Boston, Briefly

So Walt has plans to attend a retirement dinner for a fellow Iron Worker and I’m coming along for the ride, of course.

We’ve packed our carefully curated collection of clothing and gear and headed north. We were supposed to stop in Durham to see Lauren and Bobby but Hurricane Florence put the kibosh on that segment of the trip.

Walt tells me to choose how to spend our “found” day so I decide on the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. It’s an eclectic, very personal collection of all types of art – from Roman gravestones to Rembrandt paintings with everything from Chinese bowls to Belgian lace to a miniature mandolin and two poison-tipped pygmy arrows in between.

I’m more interested in what’s missing: the 13 items stolen in a daring, still-unsolved theft on March 18, 1990. While the thieves – reportedly two men dressed as police officers – took an assortment of artwork, including a bronze eagle finial and five drawings by Degas, it’s two specific works that make this the “biggest unsolved art theft in world history.”  The thieves stole Rembrandt’s Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee (his only known seascape) and Vermeer’s The Concert, the Gardner estimates the pair are worth more than $500 million.

Unlike most museums, which would remove the empty frame and re-hang the remaining art so that visitors wouldn’t be aware of the loss, the ISG left the empty frames. Part of the rationale is that the museum was also Mrs. Gardner’s home and everything was placed by her in specific rooms, next to specific works. She opened the museum to the public while she was alive. It’s meant to be a glimpse inside one woman’s relationship with art. The museum website says the empty frames are a symbol of hope that the works will one day return.

I minored in art history in college and have always loved art and museums and became fascinated by the newspaper and magazine accounts of the theft nearly three decades ago.

So here we are, a little overwhelmed by the jam-packed museum. There is so much to see. One of my favorite parts is Isabella’s enclosed garden. The building rises four stories above it, making it a little oasis you can look into from many of the exhibition rooms.


We wandered the entire three floors of the museum. There are no descriptive plaques on the walls but there are little laminated sheets in each room describing the works. It’s kind of fun for me to try to guess if I’m looking at a Manet or a Renoir and then check it against the sheet.

In some rooms, I just let my eye wander until I’m captivated by one work, then go to the sheets to read the description. An 18thcentury viola captures my eye, it’s just a lovely piece of art, as does a grouping of Belgian lace in another room. A terracotta piece captures my attention in another room; the colors are just so vivid, it’s hard to believe this work is hundreds of years old. Some things are difficult to enjoy, being hung high up or in a room that is dimly lit (for the preservation of the works). I overhear a museum employee telling a couple that the biggest complaint they get is that the rooms are too dimly lit.

The Dutch Room, from which the Rembrandt and Vermeer were stolen, is the last stop. It’s also the room with John Singer Sargent’s portrait of Isabella Stewart Gardner, presiding from a prominent corner. Sad to think of her spirit hanging out here, missing two of her prizes every day.

There’s lots of theories about the theft, of course. Some argue that the thieves were amateurs who didn’t realize the value of what they took until the theft hit the news. Then they couldn’t find buyers for the best-known of their heist. Others argue the “Dr. No” theory: that some wealthy collector commissioned the theft of the Vermeer and the Rembrandt and the reason they’ve never been found is that they are in someone’s very private collection.

Regardless, I’m glad we saw the museum, including the empty frames.


Hiking in DuPont State Park

The weather is still hot so we decide a nice waterfall hike is just the ticket. We find DuPont State Park just south of Hendersonville where a nice ranger maps us out an easy 3-mile (ish) loop that will take us to Triple Falls, Hooker Falls and Bridal Veil Falls.

There’s no relief from the heat at Triple Falls, where there are ropes to keep people out of the water or at the smaller Hooker Falls, although there’s a nice swimming spot that we make note of for future visits.

We go back up the trail past Triple Falls again and continue on our way to Bridal Veil Falls, which is very large, very pretty and we can stand on the rocks and enjoy the spray. It just feels lovely.

After a bit, we leave the falls, head up another hill and come to a covered bridge. The shade is nice. I spend some time watching the fish feeding in the shade of the bridge.

It’s just a short walk back to the car. Then we drive to another trailhead to hike the 2 miles up to Cedar Rock, where we’re promised 360-degree views. Our hiking trail is also a bike trail so we have to be on the lookout for fast-moving bikes, something we haven’t had to contend with since Sedona last winter.

We come to a junction called Big Rock and continue on down the trail. It’s called “Big Rock” because that’s what it is, just a huge rock. Sure there’s trees and shrubs but mostly what we’re walking on is solid rock. It would be nice except that the rock is very hot.

By the time we come to the overhead power lines, I am ready for lunch. Cedar Rock, according to Mr. Ranger, is supposed to be just a short curve of the trail away. Except that as we’re walking, we run into a couple of bicyclists who ask us about directions. They’re looking for Cedar Rock, too, but since they came the way we were headed, we all stop. If they didn’t pass an outcrop with 360-degree views, and we didn’t, then we don’t know where we’re supposed to go.

There’s what looks like a trail on another side but there’s a big “no trespassing” sign, so that’s not the right way to go.

We decide to go back the way we came. At least we know when we get back to Big Rock, we’ll have views. In the meantime, I’m starving, having expected to eat lunch at Cedar Rock. So we stop at a random spot for lunch.

The bicycling couple come by, telling us that the Big Rock junction we passed is the view point, according to another bicyclist they talked to.


We’re a little disappointed in the ranger, since we’ve hiked an extra couple of miles that we didn’t have to. But since we’re only at about 7 miles total for the day, it’s not like we did anything wildly strenuous.

And the waterfalls were gorgeous, definitely a spot we’ll come back to again.


Wildcat Rock & Little Bearwallow Mountain

So we’re moved into a new place closer to the town of Hendersonville but still close enough to Asheville that we can go to our usual gym. It’s a cute little place in what’s known as “apple valley.” There are apple orchards all around us. There’s also a winery about 100 yards down the street with a lovely patio, music on the weekends and a tasting of six wines for $7. There’s also a par 3 golf course about 2 miles away.

After indulging in those pleasures the first couple of days, I find us a nearby hike to the top of Little Bearwallow Mountain. Bearwallow Mountain (the big one) is the hike closest to our future home so I’m eager to see what its little brother has to offer.

The group Conserving Carolina just finished the Little Bearwallow trail and hopes to connect it to Bearwallow in coming years.

We park at Hickory Nut Gorge, head across the road and downhill. I joke to Walt that we will be doing his favorite (not) thing on this hike: finishing on an uphill.

We quickly reach the low point of our hike, crossing a stream and then immediately start uphill. It’s a mile of switchbacks until we reach what’s supposed to be a 100-foot waterfall. We do reach some tall rocks but there’s only a trickle of water sliding over the rocks on this hot, humid summer day. We break before continuing.

Now the trail is getting steep, with lots of stone steps carved out for the trail. It’s very well done but it’s very hard, especially since we can’t find a hint of a breeze. We make our way, with lots of breaks, up the next mile to the side trail for Wildcat Rock. It’s a short, steep pitch to the top but totally worth it for the views over the valley we’ve just climbed from.


The view from Wildcat Rock

After a nice break and a snack, we leave the rock, starting up the last mile of the trail, which turns out to be much gentler than the previous steep mile. Soon we’re out in the pasture, dodging the cow pies (some are very fresh). We don’t see any cows and aren’t sure how they get here. We can see Bearwallow – it’s very distinctive with antennae and towers on top – but not much else so we don’t linger.

It’s an out-and-back hike, so it doesn’t take us long to hike back down to the stream, then up to our car. It’s nice to know that such a nice little strenuous hike (1,800 feet of elevation gain in 3 miles) so close to our future home.


Little Bearwallow looking north toward Bearwallow Mountain.

Prepping for the Road (Again)

We’ve been in Asheville for four months, the longest we’ve stayed anywhere since we sold our house 14 months ago but now we’re headed on the road again.

Walt has work-related dinners and events in Boston in mid-September, and in San Diego and Florida in mid-October so we’ve decided to make a trek of it all. We will take a couple of days to drive to his Boston event, then head over to upstate New York to see my family and friends before heading back south to see Walt’s daughter, sister and brother-in-law and then to his other work events before slowly making our way back to Asheville by early November. We’re hoping by that time we will have a builder in place to start our house – but that’s another story.

For now, I’m busy worrying about cramming into our car everything we need for 6 weeks on the road. I know we did this last summer, of course, but it’s still work. We need to carefully curate our clothing, which won’t be an easy task since Walt needs a tux, a suit and a sport coat and slacks, in addition to dress shoes, golf clothes and hiking clothes and pack. I will need dress shoes, a cocktail dress, some other nice clothes and shoes, as well as golf and hiking clothes and my pack.

I think the leg of the trip that most worries me are the two weeks we will spend in upstate New York. I love the Northeast in the early fall, when the nights are crisp and the days are pretty and cool enough that you want to be outside. But I also know that means I will need jeans and pants and a couple of jackets and sweaters; none of which I will need for the remaining 4 weeks on the road.

We are also taking our golf clubs. Thankfully we bought tiny little golf bags while we were living in Sedona. But even then, we shipped them back East instead of trying to get them in the car with all of our clothes.

Walt has made a list of what he needs to bring and we’ve gone to our storage unit so he could fish out his tux and try it on while we’re still here, in case it needs cleaning and/or alterations.

I take an afternoon to lay out all of the clothes I have in our rental unit, paring down. We will be moving from our current rental to another one for the last 10 days of our Asheville time, so this will give me a clue as to how everything fits in the car.

And the answer is: not well. Last summer Walt and I each had a small duffel bag and then we shared a flat, under-the-bed storage bag for the rest of our clothes. He has a garment bag full of suits/tux/shirts/sportcoat in storage for the trip and he filled his duffel and needs more space to pack. I have filled my duffel and the larger black duffel that we thought we’d share and I have a plastic bag full of toiletries.

It looks like there will be more “curating” to be done before we hit the road once more.

Playing Tourist in Asheville

biltmoregroupSo Walt’s sister, Lisa, and brother-in-law, Dave, have come for a weekend visit to Asheville. We’re very excited to see them, to show off the site of our future home, and play in Asheville. There’s way more stuff to do and see than we can cram into a weekend, but we’re going to pack in as much as we can.

The first item on the agenda is to meet them in Hendersonville and show off our property, our future community and the lovely little 1-mile hike up Bearwallow Mountain. Walt and I did this hike a few months ago. It’s all shaded on the way to the top, so it’s not too hot. At the top, there are grazing cows plus views in every direction. If the cows were wearing bells, we would think we were on a mountain in Europe (where the cows really do wear bells, as do the goats).

After a lovely dinner at Mo’s barbeque, Lisa and Dave head to their hotel.

The next day is our all-Biltmore Estate day. We start off with a walk from Antler Hill Village up to the house. It’s about 2 miles each way, past the blooming field of sunflowers, the various patches of cosmos, along the French Broad River, past the lagoon and finally up the hill to the house. We don’t have tickets for a house tour but we take a brief tour of the gift shop, stop for a soda at the stable courtyard and wander the gardens to take in the Chihuly exhibit before heading back to the village for ice cream. Then we all head back home to rest and refresh before coming back for dinner at the Village Social followed by the nighttime viewing of the Chihuly exhibit.

chihulyday1.jpgWalt and I have seen the wonderful glass pieces in the daytime before today but we’ve been saving the nighttime tour for Dave & Lisa’s visit. As wonderful as all of Chihuly’s pieces are (the “float boat” is my favorite) in the daytime, we can tell that some of them are going to be even more spectacular lit up at night. We were so right!

chihulynight4.jpgThe conservatory’s three chandeliers, which just looked very pale and uninteresting (by Chihuly standards) in the daytime, are full of colors and shading when they are juxtaposed against the dark sky above the glass. The two red-and-yellow pieces in the walled garden, surrounded in daytime by flowers in the same color scheme, come alive as flame at night.

chihulynight6.jpgAs an added bonus, tickets for the nighttime tour include admission to the first floor of the house. Not only have we not seen the Chihuly piece that sits in the Winter Garden just inside the front door, but it’s always lovely to stand on the Biltmore’s porch overlooking the grounds and enjoy the evening sky. All in all, a magical evening.

For our last day of Lisa and Dave’s visit, we head to the Folk Art Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway. This is one of those places that Walt and I have passed many times but have never stopped in to see. I have found a nice little hike that starts at the center and heads a couple of miles up the Mountains to Sea Trail to a lookout before we reverse our steps, ending at shopping (almost as good as ice cream).

Afterward, we buy some cookies at the Well Bred Bakery (my favorite are the chocolate orange but they’re all good), have a drink at the Cantina before heading our separate ways to rest and refresh before a lovely dinner at Bouchon (all-you-can-eat mussels) in downtown Asheville.

Dave and Lisa, who were staying at a hotel in Asheville, also took time to explore, finding their way to the Chocolate Fetish, one of Asheville’s several gourmet chocolate shops, none of which I have yet explored. Clearly I need to play tourist more.

You Call this a Trail?

We’ve done so well on our short hikes that I decide to take it up a notch, finding a 13-mile loop hike with 3,600 feet of elevation gain. We start from Hot Springs, a very popular area, going up Rich Mountain before descending the Appalachian Trail and winding up on the Lovers Leap Trail, which is what most people who aren’t hiking the Appalachian Trail hike from Hot Springs.

We start up the road, which turns into a gravel road, which then turns into the Roundtop Ridge Trail, the former route of the Appalachian Trail, which climbs nearly 1,700 feet over 3.3 miles to connect with the rerouted Appalachian Trail below Rich Mountain.

The directions note that the area was seriously affected by forest fires in 2016 and not much work has been done to clear the trail. So we are warned of “deadfall and encroaching undergrowth.”

“Deadfall” means trees that have fallen across the trail. I call them “blowdowns.” In some cases we can just go over them. In other instances, we have to go up the hill to get around them, there’s just way too much tree in the trail. The dead trees are a bit of a hassle but nothing too crazy.

It’s the “encroaching undergrowth,” however that proves to be the hardest challenge of the day. Initially, it’s just small little shrubs that we step on or over. We make jokes about “lush foliage conditions,” which is the term the ranger on Isle Royale used last year to describe the grasses that had grown to 5 feet and were completely covering the trail. I pretty much just walked for several miles without being able to see where I was putting my feet.

This trail doesn’t seem that overgrown, at first.

As we continue, I notice that there are a lot of pricker bushes. Walt’s in pants and short sleeves. I’m in shorts and short sleeves because it’s hot and I hate to hike in pants when it’s hot.

We keep thinking that as we ascend, the low growth is going to die out or we’re going to go under un-burnt trees that have protected the forest floor from sunlight but it just doesn’t happen. It’s only 3 miles from the end of the gravel road to the AT but it seems to take forever. We normally average 2 mph while hiking and this doesn’t feel too steep, so we should be moving close to that speed.

But we’re not. It takes us 2 ½ hours to travel the 3 miles to the AT. I’ve been ready for a full hour to find the junction and get off this horrible “trail.”


Walt among the foliage. This isn’t even the worst of it; I was too busy fending off pricker bushes at those points to take a pix.

At times, I’ve scraped my hands against stinging nettles, a pain I haven’t felt since we hiked Kilimanjaro half a dozen years ago. Occasionally I look down at my legs to see how bad the scrapes are getting. I know there’s a spot just above each ankle that’s getting the brunt of the scrapes but there’s nothing to be done. I don’t have tall socks, I don’t have spare socks, I don’t have the zip-on legs to my pants and I don’t have my rain pants. I feel very much like an amateur. We have gotten so lulled into the well-maintained trails of North Carolina that I have forgotten my Adirondack Mountain training. I never hike, even in the dead of summer, in the Adirondacks without my rain pants, the legs to my shorts and a pair of calf-high socks.

By the time we arrive at the AT, we are so beat up – and it’s cloudy – that we forgo the extra half a mile up to the lookout tower on Rich Mountain, instead just turning south on the AT. We’ve still got more than 7 miles, including some ups and down along Lovers Leap Ridge.

It’s an easy two miles down to a gap, at which point I ask Walt to pull out the PB&J sandwiches and chips he packed for lunch. There’s really nowhere to sit but I don’t care. I just want to re-fuel. We did each have a gel during a brief stop in the foliage but if we still have 5-plus miles to go, I want food.


This is the AT, quite a bit different.

By the time we get to the views at Lovers Leap, I’m almost too tired to stop for the views over the French Broad River.

Normally by the end of a hike, my pace picks up, what I call my “back to the barn gait” but not this time. Walt’s ahead of me and I’m trudging the last mile, even though it’s downhill and then flat along the river.

On our drive back home, Walt stops at a gas station, asking me to run inside and get him a Coke. I come back out with his soda and an ice cream sandwich for me. It was so good!

At home, we can’t wait to shower. I know the water and soap are going to sting but the sooner I get the dirt cleaned out, the better I’ll feel. The damage is much worse than I realized. The tops of my arms from shoulder to fingertips are scratched, as are the undersides from my elbows to my fingers. My legs are scratched front and back from two inches above my knees to my ankles. The worst damage is, as I knew, my lower shins just above my ankles. After I shower, I take a bottle of hydrogen peroxide and pour it all over my wounds. It stings but I’ve learned after many such (although not as drastic) scrapings that peroxide will help me heal quicker.

I’m going to be wearing pants for awhile no matter how hot it gets.


Lookout Mountain

We’ve found another loop hike about 5 miles in length, a little shorter than I really like for a dayhike but it’s still summer and I really don’t want us to overdo it in the heat. We’re headed to a popular nearby area called Montreat but we’re not too worried because it’s a Monday morning. Except that Montreat houses a conference center and small college and, apparently, it’s moving-in day at the college. Or so we guess by young people cheering and waving as we drive through the stone arch entrance.

We’re sorry to disappoint them.

The trail to Lookout Mountain is short and pretty straightforward so, of course, we’re not going that way. I have a nice loop plotted out that takes us away and around the backside of Lookout before we finally get to the top and enjoy the pretty views below us. We’ll take the short route back down to the car.

There’s a few other cars in the lot but we don’t see hardly any other people on the trail.

It’s hot but the hike is pretty gentle on the uphill and the trail is pretty flat, actually sandy in parts, so it’s not too bad.

We enjoy the views and a snack from the top of the lookout, take the short route back to the car and call it a day.

Back to Hiking

So we’ve been going to the gym regularly but have done no hiking since we returned to Asheville several months ago. First I was sick for two weeks, then we had a record-rainfall May and by June we were knee-deep in visits to dentists and doctors (all routine), with our architect, and to showrooms for appliances, lighting, tile, floors, etc., for the house we’re building on a beautiful site just south of Asheville.

Since we’re out of hiking shape, we’ve picked short (for us) hikes of about 5 miles and 1,200 feet of elevation gain. My typical idea of a day hike is 8 miles with at least 1,500 feet of elevation gain but since it’s August and we haven’t been hiking, we’re starting off with a few easy hikes.

Our first hike is supposed to be on the Appalachian Trail from Carvers Gap up to Roan Mountain but the hiking book we were using just said to “go through the gap in the fence on to the AT” from the parking area. We looked to the left of the parking area, saw a fence with a gap and a sign for the AT and went that way. For some reason we never looked to the right (of course we knew the AT also went that way) but had we looked, we would have seen another fence with a gap and a sign for the AT and might have gone that way (the correct way) instead.

As it was, we hiked through some lovely woods and came out to the former site of the Cloudland Hotel before turning back to our car. It was an overcast day, actually foggy where we were since the peaks are above 5,000 feet and the clouds were low. Despite not having any of the fabulous views promised by the hike (had we gone in the correct direction) we didn’t miss anything because the clouds would have prevented any outlooks.

Still a good little outing and a lovely drive up to the North Carolina-Tennessee line, in an area we haven’t seen yet.

For our second hike, we’re starting from the Blue Ridge Parkway’s Walker’s Knob Overlook on our way to Little Butt. We’re actually hiking on the Big Butt trail but all the hiking guides I’ve consulted say that while there’s a great rocky outcrop with views of Mt. Mitchell (highest peak in this area) and the Black Mountain Range from Little Butt, Big Butt is all treed-in and not worth the extra mile and a half or so of effort. Later, in trying to figure our how much elevation we did on the hike (about 1,300 feet), I see various hiking blogs that say there are views from Big Butt. Too late now.

The trail turns out to be a bit of a rollercoaster, as we immediately descend from the parking lot at Walker’s Knob into the forest. Soon we’re headed up a bit, then down, then up again. I lose count of how many times this happens. The directions say that after Point Misery (not nearly as bad as it sounds), we’ll be heading down some wooden steps, so it’s easy to know when we get to that part. In addition to the wooden stairs, it’s also the steepest “down” we’ve done so far. Of course, we’ll need to go back up to get to Little Butt. It’s at this point that I tell Walt this is an out-and-back hike, meaning we’ll be coming back up these steps in an hour or so on our way back to the car.

Turns out there are many more steps on our way to the top of Little Butt. But once up, we easily find the side trail to the rocky viewpoint, sitting and enjoying the view, a snack and a break before we return back down our rollercoaster to the car.

Just at the end, we run into a man doing some trail work, making paths across the trail for water to run across and away from the trail instead of straight down it (as water will tend to do). We had found the trail very well-maintained and thank him for his hard work. We have a short conversation about nearby trails before Walt and I head home, well content with our return to hiking.

Day ? – Who’s Counting?

So we’ve been “settled” – if you want to call a one-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment “settled” – in Asheville for 3 ½ months, the longest we’ve stayed in one place since we left Virginia in June 2017.

I haven’t written much because the blog is “wandering car” and the car hasn’t wandered much past the golf course, gym, and grocery store in all this time. There also have been numerous trips to architect’s office, the property we purchased in June, and too many kitchen, granite, bath, tile, flooring stores to count.

Despite its small size, we’re pretty content with our space. Our landlords are great, providing helpful tips like how to see the Biltmore Estate’s Fourth of July fireworks, where’s their favorite local brewery (so hard to choose!) and leaving gifts like home-grown tomatoes and blueberries for us. We have a lovely front porch with two rockers, a table, a grill and the basil plant Walt and I bought at a farmer’s market so we could have fresh basil with our caprese salads.

I sit on the porch with my kitty buddy, Charlie – currently taking a bath at my feet – to write. Despite not blogging much, I am working on a book on my hiking experiences and am keeping a diary of our house building. I don’t know what, if anything, I’ll do with my house diary, but I noticed that while trying to write my hiking book there are a lot of things I don’t remember. So I try to write down all the steps and activities we’re going through in our process.

Of course there’s plenty to do in Asheville and we are very much taking advantage of the lovely summer weather with its sunshine, light breezes and low humidity to get out and about a bit. Some of the things we’ve done this summer:

  • Attend an Asheville Tourists baseball game (twice). Fun little park just a couple of miles from our rental.
  • Visit the Biltmore Estate (we bought annual passes) to walk, eat ice cream, enjoy a drink while a band plays at Antler Hill Village, watch the aforementioned fireworks display, see the gardens both before and during the fabulous Chihuly glass exhibited opened in May.
  • Explore numerous local arts and crafts fairs, where we’ve found a number of artisans whose works we plan to buy for our new home.
  • Dine and/or drink at a restaurant or brewpub. There’s almost always a band of some sorts playing anywhere you go.
  • Boring stuff like find doctors and dentists to get caught up on all our physical checks.
  • Visit my parents in New York for Mother’s Day weekend.
  • Attend a retirement party for a friend of Walt’s in Maryland.
  • Visit Walt’s family in Hilton Head.

Still on our list for this summer (and it’s already August, going by so fast):

  • Visit the Chihuly exhibit at night.
  • Go to Sliding Rock, a 60-foot natural rock slide.
  • Go tubing on the French Broad River.
  • Go hiking.

I know. No hiking in months. Hard to believe but the only hike we have done locally was the short 2-mile loop to the top of Bearwallow Mountain. The trailhead is located at the edge of the community where we bought our property. We haven’t been hiking for a variety of reasons. When we first arrived in April, I was suffering from a horrible chest cold that lingered. Then there were torrential rainstorms in May, with the area getting about 3 or 4 times its monthly average of rainfall. Not only do we not like hiking in the rain and mud but we didn’t want to risk taking our low-slung car up a washed-out dirt road to a trailhead. By the time the weather cleared in June, we were deep into planning for the house and doctors visits – nothing seriously wrong with us, it’s just that you get sent to a specialist for every question you have. It was the same in July – doctors and house, I mean – and I still can’t believe the whole month has passed.

We can’t make any more travel plans until we know where we are with the house. We’re still finalizing plans and need approvals and a builder before any work can begin. Once we feel like the house is under way, we plan to hit the road again.


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Musings on “home free”

Looking back on 1 full year of having no place to call “home,” I have to say that while I haven’t missed owning a home with all of its headaches and chores, I have missed having a home base for two major reasons: when I saw something I liked (a lamp, a piece of art or furniture) and there have been many items, I couldn’t buy it because I have no place to ship or store it, no idea what our final house will look like or what I will need and want in it.

I’ve kept business cards and photos of things I’ve liked so I can always get something I really love. No worries there.

The second thing I’ve really missed – and this is the big one – are pets. We had to put our last cat to sleep – heart issues, dental issues  – six months before we sold our house and, knowing we were leaving, didn’t get a replacement. Now I’ve been 18 months without a cat purring in my lap, snuggling in bed at night and whining to be fed in the morning. I miss having a cat.

When we were moving around all last summer, it didn’t bother me as much but each time we settle for a few months, I start checking out the rescue agencies. Not that I will do anything as foolish as adopt a cat until we have an actual home (and then it will be 2 cats and a dog) but I still look online at all the great animals that need a home. I can’t help myself.

I also haven’t been able to help myself when it comes to the neighbor’s cat that wanders over to our current rental. We met Charlie, a big, friendly all-black cat, last fall when we were in Asheville. I would see him every afternoon, headed home from our landlord’s front porch to his own house. I got in the habit of going outside and calling him and we would have a 4 p.m. cuddle most afternoons. Walt worried when we left that I would try to hide Charlie in the car with us. The car was packed to the gills for our cross-country trip, so no chance of that, really.

Now that we’re back in Asheville and the weather is warm, Charlie comes over for his scritches and hangs out on the porch with me for hours if I’m sitting outside writing or reading.

All he has to do is hear my voice and he’ll come running.

We’re not allowed to have pets in our rental so I’ve resisted the urge to bring him inside and he seems to know that he’s not allowed: he’ll stand outside the open door and wait for me if I run inside to refill my coffee cup or grab him a little snack.

I know he’s not mine but Charlie has been a great joy to me.