Friday, August 9, 2019

Back in Wisconsin

Bloedel Reserve, Bainbridge Island

I got home about 2 am Monday morning.  My building smelled like garbage, the A/C wasn't working in the hallways, my own A/C was working but it was dripping water from the unit in the bathroom ceiling, and my smoke alarm was chirping.  Good to be home.

Did laundry.  Bought groceries.  Worked my way through a mountain of mail.  (This really is the best way to do mail: let it pile up for a month and then go through it all at once.  I might make this a habit.)  Had a neighbor over for blueberry crisp.  Met a friend at Schlitz Audubon.  Weekly knitting evening.  Painting.  Sketching.  Putting things on my calendar.  Stepping back into my life.

And having second thoughts about moving to Washington.  It's a tug of war.  I had a good feeling about the place and the people when I was there.  Comfortable, positive.  Just what I need.  In addition to the group at Sunnyside Village I found other organizations I'd like to join, people I'd like to get to know better.  That's saying a lot for such a short visit. 

I'm in touch with some of the Sunnyside Village community via Facebook and other internet sites.  Good to hear from them, good to get to know them.  I wish I was there to pick beans, can peaches, sit outside in the evening and let the breeze do the talking.

On the other hand.
* I realized that I actually don't know very many of the people who will be part of the Sunnyside Village.  Some of the people I met and liked have not actually committed to joining the community.

* Marysville is not quite what I had in mind when I thought of moving to the west coast.  Those forests and mountains won't be right in my back yard like they were in the Bay Area: longer drives than I'd like to get to what I find inspiring.

* The leaders at Marysville have strong political beliefs and put them into practice.  I mostly agree with them.  I admire their commitment.  I'd be happy to get swept up into some of it.  Some of it.  Not all of it.  Will I be on the outskirts if I'm more focused on painting, poetry, photography?  It would be easier to get a feel for this if I was there, interacting with everyone.  What you see on the internet is not always what you get in person.

* The apartment that I can afford at Sunnyside Village is smaller than what I have here in Wisconsin.  I would have to use my living room as my studio.  I think I'd really miss having a room where I could relax without seeing all that clutter, all those things wanting to be done.  When there are floor plans maybe I will see a way to work this out comfortably.

* But the big question is money.  If the estimates that we have now hold, I can afford the smallest unit at Sunnyside Village but it will leave me without the level of discretionary income that I have now.  What do I do if the costs go up significantly after I commit?  I don't have the assets to recover if this venture fails on either a personal or community basis.

And HOA fees in general for condominiums in the area are twice what they are in Wisconsin.  The other community members will be more affluent.  So the group might not have the same interest that I will in keeping costs down.

Is this an opportunity worth the risk?  What if I stay where I am, what if I don't go?  What if I go and things fall apart? 

What I want most right now - and don't have - is someone to talk through all the aspects of this decision with me.  It's what communities like Sunnyside Village are all about.  Creating caring relationships between members.  Supporting each other by sharing meals, work, and conversation.  Someone to talk through whatever comes up in life.  That would really be nice.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

On to Eugene

7:00 am  It feels like I've been gone for longer than 16 days, I'm ready to go home.  Instead I'm on my way to Eugene, Oregon.  Traffic is resignedly moving everyone toward Seattle, the road is busy but not demanding.  So my mind wanders.

7:30 am  I'm settled on Sunnyside Village so no longer interested in the community in Eugene but I'll go ahead and visit.  It's the thing to do - visit as many communities as you can, learn as much as you can.

8:30 am  This is just nuts.  I don't have a family in Wisconsin but I have a life there.  I'll miss the women in my knitting group and other friends.  I mean, Fox Point is a prettier city than Marysville.  And Boswell Books - even if I don't go very often.  I know my way around pretty well.  The apartment will be smaller.  I've got a primary care physician who can't be beat.  No one else will cut my hair like Deb. 

My mind is bubbling with reasons to not do this, things I'll miss, the disruption of moving, . . .

10:00 am  It just totally sucks to be this unmoored at my age.

10:30 am  Breakfast at a roadside diner in Toledo, Washington.  All is once more right with world.  Never make life altering decisions on an empty stomach.

11:00 am  Dust swirls up from the fields as I drive by.  Farmers are busy throwing away whatever remains of the top soil.  Doing their part to hasten the destruction.  It's all the necessary precursor to the radical change for the better that is coming.


12:30 pm  "No, no A/C.   Don't really need it. We have a few warm days every summer.  We just open the windows.  You will acclimate."

It is hot here.  It's been hot here for weeks.  It's going to be hot here for weeks.  They all know about climate change but seem blissfully unaware that the weather is hotter.  I will not acclimate, I get heat exhaustion.  I need A/C or a heat pump or something.

3:30 pm  I've been chatting with one of the community leaders all afternoon.  Now I'm drifting off to sleep as I sit in on a marketing planning meeting.  Their promotional material needs revision.  Someone says maybe it's time to revisit the value statement now that membership has changed.  I admire their value statement.  More flexible than Sunnyside.  Clearly the result of many hours of meetings, discussions, re-writes, workshops, . . . 

7:30 pm  Had my nap.  In an air conditioned room.  Now I'm sitting in a beer garden surrounded by lively conversation.  There's an OK band up front, good food.  I strike up a conversation with the young man to my left at the picnic table.  He's from Milwaukee, lived close to where I do now.  We both agree: this is way better than the beer garden in Estabrook Park back in Milwaukee.

8:45 pm  Maybe I should reconsider.  Eugene looks like more fun than Marysville.  Livelier.  A higher energy but still friendly.  I wouldn't have a hard time meeting people here.

9:30 pm  Back in my hotel room, running the numbers one more time.  They don't change, of course.  I was a pension actuary; I know that I don't have the assets or income that I'd like at this time in my life.  I might be stuck in Wisconsin.

I shut my computer, play an audible book, put all this stuff out of my mind.

Tomorrow I have breakfast with another of the leaders from the cohousing community here.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Making the Choice for Life

It's July 30.  I arrived in Everett, Washington 10 days ago, in a prior lifetime.

Mount Rainier, 12 days ago

Standing in the soft light slanting through the moss draped branches of a Douglas Fir forest I feel peace and contentment settle around me.

~  ~  ~

Fox Point, Wisconsin, a month earlier
I live in Wisconsin.  It's a beautiful place and I like living there well enough.  But it isn't the west coast.  I don't feel that same peace and contentment here.

So, I want to move.  But half way across the continent to a place where I don't have friends or family?  I'm 66 years old.  I don't move easily.  It's expensive.  What if I don't like it?  Where will I live?  The questions, the objections, swirl around and around.

Then I think to ask: What if I don't move?

Now I've got a different conversation in my head.  My thoughts pivot back to something my brother said to me seven years ago, when I walked away from a 40 year marriage and set out on my own.  "You're old and you don't have a family anymore.  You should just get a crappy apartment to sit in while you wait to die."  Of course he had been drinking all weekend, and he did apologize later, but there is a truth buried in that thoughtlessly worded advice.  I can choose to stay safely in my (quite nice, thank you) condominium in Fox Point or I can make the choice that, for me, brings more life: find a way to move to the west coast.  I'm not the kind to sit around waiting to die.

~  ~  ~

Everett, Washington, ten days ago
I've been to Everett before.  Well, close by that is.  Two years ago I spent a week in the area, mostly visiting Whidbey Island.  I fell in love with the place then.  But vacationing in a place and living there aren't the same thing so I came out to take a different look.

Two big questions.  The first, because it's practical and concrete and therefor easier, is what kind of housing I will be able to find.  I need to pick a city, a neighborhood.  Decide if I want another condominium or a single family home.  No matter what I choose, it's going to cost me me more than what I have now.  How much do I want to spend?  What can I get for my money?

The other question is more important but harder to a bead on. Who will I meet, how do I find the people who will make up my new life?

~  ~  ~

Everett, Washington, today
I came here concerned but hopeful.  A couple of days later the hope was disappearing fast.  I looked at a few places that are in my price range: all small and a bit trashed.  But mostly it was the isolation.  I would be embedded in a condo complex, surrounded by more of the same as far as I could see.  Who would I talk to?  How would I make contact?

Every idea I had, every new place I considered: nothing felt right, felt like I could make a home.  Again and again, nothing.  This was starting to seem like an all around bad idea.

I forget how I found Sunnyside Village; an ad somewhere I think.  From the very beginning it felt comfortably right.  Not excitement.  A calm "This is it.  This is where I feel at home."  A lot like the calm I find when standing under one of those moss draped Douglas Firs.  It is the just right balance.  Between a condominium and a single family home.  One foot in the city, the other in the country.  Gardening but not more than I can manage on my own.

But most important of all, it comes with a community.  A vibrant group of people, all ages, who are committed to getting to know each other, work together and play together.  More involved than neighbors, more independence than a commune or intentional community.  The just right balancing point between.

So here I am, sitting in an airbnb in Everett, Washington, typing up the first entry in a blog which will record my personal experience of making the transition from a condominium in Wisconsin to a cohousing community in Puget Sound, from one life to the next.