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OK. But believe it or not, Saint-Tropez itself once looked just like this. It’s a start!

We end the year 2009 doing what we’ve been wanting to do since we bought this little piece of watery paradise in North Carolina last February: clearing the waterfront so we can enjoy the view. Why did we wait until now? Because winter brings winds out of the north and winds out of the north blow the water out of the creek so we can walk on the beach. We have wind tides here, not lunar ones. When the cold north wind is blowing, we know we can once again take up a task we’ve become very, very adept at in 2009: clearing brush.

This job is a little different from the summer version we learned in July and August. It’s colder, for an obvious start. More significant: that’s mud you’re walking on, “walk” being chosen politely and advisedly; it’s really more of a slog. If you’re lucky you only sink to your ankles, and you don’t know where the weaker spots are, where you sink to the tops of your boots, until you’re standing on/in them. And then there are all those little pointy things sticking out all over the place. They are cypress knees, federally protected. Between them and the occasional mud hole, you’re lucky to remain upright as you drag your felled wax myrtle across the mucky obstacle course to the pile you’re creating (seen right foreground) to be burned later. (Yesterday I fell once and I’m sure it won’t be the only time. It’s OK. Everything is washable.)

But picture this same scene in the summer. The mud will once again be under 2 or 3 feet of water. Cattails, wild irises and roses of Sharon will grow. Those old cypress trees will be full of green needles and hung with limpid Spanish moss. It’ll be idyllic. And that’s the whole point. Break an egg, make an omelet.

We knew 2009 would be a life-changing year–a challenge we prepared ourselves for and indeed were ready to take on as circumstances around us crumbled. January was bleak; we found ourselves strangling on a dream gone bad in Delaware and faced with Steve’s imminent unemplyoment. The instinct for survival kicked in: we took control of our own destiny, and once we did that, things happened fast. By sheer grace, we were able to sell that gorgeous Delaware albatross for almost what we paid for it four years earlier, despite a tanked market. We settled that sale on the first weekend in February; the following weekend we came here to North Carolina for our first and only foray into real estate shopping, and just like that found that door that always opens when another one closes. In the ensuing months we worked hard, but we also had equal measures of good luck never expected and help never asked for, given by more big-hearted people than we ever knew existed. Once we finally settle, we have a lifetime of cheerful paybacks to perform. Not a bad thing to look forward to, and we can look back proudly on a big accomplishment. When both your future and your immediate past are pleasant vistas, you’re in a pretty good place. I’m not complaining.

Thank you for being with me through all of this–your support and interest have contributed not a little to making this journey worthwhile. “Transition,” indeed!
One of my real hopes for 2010 is that I will be able to get back to more regular visits. I do miss those empty morning hours in Arlington that gave me the time for them, but by now that feels like a former life, not to be retrieved. A new life is on its way–we’re officially told by our builder that move-in will be late February or early March, about a year after all this started. We’ll still be busy with flesh and blood life, but I’ll also still be here, I hope on a more predictable schedule.

Happy New Year.