I am thrilled to have my short story “The Lane is a River” published by Academy of the Heart and Mind. Thank you, editor Thomas Page!
The Lane is a River
We were in our mid-forties when we decided to get married. We had both been married before. At that point in our lives, we thought it would be best if we found that perfect house before exchanging our vows. At our age we knew we did not need to buy just any house that came along so that we could move in together. We put both our houses on the market and proceeded to search. We felt that most of the houses we looked at were bland and boring, dark little cookie-cutter square boxes, almost claustrophobic. So, we continued to look, and look. When we found the house on Walden Lane, we weren’t quite sure what to think. It was very oddly laid out. The original building was a tiny stone barn used for the tractor of a local apple orchard. The orchard had since been sold off into lots for houses. The house we looked at was converted to an apartment for the orchard owner’s son. When the son got married, they decided to knock out several outside walls and build on to it. It had a very unusual design. It had double high ceilings and the entire front was multiple windows all the way up. There were odd shaped windows everywhere. The house was full of light and air. The floor to ceiling stone fireplace was originally on the outer wall of the house, but when the extension was built on, it ended up being in the center of the house, with the back of it being the entranceway from the front door. In the end, it was the quirkiness that we fell in love with.
It was on a very narrow dead-end lane. Two cars could not pass going in either direction. One would have to pull into someone’s driveway while the other drove through. There were only five other houses on the lane, and our house was at the bottom of the hill. The property was a pie wedge shape and slopping. There was a wooded hill behind the property that belonged to the local nature preserve. All along the edge between the property and the preserve was tiny rill of fast running spring water. The house was in a valley with hills on both sides and trees everywhere. It also had well water and a septic field. I had never lived anyplace without piped in water and public sewer before. I was concerned about all of that.
The first time we looked at it, we weren’t too sure. It did remind us of Fresh Breeze, the vacation house we rented on Ocracoke Island every year. All the openness, wood floors, and open slat wood stairs. The second time we checked it out, it was in October. We were on our way to the Harvest Moon Festival at the local nature center that was right across the street from the house. I happened to stand on my tip toes to look out the bedroom window onto the side patio, and there in the last of the flowering inpatients was a Ruby-throated Hummingbird. It was a sign – I HAD TO have that house. I was a hummingbird enthusiast and the fact that there was a hummer there this late in the season was an omen to me.
All but one of our neighbors were elderly. They were the original owners who had the houses built on the properties when they purchased them. Since all the houses were fairly far apart, we never did get to know our neighbors well. All the neighbors except one had manicured turf lawns. Most of them used a lawn service to keep that neat look. After moving in, we immediately got rid of all the lawn and ground cover to put in several small native wildflower meadows. We did not have enough property to put in serious meadows, but worked with what we had. We had wetland gardens (near the rill), woodland gardens, and a small open area that surround the septic drainage field became the meadow gardens.
It was a difficult move since the narrow lane made it just short of impossible for a moving truck to get to the house. Every time a neighbor needed to get by to go to or from their house, the moving truck had to back down a long, narrow, winding lane into the traffic of the main road. The main road was also a narrow two-lane road with no shoulders. Then there was the furniture. What we had in our previous houses did not fit at all, neither space-wise, nor style-wise. Over the course of the next year, we had to buy all new furniture to replace what we originally had.
We were only in the house a few years when a hurricane hit the area. There were never any hurricanes in this part of the state that I was aware of, and I have lived here my entire life. It caused some damage, but not too bad. The real problem came about a week later when a “once in a century storm” came through dumping three and a half inches of water in twenty minutes time. Several trees that had fallen in the woods above floated into the stream, and blocked up the culvert under our driveway, where the rill passed through. Our yard flooded and was under several feet or raging water. I remember putting on my swim suit and a rain slicker and wading barefoot through the swift current that used to be our yard, to check up on our neighbor, who was home alone at the time. She and my husband yelled at me for taking such a dangerous chance.
It took a lot of work, a lot of time, and a lot of money to get things back to being workable again. We had to have the entire stream dug out and rebuild since it had silted it completely. We hoped that would be the end of it. After all it was supposed to be a “once in a century storm.”
Sadly, we had another “once in a century storm” just fifteen years later. This time our basement flooded, the rill overflowed, and the fast-rushing water washed away the soil under our long driveway that was right next to the rill. The entire driveways crumbled, and large chunks of it washed away into the main road below our house. We were heartbroken. We called in experts to help dry out things, and my husband worked until he was exhausted trying to rebuild the stream again. We could not take much more, when two days later yet another storm of great proportions fell upon us. The steep narrow lane in front of our house was channeling all the water from further up the hill. It was raging down across our front yard like Niagara Falls, flowing right up against the house, and filling our basement once again. I had never seen anything like this, not even the last two times we had the “infamous storm of a century,” now for the third time in only 18 years. I stood at my door looking outside, shaking my head in disbelief. Tears ran down my face, and the words came out “The lane is a river.” What more can be said?