It's amazing how fast a year can fly by! We went from inexperienced proud new owners to experienced story-tellers with an abundance of new friends. We went from a million unknowns to just a few small variables and it all seemed to happen overnight...or over 11 months.
A few things that haven't changed are our relentless Amazon deliveries, a consistently and ever-changing packed entryway and garage of our Austin home of "things to go to the ranch" and countless notes in my phones, notebooks with jotted notes of what needs to be fixed, repaired, made better, prettier, stronger, nicer, more comfy...the list is endless. Our desire to strive for perfection and subtle and drastic improvements alike never ends. To know that we'll be adding at least two new houses this year is thrilling and overwhelming at the same time. I know if I make enough notes with boxes to check, suddenly everyone will get to see the vision of the incredible structures that have been materializing in my head and in my many Pinterest boards since I don't know when.
The incredible reviews and friends we've made have become eye-opening, gratifying and sort of like weekly awards for the self-employed. The recognition from our guests feels nothing short of amazing, but the privilege of being able to continue to tell the story of those who have inspired us causes their memory and their legacy to live on...which is precisely what this is all about for us.
My "dad", Nolan Harper, would have been amazed at the handsome barn named in his honor. He was a funny, loving, cheerful man always ready to crack a joke, woo the best of us with his sarcasm and knew how to do everything. He wasn't a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-nothing, there was very little he couldn't do and he was my inspiration and I honor him with my "I can do it" mentality because that's how he taught me..."figure it out!" he'd say when I got impatient and he taught me that teaching yourself really is possible. These days, I feel the only thing I'm limited by is my physical tenacity but my wisdom byway of the lessons he taught me is there to help me overcome. The barn is reflective of facets of probability, tenacity, working hard and dreaming big...with that, you can achieve anything. That's who he was to me.
What I may have never written about but many of you have been given the tour of, are the constant and compelling affirmations of why this place is so special and how it's been affirmed we're right where we belong with these lovely houses and their namesakes. The name "Erik" chinked out of the logs in the honor wall in the 199-year-old Dr. Okerholm Loghaus was a big surprise for us and at least one person in every group we tour states they have goosebumps when we tell that story.
Nature has a way affirming acceptance as well and there's one affirmation that never leaves me. As we were preparing the property for opening weekend in May 2018, I rode my little blue and white golf cart "Dorothy" out to the grove where we someday anticipate building a large iron arbor outdoor chapel to host low-key, intimate weddings. I drove out and stopped in this keyhole-shaped area and paused to reflect. The lighting was incredible, surreal is the best way to describe it. The birds were heavenly and abundant and filled the air with their song. I was so lost in thought, overwhelmed by my senses that it truly felt magical and it seemed that time simply stopped. I'm an empath and I feel these moments deeply, but this one was one for the record books! After quite some time, and with enough time that even one of our sweet contractors, Dustin, thought he should come check on me after watching me lost in time, I decided I should get back to work. As I began to pull forward, a Monarch butterfly flew out from under my golf cart and through the front window frame. Instantly remembering my mother-in-law, Rita's, connection with the Monarchs (even her neighborhood in Florida was called Monarch), I literally smiled and recognized the meaning as I said aloud, "Is this the perfect place, Rita?" In the split second I asked that, a vivid red cardinal flew through my golf cart window frame and landed right on a branch in front of me and sat perched, just looking at me, now frozen in place. Not only had I just witnessed the first Monarch only a few seconds before, this was the first cardinal or bird of any color I had seen on property...and it was May. Seeing this cardinal reminded me of the striking moment at our home in Austin, just weeks after Rita came to live with us after her extra-hepatic cholangiocarcinoma cancer diagnosis. We had just turned our mutual home office into Rita's room and Erik officed upstairs while I officed in the kitchen. While working on my computer, lost in whatever task I was drawn to, I heard the song of a bird and thought, "Wow, that bird sounds lovely, but loud! It sounds mighty close! Wonder what kind of bird it is?" and as I got up to go out the back door and look, I locked eyes with this vivid red cardinal perched on none other than my mother-in-law's chair at the breakfast table...IN MY HOUSE! I had no idea the meaning behind the cardinal until I began to tell my friends this story of this encounter with this lovely, now meaningful creature. In May of 2018, my eye was once again drawn to this beautiful bird and in lieu of Rita's breakfast chair, this majestic cardinal chose trees joined together at the base, nearly equal in size. I quickly began to see even more depth in the meaning of this moment and decisions to be made hereafter. The girth of their trunks reached equally into their limbs except for the one low-hanging limb on the tree in the right. This limb instantly caused me to realize the visual spacing of this limb...the limb before the canopy of the trees...it was reminiscent of his life ending a short 12 months, 40 days and 12 hours prior to hers. These trees perfectly split, though joined at the earth, the visual framework of the Dr. Okerholm Loghaus and the future site of Mrs. Okerholm's Schoolhouse. It was in that moment that I knew her Schoolhouse belonged where I envisioned it. In their precious time on this earth, they impacted millions of lives together, were married over fifty years and it was Rita's desire that they go to "the Ranch". Welcome home, Rita and Richard, welcome home.