As Christmas approached, and we were to spend the bulk of it at the trailer, I began to regret that with all the moving, I had no clear idea of where my Christmas decoration box actually was. It wasn’t in my condo in Portland, and I didn’t remember seeing it in the basement storage room there either. Then I remembered that last Christmas I had handed it over to my daughter-in-law, who hosted her family and me, and that it must be up in their attic over on Missouri Street. Ah, well. We would only be here over Christmas Eve night anyway.
But still. Although we had decided to forgo large gifts for “gifting” each other with kind acts and donations to organizations or causes we believe in, I still felt there should be some beauty or uplift in the very moment. To that end, I enlisted a coast friend to drive me into Lincoln City in search of a kite. My daughter-in-law has talked about flying one on the beach since I moved here, and I knew my son would delight in it as well. She’d do the flying, he’d do the filming of the flying, and they’d both be happy as proverbial clams.
I had one all picked out so our time at the local kite shop was brief but productive. As we made our way home, I pressed my friend to indulge me in a quick stop at The Christmas Cottage. I’d never been there before, and I felt certain they would have some kind of Christmas lights I might want to hang in the trailer. I just didn’t know what they would be.
The place is jampacked with incredible Christmas decorations of all stripes and open 363 days a year. I was told to turn right to find Christmas lights and within a minute I had stumbled onto these:
I knew at once these were the perfect choice for me. But this, and the more traditional angel chimes I purchased in honor of my mother, didn’t turn out to be the highlight of my visit, delightful and just right though they were. I made my purchases at a cash register that was up against the back of the store, and behind the cashier was a rather larger picture window. Outside there was a lovely wooded area with a little creek and several hummingbirds flying about a feeder that hung there. The woman who rung up my sale told me they feed the birds year round and that also a beaver lives in the creek. They’ve named him something perfect, but I can’t think of what it is at the moment.
Hummingbirds have been in the backdrop of my life for a long time. When Mike was small and we lived in an upstairs apartment in Southern California I would see them spinning by through the eucalyptus branches to feeders on someone’s balcony. When I lived on Asbury Street in Idaho, I delighted on the summer days they came to feast on the nectar in the hollyhocks outside my back door. When I moved to the house on Van Buren Street I stumbled upon a larger lovely botanical poster of the many different kinds of hummingbirds in America. It needs a little touching up, but it was a find framed and ready to hang on the wall in the room where I did my yoga each morning. When I moved to the trailer and started spending time at the coast, I saw they were quite numerous and that many people fed them. I had a conversation with one of my neighbors about how he feeds them.
One afternoon at the coast in late Fall, the sun came out for a brief moment after a lot of rain. I had opened the front door for a few minutes, and in came a hummingbird, perhaps drawn by the reflection of light through the windows. It stayed but a couple of seconds, but it enchanted both me and the dogs, who all stood amazed. It seemed like a sign of something wonderful to come, but I didn’t know what. And anyway, I love the universe to surprise and delight me.
So as I paid my bill for the starfish lights, I was absolutely taken with having such a good long look at these little birds. That afternoon I lay on the futon resting and reading a novel called To The Bright Edge of the World. I was as yet unaware how central to the plot the image of the hummingbird would finally become, but I thought it was lovely that the married couple who are central to the story while they are separated by miles and duty, were first brought together by the discovery of a hummingbird nest. It turns out that the hummingbird’s nest is central to the love story unfolding in the novel, across thousands of miles, heartbreak, times of separation and an amazing miraculous reunion.
In our world of polarities, all this delight has to be counterbalanced by at least a little frustration. About ten days to a week before Christmas, I experienced that in the form of a very testy property manager at the RV Park next to where I live, who played her “private property” card, and denied me and my Silkens passage through their park and their beach access. Ours was under water at the moment. But her inhospitable stance strengthened in me a resolve that had been merely a speculation. That maybe I ought to look for a more permanent home just up the highway, with more permanent access structure to the beach, a larger area to walk the dogs when we couldn’t get on the beach and friends I have met who live there. Since my daughter-in-law’s family also owns a house in the same neighborhood, it was the first place I stayed on this beach that I love so much. So I decided to thank this cranky manager in my head, for helping me resolve to look.
I had no sooner said this to myself than I was telling a dear long time friend on the phone during our full moon phone conversation. This was just a month ago. She said, interestingly, it’s odd, but I see a house already waiting for you. And we laughed. The next day I sent her a link to one I had walked by that didn’t seem like it was for me, but was something in my price range and maybe a good place to start. That evening she sent me a link to another one saying, “How about this one? It reminds me of the uniqueness of your house on Van Buren Street.”
I couldn’t take my eyes off it. It DID have that same feel. And it was two mere blocks from the ocean! And in my price range. I called the agent who sold me the trailer and we made an appointment to go view. There was a hummingbird feeder at the front porch and several hummingbirds flitting around as we knocked on the door. Oddly the owner, not the agent, was there to show us around. She is a woman who has been fixing it up, but fell in love with a man down the street. They got married recently and are now both selling their places to buy one together.
When I started to draw the hummingbird in the image at the top of this post on my birthday, I thought it would be a more “finished” looking drawing. But then I realized I had picked a photo to work with in which the wings of the hummingbird where moving so fast they were a blur. I realized that it was this that was attracting me, because it somehow evokes the speed at which this story I’m trying to convey here gained momentum.
Three days before Christmas I made an offer on this house, contingent on selling my home in Portland. By Christmas Eve, they had countered and we had countered and we had a deal. By December 30, my condo was on the market. By January 4, I was considering offers. By my birthday, I had an accepted offer. Even these quick sentences do not express the speed with which the universe set this chain of events in motion. I slept in my Portland home on Christmas night, not yet knowing that it would be my last night truly “living” there. As the sun rose the day after Christmas I saw the balsamic moon, the waning crescent phase of the moon I was born under, glowing in the sky from my bed. I watched as it dissolved into the brightening sunlight. It was a beautiful sight. I didn’t know it was a send-off until later: in 4 days when we returned from visiting my daughter-in-law’s family in southern Idaho, I had only that evening to gather some things and head over to my son and daughter-in-law’s with the dogs to camp there to optimize viewing time for prospective buyers and make things less stressful for me and my Silkens.
The day I considered offers on my Portland home at my son’s table, my real estate agent asked me what I wanted to call the house on the coast I am trying to buy, just so we could keep everything straight. Without missing a beat, I said, “hummingbird house.”
I was recently at “hummingbird house” for the inspection, and the hummingbirds did not disappoint. As I was saying good-bye to the inspector on the driveway, two of them circled my head, flew around us and into a nearby tree. We both laughed.
But then, there’s the seagull. . .the one who stood in the middle of the street looking at us from the car as I drove away from the house I am buying with my real estate agent after the first time I saw the inside. I had just said something like, you never know, maybe it will all work out, not yet having my condo on the market in Portland, just trying to “wing” my way to a viable offer. The seagull just stood there, stared at us, and then very slowly and purposefully lifted its wings to fly low to the ground in front of us,as if it were leading us forward on a pilgrimage. Then, at the bend in the road that leads back to the highway, slowly, with incredible grace, it lifted itself higher and higher and turned back toward the ocean.
It could be said there came some apparently impassible road blocks along the way at the beginning, but whenever I’d check in with my spirit the words that came were “it’s a done deal.” So in some moments even though I didn’t know how that could possibly be, I trusted it.
The day I pondered some rather surprising inspection findings, the dogs and I walked by the house. I stood in the street and stared at it, meditating on all the things than can go wrong when a house is owned. But beyond that was a definite feeling that this was my HOME, and the worry about whether the beautiful trees might fall on it someday or powder post beetles eat it away made me start to giggle. And I just knew I should go forward and say yes to it, it was all going to work out, even though I didn’t know quite how yet. I turned to walk away, with a smile on my face and calm resolve in my heart. I looked up, and there was (the same?) seagull, sitting on a log in the next yard, regarding me (again). He just looked at me for a moment, then slowly, slowly spread those amazing wings, lifting himself into flight, turning in front of us to fly down the street in the direction we were heading, once again, as if he were leading the mysterious way, before heading back out toward the ocean.
Then, a third time, when inspection negotiations featured one of those mirages of seeming impossibility, as the dogs and I made our way down to look at the booming winter ocean one morning, I asked for a phrase for this part of the journey. The words that came to me on the path down to the beach access were “stay the course.” I liked the sound of that. No sooner had we arrived at a view of the ocean than what seemed like the very same seagull appeared. He stood on the sand below us regarding me. Then ever so slowly, he lifted his wings, circled in slow motion over the sand, gradually rising into the air above us and then out into the ocean. As he did this, he was joined by two others, one on either side. It was a beautiful confirmation to hold steady.
Perhaps I should be a little embarrassed to write about such things as signs, or to admit that I am moving again for the 3rd time in 3 years. But I’m not. Third time’s a charm, it seems to me. Because this house feels like a destination. And that’s not the end of the story either. My little mobile home is being purchased by my neighbor across the fence. It seems that he looked at it when it was for sale before I came along and bought it, but could not quite make up his mind to take the step of purchasing it, though it is a perfect place for him. So in some way, perhaps I was meant to buy it and hold the place for him, while it also gave me a place from which to find MY perfect place, so I could pass his perfect place on to him when he was ready.
If, as Joan Didion has written, we tell each other stories in order to live, then I say it’s also true I weave for myself a story from all these moments that affirms my life in all its mysterious purpose. The story isn’t finished yet, but that’s the magic. It’s never finished. It’s always, always an amazing and surprising work in progress.