It is an expression Handsome Chef Boyfriend uses when he trudges up the back steps to my place and throws open the door for a visit, chiding me for waste. The loft is beautiful, full of volume and warmth with its cheerful yellow walls we painted when I moved in. It was a soft spot to land after my first Vermont winter in an overpriced cottage with no insulation, where I could see my breath inside with the heat on. Clarence-the-Canine spent his twilight months here, happily, I think, and is buried on the property. The jaw-dropping beauty of the surrounding acreage is not lost on me, even though more than a year into this particular chapter of my Vermont adventure I’ve only explored the teeniest bit of it–the impressive network of trails on this land is difficult to reach in winter without equipment.
I like my home lit up at night because I have an issue with my vision which makes it challenging for me to see well without plenty of light. I will always have bright lights where I live, unapologetically. And somehow the lighting makes the place feel less empty in the absence of Clarence’s tail-wagging love, when I must occupy the space alone. But after a short winter day that is relatively bereft of light, it is also essential, elemental.
As is my Christmas tree, which rode home shotgun with my son when we went to pick him up from the bus station for his holiday visit–he made it very clear in the days before his arrival that we must have a tree. Last year I did not have one at all. Last year I did not even bring my Christmas stuff upstairs from the garage. I had no Christmas music, no Christmas stories (you can see the stack of them in the photo, on the right), no decorations of any kind, because I was too busy chasing my tail, trying to make ends meet.
I thought this year would be better, and then it got exponentially worse, without warning.
Winter arrived suddenly, or so it seemed; I felt myself flagging after a storm took out power for a few days. I felt cut off from the world (even if this was not really so) and began to lose the resolve that I dragged a thousand miles with me from Tennessee. More than once I told myself, and others, I can’t do this anymore. It was not any single thing–being isolated, or the biting cold, or dealing with an impassable and dangerous driveway, or barely making ends meet: it was the sum total of these things that felt insurmountable, and just plain stupid.
And at this really low point, where I questioned almost every single decision I’d made in my adult life, there was an unexpected rip in the atmosphere, like a piece of long misplaced sinew finally sliding over bone and settling once more where it belongs. And things were better, really better.
Soon I will say goodbye to the loft, and its land, and to Clarence-the-Canine for a final time. I will start a new job and a new life with my Handsome Chef Boyfriend, under the same roof. Finally.
There is no paradise, said a wise person. I know this to be the truth, but I am still lit up like a Christmas tree.