If not now, when?

One American woman. Twenty acres and a 1650 farmhouse in Tuscany. Random introspection and hilarity, depending on the day.

30 December 2006

The Chameleon Mouse ponders her nest

Yes, kids, it's time for another adventure of the Chameleon Mouse! So settle in with a glass of something that makes you happy to drink, and sip away while we check in with our heroine. When we left her last, she was pondering what would be on the other side of that impending calendar page-turning. And as you all know, sometimes looking back can help you to look forward:

... 650 square feet, is what it was. The 'garden' apartment (read: half-basement) in a victorian row house in Washington, DC. (Barely out of shrapnel-scatter distance from the White House, she joked.) With original wooden floors, a teensy tiny (mouse-sized!) fireplace and fantabulous dentil molding, coated with years worth of paint and stories. It was a stopping point, a time-biding rental halfway between the suburban planned-community condo (that she had sold when the market was on the upswing) and the swanky urban loft with a floating bedroom and 12' ceilings and a full glass wall overlooking the hip urban restaurant district.

For two years, our mouse lived in that garden-basement, and planned every detail of that new condo: picked out the granite countertops, the slate tile in the glass-half-walled shower, the track lighting to showcase the artwork just-so on the walls, paid extra for the bamboo floor in the bedroom.

And yet, a different adventure pulled her away. By the time she closed on the swanky urban new-build condo that she had waited 2 1/2 years for ... her life was 5,000 miles away on a Tuscan hilltop. Not because it had always been her dream ... but rather, opportunity had knocked, and she answered.

The city mouse became a country mouse, almost overnight. And the house she lives in today, 350 years old, is a lifetime away from the swanky urban condo that she actually owns. And our chameleon is strangely comfortable in both. Two major moves in five years: suburbia to urban, urban to rural... during which our mouse's life has whittled itself down to only thirteen boxes. And it is fascinating that so many of the things that were in those boxes coming from the US to Italy will not be the same things that leave here. No, these 20 months have changed our mouse, irretrievably.

A glance around the farmhouse today reveals much about her character:

Utilitarian and well-made cooking implements, close at hand in a kitchen made to cook in. Pots and pans hanging from the ceiling, collections of graters and knives, wooden spoons and cutting boards at the ready.

Expensive, luxurious bedsheets and giant, plush bathtowels.

A small but meaningful collection of books.

Black and white photography and etchings, of places she has traveled.

Boxes and boxes of spare wine glasses and candles; running out of either is tantamount to sacrilege.

Photographs of friends; memories of laughter and experiences and a slightly-disturbing chronology of a lifetime of hairstyles.

Her accessory weaknesses: a few too many pairs of strappy shoes, silver bracelets, and an ever-growing collection of Italian scarves.

Seven pairs of garden and work gloves, and two pairs of workboots.

Bagfuls of suits and 'fussy corporate clothes' and handbags of varying colors, ready to be donated to friends or charity.

An entire shelf of travel maps and guidebooks, two computers.

Yes, a glance around this farmhouse reveals that our chameleon mouse has almost gotten her life down to a size sufficient that she could toss it in a knapsack on a moment's notice and hit the road with it: today, she owns just the things that really matter. We all know that too much baggage prevents mice - particularly of the chameleon variety - from being able to jump when life beckons.

And as she sits, staring at 2007 on the calendar ... she ponders the concept of home:

'home is not a place, it is people.' (L.M. Bujold)

'wherever I lay my hat, that's my home.' (Marvin Gaye) (Paul Young)

'home is where the heart is' (general wisdom)

And she straightens up and looks closely and carefully at her reflection in the antique mirror. When it comes right down to it, her clear, starburst-flecked green eyes cannot lie to her.

Riddle me this, Mouse: If you don't want to be the type of mouse that's always on the roam... then is your hat today really laid where your heart is?



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thirteen boxes are alot better than the (count them) 400 boxes we moved to California this month. Most of this will be donated as we unpack. 27 years of "stuff".

1:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thirteen boxes.......you are my hero..........I'm planning my move to Tuscany on a lot less......the largest of which will be the boxes containing my desktop, 20" flat panel digital monitor, computer accessories..........then of course I cannot possibly leave my down comforter and pillows.......HELP......I'm open to advise!


2:08 AM  

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