Goodbye, Mountain Home by L. B. Smith

The Guest Room
Musings, Memories & Epiphanies Inspired by Place

Goodbye, Mountain Home
By L. B. Smith

We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned,
so as to accept the life that is waiting for us.
Joseph Campbell, 1904–1987

Sitting in the master suite of our trail-side condo, I am simultaneously relaxed and perplexed that I must say goodbye to my mountain home. It is so quiet here that with the sliding glass door open to the wooden deck, I can hear the birch leaves twitter as the breeze gently pushes tiny ripples across the surface of the pond.

Living RoomThe bedroom looks and feels divine: woodsy and comfortable. I have recently redecorated it with advice from HGTV’s “Designed to Sell,” and now must face the truth. I don’t want to sell it. It is an oasis, a place to return to between rental seasons, to change the sheets and dream, uninterrupted; to give my ringing ears a break from loud teenage music in our suburban kitchen.

How bittersweet it is to be in a restful place that I, myself, have designed to sell. Seeking exercise to lift my mood, I hike down to the refurbished hotel, stop to admire the brightly lit faux-antler chandelier, and see scads of fit visitors with smiles on their faces and nothing on their to-do lists but the 50-mile ultramarathon being held tomorrow. I sneak a glimpse as a golden couple kiss beneath the antlers. Maybe someday l’ll spend more time here and be in really great shape, I muse while watching the alpaca graze up on the hill. But then I remember that I am now 50, and while the age-group competition is less intense, the aches and pains increase.

Deep in such belly gazing, I ponder resentment. I love it here like my husband loves our boat, a major entertainment cost in our modest budget, wisely cut in half by co-ownership. Lest the reader get the wrong impression, the boat is a scrappy tub and the condo was always intended to be an investment to help pay for college tuitions, while providing a safe, fun place to retreat. The Al Qaida Discount, we brazenly called it, when telling the story of how shortly after 9/11, we sunk our savings and future inheritance into an affordable 3-bed, 3-bath unit with cathedral ceilings, a fireplace and skylights.

A few years later, listening to NPR’s “All Things Considered,” I heard about new financial instruments that allowed people to buy homes with no money down. I remember figuring that someone in Washington must be looking into who was going to pay for all that debt. Well, as it turned out, we did–with the loss of a bread-winning job in the crash of 2009; the sale of our home; and now the listing of our nest egg.

Chairlift on mountain in VermontI need to concede that the condo became more than a nest egg; the site of wintry memories and future daydreams. The sweetest pleasure in life was waking up here to ski the backyard on a season’s pass, never dividing the cost of a day ticket by the number of runs. The high-speed chairlift went in the year we bought the unit, and the mountain became a mecca for the finest downhill and telemark skiers around. Old-style trails wound around, every pitch different and renamed by our family: Gateway became Nightmare; Raven’s Pass, the Chute. Deep powder provided passage through the woods. We criss-crossed tracks near the edges of trails, and admired the helixes as we rode to the summit.

And then, arriving at a precipice: the views of fields and forests, red barns, a Bavarian bell tower; the white church spire and old burial ground on the hill. I once imagined being laid to rest there, giving our descendants a mountain-view blessing as they wandered among the dignified obelisks with fanciful polished spheres. I guess I’ll wind up in our crowded suburb’s cemetery, sandwiched between two non-stop busy routes.

Mountain HomeDo I tell my husband of this change of heart? That I just don’t want to sell, now that the condo is ready for the market – sublime, parfait? Even as the ski area remains in foreclosure for the second year in a row, the third time in its history due to economic downturns? As rumors pass uneasily among the owners of the chairlift being sold and dismantled, carted off by helicopter? When we will be lucky to get out of it what we put in?

I refuse to be consumed by self-pity and will spare my husband the dithering. It is time for this existential bliss to be transformed into (a fraction of) college room and board. This is what I will hold onto as I practice non-attachment from my rustic muse, inspired by the purple light deepening over the range, on a bed so smartly dressed in fine linens.

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9 thoughts on “Goodbye, Mountain Home by L. B. Smith”

  1. Laura – this is a beautiful story about the wonders and peacefulness of Vermont. There is a tranquility and simpleness about this wonderful state that is so hard to describe unless you experience it first hand. My relatives often tell me I live in paradise – Vermont is paradise in so many ways! Mind, body, and soul. You will be back – I am sure of it! LP

    1. Laura,
      Thanks for your kind words of support!
      Mainers say their state is ‘life the way it should be’; Montanan’s say their state is ‘the last best place.’
      I know you would agree, Vermont is heaven on earth!

  2. Laura,
    What a lovely message you’ve written. I’m glad that Phil and I had the chance to see it several years ago as it helps me understand your thoughts. It truly is a retreat for you as the boat is for Fran. Yet with college expenses looming in the near future, I do hope you can find a buyer. And one that will appreciate it as much as you do. Love, Julie

    1. Julie,
      The piece is a gift to me from Meg Pier; a permanent recollection in cyberspace!
      I’m sure the next owner will love it too…how could they not?!
      Love, Laura

  3. Wow, that’s a great piece. Laura. You’re such an accomplished writer. I’m sorry you have to give the condo up, but luckily there’ll be many other pieces/places of bliss in your life, I’m sure.
    Love, love, love, Jen

    1. Bliss comes from within! And from the love of a sister like you.
      Merry Xmas, that time once a year that seems to come around faster and faster, like that carnival ride, the …
      I was just telling a friend this weekend how you always sign your messages
      Love, love, love.
      That’s forever.

  4. Laura,

    The ache in this piece makes my heart hurt, and at the same you time make me want to head right up and see your retreat from the world. Beautiful writing.

  5. Oh, Margaret–
    The good thing is, the ache is gone! lol
    Writing can be such cheap therapy.
    Thank you for your guidance along the way!

  6. You are a beautiful writer, Laura. You always capture life’s conflicts so succinctly and identify the personal feelings we all experience so well. Moving on from such a sanctuary is painful but, as always, we fill our lives almost as fast as we empty them. Peace.

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