"You livin' up here all alone?"
"My sister will be here for a few months, but otherwise yep, yessir I am."
"Well..." the pregnant man grunted (from a distance, I could hear his labored breathing through nose-hairs which should have begun being trimmed decades ago) "...welcome. But ya know, most people only last one winter..."
'Most people' I thought. But not me. That was one year ago now. I made it through the long winter, and have started hauling wood for the next.
The neighbor-man doubted, and so did the realtor. When I called to set up viewings, the expected and unavoidable question came: "is that time good for your husband too?"
"I don't have one."
Friends questioned my abilities and my sanity in buying a house, and a fixer-uper at that "but you have no honey to do," they said. No, I didn't. I'd have to do, helped along by my dad on his visits out to Colorado. I'd never been any good at making lists anyhow and I'd never call anyone honey, even if I was sweet on them.
Pulling into the driveway the first time, meeting that realtor (and yes, without a husband) -- I fell in love. It was May and there was still a blanket of snow, but that only made me fall harder. The shed; the awning in want for a wood pile; the stone fireplace made out of rocks from the mountainside; the weathered deck; the scalloped eaves; the overgrown wintered grass; the stream lining the property heard as clear as its water. The raspberry canes bulwarking the house. And the windows...dear god, the windows. I'm home. It was the same feeling I would get reading and months later meeting a fisherman and fellow writer at a coffee shop. I'm home. I fell in love with him too.
Strange, my mother always told me it would happen this way. That I'd just know. And now, I just know exactly what she meant. Took me awhile though. Took me a good long while.
It was the scariest thing I've ever done in my life, buying this property alone. Scarier than riding a 15 hand horse bareback for my first riding lesson. Scarier than moving off to college from rural Iowa to San Francisco at age 17. Scarier than getting married. Scarier than being diagnosed with a disease. Scarier than getting divorced. But this land, it needed me. It needed attention, and that I had. The hole in the bedroom wall crumbled drywall into my hands. But it was my drywall. The paint chipping off was my paint. And the dead ants coating the kitchen floor? Yeah, those were mine too.
Somehow, this was comforting. Dead ants.
I should have been a pioneer. I romance myself with 'should've been a cowboy,' but I know it's only that: a brief romance....a girlish crush on the Marlboro Man. But as a woman, I needed land. I'm no nomad. I needed roots. I needed space, and most of all, I needed time.
And so I came to the mountains -- gathering my wits and broken pieces, working mule-hard, and saving everything -- to get to my canyon. To my side. I came here because something in my pioneer soul called me up....higher. Further up; further in. It may not always be safe, but it is good. I came here because of my adolescent infatuation with Sam, and his side. Like an injured animal, my soul shot through. Pierced, though not with cupid's arrow -- rather, with the pain of pulling out. I retreated. I nested. Finally, I felt safe. My soul found its sanctuary in painting the cabin, stacking wood, shoveling snow, and having no need for curtains on the windows. There are no Peeping Tom's in my neck of the woods, save turkeys.
People worry that I will become a hermit. And they are right to do so -- I may yet become one. They worry because I refuse to get a phone. They are probably right to worry about that as well. They worry I will develop the eccentricities evident in canyon folk -- "well, she's sure got that crazy mountain woman thing going on, huh?" I've overheard. But really? Really, I have nothing "going on" besides just being me on my side of the mountain.....through many, many more winters....
.....although now, no longer all alone.