It's late. I'm lying in bed, ready to turn the light off in a minute, but I just want to scroll through the listings one more time. The real estate agent has set up a personalized website service that updates automatically every time a new listing matching our criteria pops up. It's convenient, but also addictive - I check them at least 10 times a day.
Gosh, I'm tired. I can barely keep my eyes open. Maybe I should look at it tomorrow ... suddenly, something catches my eye. It's this photo:
I sit up a bit straighter, a surge of excitement shooting through me, tiredness forgotten. This is my dream house! I read the description, and get more excited with each word: 22 acres. Within walking distance to two lakes. Halfway up the mountains towards a ski resort. The inside looks like this:
I'm in love. This is the perfect house! I immediately picture cozy evenings spent in front of the fire, sipping hot chocolate. I don't even like hot chocolate, but in this new life, I will!
Rich and I will start playing chess, or read together in companionable silence. Rich doesn't read, but in this new life, he will!
I will cook hearty stews every night, bake my own bread, and stop eating sweets. Anything is possible in this new life!
Not only is the house perfect and beautiful and everything-I-ever-wanted (I want to marry it and have its babies!), but it's also affordable. Not only within our budget, but below it. By quite a bit, actually. I should wonder why, but I don't. Why spoil all my beautiful fantasies?
I jump out of bed and run into the living room where Rich is watching TV. Scratch that, he fell asleep. Hrumph. I'm just about to wake him up and show him our future home, but reason takes over and I somehow manage to restrain myself. He's exhausted, and needs his rest. I can show him tomorrow.
Instead, I tell Lily all about our future adventures up in the mountains.
She isn't impressed.
The next day I have to get up early and go to work. It's late afternoon when I finally show Rich the houses I have selected for possible viewings.
I show him two other ones that I initially liked, but now can't be bothered with. Then, I click on the dream house, holding my breath with anticipation. "Wow, this is incredible!", he exclaims. "I know, right?", I say, hopping up and down excitedly.
I email the agent with our choices, stressing the importance of this place. We agree to come up in three days. Three days! The wait seems interminable.
Finally, the day of the viewing dawns. We get up bright and early, and manage to be on the road shortly after 7am. I didn't even take the time to check my messages this morning, but I do so now.
To my dismay, there is one from the agent, informing us that she has been unable to get in touch with the listing agent of our place. "But don't worry, I keep trying", she writes. "As soon as I know anything, I will contact you."
Halfway through the drive, we switch and I take over the driver's seat. Rich wants to take a nap. We are both chronically tired these days, with not sleeping too well at night, constantly working on our place or going out to look for new ones, and experiencing such intense emotions on the regular.
He naps, I drive, full of anticipation what the day may bring.
My phone pings, and I glance at it. Let's pretend that I pulled over, shut off the engine and read the message while not simultaneously driving.
What I read makes my heart sink and tears well up in my eyes: The place is gone. Sold. It's a done deal. Also, the sellers don't want us viewing.
I'm so disappointed, I have no words for it. I wake up Rich and tell him the devastating news.
Rich is annoyingly reasonable, explaining to me that there is nothing we can do. I hate it. I hate everything. How can that be? This was supposed to be our place! "Call her and see if it's really done!", I urge him. "Maybe the buyers will change their minds?"
He humours me and makes the call. Nope, the sale is firm. We're too late.
I can't speak. All my fantasies about the new life have been snatched away from me. What about the chess playing? What about the hot chocolate?
I know that I'm ridiculous, but right now I want to wallow. So I wallow for the rest of the drive.
I know that I'm ridiculous, but right now I want to wallow. So I wallow for the rest of the drive.
"I want to see it", I tell Richard. "It's probably not as great as it looks in the photos. I need to see."
He tries to dissuade me, and we have a nice little fight about it. But in the end, I win.
"It may make the pain even worse", Rich warns, but I don't care. I need to see this magical place that wasn't meant to be.
I type in the address in my phone, and off we go. We head towards the ski resort and climb steadily higher. The scenery is beyond pretty: Fireweed is growing in abundance, painting the landscape purple. We pass lakes, trees, and cute houses, many of them log homes. We both look silently around, taking in the scenery. It's lovely.
After a while the GPS indicates to turn left, off the paved road onto a dirt one. We are heading into the woods.
Now there are only trees on both sides. We leave a huge dust cloud behind us, covering everything in dust, including the car.
We drive on.
"How much farther?", Rich asks, and I peer at my phone. "It says 10 more minutes", I inform him.
So we keep driving.
The road reminds me vividly of my days as a forest ranger trainee, bumping around on the uneven, pot-holed forest roads. It's fun in the summer (even though it's hell for the vehicle), but in the winter it's another story.
I want to check my GPS again, but I lost the signal. So we just keep going.
After what feels like an eternity, we unexpectedly arrive at what appears to be a little colony in the middle of the woods. We pass by several houses and a campground. Why here? It seems like the most random place ever. After the next bend, we know why: There is a gorgeous lake, surrounded by mountains. A little row boat is close to the water's edge, with a couple sitting inside, their faces turned up towards the sun.
A swimmer is diving under the water next to us. The road is so close to the lake, I could reach it in two steps.
Speaking of the road: It just went from acceptable to terrible. Deep grooves make the ride extremely bumpy, and it appears as if the road is below lake level. I wonder if it floods sometimes.
And suddenly, we are there. I recognize the outbuildings from the pictures. The property is fenced in, and the house is invisible from the road, but there is the wood shed, the little cabin, and the cover with the camper underneath.
We look at it for a moment, and then at each other.
"Now I know why it's so cheap", I finally state. "It's so far away from everything!"
"And the road is awful", Rich says.
A feeling of peace and relief washes over me. If it was still available and as nice as the photos suggest, I would have been very tempted to put an offer in. Once you're there, it's lovely! Getting there is the issue.
On the way out we time how long it takes. 15 minutes until you hit paved road (which might double in the winter), and from there another good half hour into Kamloops. It would make a perfect vacation home, but for everyday it's not practical.
Considerably cheered up, we meet the agent. With that place gone and another one ruled out (it's right by the highway), we only have one left to look at.
It's not our first choice, because the house is humongous. Over 4,000 square feet, it's more than twice as big as what we would like. However, the property looks great in the pictures, so we decided to take a look.
This one is also halfway up the mountains, in another direction. We love the scenery, and the little town we pass through is charming.
As we pull into the long, winding driveway leading up to the house, I'm optimistic again. This looks pretty good!
Then we arrive at the house. And it's massive. Why do people build these huge mansions?
Before we go inside, we want to check out the outside. The owners don't have animals, so the grass is high and looks lush. "Irrigated", the agent says knowingly. "Nothing around here is this green in the middle of August without irrigation."
Halfway down the field, the ground changes from firm and dry to wet and squishy. What the ...?
"It's marsh", Rich states. We discover that at least 3 of the 9 acres are marsh land, impossible for horses to step on. I can't help but laugh: Wouldn't it be too ironic to move from rainy and muddy Langley to a semi-desert area, and end up with land that's swampier than what we left behind?
Another whammy is when we learn that the well is shallow, and sits in the middle of the swamp. The water quality is so poor that the owners installed a high-end, expensive water filtration system to make it drinkable. We know that this one is a no. We go into the house anyway, which is beautiful, but way, way too big for the two of us.
Standing in the enormous basement, we tell the agent exactly what we are looking for: Lots of room for our animals. Grassland, not just desert. Outbuildings if possible, but not a must. Enough water. A decent house, not too big. Within half an hour of town for my work.
She looks at us thoughtfully for a moment, and then she says: "You know what would be perfect for you guys? My parent's house."
As she elaborates, Rich's eyes light up. It's a farmboy's dream property: 160 acres, plenty of grassland, used for cattle until a year ago. It has all the barns and stalls we need, and is completely fenced in. It is also for sale.
Rich is thrilled. I am not. Secretly I have been hoping for something not that huge. Isn't it too much work? I'm worried that he is being blinded by his desire to own a large acreage, and not being reasonable.
We go for a late lunch, and almost have a second fight. I'm strangely reluctant to even consider this new place. There were too many disappointments today, and I'm drained.
In the end, we decide that it can't hurt to look at it from the outside. At least we will know if it's even worth considering.
Once again, we wind our way up into the mountains. Once again, the scenery is stunning. Who knew that there are such gorgeous valleys right by Kamloops? We certainly didn't. It looks like Switzerland.
There are cows on the side of the road, and a rumbunctious calf runs alongside our car for a bit.
Two pigs are rooting around in the grass.
And then we arrive at the property. And we know instantly: Life as we know it is over.
We have found our place.