Life is funny. And short. Seize the day.

Most people, when they go on a trip, they come back with some kind of small token to commemorate their journey–a piece of art, say, or a book or a t-shirt. When Cane and I left for a two-week visit with his family in south Louisiana, I left a little room in my suitcase to bring home something like that.

Well, I couldn’t fit what we got there in my suitcase.

Older bungalow home
For more than a year, since Cane sold the house he had before we got married, we’ve been talking about various options for how we might live the next few decades of our lives. We’d felt stuck and unable to make any decisions because we have more than a few unknown variables and some seemingly incompatible wants/needs. One of those was a desire to spend more time in Louisiana because all of Cane’s extended family lives there, but for several reasons that felt like something we were not going to be able to do.

And then, while we were there, we saw this house for sale. If you’ve been following since the days in which Cane and I had a blog together to chronicle our adventures in home renovation, you know that we love an old house that needs some love. This one is one of those, from an era we’ve long had affection for. (We’re not sure of its exact age, but somewhere between the 1920’s- early 40’s.)

It was the right price and the right size and the right location. It’s within walking distance of his twin brother, his mother, and a cute downtown commercial area that contains a beautiful library (with a current, diverse collection) and a shop that sells the best donuts I’ve ever had.

plate with 3 donuts

It checked every box we didn’t know we had and opened doors we didn’t know existed until it helped us see them; although I am not a big believer in fate and meant-to-be’s, this felt like something meant to be. We did some research to see what else is out there and has been out there, and that feeling only grew. We knew this was an opportunity not likely to come again. And so, even though it felt like something people like us just don’t do, we did it: We bought the house.

We’ll be in our Portland home for the near future, while Cane finishes his career teaching in the school both of us helped create nearly 20 years ago. Portland is still home base for our kids and we want to be here now, though all of them are making plans to live their lives elsewhere. When Cane retires we will likely move north to Washington so that we can be closer to my extended family, and we’ll divide our time between Washington and Louisiana. In the meantime, we can spend longer stretches of summer time in the south, fixing up our fixer-upper.

Of course, we’ve lived enough to know how life goes–namely, that we can’t know how it will go. We think that this purchase will work for us now and for a number of different scenarios that might be likely in our future. Paradoxically, making a move that sets us on a particular course is giving us more options than we felt we had when we were in limbo. The only solutions we previously saw had us eliminating possibilities that can now exist together, giving us more flexibility to respond to life as it comes at us.

Because life is going to keep coming at us, even as its scope continually shrinks.

I have had a million thoughts and questions and worries about all kinds of things I won’t even begin to dissect here–about culture, geography, politics, climate, money, privilege, and more. South Louisiana and northwest Washington are very different places, and I’ve never lived outside the Pacific northwest. Doing so on even a part-time basis is something that has given me some pause. If anyone knows that love and good intentions are not enough to make things work and that things can go sideways with little warning, it is the two of us. But. We know there are risks, and I think we’re pretty clear-eyed about what they are. We know that love isn’t all you need, but it is absolutely the foundation we need. It is the reason we are still together after living through challenges that would have torn many others apart. We see this move as an investment in love for four generations of our widespread family, something we see the importance of now more than we have at any other time in our lives, which are (like everyone’s) only getting shorter.

As we were getting ready to come home, I reminded Cane that I almost didn’t make the trip because of the issues with my back. We had such a rich and wonderful two weeks with his siblings and extended family, a longer stretch of time than he’s had with them in decades. I expressed how glad I am that I didn’t miss it.

“You know,” he said, “if your back had gone out a week later, I’m sure we wouldn’t have bought the house.”

I’m sure we wouldn’t. Life swings on the smallest of chances sometimes, on serendipity and luck and things you didn’t know you were looking for until you found them.

(She’s grubby and in need of a little TLC, but she sits well and it’s a nice place to catch some breeze on a hot day. Also, I hesitated to put “seize the day” in the title of this post because of the way the phrase has been used, but I did because I found a deep dive into its meaning from the BBC that captured what this development is really about for us: “What it really means to ‘seize the day.'”)

Dog days

I’ve lost track of how many days the temperature has been over 90. It’s been at or closer to 100 (or over that) for a week now? I think. (When I was a kid growing up in Seattle’s marine climate, an 85 degree day was a sweltering anomaly.) The other night, it was 89 at 10:00 pm. We are getting a break today; according to my weather app, it will only reach 89.

Animals that usually keep themselves hidden during the day have been out, searching for a cool spot or some water. Yesterday we watched a squirrel dig into ground I’d watered in the morning, and then lie in it, limbs stretched. This morning, tiny birds are landing on the branches of the forsythia outside my window to drink drops from the sprinkler. The sun feels predatory.

We are so fortunate to have AC and secure housing. As we were driving downtown yesterday, I saw a man fall over on the sidewalk. He landed and didn’t move. It was a quiet street, and no one else was around. We pulled over to check on him, and he was unable to get up. He was very large, and he looked so hot. He wanted us to help him up, but we knew we couldn’t lift him and were afraid of hurting him more. I felt so small and inept. We called for assistance, and–remarkably, as getting a response from 911 is not what it once was–an aid car was there within 10 minutes. I can’t stop thinking about what might have happened if we hadn’t seen him fall. How many people stretched out on the sidewalk have I passed by, assuming they are sleeping? Because there are so damn many of them now.

In our yard, flowers are still blooming. The lilies left to us by earlier owners are taller than we are. Near the blueberry bushes (another gift), we found a gathering of pinecones one morning last week. There are no pine trees anywhere near the blueberries. Why were they there? We don’t know, just as we don’t know why we seem to have a rabbit living with us now. We see it every day. Rabbits are only supposed to be out at dusk and dawn, but this one eats clover from the front yard at all times of day. We don’t know where the squirrels have gone. The one resting in the cool shallow of earth is the first one we’ve seen in the yard in a long time.

Everything is the same, and it isn’t. We’ve been passing the days more than living them, sheltering inside from the elements as we do in the depths of winter. I keep saying that the heat is getting to me, but I know it’s more than hot air and relentless sun.

(Don’t worry if I don’t post for the next week or two. We have time with extended family coming up. We’re all OK.)