Friday, January 25, 2008

January 25, 2008
The deed is done, the move is made. Extraordinarily difficult. It's hard to believe how quickly we moved after my last post, but the perameters became crystal clear: if we wanted to move before the kids started school, it would be now. Now. Today. In June we were looking for a piece of land for our dream house; we were looking for a town in which we would feel at home; we were planning to move in 2008. But it is impossible to look for houses without looking at specific houses. As soon as we looked at specific houses, they were possibilities. In addition, I think my husband really wanted to move; he was unhappy, living alone during the week. And when is a good time, to move? Is it not like getting pregnant, always subject to second thoughts and counter-suggestions, until the time is past?

Well, the answer may be, in the end, not 2007. It was a good year, more or less, for Wall Street, which meant that it was not a buyer's market in NY. There were few houses that met our requirements. I favored one in Chappaqua, high up on a wind-swept hill (the highest point in Westchester! Lots of rocks, and views in all directions). Not a Gracious Home. Built in pieces; it reminded me of my grandparents' cabin that they built themselves, in Utah. Airy, though, and full of character. Maybe too much--it had a rock stairway leading up to the house that would certainly have been treacherous in winter. The possibilities for gardening were endless, though: wild and rocky gardening, this would have been, lots of ericaceae and wildflowers, groundcovers and alpines.

Then there was another one, a gorgeous one. Definitely Gracious, with hand-carved Chinese screens and a good layout. This one was overlooking a pond (I have suspicions it might be a marsh--less water, more mud). The description said there were sophisticated plantings, and there were some I could see right off. Good windows. Gas fireplaces in both the master bedroom and the master bath, which I did not see as a plus. The whole basement, astonishingly enough, was given over to a potting room! The previous owner specialized in Bonsai. It was perfect for us, except that 1. the whole thing had a northern exposure; 2. it had 2 kids' bedrooms, and no possibility for a third except for the third floor, which had no bathroom. The second floor had three bathrooms, each of which could only be reached through the bedroom attached. The poor third floor resident would have to go down two flights of stairs to brush her teeth. In theory, we could have installed a bathroom on the third floor, but since this house was already too expensive for us I don't know how we could have pulled it off. I was anxious to meet the owner, who was clearly a gardener, but when I did she blew me off. I asked if there was anything in particular she would like to show me (is there a gardener on earth who does not like to show off her triumphs?), and mentioned that I was an avid gardener. She said that unless I specialized in wetland plants I probably wouldn't know the plants. This is an error, I must say: never patronize people. They may easily turn out to have written a book about the subject. I haven't written a book about wetland plants, it's true, but I know an indecent number of plants, and I am eager to learn. She, apparently, was not eager to share. Now, I can understand feeling unhappy about having to leave one's garden--pause for understatement--but I know I would feel better, if I had to leave my garden, if I knew the new owner would not, out of sheer ignorance, turn over my white-flowered pulmonaria to plant vinca.

The third house we bought. It is old. It is also Gracious, although, I hope, not overwhelmingly so. Two acres on a corner lot in Bedford Hills, with more traffic, I will say, than I realized (I thought all along the house was close to the road, but I allowed myself to be persuaded that it was not a well-travelled one. It is.) It's a house with character, built onto and improved over the years. Built in 1890, they told us, and moved here from the Bronx in 1906. It's not a Victorian, though, but a Greek revival, as far as I can figure--a mystery. It has nice high ceilings, and lots of windows with high, carved moldings. The furnace is not that old, but it is extremely cranky; I've had the repairman out every week for three months, I think. The garden is foundation plantings, and big trees, and lawn. There's a lot to be said for big trees and lawn--the foundation plantings will need revision, but there's certainly lots of room for creative endeavor. The beech tree, said the former owner, is the largest in NY.