Wednesday, July 24, 2013

From house to studio?

When I decided to move back to Montana, I thought I would rent a 3 bedroom place. Anything less seemed....less!  I scheduled a visit to Missoula to finalize plans.  On my first day there, my friend M was showing me the basement space they renovated several years ago into a large studio apartment. 700 sf of open concept with a gorgeous fireplace, oversized window, compact kitchen, nicely sized bathroom. I have always admired the space and I laughingly remarked that she needed to toss her tenant out so that I could live there.  To my amazement, her tenant had that very day told them that she wanted to move closer to her son and his new wife, and would she be able to find someone who could step right into her lease. Was that a sign?  Did the tenant really make that decision at the exact time I arrived so that I could move in? Would it be that easy?  As it turns out, no, it wouldn't be. 

When I first considered the move to the studio, my immediate thought was can I live in a space that small?  Without doors?  Without walls??? What will I do with all of my stuff?  I have not only boxes and boxes of my own possessions, but the remainder of what my kids did not take with them when they left. My daughter, that amazingly practical and logical woman, suggested that this might be the perfect time to get rid of a lot of the stuff I have been dragging from state to state.  She pointed out that unless forced to do so, I will never sort thru the boxes upon boxes of extremely important items to see just how extremely important they actually are.  She knows me too well. The Plan Step 1...reduce, reduce, reduce.

The Plan Step 2:  Organize, organize, organize.  It occurred to me that I could not possibly be the only person on the planet who is downsizing right now, and in fact a Google search revealed many, many others who are making very similar journeys for a variety of reasons.  The trick, apparently, is in managing the space itself, organizing it in such a way as to take advantage of every nook and cranny, making sure that anything brought into the space has a purpose. There are dozens of sites in support of life in smaller spaces, some of them much smaller than the one I was considering, offering tips and opinions on everything from multiple use furniture (everyone agrees with the need for this) to room dividers (opinions vary here...some say an enthusiastic yes, others a definite no). All of them agree on one point...the importance of keeping the home neat and organized. Armed with this knowledge, and with The Plan firmly in mind, I began mentally assessing and arranging furniture, stocking the kitchen cabinets, choosing the perfect paint colors to set off the various areas where I would work, sleep, cook and enjoy media (that sounds much better than 'watching tv').  I was excited by the challenges inherent in downsizing, determined that my studio apartment would be the very model of efficiency and style!

Do I even need to say what can happen to the best laid plans?  After packing off my belongings to a facility where they will be stored for the next 30 days, and driving to Missoula with a car filled with a month's worth of clothes, my dog and an inflatable mattress, I arrived to find that the tenant has delayed her move for at least 6 months! Now I am faced with a dilemma.  Do I go forward with plans for a studio apartment, even though it won't be this studio apartment?  Will another apartment be as charming as this snug little basement space with its big sunny window and cozy fireplace?  Or is this a cosmic sign that I shouldn't live in a much smaller space?

As my daughter texted me in response to my tale of woes...time for Plan B! 


Monday, July 8, 2013

Camping by the Blackfoot River

My friends M and D are inveterate campers.  They search out and usually find the perfect out of the way campsite in which to pitch their tent and park their camp trailer and raft.  When you go camping with them, you know three things: water will be close by, dogs will be welcome and the meals will be at least as good, if not better, than the ones they prepare at home.  No Girl Scout Tacos for them!  Dinner might be steak, sweet potatoes and corn on the cob, or spaghetti, garlic bread and salad. And wine...lots of good wine.  D is of the opinion that if he can't eat better than he eats at home, then what is the point?  I concur. So when they ask me if I want to join them on their camping trips, I say long as I don't have to sleep in a tent, float the river or skip showering.

I am not a great overnight camper.  As I get older I have to get up during the night way too many times to be comfortable sleeping in a tent, where you have to plan far in advance before making the trek down to the concrete block enclosed loo or sewey hole, as my son used to call it. I also am way too fond of showering with hot water everyday to relish the thought of skipping one or two days on purpose.  But I will cheerfully drive up in the morning to enjoy a day of camping, so long as I get to drive home that night to sleep in my own bed. Fortunately my friends are fine with this and even take advantage of my coming late to the party by asking me to bring things they have either forgotten or didn't know that they needed.  This past week, when I joined them at their camp next to the Blackfoot River,  I brought a gallon Ziploc bag of dog food, mustard, and two bottles of white, one red.  In turn, I texted a person coming even later to bring ice. 

I love camping by a river. I love the sound of it, the sight of it, the vibrancy of the rapidly rushing body of water bearing rafts, canoes, and inner tubes full of other people.  Emphasis on the other people. I decided years ago that my enjoyment of bodies of water was best done from the shore. Canoeing as part of camping is something I did when my kids were little and have little desire to repeat.  The whole carrying the canoe over my head while dragging a cooler on wheels behind me in 100 degree weather, was too much like work and not anywhere close to fun. An incident with a large boulder followed by a liberal application of duct tape to the canoe, cemented my decision.  Ah, but sitting on a canvas chair under a canopy of pine branches, beside a gurgling, frothy river, a cooler within reach filled with locally crafted beer and Moscato, watching a chipmunk sneak past a snoring dog to snatch a nugget of Kibble, counting down the hours until it is cool enough to start a fire...that, my friends, is a little bit of heaven. To enjoy all of that with good friends is simply priceless.


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Quick Visit to Missoula MT

Now that I am moving back to Montana, I had to take a quick trip to retrieve my car from my son, who had driven it up when he moved about a month ago, and to find a place to live.  While there, in between reacquainting myself with the city, I manage to squeeze in an early morning walk with my friend's dog, Lady, a sampling of the new locally crafted gin, and a camping trip. 

The first day and a half was spent settling into my friend M's guest room, fetching my car, taking my son shopping ('cause that's what moms do) and driving around to see what had been built, torn down or otherwise changed in the 2 years since I lived there.   On the 3rd day, I ventured out for a brisk walk to Rattlesnake Creek.  My friends were clever enough upon moving to Missoula over 25 years ago, to choose a house within walking distance of a creek and Greenough Park.  They have had a succession of nature loving dogs over the years, the current of which is Lady, an 80 lb mix of retriever, hound and maybe a little pit.  She has one blue eye and one brown eye and is so light on her feet you barely hear her walk.  I wasn't the only one to venture out on that sunny morning, passing moms with kids, a dad running with a baby stroller, several bikers and at least 3 other people and their canine companions.  Lady is the perfect walking companion, eager to run on ahead, but remaining within eyesight.  She came when she was called, stood beside me to politely let the bikers pass, and did nothing more than give the approaching dogs a tail wag and brief sniff.  When a lady came within shouting distance with an overly bouncy dog, straining at the leash and trying to dance around us (the dog, not the lady), doggy Lady didn't even mind my putting the leash temporarily on her.  After the human lady and the bouncy dog had passed, I quickly took the leash off, apologizing into her mismatched, but incredibly soulful eyes, promising not to make her suffer that indignity again. 
As anyone who has ever gone on a walk with a dog can attest, you tire long before the dog does.  Lady could have done her dancing walk twice around the city, but I was ready to call it a morning after I had crossed the bridge and admired the creek. Clearly that is something I will have to work on if I am to gain Lady's respect, not to mention getting her to agree to accompany me on other walks.  I would be chagrined if, the next time I offered to have her take me to the park, she politely turned up her doggy nose.  I can hear her now... "Are you going further than the bridge?  No?  Then no thank you,  I would rather take a nap." She is clearly a well brought up young lady. 

There are those places at which you have only to point a camera to capture gorgeous scenery. Vermont, where I vacationed last Fall, is that way.  So is Montana. On any given day, you can find a deer grazing in your yard, a hawk sweeping over a river, a mountain turning pink from the setting sun. All you have to do is point your camera, or in my case, your phone, and you can bring all of that nature home with you.  I am so excited to know that within a few short weeks, I'll be back in Missoula full time for, hopefully, more than a few years. 

Next time: Missoula's very own gin and vodka distillery, and camping on the Blackfoot River.