The house next door

It’s for sale. Sheriff’s sale. Since the owners up and abandoned it last spring, Mike and I have been alternately rejoicing they took their smelly dog enclosure with them (nothing like the scent of dog doo wafting over the shade garden) and worrying what would become of the place.

According to our neighbor, the house was nothing to look at 40 years ago when she was a kid and occasionally played with the kids who lived there then. Surely it’s gone downhill after a series of negligent owners. We fought mosquitoes all last summer because they left their above-ground pool full and water collected in the cover and was a nasty West Nile soup.

It’s an odd little house — yellow stucco — and may have been charming at one time. (Although more appropriate for the neighborhood known as “Spanish Villa” across the highway from us.) Now it’s just scary, complete with dangling icicle lights from Christmases past, plastic wrap on the windows, mold and branches on the roof (surely it leaks), and giant, poison ivy-infested evergreens all around. Not to mention a tumbledown shed, and that pool, wrapped in a large lattice-y deck/fence thing.

Even before it was abandoned, Mike and I made several forays across the property line to clean up fallen branches and prune overgrown trees and shrubs that were spoiling our view. I ruthlessly sprayed heavy-duty Round-Up on all the poison ivy I saw — which was considerable. We never interacted with (or really even saw) the owners, save for a couple encounters with their kids, whom I always felt sorry for. It was from one of the boys that I learned “We might be moving…” and crossed my fingers.

It’s been nice not having such negligent neighbors, but we’re worried about what might happen now that it’s up for sheriff’s sale in a few weeks. We’d love to have the property — our 50-foot-wide lot is so confining — but certainly don’t have the cash to blow on buying it and then having to worry about tearing down the house (I can’t imagine it could/should be saved). Plus the grounds are a disaster — even mowing the giant, sloping front yard (the house sits far back from ours) would be a challenge. Plus there’s no garage, which would have been a real selling point since ours is so inadequate, and only a LONG gravel driveway that washes down on the road all the time.

But, that frivolous right brain of mine can’t help but imagine what could be if we had the money and weren’t totally consumed with all the half-finished DIY projects on this side of the property line. How nice it would be to double the size of our lot — plant trees, fence it in, build a combination potting shed/garage with a studio above (hey, a girl can dream), design our own “secret garden.” A very Western PA version of A Year in Provence or Under the Tuscan Sun. (Yeah, we’d probably fly a Steeler flag somewhere, too.)

I long ago picked out the perfect spot to “connect” the two yards — a grand arbor or something right between these two trees…


Instead, we have to wait and see. Hope some good people buy the place and not gypsies, tramps, or thieves. Hope we don’t rue the day we didn’t take out a second mortgage to buy it ourselves. 

Oh, did I mention scenario #173? The one in which she opens a charming B&B that becomes a smashing success and pays for itself and lets her stop having to hack for hire and instead hack write purely for fun?

Right brain is nothing if not imaginative…


There’s a long, long trail a-winding into the land of my dreams. 
                                                                ~ Stoddard King, Jr.

If you dream it, it will come?

There’s been a terrible mistake. I’m supposed to be living in a cottage surrounded by flowers. It’s as plain as day, right on my office wall.

Remember Richard Dreyfuss’ character in Close Encounters of the Third Kind? He obsessively builds his mound/mountain without really knowing why, until that eureka moment when he finds it in real life.

I like to think my cottage obsession is like that. That someday I’ll be moseying along, minding my own business, and come upon my dream cottage…for sale…cheap… and Mike and I will buy it and live out our days there. (OK, honey?)

It could happen, right? I’ve read many articles in my home & garden magazines that begin, “Well we weren’t even LOOKING for a house, but we came around the corner and there it was. We had to have it (even though we had to sell our current house, quit our jobs, move 3 states away, and spend $100K renovating it).”

 It could happen, right?    Yeah, right.

But I can envision it anyway — the chair here, table there, tiled fireplace, gardens all around.

In the meantime, like Richard, I keep trying to create my dream right where I am.

It’s not so bad, really. 

There are more far-fetched futures to dream about. (That place on the beach, for example.)

But on a day as glorious as this one — clear, sunny, just warm enough — even cottages in the air seem not only possible, but probable. I’ll just stumble onto it.

I know it.

 I have never had any other desire so strong, and so like to covetousness,
as that one which I have had always,
that I might be master at last of a small house and a large Garden.
                                       ~ Abraham Cowley, The Garden, 1666