by Zinta Aistars
It just happened. Puzzle pieces falling into place. A lifelong yearning, a childhood dream, a theme guiding all my many journeys has been my search for Home with a capital H. And now, at long last, even as my hair grows white, I have found that place.
A place to call Home.
Last spring, almost a year ago, I nearly bought another house. It was charming enough—a little house secluded on one acre of pine woods. And yet, somehow, my heart remained cool. When my real estate agent called me to tell me the offer had been accepted, I was quiet for a long time. She asked if I’d heard her. I had.
The owner of the house kept dragging his heels. At every step of negotiation, he missed his deadline, letting me off the hook with my good faith deposit. After a meticulous home inspection, when he failed to meet my quite reasonable request for certain repairs, missed yet another deadline … I walked away. Honestly, my heart wasn’t in it.
When I drove down the long drive of this property, however, the dirt road winding between the tall pines, past the 1920s farmhouse, and out into the back, where the grayed workshop and garage stood, overlooking the ten acres that stretched seemingly to the horizon … I fell deeply and instantly in love. I knew I’d found Home.
Sure, there was the house, a sweet little place tucked against the hill, the stream-fed pond reflecting the trees leaning over it just beyond, and I was enchanted with it, just the right size for me with its little kitchen, the living room with a wood stove, the bedroom and office space upstairs and the dining room overlooking the greenhouse … but it was the land around it that called to me. This, this was what I had been looking for …
|End of driveway meeting road|
And what about my dream of the far north? My cabin in the snowy woods?
When I finished my first draft of a novella last November and gave it to a trusted writerly friend to be my first pair of eyes, we talked long that evening about what revisions I should make. It was a story about a woman “missing” her exit to work on her daily commute and heading north, all the way north and across the Mackinac Bridge to the Upper Peninsula. I love the U.P. Always have, and when I lived there on the Keweenaw Peninsula for a short while, I vowed to return.
And return I do, most every year, and I wander my old haunts, and find new ones, and walk along the rocky shores of Lake Superior and dream. The north seems a place that combines my two homes, this country where I was born and where now my children and future grandchildren live … and home of my ethnic roots, across the ocean and on the Baltic Sea, the northern country of Latvia. I have parts and pieces of my heart in both. The U.P. reminded me of both.
My manuscript in hand, my friend gently told me I had missed something in my storyline. There was this strong longing for Home, and yet, and yet, and yet, somehow I hadn’t expressed it completely. I seemed to be holding something back. I was, my friend said, conflicted.
Yes. I had written about what held me in this part of Michigan, in the southwest, where I had formed friendships and a strong literary network. I had written about my son in this area and my daughter a couple hours away, in Chicago. I had written about my aging parents, and wanting to be close by as they needed me more. Finding Home, after all, isn’t just about place, but about the people nearby, too. The U.P. is some 600 miles away from all of them.
We also talked about putting my dream off until retirement. Let’s see, that Post-It above my desk at work says 4,514 days to go ….
|Opposite end of driveway, barn-workshop to left|
|Barn-workshop at back of property|
While it is good to have goals for the future, one can’t always count on it to arrive. That evening, after our long and probing conversation, I took a deep breath and booted up my laptop. I wondered …. just take a peek before going to sleep for the night …. if there might be such a place as I wanted up north … down here, in southwest Michigan …
|North end of barn-workshop|
… and I found it. That very night. As if it had been there all along. A little red house tucked into the woods on ten acres with a workshop, a greenhouse, a pond, a cute little tree house on the hill for those future grandchildren that looked like Dr. Seuss had built it, and acres out back for those organic gardens I would love to plant … And it was secluded in the country yet almost perfectly at midpoint between the town where I live now and the city where I work. I could start living my dream even as those 4,514 days slowly peel off my calendar.
|Toolshed and house in distance|
How could this be, such perfection? That was a Friday, and on Sunday, I put my old chow pup on a leash and took a drive to check out the area. My heart hammered as I closed in on the address. But this was … this was … beautiful! I parked the car along the side of the dirt road, and the pup and I walked up and down, up and down the road, past the property. I could hardly even see the house from the road, just how I liked it! Oh yes, I wanted to see this.
|Back acreage at twilight|
|House tucked in woods|
By now, I have been out to the property a handful of times. The night I told my agent I was ready to write up an offer, I arrived there after work a little while before she did. I felt wonderfully alone in this place, just me and this world away. It was that moment of lavender light, as the day fades away and night creeps in, and as soon as I turned into the driveway, it gently started to snow.
|Pond in front of house|
I stood out behind the house, looking out to the distant tree line, and my heart opened completely. The long held, tight fist opened to a tender palm, held up to the sky to catch the swirl of snowflakes. Home. Yes. This was it. This was the place where I could put down roots, deep as they go, and never leave again. Grow old here, accumulate memories here, unpack every last box here, plant perennials in these flowerbeds like nobody’s business.
Home. I’ve lived so many places, in two different countries, at more than 30 addresses and in several states. No more wanderlust. I was planting a flag here with a Z on it, gathering all my dreams together in one place. No one place can contain a lifetime. Parts of me would always be in those other places, too. But here I am letting my heart rest and find peace.
The search is over.
|Greenhouse at side of house|