America’s Castle

I feel so lucky that I’ve had visitors every week since I’ve moved to Asheville, NC (I hope it never stops!). This weekend Kyle and I decided to explore the Biltmore Estate, also known as America’s Castle. We marveled at the perfect day for touring the grounds: blue skies, warm rays, and great company. It’s a short walk through the woods from the parking lot to the house, and as you exit the forest, you’re greeted by a awe-inspiring view of the enormous yards leading up to a castle-esque structure.

Each room is more marvelous than the last. The seven-story high banquet hall with three enormous fire places side by side, facing a large pipe organ. The more intimate breakfast room with Renoirs hanging on the walls. The library with tens of thousands of books, stacked two stories high. And the views from every window. Breathtaking views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, ridge after ridge after ridge. Listening to the stories behind the rooms, behind the house, behind the family. The basement, where the walls were painted with scenes inspired by the Russian cabaret group La Chauve-Souris, in preparation for a New Year’s Eve party. The kitchen, where the menu for a scrumptious Thanksgiving meal for 26 guests was recalled. And the gardens, the fabulous gardens, surrounded by hundreds of acres of green forest.

Whoever created the audio tour was artful in their final message. One of the last vignettes tells how guests to the estate marveled at the milk and ice cream served, the best they’d ever tasted. We returned our audio sets and walked out of the house, directly across from the entrance to the Ice Cream Parlor. Why, yes, I think we will have a scoop, thank you very much.

10 Days In A New Home

1 broken appliance (fixed by the repairman unplugging, then replugging in, the refrigerator…)

2 near heart attacks (once when a squirrel jumped on the roof and starting throwing nuts, I thought I was under attack and once when I was in the basement and the gas furnace came on, spewing flames, I thought the house would explode)

3 evening walks through beautiful trees

4 neighbors met

5 locks re-keyed

6 floor cleanings (houses with no furniture are easy to sweep and mop)

7 pieces of mail received

8 days of working with the front door open, a cool breeze blowing, and birds singing

9 nights falling asleep to crickets chirping

10 hours sitting in the porch swing, swinging and reading and daydreaming.

I’m feeling mighty happy about living here.

I Left My Heart…

  • 57 boxes
  • 9 sing alongs to the complete Hamilton soundtrack
  • 632 feet of bubble wrap
  • 5 trips to UHaul for supplies

… and 25 years of life in San Francisco packed up.

Packed up

Packed up

It took the movers just over two hours to load everything on a truck, which I’ll see again in 7 to 21 business days in Asheville, NC.

Empty

Empty

I’m excited, and anxious, and sad, and nostalgic, and well, all the feels at once. I’m sad to leave such wonderful friends in the Bay Area. I’m excited to move to the mountains. I look forward to quiet. I’ll miss walking everywhere. I’m nervous about driving again (it’s been 17 years since I owned a car). I’m excited to re-kindle friendships.

I’ve spent the last month soaking up the best of San Francisco. Museums, drinks with friends, one-on-one and group dinners, concerts, and walks, so many walks, through the city, nostalgia sweeping over me like a tsunami. I have a strong feeling that the cliché is true: I will leave my heart in San Francisco. Until we meet again, <3.

 

 

Turning to Gratitude

I’ve found it easy to get frustrated with life in San Francisco recently. The city is more expensive than it ever has been (how did I just spend $52 on a small bag of groceries?), there’s construction going on on both streets that border my corner building (who wouldn’t think 7 am is a great time to start jack hammering?), and it’s been a while since the last rain, so the smells of the city can be overwhelming. So tonight I decided I would be intentional on my walk. I’d only focus on what I’m grateful for in the city.

I’m grateful that I can walk two blocks and eavesdrop on conversations in four different languages.

I’m grateful that there are still so many mom and pop businesses in my neighborhood that are thriving, and that we’re on a first name basis.

I’m grateful for hills that get my heart rate rising.

I’m grateful for sidewalks and for cars that yield to pedestrians.

I’m grateful for living in a city for so long that virtually every corner I turn I have a fond memory (the building I lived in when I first got divorced and the pancakes we made on New Year’s Day, the bar where we saw a friend’s band play and drunk them out of Jack Daniel’s, the now vacant lot where I got my first Christmas tree in San Francisco).

I’m grateful for the water that surrounds this city, offering calm and peacefulness.

And I’m grateful for living on the west coast, and watching the sun set at the end of the day.

Seventeen Years of Joy

Seventeen years ago my roommate at the time told me she was getting married and I needed to find a new home. The year was 2000, in San Francisco, and the dot com bubble had not yet burst. I showed up to open houses to find dozens of applicants ahead of me, cash deposit in hand, bidding on places of questionable character. I knew I would have to pay more to move from a shared place with a roommate to a place on my own, but I wasn’t prepared for the rents that were twice, and sometimes three times as much, as I had been paying, for places that were twice, and sometimes three times less nice, than where I had been living. After weeks of looking, the move-out date was approaching and I still didn’t have a place to live. I saw an ad for a studio on Craigslist, asked if I could see it that afternoon, left work early to beat the rush of applicants, and met the agent on the sidewalk. We walked up three flights of stairs, she opened the door, I walked into the hallway and said, “I’ll take it.” She looked perplexed. “Don’t you want to see the rest of the apartment?” “Nope, this is great.” It was clean, it was in a quiet neighborhood, and it was more or less (much more) in my budget.

I had a housewarming party a week later. Friends crowded in to the tiny studio; we toasted to new beginnings. And I received what would become one of my favorite gifts of all times. A simple vase with blue glass edging, with a note to invest in a $5 fresh bouquet of flowers each week. Since then, I’ve picked a small bouquet each week and arranged it in this vase that has followed me from that studio to multiple other homes. And it continues to bring me as much joy now as it did that first week in my new studio, seventeen years ago.

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