Last May 31, our second tenant moved out of our home in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. We’d been renting it for 6 years, and now we had a decision to make. Do we find a third tenant, or sell?
Having tenants was stressful. In the mountains, home maintenance is different than in the city. As a landlord, you have to trust that fire safety standards will be kept (grass kept low, trees cleared of all undergrowth, cigarettes smoked indoors only, no open grilling), that wildlife will be discouraged (cars locked at night and kept clear of any food or food wrappers, garbage sealed and kept inside until garbage day, no woodpiles near the house, the kitchen swept clean and the counters kept free from crumbs), that propane levels will be maintained so that the house can be heated through the entire winter with no interruption (a lesson Kevin and I learned the hard way the first year we lived in the mountains), that the driveway will be shoveled or plowed, that interactions with neighbors in this small town where everyone knows everyone else’s business will be cordial. There are no guarantees. Money is taken from strangers every month, and you just cross your fingers that your house will still be there when the lease is up.
After many lengthy conversations and heart searching, Kevin and I went back to Colorado with the intention to sign a contract with the real estate agent who also happened to be the man who managed our property while we were renting. I set up an appointment to meet David the morning after we arrived, and he arranged for another local man to join us to survey the house and give us an estimate on what it would cost to get it ready to sell.
We landed in Denver on a Sunday and picked up our rental car. During the last half hour up the winding road through a narrow canyon in the Front Range to our town, a small, tight community of 250 people, we rolled down windows to breathe the sweet June air and listen to the flowing creek.
The arrival into town is announced with a stop sign and a huge wooden notice to beware of bears. We inched slowly down the dirt road, as all conscientious town residents do, weaving around a small pack of off-leash dogs sniffing curiously at our windows, not wanting to kick up dust. The feel of the tires on the dirt road; the same wooden sign in front of the old Café; the same crew of retirees and drifters playing horseshoes in the park; the same endless flow of bicyclists in fragile spandex with too much trust in their helmets made it all feel like we’d only been gone for a few months, not six years. Once at the house, we remained silent as we got out of the car. Looking up at the pale grey walls of our home bouncing the sun’s rays back at me with intensity, I felt like we were making a huge mistake. Remembering the joy of the garden, bare feet on flagstones, friendly neighbors, made the thought of selling a pressure on my chest that brought tears to my eyes. Kevin, always one for rational decisions, was relieved by my reaction and more than happy to let my heart take over. We would keep the house.
The next morning as scheduled, David and his handyman stopped by. We sheepishly told them the news, apologizing for not calling them ahead of time – a courtesy we were unable to complete as there was no cellular service at the house, and no land line. Their response was to laugh and shrug. The deck still needed painting and resealing, so it wasn’t a bust for the handyman, and David’s property management services would be retained for a couple more months until I could get back and take over in person.
I drove out of San Francisco early last Sunday morning with a hangover, my Chihuahua, a suitcase full of clothes, a vacuum cleaner, two boxes of books, three boxes of dishes, a guitar, knitting supplies, and a utility knife in my purse. Today marks one week, and I’m just now starting to get used to the high elevation. Even so, I can still feel my heart pounding in my neck as I walk up the hill from the Mercantile Cafe where I can get internet service to the house set precariously on the edge of a canyon at 7800 feet. My plan is to stay here through the winter and write the third novel of the series I created. This fall, I’ll be clearing the yard for fire mitigation and making everything cozy.
It’s isolated here. It’s quiet. Soon, the nights will be long and the days will be cold. My hope is that this will be a perfect place to weave stories of witches and warriors.
Yesterday, I ran into Jon, the owner of the internet service here in town, who uses our house as a hub to bounce signal across the canyon to the houses on the other side. His long beard is gone. I almost didn’t recognize him. He swears this week he’ll wander up the dirt road with his backpack full of electronics and get my place hooked up. So, soon, I’ll be able to keep everyone updated on my progress in the wilderness.
As of today, 0 progress on the book. Lots of progress on the yardwork.
Currently reading: Sharpe’s Gold by Bernard Cornwall, Rough Beauty: Forty Seasons of Mountain Living, by Karen Auvinen.