Our Fairy Tales: ‘Cottage for Sale, Must be Moved’

Cottages for sale. $3,000 each. Must be moved. 

I imagine these cottages, all in a row. Waiting to be adopted. I wonder where they are.

Must be moved. I wonder how much it costs to move a building.

Thus begins one of my favorite books, my own personal fairy tale:  Cottage for Sale:  Must be Moved by Kate Whouley.

Fairy tales.

Don’t we all have our own? Whatever it is? Didn’t we all grow up with them? Cinderella. Snow White. The prince riding in on the white horse to save the day, to rescue us from the evil stepmother, or boss, or bullies. From the time we’re old enough to handle the remote – or even before – we’re raised to believe in magic and love and blah blah blah.

cottage for sale

My fairy tale is different.

See, it’s always been my fantasy to move a house. An old house. An old house that’s about to be razed, and needs saved. An old house with charm, character. An old house with stories and elaborately carved newel posts, with a huge porcelain farm sink and hardwood floors, with transom windows over the doors and a bay window and the original woodwork inside. The style of house has changed as I’ve gotten older; I used to dream only about Victorian homes – the gorgeous details, the tall ceilings, the whimsy and artistry. Now, it’s Craftsman-style houses that draw me in. The spacious floor plans and attention to detail – and the fact that while everyone wants a Victorian, almost no one seems to want my beloved Prairie Style homes.

But I thought I was totally crazy to want to do it – until I found Kate’s book.

Kate lives on Cape Cod, where houses are small, the Conservation Commission is strict (rightfully so), and space is at a premium. She loves her little corner of the Cape – the cranberry bog, the woodchuck who lives in the hill next to her house, the day lilies and daffodils and lilacs and trees and birds. But her house is tiny, and she has spent years wanting to expand, exploring every option. It seemed impossible – until she opened the Penny Saver one day, and saw the ad that changed it all.

Going mostly on faith, she embarks on a quest to purchase a cottage – the one in the very back, the one with the Mexican tiles in the kitchen and the little sliver of soap left on the sink – and move it to her property, and attach it to her house, creating a home. She has to navigate small-town bureaucracy, the logistics of actually moving a house – even a small one – dealing with plumbers, electricians, concrete guys, and others, and overcoming her own doubts and fears about the entire project along the way.

Kate’s is a story that resonates with me on several levels. Obviously, the entire house-moving idea appeals to me. If she can do it, so can I . . . someday. But it’s more than that. Her observations of the people around her, her interactions with them, are so warm and appealing that you really do want to move to the Cape just to be near them all. She is incredibly aware of her own motivations and fears, and has no hesitancy in putting them on the page. Her love for the land she owns, and the animals she shares it with (especially Egypt, the Cat-in-Charge), comes through loud and clear. Her writing style is a little different – it’s present tense, which I tend not to like, but in this case it works well.

I love this book. I read it at least once a year. When I start to feel down, when I lose yet another house to the bulldozer, when I look at my bank accounts and realize there’s nothing there . . . I go back to this book. Kate’s faith in the project is the only thing that carries her through it. Faith that the Conservation Commission will approve her requests – because she has to buy the cottage before she gets their approval. Faith that the cottage will fit on her property; faith that it can actually be put there. Faith that she can afford it, even though she’s self-employed and doesn’t precisely have a steady income. Faith that the project will come together, even when it seems things are at a standstill. Faith that it will all come together, just as she envisions it, even when no one else seems to think so:

“It isn’t hard for me to envision what the house will look like when it is finished, but as I receive visitors I realize that most of them do not see what I see. I give them the tour, tell them what wall will come down, what doors will be replaced, what the roof will look like . . . At some point, they invariably say to me, “What a lot of work!” . . . And these echoes of my neighbor’s remark tell me I am communicating process well enough, but I am not able to share the visuals that I carry with me in my mind’s eye. It is a lot of work, sure, but what I can already see motivates me, propels me forward.” (p. 161) 

Yes. My personal fairy tale. No matter what, Kate is determined to move this house in order to change her life for the better. And that really is what it’s all about, in the end – changing her life for the better. Creating space for more work, more family, maybe even someday a partner. Creating a home in which she can be who and what she is.

Creating a life.

Maybe that’s why this book resonates with me so much. It’s not about moving a house. It really is about creating a life for yourself, despite the naysayers, despite the difficulties.

A lesson that some of us probably need from time to time.

And that, really, is my personal fairy tale.

 

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Rescuing Kites

Gosh, I can’t believe it’s been six weeks since my last blog post! OMG.

In my defense, I was working on rewrites to two novels, classes started two weeks ago, and I’ve been taking care of various sick kitties and family members. (I prefer the kitties.)

I also rescued this:

kite 3

Last Saturday, I went to my favorite haunt, College Hill Coffee, to write for a couple of hours. As I walked outside, I saw a bird standing in the next street. He was small – I thought at first maybe a pigeon or a collared dove. But his long tail told me he wasn’t either of those things.

As I approached, he watched me, but other than moving a few steps away, didn’t offer much in the way of fear or even wariness. Which worried me, of course. I didn’t see any obvious injuries, but he also wasn’t flying away. And he was in the middle of a rather busy street. So I grabbed a towel from my car (yes, I keep towels in my car for emergencies EXACTLY like this!), draped it over him, and VERY carefully, wrapped him up. (I’ve done this before, yes – cover the eyes, and they are less likely to struggle or be afraid.)

Not a cheep. Not a struggle. Nothing. I called my vet. He answered. I explained the situation – at the time, I thought what I had was a young hawk. YES, he could meet me at the clinic – was 15 minutes too soon? Nope! Not at all. I think I may have gotten him out of something he didn’t want to be doing, to be honest . . . so, Birdie and I got in the car and took off. I was glad no one stopped me. I don’t know how I would have explained that I had a wild bird wrapped up in a towel on my lap. I mean, it sounds totally logical to me, but I’m not sure how logical it would seem to anyone else.

Now, we know that Buckbeak is a Mississippi Kite. They are among the smallest of the raptors, and Buckbeak is a juvenile, probably less than 8 weeks old, because at 8 weeks, they begin to change color and go grey. He was very weak and dehydrated when I found him, and also had two broken bones in one wing. Everyone at the clinic has fallen in love with him; he has a large area in which to move and chase his bugs (he won’t eat anything dead, they tell me), and we are hoping he will heal well enough to be released. However, as you can tell, he’s becoming quite trusting and is a total camera hog! I am hoping that if he can’t be released, we can find him a program where he could be a a educational bird.

kite 1