Five years ago this month I found myself there. At my wit’s end. I had just returned from a week long dive trip to Honduras with the Snarl. Our adventure trip together was the high point of each year for me; never has there been a better travel companion. She is full of energy and curiosity, comfortable with 4 languages, sleeps anywhere and eats anything. We had traveled to Alaska, Belize, Mexico and tiny islands in the Caribbean- always to places off the beaten track, always roughing it, always on a dime. But after this voyage, rather than reveling in the memories, I crashed- with the realization that she would soon leave home to explore the world on her own. So while she bounced out for a happy reunion with friends I was laid out on the sofa, immobilized with an impending sense of doom, watching Canadian Women’s Curling. Okay, that’s a little dramatic but I had, indeed, reached an impasse of sorts. I’d been single and focused on raising the children for more than a dozen years. I was happy in my career and with my friends, all of whom were married. I had managed to save a middling amount towards retirement but the market was slumping miserably and my financial security was draining away.
So it was right around then that I decided to invest in real estate. I thought that lakefront property, no matter how modest, would surely do better than Dow-Jones and I would have the pleasure of a weekend getaway at the same time. I began a dedicated search for a small cottage.
Ann Arbor is in the Huron River watershed and this river feeds dozens of small lakes within an hour of town. All of these lakes are packed, cheek to jowl, with summer cottages. Many of them are aging, tumble down, moldy, grossly overpriced and built on postage stamp lots. Between the early spring and late summer I looked at over 140 cottages. I was on a mission. Every Friday afternoon and all day Saturday I cracked the whip over my harried realtor; I’m certain we put 4,000 miles on her car, all in 50 miles sprints. Over that time I found three that I liked but there was no land! None.These cottages were on such small lots that if either the well or the septic field failed there wasn’t enough space, under new DEQ guidelines, to replace them.
One day in late August the realtor called and said she had gotten wind of a small out of the way place on a tiny private lake off in a new direction. We drove out northwest of town and looked around the outside. I was in love. She said I should have my bid on the table, at full price, prior to the listing and I did. It was a non-contingent offer and I was confident- until another person bid well over the asking price that same morning. Two weeks would pass when I had resigned myself to giving up for the year before the other offer failed and they came back to me.
On Sept. 10th, 2001 I had my life savings drawn into a cashier’s check and closed on Wit’s End. I didn’t take possession until the weekend of my birthday in October and by then the world had changed.All of the women from BCMA (Book Club, My Ass) came out that weekend and, as only true friends would, they scrubbed appliances, toilet, floors and windows. And then we had a giant bonfire and the best potluck ever and Wit’s End became my home away from home.
(Tomorrow I’m going to post my "watershed meme." Wit’s End is actually a hop, skip and jump into, not the Huron River watershed, but the Grand River watershed- which flows to the west and that most wonderful of Great Lakes, Lake Michigan. And my little speck of the world holds a unique and important distinction in that watershed. Can you guess what it is?)