown offspring, and within easy visiting distance of my baby grandson, Ollie. It’s a good house with lots of room for guests and a real garden. A creek runs along the bottom of the yard.
I spent nearly all of my life in Southern California, within a very few miles of the Pacific. We had essentially one season in that coastal strip, and it was spring. Sometimes it got hot when the Santa Ana winds came down from the mountains, and we had a fair number of cool overcast days under the marine layer pulled over us when it was warm inland. But most of the time it was like that scene in “LA Story” where weatherman Steve Martin threw suns at a board; “72 and sunny today, 72 and sunny tomorrow, etc.” Of all the parts of that fantastical movie, that scene was the most true to our lives in coastal SoCal. Most days, it was about 72 degrees.
Long before I retired, Paul and had decided that we would move out of our weather perfect, or weather boring, bubble when I retired. We looked far and wide, from Normandy to Virginia, Missouri to the Northwest. Somewhere in that search, we decided that the Central Coast of California was our destiny. When I retired in June, we rented a house in the targeted area and looked at absolutely everything available. But the water issues of that area became insurmountable, so we expanded our search, and ended up nearly 400 miles northeast.
After we found our house we passed through that post-housing-meltdown sojourn through purgatory that is loan approval. For a solid month we felt as if we were trapped in an episode of “Punk’d.” Every day the loan underwriter wanted yet another document, explanation of documents or newer versions of documents previously sent, apparently never satisfied.
We had plenty of sympathy. Whenever we explained why we were extending our hotel stay, yet again, as we waited hourly for word that the house was ours, we got stories of requests for documents, hoops to jump through, that were even more bizarre than our own experience. Finally, thirty-six days in, having successfully fulfilled every possible request for paperwork, we were handed the house keys.
So, here we are, in our new home, in mid-fall. And it is a real fall, with vibrantly colored leaves, which are “falling” in heaps in our yard. I have seen fall before as a tourist, but not as a resident; it is magnificent at every hour of the day. Today we shopped for a leaf blower-mulcher-vacuum, but came away with a pair of rakes and a push broom. Why pay for a gym memberships until the trees are bare?
We also shopped for kayaks to put on the lake around the bend. A two-man, two singles? Stand-up paddle boards? We’re still deciding.
So far, we’ve been camping in, as Paul calls it. We have a bed, a table and chairs, computers, some basic kitchen gear, cleaning supplies, rakes and pruning shears, a painter and a cable guy. Monday the moving van shows up and some semblance of life as we knew it resumes. The biggest differences for me will be four real seasons, no daily work commute, and mountain vistas from every window. And Ollie just a couple of hours away. I think we’ll be just fine.
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