I was recently reminded that I’ve been in my house here on the New Meadows for five years now. Aptly named “The Cottage on Red-Wing Marsh,” this is the first home I’ve ever lived in alone, although with four daughters, two sons-in-law, five grandchildren, two grand-puppies and a sweetie, I’m seldom all by myself.

On this fine summer night, I’ve just come in from planting lavender in the herb garden. I recently visited a lavender farm near Lake Ontario, and after spending a very peaceful hour picking the fragrant stems there, I was inspired to grow some here. Then after arranging bodacious bouquets of hydrangea and black-eyed Susan, I wandered through the house, appreciating how much I’ve accomplished in the past five years, most of it entirely on my own.

Like most homeowners, I have a never-ending to-do list. I soldier on as best I can, wishing I had as much energy and money as I do imagination. Much of the time, I content myself with the process, slow that it is, more than the actual results. After all, I don’t want to lose sight of What’s Most Important in Life.

With the river across the road and the marsh behind me, it’s been fairly easy to attain the cottage-y, casual feel I’ve always wanted in a home. There’s nothing demanding here; nothing to mess up. I decorate with shells, sea glass, beach stones and wild flowers. There’s a giant mermaid and an African drum in the breakfast nook; a much napped-upon Chippendale sofa on the porch, with a pink tuffet to prop up my tired tootsies; dozens of books to delve into; and a toy closet for the grandchildren. What more could a person want?

My much-loved bowl of sea glass has dictated the color palette. I spent the summer of 2004 ripping country print wallpaper off the walls and brushing the rooms with a wash of pale pink, lavender and soft green. The heavy drapes were replaced with white fabric blinds after new windows were installed. I’ve purchased white appliances, a new bath tub, sewed valances late into the night, painted flea market finds in lipstick pink, bright white, apple green and violet, but I never did finish unpacking all the boxes from the big house in Topsham. They’re in the basement still.

Even though this place is still a work in progress, the emphasis is on relaxation rather than renovations. Each season I choose one project, knowing that it’s OK to take my time. Last summer was Phase I of the bathroom remodel. To be continued. Currently, my hard-earned dollars have gone toward the trimming of the gigantic pines and having the garden shed raised and leveled so it doesn’t succumb to rot, as well as socking money away for the inevitable replacement of the cracked gutters. It doesn’t sound very romantic, I know. I’d much rather be in a position to say I was saving for a summer in Tuscany.

I do what I can, but I certainly don’t want anyone to think I’m here slaving away, paint brush and/or crowbar in hand. More likely than not, the extent of my work on a summer weekend morning consists of hanging out laundry, harvesting yummy delights from the garden for a picnic lunch, and readying the kayaks for an adventure. Wallpaper can be peeled on a rainy night, baseboards can be painted in the dead of winter and just maybe I’ll say no to the gutters and fly off to Tuscany. Like I always say, life is meant to be lived. Lucky for me, my little “Cottage on Red Wing Marsh” understands.

Karen Schneider is a freelance writer living in West Bath. She may be reached by e-mail at [email protected]

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