I’m working on a longer post about finally moving into our house after the roller coaster experience of getting through the underwriting process. But for now, in the midst of the upheaval of the national news, which seems to bring fresh horror and outrage (and some schadenfreude) nearly every hour, worn out from trying to keep the kids mentally healthy while we’re all muddling through this pandemic, my form of self-care has been to enjoy the little things about our new home. I already felt the full gratitude for the things we knew we were getting– the larger kitchen with plenty of storage, the extra space for a real office and for the kids to play, a guest suite for my mother to come for longer stays, a private outdoor space. But it’s the unexpected delights that you discover when you spend time in a place that are, as they say, giving me life right now.
- Our backyard is a little urban oasis, planted with natives and pollinator plants that, by the time we moved in, had grown thick and tall, covering the paved paths to the deck. But the highlight of the yard for me and my younger son was the raised-bed vegetable garden along the north side. The squash leaves had taken over, some as large as dinner plates, but there were also tomatoes, three kinds of peppers, and kale all still thriving in the September sun. My nature boy and I spent many of our first days harvesting the goods; he’d excitedly report to my husband: “look, Daddy, a bell pepper! And three poblanos!” He waited patiently for nearly a month for the giant butternut squashes to ripen before tugging hard with both hands, barely able to lift the heavy gourds. As we made our way through the overgrown squash plants to reach the clusters of cherry tomatoes, we talked about what we’d like to plant next Spring, when the garden would truly be ours. Sunflowers, carrots, and chard are on the list.
2. The sellers had also installed a fountain in the backyard, an asymmetrical stone column about 3 feet tall, just enough for the gentle sound of burbling water. I thought it was a little silly and unnecessary, something I would never have thought to spend money on. And then, one day, we saw a cardinal taking a drink. Another day, I saw a hummingbird flitting from flower to flower as I was sitting on the deck. In the late afternoons, a loud chorus of birds chatters from the evergreens along the south side. So maybe the fountain wasn’t so bad. And what yard would be complete without rabbits, undeterred by the wire fencing around the garden? I think they’re living under the deck.
3. Inside the house, what I have come to love is the way light enters the space at different times of day. The house is essentially a rectangular box sitting between two taller apartment buildings. There are generous windows on all four sides, including a large picture window across from the second floor landing, overlooking the courtyard of the church across the street. One morning I was surprised by the shadow dance of leaves on the wall.
4. Of course I knew we were moving a couple of blocks closer to the train tracks, but I didn’t really consider what that would mean for our soundscape. The sound of the el train chugga-chugging as I drift off to sleep, like the burbling fountain, soothes the ear. And it reminds me of the faculty apartment in New Jersey my husband and I lived in before we moved to the Midwest, before the noise and bustle of life with kids, where we regularly heard another train in the distance mingling with the honking of geese.
Sometimes we have to seek out the medicinal properties of things with a little more intention. A little wildness, plenty of sunlight, and the lonely rumble of trains in the night are my balm.