We've found a house.
Which of course we were going to do eventually.
Everyone knew that.
Just as everyone knew it would entail trimming our demands and expectations.
Not quite as short a commute as I insisted was essential, not quite the acreage that Fritz declared necessity. One broken window. A remodeling job still in media res. Some unfortunate paint choices. No fruit trees.
And still it feels like a gift, this finding.
First of all, because of the poplar trees that line the boundaries of the yard, making the air around the house redolent of a hundred hundreds of Saturday hill walks with my dear walking friend. The air around this house is the spicy-sweet balsam of poplar, cottonwood, which is also the air around my childhood visits to my grandparents. And the torch-shapes of the trees are those familiar great candles of hope. I knew I was home when I waded through the front yard full of sweet drying leaves -- so rich, so sweet, so real, so exactly the smell of my favorite perfume, discontinued now, which I dab out only when it is truly needed.
A deep, almost subliminal smell of Home.
Even earlier though, even before the poplars, it was the stone around the door. Real stone in varied colors. Stones in fair colors, pleasant stones, as if those words I had opened onto when I was tempest-tossed and uncomforted were actually true. Had been true all along. A home whose foundation had been laid long before I would know I would be needing it.
And the manner of finding. Only this one valley had called to us in a deep unspoken way. All through our summer searches, the storm of loss, the dispiriting voyeurism that is looking at other people's houses with the thought of making that house your own --
-- all through this long and frustrating summer, we kept making our way up here to this one valley as a respite from the search. Though the valley, we were told, "never had houses come up for sale." Certainly never in our price range. Most houses, we understood, were passed down within families. Or bought up by Californians who used them as second homes, driving the price of houses up out of reach.
We'd looked at some houses over our budget, wincing, wishing, wondering if we could make it work. We'd looked at some too small, with dry rocky yards. Trying to squeeze ourselves into any possibility in this mountain valley where we could hear our longtime totem, the sandhill cranes who mate for life and raise their chicks with careful attentive partnership.
But at last, good sense had prevailed. Prudence and practicality had told us to get down to business, down out of the mountains, and find a place to settle down.
On the eve of our Oregon house closing, we gave up dreaming of the valley and found a house down in the city, in the suburb with the good enough schools, a nice enough house, a close enough commute. We made an offer. They were getting ready to accept it over the weekend.
"Let's drive up and say good-bye to the valley," I said to Fritz.
Or maybe it was Fritz said to me.
Home. There it was again, that feeling.
But not for us.
We drove around the quiet shaded streets, saw boys in Sunday white shirts cutting through orchards and back fields with their heads together planning mischief, saw tanned couples gliding past on their bikes, saw older ladies sweeping the front porch. We parked next to the city park with its towering pines (that other fragrant column guarding the way to my childhood's holy of holies - poplar and pine my own Boaz and Jachin).
Across the street the carillon bells in the church tower rang the hour. We sat there, listening to the peal from those round mouths, those metal tongues. We offered up our own nearly wordless plea.
"Well," Fritz said.
Or maybe I said.
"Well," the other answered.
"Let's drive once more past that apple orchard street and then . . . " we didn't have to say. We knew it was the last good-bye.
But just before the apple orchard, Fritz said, "There's a For Sale sign down that road."
Really. Though it didn't show up on any of the realtor sites.
Not a good sign, this sign stuck in yard full of dying leaves. We'd had that happen before, a sign in the yard but no listing online. Usually it meant the house had already sold and no one yet had thought to take the post down.
But the realtor we finally reached said it wasn't actually on the market -- yet. We insisted it had to be. There were issues with the keys. There were issues with repairs the realtors wanted made so they could sell at top dollar. We had our realtor call again and then again. I was driving home (not home, not any more, back to Oregon) the next day -- it was now or never.
It had to be now. And then it was. Now, after months of confusion and frustration and second-guessing, everything came clear.
Waiting for the title to close, we took a walk along the water.
We started early -- took the dog --
Home again, home again, jiggety jog.