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There was a maple-tree-lined path leading from our backyard to the lake in the park at the bottom of our land. Every winter, local people would tap our trees for syrup. They’d been doing it for generations and weren’t about to ask us for permission. Ditto the kids on three-wheelers who used to fly down the path and across our lawn. One day they startled themselves (and Art and me) because Art was sunbathing naked, right in their trajectory.
Hey, wait a second, Art shouted at the kids, waving his arms, shirt tied around his waist for modesty. Do you think you could limit your treks through our property to every day but Sunday and Monday? The red-faced kids nodded their agreement.
Most of the time, our property and the park were peaceful and silent, except for the rushing sound of the wind in the trees and the chattering of birds. We might have been the only two people in the world drifting in our rowboat on the lake, Art’s head on one end, mine at the other. Or sitting on our deck watching the sun set over the mountains, strolling down the road pointing out fireflies, Art the nudist, walking gloriously naked, me, fully clothed, walking beside him in my tight leggings and oversized tank top, holding a towel, just in case.
No matter what we did, Art and I just couldn’t seem to dig ourselves out of the money pit we’d dug for ourselves. My measly credit line was long gone, and we’d moved on to spending down Art’s substantial credit line. Two bankruptcies later, we were free of any unsecured debt, but minus any savings, pension, or financial cushion.
We’re gonna lose everything if we don’t sell the house now, Art said to me. He fully understood how much his words would upset me, but he couldn’t see any other way out.
Wait—what? We’d been living in Maplecrest for less than three years by that time. For all of my adult life, I’d been searching for that elusive place called home, dreaming of endless corridors of rooms within rooms, night after night—until the dreams suddenly stopped when Art and I moved into our home in Maplecrest—our little piece of heaven, this side of hell. I was not only horrified by Art’s words, I was pissed off. I wanted to ask him if he thought he was fucking Chicken Little or something—but there are certain things you just don’t say in a good marriage, no matter what.
What I did say was, We left our kids to move here. It’s our home. We can’t sell it.
We have to Love. The structure of the house is crumbling, it’s just a matter of when. You can see daylight between the stones in the foundation.
This was true. Though the land the house sat on resembled paradise—the house itself was in real danger of collapsing. In the wintertime, to keep the pipes from freezing, each night I donned the mantle of a pioneer woman, went down to the basement, lit four or five strategically placed kerosene heaters, and emptied a few cans of spray foam to fill some of the gaping holes in the foundation.
Art continued to pummel me with facts. I’m afraid the first floor is gonna fall into the basement.
It was a reasonable fear. There were multiple pump jacks jammed between the rocky dirt floor of the basement and the ancient beams, visibly bowing under close to two centuries of weight.
The house is in shit shape, and we can’t afford to fix it. Art had made his point, and then some.
I know you’re right, I finally said. But it’s fucking hard to let go.
Our home in Maplecrest sold almost as soon as we listed it.
What do you think about that house? Art asked me. We were walking down Main Street, Catskill toward the park, when we happened to see a tiny white clapboard house on about a third of an acre with a for sale sign hanging from the railing of the old-fashioned front porch.
It’s charming, he said, peering around the back of the house. And look, it has a creek view.
It does, I said, turning my back on the view of the creek, that was, admittedly, lovely. I pointed at the house across the street which was a blackened monstrosity of a burned-out building. The view in the front is a bit less appealing.
Obviously, Art could see the burned-out building directly across the street, but he was overlooking it, in an effort to stay positive. That’ll bring the price down. Let’s buy it!
I was so depressed at the idea of losing our dream house, that it didn’t matter to me where else we might live. Okay, I sighed, let’s do it.
Everything happened quickly after that. We were able to purchase the little house in Catskill for exactly the thirty-five thousand dollars we had left over after the sale of our home in Maplecrest, once we paid off the bank. So there would be two cash sales, back-to-back—and we would finally be living within our means.
We were just about to move, everything was packed and the closings were days away. I was sitting in the back office of our shop when I got a call from Christine, a customer who lived in Hensonville, a tiny town with a single row of stores, five miles away from our home in Maplecrest.
I’ve been calling everyone I know in the area, Christine said. I found a dog wandering around town—a female. Looks like a small shepherd mutt? Black and tan … umm … Seems like a nice dog, well-nourished, but kinda smelly.
That would be Bear, I said, laughing at the smelly part of her description. Put her back where you found her, she knows her way home.
Christine called me back about twenty minutes later, obviously crying. I went to get your dog from my friend’s kennel. She was in a six-foot-by-six-foot enclosure with a six-foot-high fence. No dog has ever escaped from this kennel. I firmly insisted that she stop crying long enough to give me the address—which was at least ten miles from anywhere Bear had ever been.
Art and I closed our shop immediately and drove to the kennel. By the time we got there, it was not only full dark, it was pouring icy rain and thundering—Bear’s perfect nightmare combination. For hours we drove slowly down one dark road after another, with the truck windows rolled all the way down, shouting out, Bear, Bay-ar, both of us soaking wet, freezing cold, and crying.
What if we can’t find her before we move? I said, and Art jerked the wheel, turned the truck around, and slowly drove down the same empty roads one more time.
We both finally admitted it was a hopeless search, and headed home to Maplecrest, where we found Bear-the-dog waiting for us in the driveway, sheepishly wagging her tail.
Thump, thump, thump was the sound of Bear’s tail when we would walk by her, even when she seemed to be in a sound sleep.
Maplecrest may have been the only physical piece of the world I had ever called home, but looking back, I finally realize what Art always understood—Art was my home. He was the only home I ever needed.
Adapted from LOSING ART, a memoir by Patricia Feinman
Patricia Feinman is a writer and visual artist. Her sculpture explores the play between the use of universal symbols culled from Greek and Christian mythology and the archetypes of her own unconscious; expressing such themes as: birth, love, sex and death. To see more of Patricia’s work, please visit patriciafeinman.com She lives in the Catskill Mountains with two large dogs. Six excerpts from LOSING ART, a memoir, have been published in: Mayday Magazine, Wilderness House Literary Review, The Dillydoun Review, Minerva Rising, New Mexico Review and The North Dakota Quarterly.