Friday, February 03, 2012

Signing on the Dotted Line

by Zinta Aistars

There never was a third deer. I asked for a sign to guide me to a wise decision: three deer. Leaving the 122-year-old farmhouse on 10 acres after walking the land and watching the sun set beyond the west tree line, I’d hit the brakes hard as a deer bounded across the dirt road. She joined a second one at the other side, and both of them bounded away with breathtaking grace.

Two, not three.

If I’d seen a third, would that have decided me? I’d been circling that property since December, in love from the first moment yet trying hard to keep head in balance with heart.

Asking for signs, that was game playing. I knew the decision had to be mine. I would have to find the answer by looking inward, not outward, deep into my own heart, and I knew already. I was going to sign the last counter offer to the last addendum—addendum number three—to purchase the property.

My old chow pup Guinnez checking out summer spots for lounging

End of the driveway where it meets the outbuiding and overlooks the back acres

My father on the patio peeking into the kitchen window...

What a long process it had been … offer submitted, counteroffer in response, counteroffer accepted, then a home inspection that brought about an addendum. By addendum number three, the seller, a woman in Chicago, and me, a woman in southwest Michigan, had reached an agreement. To sweeten the deal, she was tossing in a riding mower and the big freezer in the outbuilding that I was already envisioning filled with the vegetables I would grow in the coming summer to get me through the next winter.

When Ingrid, my real estate agent, finally called me, moments before the end of my workday on Thursday, February 2, I caught my breath. I always knew when the news was good or not so good by the tone of her hello. Her tone was bright as sunshine.

Blood rushed to my head and thumped to my heart. Both head and heart were feeling it. The farmhouse was mine. On March 23, we would all sit down at one table together to sign the mountain of papers that come with a closing on a property purchase, and then the keys would slide coolly into my outstretched hand.

I will be going Home.

Looking back at the house from the acreage behind
Home, with a capital H, the kind I had dreamed about since I was a girl with scraped knees from climbing trees. Home, the kind I was beginning to think I might never have after a lifetime of wanderlust, leaning toward one shore or another, lost at sea. Home, the kind where I no longer long to be elsewhere, only for more moments just here, in this place, as my roots sink deeper and deeper into the earth beneath my feet. Home, where I can once and for all settle in, no more packing and unpacking, no more changing of addresses after more than 30. Home, my oasis, my quiet island in a storm, my restful corner of the world, my place of peace.

I didn’t need a third deer to tell me what to do. My heart had felt at rest here. My spirit already had started unfolding wings.

Such an old house would surely demand its dues. The years ahead would entail updates and repairs and renovations. But the investments wouldn’t hurt, because they would be all going into a place I was not going to leave behind, only leave to the coming generations.

I imagined the gradual process of learning the house, the acreage, the outbuildings, and letting them learn me. Getting to know the particular squeaks in the hardwood floors. Which window sticks. The spots were the soil is most rich and ready for gardening.

I couldn’t wait to see the seasons change—from this winter white to the waking of spring, the simmer of summer, and firing up of the fall, into another first snow.

View from living room window

I looked forward to those quiet Sunday mornings, padding around the kitchen in my robe and bare feet, waiting for the coffee to percolate and flipping the pancake on the pan. I would gaze out that window while washing dishes, see the hawk soar overhead just as it did on the evening I came here with questions on my mind, to sign or not to sign, and I would smile on that future day, glad that I did.

I looked forward to those cool evenings, a storm brewing on the horizon, dropping another log into the wood stove and hearing it crackle and hiss.

When would the koi fish at the bottom of the pond wake and rise to the surface, drawn by spring light and warmth? Would there be turtles? Belching bullfrogs?

I imagined the flowers I would start in the little greenhouse, the tomato vines I would tie back, plucking the red and ripe fruits for dinner.

In my mind’s eye, I could already see the friends I would invite here, to sit and talk with me, on the decking behind the house while watching the corn grow in the back fields. We would lean back in the chairs and drift occasionally into silence, just to listen to the chorus of sounds of the surrounding woods.

And that little space between the stairs going up to the bedroom and the living room with wood stove around the corner? Yes, there, with the desk tucked beneath the window, looking out over the two giant willows, the tool shed, and the gardens … there, I imagine myself sitting, pondering, dreaming, until the words begin to flow. I will write. At peace, I will write and I will paint and I will let loose all that I have been holding inside …

So I imagine as I sign on the dotted line, counting the days to closing, and I begin to wonder, too, about a name for the place. This is no blow-in-the-wind house. It’s been standing here for well over a century. Neighbors are far away, invisible beyond the hill dotted with pines and beyond the pond and the woods. This place where I can wander and bump into myself deserves a name. Something more than just an address, but a name of its own. Back in the country of my ethnic roots, in the Latvian countryside, all saimniecības had names of their own.

I will have to give that some thought.

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