When you make a habit of casting a fishing line into the elements on a daily basis, many of life’s stories will ultimately become woven into that line. And this is one of those tales… that bubbled up from the gin clear winter flows of the Deschutes in the March of 2020.
The daily trip to the river had just become a new novel habit. And it was a beautifully warm early spring afternoon where the trout were being kind. And a new face waded out downstream of me, and began to fish too. We got to chatting, and I offered up some flies that had been working well, and that is how I got to know my neighbor Dean, who lived on the end of the street on the river.
While negatives around the pandemic are aplenty, I feel there have also been some little rays of light that have shone through the clouds of uncertainty. One of those new joys was getting to know my neighbors better. Folks were still staying close to home, and that coupled with cabin fever – well we the people of River Bend Drive got to chatting more.
Dean is a cool spirit. An avid rock climber who kept a raft always at the ready along the shores of the river. He seemed to have a similar daily habit tied to the flows of the river. For him though it involved floating across to river left to access the climbing just upstream. We had some mutual friends, and we fished a few more times. For me making bonds with neighbors like Dean was a really healthy way to be mindful to the fact that we weren’t going through this crazy time alone – rather we all were sharing this journey together as humans, and as neighbors.
Spring Break 2021 – Tilamook, Oregon
Time did its thing, and the daily trip to the water grew from being measured in weeks to months, and then turned into a countdown to the milestone of a year. And that date was set to happen along the shores of the Wilson River.
It was a magical day. A one I will most certainly never forget. But I’m starting to drift a bit from the main current of this tale, so we’ll get back to that day later. But on this great day, on the river, with salty sea air in the wind, I got a text from my neighbor Dean. He was wondering if we knew of any other places to rent in the neighborhood because their landlord was going to be putting the house up for sale.
That is another fitting title for this story, because it is a story of new beginnings. And a reminder for me that with each day, there is a chance for an amazing beginning to happen. And all I have to do is be open to those new beginnings, make some space for them to gather light, and see what they grow into.
That text from Dean is the origin to the tale of Bobbie’s Place. Around that same time, Becky had been talking to her mom Bobbie, and the topic of Becky’s sister Brianna possibly moving away from her in Seattle to live down here in Bend came up. And Bobbie shared with Becky about her desire to pursue her own new start down here in Bend. It was some really exciting and surprising news for us, but Becky and I were both delighted to help Grandma start to dream and plan for an eventual move South to Oregon.
And that is how I found myself drafting an email to a person whom I had never met. A virtual cold call to a gmail box out in the ether. Once more, casting my line out there into the the elements to see what might be the next story woven into the line.
I explained to Joan in that email that I was neighbors and friends with Dean, who informed me of the house going up for sale soon. I shared Bobbie’s story, and how she was looking to start a new chapter on the same street as her grand daughters. It felt like a good cast, I dressed it with honesty and curiosity of this wild new idea of Bobbie coming to Bend, and possibly becoming our neighbor!
I was delighted to get a response from Joan pretty quickly after that first email, and we setup a time to call to get to share some more details to the story of the house and of Bobbie’s idea to move to Bend.
A Shared Dream
And the call was really quite great. Talking with Joan felt really easy to me, like catching up with an old friend… and old neighbor. And indeed that is what Joan was – our neighbor! She and her sisters purchased the little house at the end of the street years ago.
The house itself was built in 1966, and Joan and her sisters have been the keepers of the house for the past almost four decades. They too once had a dream for their own mother and father to live in the house full-time to be closer to the family.
And while that part of the story didn’t come to pass, it did create a shared dream between Joan and all of us connected to Bobbie.
One of the things that delights me most about this story is that it is one of those rare times where I have happened upon a new person, in an entirely new to me scenario ( doing a private real estate transaction ), and the communication just flowed, and a really great foundation of trust was established early on.
We both would take on tasks, follow through and give updates, and along the way of conducting business – we managed to foster a great friendship too. And in our times of deep division and fear in this country, I can’t quite explain how refreshing it was to have this great experience of helping my mother-in-law pursue a new dream, and get to work with and get to know Joan and her story.
During the closing process, I volunteered to act as caretaker of the place, and I also took the chance to get started on various projects around the old house. I’ve never considered myself “handy” – possibly a projection of my own father’s lack of patience for home projects ( Sorry Dad, but you know its true ), but this story also had a great side plot for me personally.
Through tinkering on the old house, I re-discovered the joy of building things, physical things, not things assembled with lines of code, but things that involved getting dirty.
Of course I watched lots of YouTube videos to figure out what the heck a vapor barrier was, and how its dead simple to install. Painting. Painting. Painting. And removing really cool old lighting fixtures that reminded me of my Aunt’s house in Ferndale. And then more painting. I was finding joy in all the little details. Even learning where the septic tank was kind of a fun, albeit stanky task.
And all the while I got to do much of this with my kids, with my kids best friend, with my wife. We were creating things in real life together, and it was delightful..
Bobbie’s place at the end of the street is small, and cozy. When gazing out the wall of windows facing the river, it feels like you are floating in the forest of ponderosa pine. She’s a great neighbor – has invited us over for cookies and ice cream a number of times already.
She also let’s me hang around and go fishing… as long as I tell her what my casts yielded that day. And as you know, its not always about what you catch when you go fishing, its more about the experience to me… soul fishing. But some times its about those interesting river people you meet.
So next time someone steps in below you on your favorite little part of the river, say hello, chat about fishing, chat about life. You never know where the story will go from there, you just got to keep casting to find out.
I hope Joan reads this 🙏 thank you so much for everything. I hope I told the story okay, I hold it dearly, and I hope that shines in my words above. I also want to thank Dean, not sure if he’ll find his way to this corner of the web. But I’m so thankful for your help with this process, and am also mindful of the woes of having to move. I hope your new story in ABQ has been exciting for you.
And lastly I want to thank Bobbie. I’m still in awe of your courage and openness to take on a new beginning at age 79. You are such an inspiration for me, and a wonderfully strong role model for your grandchildren. So happy to have you as a neighbor and lucky to have you as a mother-in-law.