Friday, February 06, 2009

The geography of the middle-aged mind

Trev and I are having one of our recurrent discussions on buying a place "in the country." The immediate trigger this time is probably the economy. Since we're both currently working, we suddenly feel very rich, and inclined to prey upon desperate souls forced to give up their homes "in the country" for bargain prices. The discussion goes something like this. I'll leave you to guess the speakers' identities, although, to a large extent, they are interchangeable.

X (looking at This is a great deal. We should buy this (pointing to large, tilting structure with no windows on 30 acres outside of Susanville).
Y: Why aren't there windows?
X: Maybe that's not the actual house.
Y: Then why's there a picture of it?
X: We could put solar panels on it, and great big windows.
Y: But that would be hard.
X: True.
Y: What would we do for a living out there?
X: Grow quinoa on the 30 acres and sell it.
Y: But that would be hard.
X: True.
Y: Maybe we should live in the city.
X: That might be cool.
Y: Here's a great place right by 280.
X: That would be noisy.
Y: True.

And so here we stay, in a condo on the Peninsula, between house and apartment, between country and city, in one of a series of side-by-side towns that owe their existence to a railroad. Our walls are eggshell; our kitchen counters still covered in the fake butcher-block veneer that I vowed we would get rid of if we did absolutely nothing else to the place. The tiles in the bathroom remain old-lady pink. What's the point of remodeling? We won't be here forever, and the next owner will want to redo everything anyway. Why throw money literally down the drain? Or maybe we just don't care. Remodeling's not our thing. What is our thing? Do we have to have a thing? Is this it?

We have been here for almost exactly five years. Are all these signs of transition a smokescreen for permanence? Do we like it here? Are we stuck or settled? Are we ambivalent or content? Is happiness simply making peace with ambiguity? Or is that giving up?

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