I turned around today and saw the past year slipping off into the distance. Last year at this time we had just signed the lease on our apartment in Portland and we were preparing to rent out the loft we own down in Massachusetts so we could move up here. We were emerging from a very difficult and dark time in our lives and finally making a move that we'd longed for for years. It wasn't ideal; the current housing market meant we couldn't simply sell and make a clean break. On the other hand, we were moving to our favorite city. That was more important than buying a dream home, especially after the battles we'd been fighting in a place that felt very, very unhappy to us.
Suddenly it's a wonderfully full year later and I feel a little frazzled, a little edgy, a little on the verge, if you know what I mean. We've just rented out our old loft to new tenants for another year, which means another year of not selling it, which in turn means that we won't be buying another home this year. As much as I'd like to settle in and put down roots in a permanent home in this city we love so much, I'm trying to tell myself that I'm okay right where I am for the moment. We're here and we have a roof over our heads, and the city is our oyster. I'm grateful for all these things, but I will admit that the renting thing is getting a little old. Renting when I was twenty was great--and even when I was thirty during grad school. But now that I've owned two homes of my own and I'm nowhere close to thirty, renting doesn't sit so well with me anymore.
I want to paint my walls any damn color I please again. I want to design--at last--the kitchen of my dreams. And most of all, I want to create another garden. For now I dig around in my mother's gardens and grow herbs on my porch, but I am an obsessive gardener so this never seems to be enough (why am I obsessive about everything I love? Are you this way, too?). I can deal with the drunk guys who sleep on our back steps (ah, urban living)--or sometimes even our front steps--but I want to plot and plant and putter among the weeds again.
Don't get me wrong, this is a rockin' apartment, but it's an apartment, and it's not ours.
I'm trying to be more positive about the situation. We have ocean breezes. We have a huge kitchen and hardwood floors. We have loads of sunlight and pretty rooms. Our neighborhood is bursting with book shops, coffee shops, galleries, and restaurants. Oh, my goodness, I am lucky, lucky, lucky.
And I will share a marvelous secret about our apartment with you. If you live near the water here, you have the privilege of witnessing the seagulls raising their babies on the rooftops of Portland. If you simply look up anywhere on the East End, you'll see mamas, papas, and baby gulls on the rooftops where they nest each summer.
This is our second summer here, and thus we are getting to know our second baby gull. He spends a lot of time looking in our kitchen window, practicing his squawking (which sounds more like squeaking at this point), and following his mama back and forth across the roof next door.
As sweet as this is to watch, it is not without its terrifying moments. Baby gulls are not exactly sure of foot, and that roof is quite steep. There have been many near misses. Last year we became very attached to the little gull who lived next door, and then he was attacked and killed one hot afternoon by an osprey. It was a very good day for the osprey, but a terrible day in all other respects. The gull parents are so attentive and caring, that it was heartbreaking to us. I keep wondering this summer if these are the same parents back to give it another try on this same rooftop.
And that's just it I realize. We lost so much a year ago. I lost a job and many friends. I also lost all confidence in myself. Truly. All of it. I felt utterly alone and desolate. This has been a year of trying again. And again. Much good has come of it. I still feel the losses daily, but I make myself try harder. It's an old cliche about picking yourself up and dusting yourself off, but cliches are born from truths worth repeating.
This rented apartment has sheltered us while we've reinvented our lives. In my heart that makes it the best of homes. And when I feel afraid of failing again, which I do almost daily, I look out the kitchen window. There's that flightless (for the moment) bird, making its way across the roofline, guided by its mother, but trusting in its own two feet.