I spread my sleeping bag on the old sofa that the former residents had left behind for me to use. I warmed a cup of hot chocolate in the microwave - also left by former residents - and settled in for the night.
After reading a couple magazines and finishing my cocoa, I turned off MOST of the lights; careful not to look around too much - if there were things moving around in the dark I didn't want to see them. I turned the radios down. I didn't turn it off because if there were things moving around I didn't want to hear them either. I removed my shoes and climbed into the sleeping bag fully clothed (again in case of a hasty exit). I had some extra blankets that I pulled up over my head (just like I'd done so many years ago, as a child growing up in this same house). And soon I was asleep.
I woke a couple times in the night to go to the bathroom. As I walked through the house, I kept focused on my destination, careful not to look around, and each time I climbed back into 'bed' I neglected to pull up as many of the extra blankets. It was hot under there and comfort was more important than my fear of the dark - another thing I remember from my childhood.
As light started to show in the east I took the sheets down from the windows brewed another cup of coffee, and found a good seat to watch the sunrise over the lake. What a show that was. I've never noticed it before but when the sun clears the cloud bank on the horizon all the clouds in the sky get pure white tops over their grey bottoms. Anyway, I'd survived my first night in the house and was richly rewarded for my efforts with this beautiful show.
Maybe living in the country wouldn't be so bad. I didn't realize it right away but I was beginning to soften to the idea. I've lived in the city for over 40 years where it's never dark at night; it's never this quiet; and you are always surrounded by people. Almost all of them could care less who you are or what you do but you can never know for sure - so you're always on your guard. You always know they're out there. As I looked out on the yard, and across the surrounding farm land, the only 'living' thing I could see was a red squirrel. Not very dangerous but worthy of my attention just the same. So I brewed another cup and watched him scurry around the yard and up into the tree tops where he hoped from tree to tree and then down again and off somewhere beyond my view.
After breakfast, I began the days' (months') work of painting walls, fixing outlets, replacing fixtures, repairing leaky pipes. Over the past fifteen years - since my parents moved out - we've rented out this house. Our renters have typically been excellent boarders (all but the first) and they have taken very good care of the house. In most cases they have left it in much better condition than they found it. (yes, we've been very lucky.) Even so, there have been many issues that have needed attention (that aren't worth hiring someone to fix but still build up over time in an old house) and as old renters are usually moving out the same weekend the new renters are moving in, it's hard for me to sneak in to fix these things. I don't feel comfortable entering someone's house (even a tenant's) to fuss about fixing things. And things like painting the walls, replacing fixtures, and adding outlets, go a long way towards making the place presentable to potential renters - especially if I'm going to raise the rent.
So this time I have not advertized the house immediately after the renters moved out so that I can spend some time living in the house (camping would be a better word since it's pretty much empty). I can now work on these projects at my leisure and without interruption. Tackling these projects in an old house always seems to evolve into broader issues and it's nice to have the time to follow wherever these problems lead. I have also discovered that if you live in the house it will quickly 'tell' you about other problems that may be too minor for renters to bother telling you but would be nice to fix anyway. Plus I wanted to try out 'living' on the farm again. It's been over 40 years since I virtually ran screaming away from this farm; it's tedium; it's isolation (remember Luke Skywalker as a boy on Tantuine?) Now, I want to move back? After a lifetime (in many respects) of living far away, I wanted to spend time here to see how much had really changed. Or how much would still have to change before I was willing to move back.
So, I spent the first part of this day gathering my tools and supplies from the truck and from the shed where I base my operations during my visits to the farm when the house is rented. Among these were two big boom boxes which could provide me with company (music and talk) while I worked alone in the house.
The next few days I worked with the radios blasting on all floors of the house. Every time I left the house I made sure to lock up - even when I was just going out in the woods. I always locked the car at night - by habit - and one day I was getting ready for the night and had to retrieve one more thing from the car. I flipped the lock and closed the door, realizing too late the keys were still in the ignition (why did I do that?). I didn't have to go anywhere so I just left them for the night. I'd deal with this tomorrow. But it didn't help my piece of mind, that night, knowing my escape vehicle was unavailable.
The next day I found someone to help me open the car. They actually kidded me for; ".. locking this old thing." The rest of the week passed pretty much the same (except for locking the car) and I drove 5 hours back to the city. I was reluctant to leave the house empty but my neighbors had agreed to 'keep an eye on it'.
I looked into buying a home security system but the only ones I could find also required purchasing installation along with a 'service'. I couldn't see paying someone to install such a simple thing OR paying someone to answer the phone when the system called to report a problem. But this is another story.A few days passed before I made the return trip to the haunted house. In this brief time away, I discovered that, in my absence, much had changed.
( to be continued)