December 4, 2019

But Now, I Have to Leave You.

It’s no mystery why we fell in love with you.

A proud sentinel keeping watch over the bay, your windows looked down the lake to the distant volcanic cone with a snow-capped peak.

On the point, facing into the breeze, your yard was free of the mosquitoes and blackflies that could turn a beautiful summer day into a nightmare for the sweet-blooded.

Your view of the changing colours of the lake would keep us safe from storms. You would show us the blackened line of the westerlies whipping the lake into a froth, long before the first whitecap reached our shore.

Oh, sure, you looked a bit beat up and were older than we might have liked. But our families loved you, and there were delightful stories in each log and stone and brick and board. My wife’s father had spent so much time and effort to help make you what you are. Your rough-hewn joists and roof boards were cut from timber on his property, and he sweated over each one on the old mill where the massive headsaw whirled at impossible speeds and threatened numerous modes of grave injury.

The stone façade on your fireplaces came from the bedrock spine of the property and the renewing heaps of washed glacial till pushed up on the shore by the ice sheets each spring. There was something magical about the way the land was in your very bones.

Your land rose from the shore to the top of a ridge where the lake was visible through the crowns of crooked aspen trees on the rocky hillside. Along the shore were cottonwoods we could barely encircle hand in hand with loving arms outstretched. A steady subsurface flow of water and nutrients gave rise to profuse growth you could almost hear on a warm spring day. Rocky outcroppings covered in low juniper and hardy saskatoon curved around to a shady lane of subalpine fir, refugees from the higher elevations smelling of sweet evergreen and growing marvelous purple black cones that disintegrated into whirling scales as they ripened.

You shared the property with a lovely little barn, built simply but sturdily, and a cabin of mixed pedigree. Some of the cabin logs were hewn by a pioneer who had mushed his dog team across the continent to New York City. The same man later discovered an ore body that would become a mine and support an instant town on a lake to the north. Shallow practice drilling with his prospector’s drill can still be seen in the rocks along your shore, like the fossil burrows of an ancient sea worm. Your history fascinated us.

Craggy apple and sour cherry trees filled your orchard by the long overgrown garden plot, just across the road from the caved in root cellar. There were so many hints of the abundant life we could spend with you if we were prepared to commit. Commit we did, and we poured the surplus of our life’s work into you and readied for what would surely be an unbreakable bond.

In those early days, all we could dream about was coming home to you. We could look past all the rough edges and told ourselves, “Just a couple of small fixes and things will be right as rain.”

Two windows, one cracked in the corner and the other fogged between the panes. Replace those and all will be good. Some sort of stain on the outside, then settle in to comfortable life together with evening tea and a view beyond compare.

Only it wasn’t that simple. No stain would fix your weathered exterior. One glorious summer forever gone, lost in a cloud of dust from grinders and sanders. The only blue sky memories of that summer are secondhand, in the background of pictures of us together. Dust and sweat and smiles hidden behind masks.

Once we got behind your shell, there were so many things to deal with. All the formerly unimportant things like your network of plumbing and wiring and your ability to keep us warm through the cold winter months became an endless series of miniature crises. Not just of sweat, and work and long days, but pain from grinder kickbacks that nicked skin and the steady ache of our wrists that could only be relieved by carpal tunnel surgery. We still had the optimism that if we could just get through the next phase, and the next, we would get to the life we imagined.

And so 13 years went by in a similar fashion. I don’t know why we never thought of stopping. If there was any space, or time, we filled it with self-perpetuating busyness. Another structure, another flower bed or garden patch.

As the years passed, we were becoming beholden to you. You were always in need of attention, surprising us with four water leaks in four years. Begging for us to re-do projects for the second or third time. When the sun shone and the hiking trails and berry patches called, you sulked and insisted we spend that time with you, babying you with stain and topcoat.

Then, this summer, a breakdown and an epiphany. Things were not going to get better. You were never going to change and would always be demanding more of us than we can provide. We should have seen the pattern. No one had put up with you for much longer than our time together. Maybe it was fear of disappointing the family, or letting go of something that “should” have made us happy. We had just refused to see things as they were.

So here we are. We need to break up. It is time that we honor ourselves and find a house that fits with our life, where things aren’t so one-sided.

Selfishly, we hope you will ease our guilt by finding someone else as love-blind as we were 13 years ago. Who knows, maybe you will find someone who is truly happy to do all the things you want. That is a grand wish, considering your patterns.

Just know that we did love you, in a naïve sort of way. We did have some good times and you taught us a lot.

You helped us learn that our time is not finite and is too precious to squander on unfulfilling relationships.

For that, dear house, we will be forever grateful.

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