I don’t live in a house on the beach. I don’t even live near water of any kind. Even the numerous puddles from recent downpours have dried up. My view is made up of trees, grass and dirt (there are other houses, but my trees do a good job of blocking them) so I don’t spend a lot of time gazing out the window.
But part of me wants to live in a cottage on the beach, and that part of me decided a while ago that even though I’m living in northern Alberta, I can decorate my home as if it were a cute little waterfront cottage. It already has old style wooden siding, A few blocked in windows have decorated wood panels, and I’m attracted to antiques and soft beachy colors, so I’m trying to develop that inside my house. When I closed in my back porch last year (pictured at the very top of this page) I tried to make it look cottage-y (my computer doesn’t believe that’s a word, but I use it a lot!) so I would have a place to sit in a rocking chair and enjoy a cup of tea without getting too hot or rained on, and when I walk into it from my living room I do have a feeling of being in a cottage.
This week I got my roof re-shingled and a few things touched up, and now I am in limbo regarding what should be next. As soon as you update one thing, it makes others – while still without damage – look worse and in need of a redo as well. I wasn’t contemplating new siding at all until I saw the new roof, and now I’m noticing things that didn’t bother me before, and having visions of what could be.
However, I’m also trying to balance needs with wants and be practical about changes, taking care of maintaining important parts without going too crazy on what is merely aesthetically pleasing. The reality is that I don’t know how long I will be in this house. I guess we all face that to a certain extent because we can’t predict the future, but it is especially uncertain when I’m still working through re-shaping my life without my husband in it.
In this house there are so many memories in every room, from every day encounters to big projects like replacing the steps at our entry, tearing down an old deck, or putting down our own laminate flooring (it was a huge undertaking for two inexperienced people that ended up being a lot of fun and very satisfying and probably the biggest home improvement project Pat and I ever did together). For so long afterward, we admired it and were proud we had done it ourselves. It needs a few touch ups now and the style and color are outdated – which tempts me to look into changing it – but we did it together and if I were to lift it all and replace it, I would lose more than the old floor.
We painted the outside a few years back – another huge undertaking – as a compromise (well, to be fair, Pat compromised because he really wanted new siding and I convinced him that painting it would be an economical uplift and a good family project) and when I look at it I can remember those days we spent in the heat working hard together. If I cover it up with sharp looking vinyl now, I will lose more than the old painted wood siding.
This is not to say that I won’t make the changes as I go along. Few things can last forever if they are part of a structure that gradually deteriorates or wears out over time. But as things are changed one by one I notice mixed emotions. I know I won’t be in this house forever because even if I don’t move in the near future, the time will come when my aging legs and knees will no longer be able to go up and down the stairs throughout the day. But still, the thought of leaving it and going to live in a house where Pat was never with me is a cold one. I can’t imagine how it would feel like “home”.
I have learned, though, that while time doesn’t heal as the cliche promises, it does give us room to grow and get used to coping with a forever wound, and that what might seem very difficult right now could become bearable in a few months, next year, or whenever the best opportunity presents itself.
For now, the reasons to stay in my “cottage” outweigh the reasons to leave it, and I just have to decide how much I want to do to keep it looking like a place that someone else might also want to live one day, in the event that life takes me down the road to another cottage. I’m sure at that point, I will have learned that there are many things I can take with me that could indeed last forever, or at least as long as I’m alive, things that are smaller and don’t require the upkeep that siding and flooring do 🙂
Maybe the next cottage will actually be on the beach…