Thursday, July 14, 2016

Up North

            This week Kim and I are taking a break from the stresses of apartment living to look for a home in northern Michigan (known here as “Up North”). Kim has looked at many hundreds of listings on the internet, and she is in touch with a realtor in the enticingly named town of Elk Rapids. After getting stuck several times in construction-detoured traffic near our apartment, being in an “elk rapids” sounds appealing.

            Did I say we’re taking “a break from the stresses”? In all of the properties Kim has studied she has yet to find one that is satisfactory. Some have no basement. Others have neighbors too close. Low ceilings. Ugly fireplace. No lake, river or wetland to create photo-ops. Too much lawn to mow. All the wood inside makes it hard to place artwork. Ugly kitchen cabinets. Wooden siding requiring maintenance and woodpecker-proofing. No charm. Plenty of charm, but no room for our stuff. “I want,” she says, “a place that’s magical. Don’t you?”

            Up North is a magical place, even before we get there. Think of loons on a tree-lined lake, seen and heard from the porch of our newly built house on a cool summer morning. Everyone should have an “Up North” they can escape to. It’s probably more magical when we imagine it before we get there than it will be when we actually do go about living there, but who cares?

            The difficulties started in our long drive from Florida to Michigan, when we had plenty of time to discuss what we want: our almost-but-not-sold house in Gainesville, plopped down in a Michigan woods on top of a basement, with a few minor changes. We stopped to visit Bark Houses at Highland Craftsmen in North Carolina, and that led to a few more changes in our plans. Internet searches led to a few more, mostly in million-dollar houses Up North. We will not find such a house, so we will have to build it. We will be able to do this once we sell (again?) our Gainesville house.

            Building a house is not known to be a stress-reducer, but I think it will be for us, as Kim’s creative and domestic juices will be flowing as she continues to recover from her radiation treatment, recently begun. Building a house is what Kim does when she is “resting.” I don’t like the term “dream home” because dreaming is what you do when you are asleep, but starting the creative process by imagining our Up North home is already helping the healing.

            If we do find a magic piece of property Up North and start the process of designing and building, this means we will be in our apartment for at least another year. And this is more OK than it seemed a week ago. Kim has gotten our household in order – this morning, while “resting,” she made chocolate-cocoanut scones and vegan couscous for our grandson and his girlfriend. We appreciate the ample storage in our apartment, though our stuff is stacked so high that it’s hard to find anything. Our kitchen overlooks a pond, and we are spotting a pretty good variety of birds. The internet works. I have located the Apple Store and the nearest Starbucks. Our leaking refrigerator has been replaced by a used one, and though our ice cream is mushy, it otherwise works ok. We are discovering back roads to drive to radiation in Ann Arbor. I have set up auto-pay for our crammed storage units, so the cost is relatively painless if I don’t think about it. And the garage police have not yet appeared. We are adjusting to apartment living, while at the same time we are planning to leave.

            Tomorrow we head Up North, and life is again good. Going Up North has that effect on Michiganders.

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