Our house is on the market now, and yesterday I was looking at the listing sheet from when we bought it almost ten years ago. We must have had pretty good x-ray vision, to see past the oppressive 1980s wallpaper to the plain straightforward bones of the house. And there was no need for x-ray vision on the view, which was, and has remained, lovely.
On the old listing sheet my husband and I had made short-hand notes to help us remember the house when we were back in Maryland deciding which place to buy. A scribble in my handwriting reads, "close to farm with Belgian draft horses!!!" below which my husband added, "long, nightmare gravel driveway."
That driveway gave us much pause. We had heard stories about mythic Vermont winters, and we imagined ourselves marooned for months on top of our hill, barred from all contact with civilization by our nightmare driveway.
In the end, the view and the Belgians won the day, and we bought the house.
The view never lost its appeal. Even now, as I write surrounded by packing boxes, the view out of our tall windows makes me wonder what I ever did to deserve it.
On the other hand, the Belgians--a stallion, a mare and a gelding--remained something I have driven past year after year, admiring their creamy manes and their gold-brown coats, and their habit in bug season of standing nose-to-tail and acting as reciprocal fly swatters. But I never met the horses personally, never asked their owner's permission to stand by the fence and draw those big heads, dinner-plate hooves, arched necks, curvy rumps. I never even met the owners.
Surprisingly, the nightmare driveway turned out to be a breeze. We had the bottom bit regraded to avoid slithering out in icy weather, and after that, thanks to our conscientious "driveway guy," neither in the depths of winter nor in the worst of mud season were we prevented access to civilization.
The problem turned out to be the absence of civilization, which, ironically, is what I had craved when I decided to move here. Reluctantly, I have come to admit during the last lonely decade on this hilltop that human contact is as important to me as sunsets and sunrises and birdsong and silent, snow-covered woods.
In our next move, I'm planning to remedy this issue. In a place that offers over forty-five interest groups, from bee-keeping and maple sugaring to fiber arts--not to mention nearby Burlington and the University of Vermont--there is bound to be a tribe that will welcome me.
But I'm not counting on anything. A nightmare of one kind or another is sure to appear. It won't be the driveway this time, because it is short and will be maintained by the community, and it probably won't be lack of human contact. But no matter how hard I try to anticipate every possible eventuality, something will pop up that I didn't expect.
Maybe, instead of spending my energies planning and preparing, I would do better to practice breathing deeply, staying flexible, and giving up the comical illusion that I'm in control.