When we first saw this place we named it Animal House. A divorced man and a couple of hostile roommates who, on the day we came to look at the house, barricaded themselves in their rooms the whole time we were here. Which meant there were two rooms we never even saw.
The enormous backyard was crowded with old power mowers, weeds, debris and trash of various kinds, and an otherwise empty and deteriorated deck housing a hot tub that hadn’t been operational, or even whole, for some time.
The raised vegetable garden at the back was neglected to the point where a large two-dolphin fountain with a cracked bowl was all but hidden in the middle of it. At some point in its life it had lost its motor.
The house was on a pleasant cul de sac in Petaluma, where we wanted to live. It had trees, including a huge old fruit-laden plum tree and several of its children and a huge redwood. The kitchen,. The master bedroom, and what was then the living room all had sliding glass doors. It was a short sale, so it was very cheap. In our price range if we stretched a little.
It took five months of bank play before we could move in.
We knocked down a wall so the living room became a large dining room and the bedroom we had never seen became a small living room with a bay window. We bought a wood-burning stove, a pretty little Jotul, and had a tile guy build a hearth for it.
Of course, there was still the yard. The fountain, repaired and fitted with an aquarium pump, was moved out of the vegetable garden. When the cleanup was finished, we put in a geometric pattern of flower beds, adding more trees—a fig and two Japanese maples as anchors for the beds. And in the middle of the pattern of beds, the exuberant fountain.
There was a bonus we hadn’t thought about. Birds. So many birds. In the fountain, on top of the fountain drinking from the spouts on the dolphins’ heads, and in July and August, a spectacle to watch every day through the sliding doors. Whole flocks of them filling the plum tree, picking and dropping the fruit, following it to the ground, finches, scrub jays, robins, birds we couldn’t identify even with a bird book. One of the crows loved standing on top of the dolphin and yelling. I yelled back. Sophie the cockapoo learned to look out into the yard when she heard the word “bird.” Lefty the springer spaniel was too busy sharing the plums to care.
Best of all, we’d created the perfect place for a wedding.
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