The dogs are quiet today, sprawled out across their various rugs and beds in the family room. After the panic and anxiety caused by the fires here in San Diego last week and the heat that generated them, it is pleasant to feel the cool breeze created by opposing windows in my kitchen. I am waiting for delivery of a piece of furniture—an old Chinese grain storage bin which had been “repurposed” as a decorative cabinet long ago, and which is about to be “repurposed” anew to hold the television controller and cable box for my new flat screen wall mounted tv—the evolutionary equivalent of man’s preoccupation with necessity progressing towards his preoccupation with luxury. I treasure the symbolism in my treasures, as it were.
The cabinet will put the finishing touches on the home improvement projects we started nearly a year ago. My friends with giant dogs and horses will feel a pang of recognition when I say that by moving in here over sixteen years ago, we traded a beautiful home graced with a gourmet kitchen (with two dishwashers, no less!) for acreage with a tumble down ranch house that was a few years beyond “fixer upper” into true “tear down” geriatrics. It all started with the cat, that self-same Bitty Kitty who visited a year ago while my daughter traveled for internship interviews. He took a dust bath in the living room fireplace and carried the blackened ashes to the already worn couches and carpet stained by a myriad of prior pets. When we replaced the couches and carpet, the owner of the furniture store oversaw delivery and remarked, “You’re too old to be living with three-day-blinds! This is not an apartment! Why don’t you get some real curtains?!” The new curtains gave the old paint job a dingy tint and the new paint job made the bathroom tiles look ever so dated, and well…you know how it goes. Last week we actually epoxy’d the garage floor. It is now perfect.
Severe drought in the West over the last few years and overly aggressive tree roots furtively seeking water had taken their toll on our landscaping, and the bulk of our meager water supply was emptying underground from broken pipes, so that too needed attention and correction and above all, money. Six months after completing the irrigation work, our water bills are lower than they’ve ever been, and the rose bushes are blooming again. San Diego may be a desert, but how green are my pastures!
So I am enjoying this brief period of “this old house” being “as good as it gets.” I am no Martha Stewart, nor was ever meant to be, and my husband is definitely not “handy”—he would rather hire someone than change a light bulb. The kids are grown, the horses are ancient, and even the dogs have slowed down a bit. The house is for sale, and rightly so. But every so often, I sit in the kitchen and listen to the wind chimes and watch the mother bird nesting and chirping in the ceramic birdhouse outside the open window. And I wonder why it took me sixteen years to realize that my “tear down” is instead, a little piece of paradise.