Late last year I made the choice to leave the snowy farm fields of Hartford and return to my old house in Glens Falls for the winter. It was a difficult decision, both emotionally and logistically. It meant uprooting myself and my pets, and finding a winter home for my chickens. And there was some much needed work to be done on the house in Glens Falls before I could move in.
But after a very hard time the previous winter, much as I loved so many things about it, I was just not able to face the prospect of another season in my rural farmhouse alone.
The small Cape Cod-style house in Glens Falls had been my home for several years prior to my move to Hartford. It sits on an end lot on a quiet little street not far from the city park, with a nice, big fenced backyard full of a few lovely crabapple trees and garden beds. I had loved it truthfully, and been very happy there. And not wanting to sell it, I had turned it into a rental house after moving to Hartford with my ex-boyfriend. I dreamed of a life there in the country like I had known growing up, and of sharing that life with someone who wanted the same.
But after several years our relationship ended. I was left in the farmhouse in Hartford alone, but loving it, too, and quite content, initially. Things had ended painfully and sadly with my boyfriend, and I was happy to be by myself again to sort through everything and try to make some peace with it all.
We had spent a lot of time and effort remodeling the house. It had been a kind of miracle to see it transformed. So much had been invested in it physically, monetarily, and emotionally. And for me, it had become a great source of inspiration living close to nature again. My experiences there, both positive and negative, fueled and shaped so much of my writing, poetry, and photography. I can honestly say I do not believe I would be here writing this blog now without the house coming into my life.
But the physical labor of maintaining such an old house and large property had begun to take their toll. I hired help when I could, but still preferred to do most of it on my own.
In the warmer months, mowing the two-acre yard, cleaning up in the spring and fall, tending all the garden beds I had started– after awhile I had no time or energy left to do a vegetable garden like I’d dreamed of. Then the harder chores of winter would start, which meant stacking firewood and hauling it in every day to feed the woodstove, shoveling and snowblowing paths, and worrying and watching every day for snow build up and ice dams on the slate roof.
Then of course, this year squirrels had moved in to a hole in the roof soffit (although they have now all been relocated and their nest hole safely patched up). Yet another issue for me to fret over alone.
The physical labor had not become the only issue, however. I had been feeling a growing sense of isolation for a long while, of being alone with everything there, and facing the prospect of a future full of more of the same. Still I had refused when a friend asked me about selling her some acreage to build a house. I didn’t want to go through the tedious, difficult process of dividing up the land. And deep down, it didn’t feel right to do for the property, either, even though it might have meant help for me.
So my course was set alone once again, as I have seemingly always wanted and chosen, even if unintentionally. Being raised as an only child, maybe it is just a preference for my own company, my own most comfortable and natural state.
I had put the house in Glens Falls up for sale last spring and the tenant I’d had for just over a year there moved out. It sat and sat for months not selling, despite how cute everyone said it was and how close to everything. When I had my epiphany about feeling overwhelmed and unable to spend another winter in Hartford, the first thought that came into my mind was to go back.
Like Scarlett O’Hara, I felt like I was running back to Tara to find some strength. Only my Tara was about 1600 square feet with a cemetery just beyond the backyard.
Houses, I’ve found, are very individual beings, just like people. They have their own personalities, their own energies, their own relationships to each owner. Built over time, I imagine, just like their walls, from all the lives lived inside them. I know the energies of both the houses very well, and each has pulled and pushed on me in its own way. Hartford, at times, came to feel like a passionate, love-hate relationship with someone who both inspired and infuriated me. Glens Falls on the other hand, was the comfort of a warm, loving friend, safe and always welcoming.
So I decided to see what I could find there again in it’s company. An old (and very human) friend helped me do most of the work on it, and in couple of months it was ready for me to move back in.
It’s been a few weeks now, and after a brief period of adjustment when I discovered what a creature of habit I truly am (ie, a minor freak out about not being in familiar surroundings which escalated into a panic attack and almost caused me to pack everyone and everything up and go back to Hartford), we have all settled in nicely. The cats are enjoying the bird feeders I set up and the kitchen cabinets to scale. My dog is back in the home she first knew as a puppy. And I’m enjoying all the sunshine that streams in through the windows every morning, with no army of trees outside to block the way.
I know I am a very lucky person to have such a choice; many people do not. And I hope to make the best of it.
Thinking of a way to keep both of houses, I had the idea of going back and forth between them seasonally, like a kind of snowbird, with winters spent in Glens Falls close to my job at the hospital, and summers spent in Hartford among the fields. When I wasn’t staying in either one, I would rent them on AirBnB, an increasingly popular option for travelers and homeowners alike in my area. That would mean an income allowing me to keep both places going, and pay for more help to do so.
For now that is the most likely plan, but I am taking it day by day to see how it feels, to think it through, flesh out the possibilities and practicalities. Although I can’t forsee all outcomes, it may well turn out to be the best solution for my dilemma.
I closed the house in Hartford down when I left, unplugged almost everything and shut all the curtains and shades. When I went back to check on it, walking into the living room I had the strange sense that it was quietly sleeping. I felt an odd mix of sadness, guilt, and relief on the day I moved out. To return and find the energy there was peaceful and well, restful even, was comforting in a way that’s hard to explain. But I felt it, too, would be waiting for me to return, and welcome me back warmly when I once again stepped though the door.
Does everyone appreciate deep feelings of being in a “place?” Probably not. But I am so glad that I have been introduced to you and your heartfelt writings. Since I am familiar with your locales from summer weeks spent at Saratoga Lake many years ago as a child, it brings me back to places I loved.
Somehow I missed this post, so just caught up with your decision to relocate. The plan you are considering sounds like a wonderful compromise. AirB&B’s were not around years ago to present such a solution. I will be reading your posts to see how your decision plays out! Best wishes to your entire crew … dog, cats and fish!
Jackie, I loved this piece, it was so gentle, wise and honest. You have a great gift for describing big things in an accessible and beautifully written way. You have a gentle and agile mind, and write so naturally. This came through as a beautiful and important experience, told without drama or narcissism. I appreciate it.