Sunday, July 10, 2011

On Fear, Trust, and What Makes a Home

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.  


  1. Wow Gigi, If I say I feel your pain, will you believe me?

    Even though I know no more than what you have just written, your words convey your feelings so eloquently,I fell as though I know what you're talking about.

    Glass half full I think. Maybe the empty part can have held the fears and loneliness and anger?

    May all your dreams come true soon.

    xo Jane

  2. I am so happy to hear you are trusting your own two feet again Gigi (and write about it so well). Some falls just take time to get up from and hardwood floors are really good for dancing which I am sure you know. Much love, many hugs, XO

  3. My dear Gigi, you have a beautiful way of expressing yourself. I hope this coming year will be joyful and full of promise and lots of fun for you and your family.
    Keep putting one foot in front of the other and looking to the roofline.

  4. Hey honey, I really feel for you. Actually you bought tears to my eyes if I'm honest.

    Hang in there and squeeze all the goodness you can out of the moments you sounds like you do.

    New experiences and the people that fill them is a great healer,

  5. Gigi- This is such a heartfelt and beautifully written post. Change is never easy, but you are there living in the city (I was there last week!) of your dreams, by the water, close to all the pleasures of Maine.
    Good things will come to you. Trust that. :-)

  6. It's so hard, isn't it? When our life is going along and we're dong great, and then we're not doing great and we question everything we thought we were, everything we think we can be.

    Renting, I know, can feel transitory and imperfect. But you have learned so much about yourself and what you are capable of in this place. So even though the place you are living may be temporary, your lessons, your sense of who you are is permanent.

    Like the baby gulls, you are ready to take flight from the East End and find what's next - even if it leads you right back to the beautiful views of where you are.

  7. Oh, thank you everyone for these responses! I am filled to brimming with your own heartfelt and wise words. You are the best.

  8. Gigi ~

    I get this. Every word you wrote resonates with me. And like you, I've accepted what our situation is and know that life is pretty damn good despite the issues beyond our control. My heart is happy just knowing your two feet are taking baby steps towards 100% joy.

  9. Oh, Melissa, I knew you of all people would totally get it. Totally. Just knowing that makes me feel stronger. And I know you, too, are heading towards new adventures and a joy all your own. xo

  10. Bravo You...
    This touched a nerve and now I am crying...Thanks!!! ;D
    Actually, thank you, because you've hit it...I feel it too.
    I have a fantastic photo of a baby seagull furiously, futilely flapping... Somewhere. Must find it.
    Have a happy, blessed week Gigi.

  11. Oh Gigi, this post made my heart swell. Both with pain for you and all you have been through, but also for that human strength that sees you through it.
    I know exactly what you mean about renting. We are still renting too, and in spite of living here for 15 years, and three of our children being born right here in this house, and all the work we have done (we are lucky enough to be allowed to paint and even knock down walls!) I still feel unsettled. All the time. It's wearisome.
    But it is good to have little reminders, and although it's nowhere near as lovely as your baby gull, a good friend gave me a sweet fridge magnet that says: "Bloom Where You're Planted!" and it's hard sometimes, but I do try to! :-)

    Hold fast. The right place will come to you. C x

  12. Seagull babies... so sweet! Living near the sea too, I relish such pleasures. Thank you for sharing so much from the heart here today, Gigi. I thought you were very brave last year to pick up and start afresh. Sometimes we have very dark chapters, the darkest that seem not to end, no glimmer of happy ending. But one of the good things about living, is that nothing is static, the heart doesn't stay static either--if we are careful tending to it. And it is to obsess about everything we love. It's good to have dreams too, things to look forward to. Love what is now, while you can. New chapters are forming. And I know you'll get to design that dream kitchen and garden yet--I KNOW it! ;o) I admire your strength & courage, my friend. Happy Summer Days! Oh, I am actually launching a new blog today, with new creative focus--I'm very excited about it. In a few weeks I'll be closing Pink Purl. Thanks for visiting me there. ((BIG HUGS))

  13. Gigi I have been away too, too long and I am so glad I came back today, Your post has brought tears to my eyes but it gives me hope that one day (can I hope for soon?) I will be able to pick myself up, dust myself off and start all over again! Thank you for these beautiful words and know that they have made a difference in someone else's life. xx

  14. home is such a loaded word, isn't it? such a need, such safety. we take it with us in our hearts and look for the place to unpack it. all those seeds to be planted still.

    this is so beautifully told, so honest and angry and annoyed and accepting. i know these feelings and they are big ones.


  15. You write so beautifully! I love how you tied in your angst and worries with the story of the seagulls raising their young on the roofs.

    The economy will turn around. Eventually. And you'll get your own place. And it will be just perfect!

  16. What a beautiful post about resiliency and the power of time and space to heal. Love the metaphor between the baby gull finding its footing..and you and yours. Very inspiring!

  17. Your honesty is a God-send...

    Little by little..step by step it will happen. Your ability to look back and realize how FAR you've come is a testimony to how FAR you will go in the future...

    and i do believe it will be FAR...

  18. The words tell us so much of you. Thanks for opening up and sharing your heart. Change is definitely scary and leaves us open to losing confidence, but you are learning and you are growing even as you write this. Somedays it is indeed one step at a time and then the next day you may be flying. We are here lifting you up.

  19. Dearest Gigi,

    What a perfect post about your inner-soul... You dare to write your thoughts and compare the 'daring' with the baby seagull on the roof. How true this all is. Last year certainly was not our best year but we made it through. I recovered from being paralyzed, Pieter recovered from his unexpected open heart surgery (he looked so physically fit all his life!) and we've managed to pay the heaps of medical bills... Yes, life can be challenging at times but there's always a new horizon with the sun brightening our days again!
    Believe in yourself and go for it. And oh, our lives have changed so much in a way that what once was very important (to us perfectionists...) is no longer as important! Letting go of a lot of it did draw us a lot closer to each other and that's what is the most important in our relatively short lives! LOVE and being content...

    A hug and lots of love,


  20. You put in so creatively - yes, I am obsessive, too. I wasn't going to plant all my pots this year. I wasn't going to put in a vege garden. I was just going to tend the perennials that are already planted. But then spring creeped into my skin, and I had dig in compost and clean pots and replant and paint outdoor furniture and … well, the list goes on. It's summer and I'm rewarded with much beauty around the house. Sometimes you just have to accept being obsessive and keep on keepin' on. Love your words and the Seagulls.

  21. Thank you for all the beautiful and deeply touching responses, my friends. I have found what Mariette said to be so true: "our lives have changed so much in a way that what once was very important (to us perfectionists...) is no longer as important! Letting go of a lot of it did draw us a lot closer to each other and that's what is the most important in our relatively short lives!" Yes, indeed.

    I am grateful for all your insights. xo

  22. A fine post indeed. Learning to accept, and live in the moment, whatever - wherever that may be.

    The Seagull mama and baby. Enchanting!

    Thank you for sharing.

  23. hi gigi, i think it's a really good thing to write all that down, hopefully in doing it and seeing where you are now, in relation to a year ago, you can take a bit of a deep breath. yes, you're on edge and haven't quite got your balance..but you're doing ok. i do know how you feel, we are in a very similar situation really; have been traveling, following my coffee farmer, for the last few years. i am dying to settle down, dying to make a home, create a space, make a nest...i have never done this before. and yet, we're probably moving off again soon; kenyan highlands, maasailand...who knows!! like you, i feel a tad edgy about it all..

  24. I loved your post Gigi and can relate. My life is presently taking a dramatic turn which will lead us to renting after owning for many years. I too feel as you do that at this time in my life I'm not as content to go down that path. But with the negatives are so many positives and looking inward for contentment is important.

  25. Hello Gigi. I hear you. as a new follower I don't know you very well yet. You've given a few things from this post though... I have never seen a seagull chick in my life. Your honesty and your ability to express yourself is a pleasure to read. thank you. Perhaps you would like to see the sunrise from across the ocean. pop over to my blog for a peak. best wishes, Jane x

  26. It's too late in the evening for me to be writing...dinner and wine and all. But I needed to say to many experiences we have shared. And share now.
    Best wishes,

  27. Oh Gigi I am so sorry you have gone through such a difficult does seem now that you have made lemonade out of those lemons though. You deserve the best...xoxo Gail

  28. My dear, sweet Gigi. In all this time following you never once could I have envisaged what you were going through, so talented are you at revealing all that is beautiful and majestic. I too am still in a rented house that has been a haven and shelter to me through a few hard years…. What a parallel. I wish you were here so I could console you, laugh with you, feed you champagne in front of the hydrangeas and let you loose in a huge garden that is not my own :) There are valuable inner lessons to learn here, go deeper. Do trust your own two feet dearie :)

  29. And there it is. The sheer magic of your words... I am so glad you saw the beauty around you, and more generous than that, thought to share it with us.
    Funny thing, seeing, isn't it? Really seeing things, anew.

  30. This post is rich with honest, brave and searching thoughts -- and I feel unable to respond to it in the way I wish to. First of all, I truly can't imagine you losing all confidence in yourself. Gigi! You are so talented, so kind, so utterly special; and obviously you have the sensitive skin of a true artist to have doubted yourself.

    I, too, am having to let go of a dream of moving to a new house this year. Like you, I'm in the process of rationalizing (but also discovering) all the good reasons for staying put.

  31. Over and over, I see how true it is that attitude is all. We can count our blessings or our sorrows - whichever we choose will shape our lives. Of course, you have chosen to count your blessings and to never quit. That's why I love you. Well, one of the reasons why.

  32. There is so much beauty and fragility in your words and your pictures. Thanks for sharing. I love seeing stories in nature that shed light on our own stories. And sometimes when I look at my own life and the changes we've been through I marvel at the love that has carried us through it together. Lots of good wishes to you.

  33. I've thought about this post a lot since first reading struck me immediately, but wanted to take me to somewhere I didn't want to go....
    I was born and raised in the Yukon, we moved out when I was 36 and after one year moved back; it's a hard to place to live, a harder place to leave.
    When we returned we leased a house rather than buying (there was nothing available in the area we wanted) and I had a love/hate relationship with that house for the two years we were there. The living rooms were all painted in the boldest of colours and they forced me to look at colour in a way I didn't want to, but there it was, everyday, right in front of me. And it couldn't be changed because it wasn't mine. It was sunny and bright and cheery and our furniture went perfectly in the fuschia/mauve living room and although I loved how it looked I hated it as well...still can't quite figure that out but I think it had more to do with that it wasn't mine, than how it looked. Regardless, we were broken into twice while we lived there and that clinched it; we moved back to the little town in B.C. where we had gone for that one year and I have been happy ever since.
    Every time I try to ponder it I get antsy, anxious and feel upset all over again - I can only think that I wasn't supposed to be there even though it was what we needed, when we needed it. And I am a "place" person...


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