Thursday, December 31, 2009

Farewell 2009

OK. But believe it or not, Saint-Tropez itself once looked just like this. It's a start!

We end the year 2009 doing what we've been wanting to do since we bought this little piece of watery paradise in North Carolina last February: clearing the waterfront so we can enjoy the view. Why did we wait until now? Because winter brings winds out of the north and winds out of the north blow the water out of the creek so we can walk on the beach. We have wind tides here, not lunar ones. When the cold north wind is blowing, we know we can once again take up a task we've become very, very adept at in 2009: clearing brush.

This job is a little different from the summer version we learned in July and August. It's colder, for an obvious start. More significant: that's mud you're walking on, "walk" being chosen politely and advisedly; it's really more of a slog. If you're lucky you only sink to your ankles, and you don't know where the weaker spots are, where you sink to the tops of your boots, until you're standing on/in them. And then there are all those little pointy things sticking out all over the place. They are cypress knees, federally protected. Between them and the occasional mud hole, you're lucky to remain upright as you drag your felled wax myrtle across the mucky obstacle course to the pile you're creating (seen right foreground) to be burned later. (Yesterday I fell once and I'm sure it won't be the only time. It's OK. Everything is washable.)

But picture this same scene in the summer. The mud will once again be under 2 or 3 feet of water. Cattails, wild irises and roses of Sharon will grow. Those old cypress trees will be full of green needles and hung with limpid Spanish moss. It'll be idyllic. And that's the whole point. Break an egg, make an omelet.

We knew 2009 would be a life-changing year--a challenge we prepared ourselves for and indeed were ready to take on as circumstances around us crumbled. January was bleak; we found ourselves strangling on a dream gone bad in Delaware and faced with Steve's imminent unemplyoment. The instinct for survival kicked in: we took control of our own destiny, and once we did that, things happened fast. By sheer grace, we were able to sell that gorgeous Delaware albatross for almost what we paid for it four years earlier, despite a tanked market. We settled that sale on the first weekend in February; the following weekend we came here to North Carolina for our first and only foray into real estate shopping, and just like that found that door that always opens when another one closes. In the ensuing months we worked hard, but we also had equal measures of good luck never expected and help never asked for, given by more big-hearted people than we ever knew existed. Once we finally settle, we have a lifetime of cheerful paybacks to perform. Not a bad thing to look forward to, and we can look back proudly on a big accomplishment. When both your future and your immediate past are pleasant vistas, you're in a pretty good place. I'm not complaining.

Thank you for being with me through all of this--your support and interest have contributed not a little to making this journey worthwhile. "Transition," indeed!
One of my real hopes for 2010 is that I will be able to get back to more regular visits. I do miss those empty morning hours in Arlington that gave me the time for them, but by now that feels like a former life, not to be retrieved. A new life is on its way--we're officially told by our builder that move-in will be late February or early March, about a year after all this started. We'll still be busy with flesh and blood life, but I'll also still be here, I hope on a more predictable schedule.

Happy New Year.


Linda - SE PA said...

Happy New Year!

Whew... what a recap and what an interesting journey it has been. One word that came to mind was inspirational - you and Steve rose to each occassion and while I sense it wasn't always easy to do so, it was with integrity that you moved forward.

And I agree that doors do open and put an emphasis on... once you close the old one. And the first sign that a right decision has been made is when the pieces fall into place readily (not easily but readily).

In closing, Ralph & Steve - Have A Very Happy & Healthy New Year!

Cuidado said...

I'm honoured you included us in your very interesting year. It has been interesting and informative and an adventure. Best luck in 2010 in all that is to come.

What are cypress knees? Are they stumps under water and if so why are they protected?

nan said...

Happy New Year to you and Steve! I am looking forward to the next chapter (and hopefully some more of those quiet mornings in your new place when you'll post up some music, musings, and of course, Food Fridays!)

Ralph said...

It's beyond flattering to be told that you find my tales here worthwhile. I'm a strong believer in the proposition that the more you give, the more you get. You all are more in tune with the ups and downs of this experience than most of the people whom I know in the flesh. Go figure. The e-universe has been very good to me because of people like you, Linda, Cuidado and Nan. I can only say "thanks."

Peewit said...

Happy New Year from a hungover UK household. We celebrated the bells quietly at home watching a traditional Scottish programme with folk music and bagpipes but still we drank too much. We hope 2010 will bring more travelling (I'm certainly going back to Venice to see my eldest daughter perform on her first orchestra tour there in July)but where else who knows

Ralph said...

Happy New Year, Peewit! And I wish you many safe travels. If you get across the pond, you have a place to stay here near the beach!

One Woman's Journey said...

I have read a number of your entries over the year.
So exciting watching your new home being created.
This has been a way of life for me - creating homes and gardens.
My smallest - retirement - in the woods has just been completed.
I look forward to my garden this Spring.
As you create the area around your home - it will be beautiful.
Best wishes to you and your partner in 2010.

Ralph said...

Thank you so much for stopping by, OWJ. I guess creating homes and gardens has been a "way of life" for us, too...our expendable income always goes towards the home instead of trips or the theater or other fun things our friends do. It was never a conscious decision, just what we naturally defaulted to.

Happy new year to you!

Mim said...

Slogging through that cold water I only hope you have boots knee high at least to keep your feet warm. Brrr that picture made me cold thinking of you both wading through all of that.
I can not wait though to see that same vantage point pictured in the spring! It will be lovely and I know that is what keeps you going on.
How exciting that moving day will most likely be moved up.
Now that is a great builder.
Thanks for the visits, but more so thanks for the posts! Lovely , lovely and happy new year to you and Steve.


"When both your future and your immediate past are pleasant vistas, you're in a pretty good place. I'm not complaining."- I love this line. In fact I will post it on my refrigerator - to remind me that I am fortunate to live this life - and to be inspired daily by people like you! It has been a great pleasure to follow your progress this year.

Ralph said...

I am flattered beyond words, LR! That's a high compliment coming from a writer like you.

I hope your trip to DC is/was no more than you thought it would be, and no less...

splendid said...

dear ralph,
a day late here, but i must say i loved the quote LONELY RIVERS picker as well.
you are not only a talented writer buta pretty smart philosopher as well!
Wishing you and Steve a splendid new year and many evenings with friends overlooking the water:)

Beth Niquette said...

What a wonderful way with words you have! How wonderful. From the other side of the nation I salute you.

YOur story is wonderful, filled with hope. I must confess a real need to hear about alittle bit of hope.

Thank you.

Ralph said...

HAHA! Thank you, Splendid! Work on clearing continues's amazing how daunting the task looks before you start and how relatively easy it turns out to be once you get going. Today we made another huge difference in just a couple of hours. And the colder it is, the better. When the ground is frozen, you don't sink!

Ravel said...

Dear Ralphie,
hoping you don't have your hand full of mud son I can shake it, warmly, to wish you a great 2010... with more time for yourself. (I doubt it...).
Take care (& Partner too).