Teri Orr: Disaster and delight
It was the F-2-ing that came first. I was woken up by a piercing noise – not quite a smoke detector sound but annoying and beeping nonetheless. I walked downstairs bleary-eyed, toward the sound. It was the computer panel — blinking F-2 and emitting that beeping. I turned off the panel and told myself the extended years of life support had ended.
I knew in my heart the stove was dead. “F-2 to you too!” I hissed at the stove in an unkind benediction.
Two of the burners had failed in each of the glass top panels in the summer. I knew they would need to be replaced soonish, but I live alone. I wasn’t cooking any holiday meals for … Halloween. It could wait. I could wait.
After spending far too many hours (maybe three) in Home Depot and Lowe’s and online, I ordered a new stove. After nothing but electric for nearly 40 years I went with gas to get the stove with the features I wanted — that fit in my tiny slide-in dollhouse-size space. I was going to be gone for ten days and I asked a friend who helps me with repairs and stuff to take a look at a few things around the house. And he did — when he discovered the warped floor boards I had ignored and the puckered paint behind the curtain from the ice jam last winter. Painting and new floors can no longer be ignored.
Sometime in my travels — I discovered when I returned home again, I had broken my back-up reading glasses — across the bridge — in half. I discovered this when I went find those back-up glasses because my regular reading glasses had unscrewed a side piece and liberated it. I had the monocle/opera glass look going on.
When I backed out of the garage I decapitated my antenna box on the roof of my car.
Limited now to a microwave I have used perhaps half a dozen times a year to reheat my tea, I heated up canned soup a couple of nights for dinner. Then I had some fancy soup from Whole Foods that came in a pouch. I would have boiled it on the stove, of course, to get warm. But without a burner because I had no stove, I simply tore open the package and poured it an a bowl and stuck it in the microwave. It was not intended to be heated that way. When I returned from watching the tiniest piece of the news — I saw the soup had somehow exploded inside the glass space. I considered this collateral damage to be able to eat under these conditions. So I started to search for crackers.
Because the gas guy had to add a pipe and connected the line to where the new stove will be, we had to move all the foodstuffs out of the pantry where the crawl space is under. So I strolled to the living room to find the crackers — as you do — and in the new normal, I pulled them out of the box and sat on the arm of the couch where a bunch of framed artwork was stacked because of the painting now taking place.
The damaged carpeting will also be torn up and replaced, finally, with dark wood floors. I blame Africa for this. After returning from my first ever trip there this summer, I looked around my home of many colors and my stuff, and thought good lord! how have I lived like this for so many years?
I have given away bags of clothes. Thrown away piles of paper-related things. I am evaluating the continued service of every piece of furniture in my home — most are antiques and have been with me since my twenties. Which was a very, very long time ago.
I have a need to not need so much.
Once the pictures were removed from the walls — during the painting prep process — they all looked wrong. The warm white walls are radically different from the former pink and green ones. Those things that I framed that told stories of my past are not are not all friendly ghosts. Some are passive and dated of course. And some are cherished moments of a trip. In fact, anything that seems to be making the cut appears to represent an adventure.
For the past 20 years there have been more adventures for me than all the rest of my years combined. My life has been kinda upside down from most people. When I was younger I was raising babies and running a business. When the kids left home I started leaving too. Sometimes for a weekend in the desert. Sometimes for meandering trip up north. And sometimes with no destination in mind whatsoever.
But be it ever so humble I do love my crazy tiny home. It is safe and warm and dry and I have fabulous neighbors and a yard and a porch and windows that let in light and have views of the mountains that surround us. I know there are folks who would have taken earmarked resources and made all the home repairs over time and managed their choices with professional help and solid intentions.
But my life just never follows a playbook. And when the universe gangs up and says “Pay Attention,” that’s seems to be when things change in my life. And while I find all this annoying to do at once and far more expensive than I had any plans for — in the next five years — it is a bit like looking at a map in a National Park — You Are Here. And Here — is a place with adventures ahead and a home base that is becoming more reflective of my heart, each crazy unpredictable day. Including this very Sunday in the Park…
Teri Orr is a former editor of The Park Record. She is the director of the Park City Institute, which provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts.
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“They were here in Park City, Utah, and they were seeing the stars at night in their big sky natural habitat and that was remarkable.”