BOOK TOUR JOURNAL 2
GOODBYE TO THIS OLD HOUSE
This morning I finished reading John T. Price’s memoir, Daddy Long Legs: The Natural Education of a Father. In the epilogue, he quotes Willa Cather, “a house ‘can never be beautiful until it has been lived in for a long time.... The beauty lies in the associations that cluster around it, the way in which the house has fitted itself to the people.’” That was when tears came for the first time during this move, and I began to grieve my parting with the house that I have lived in for fifteen years, the longest I have lived in any house. I looked around at the bare walls, dismantled furniture, and cried a bit. I’d thought that might happen when Cheyenne was here, but we were too busy to feel much besides the enjoyment of each other’s company.
This little yellow box of a house has been good to me, and I have been good to it. I have, at different times, had dreams for it—going off-grid or turning the two north rooms into a tiny-house apartment for myself and renting the rest to creative writing grad students, building a live-in tree house in the backyard. Romantic stuff I’m given to. What I had (or created) resources for was mostly things that needed to be done, not the stuff of dreams—new roof, new furnace, new water heater, new swamp cooler. And there were smaller, more optional things—lights over the kitchen sink, new bath and shower surround, refinished kitchen counters, custom-built shed in the yard. I loved this house well, even though I tried three times before this to sell it, which has to do with being a nomad—more to come on that.
Because I’m a nomad, one thing I’m good at is quickly turning a dwelling place into a home. I hadn’t realized it until my ex and I were beach camping on Crete. I set about organizing everything and placed stones around our encampment. Irene remarked that I was really a homebody, despite my constant movement, and she was right. I always end up loving my home wherever I make it, loving in the active sense, having loved a place into home-ness.
I didn’t really cry this morning—just a lump in the throat and watery eyes. As I’ve emptied and packed, though, the beauty of those clusters of associations has shown up in objects and spaces. Remembering the first time I hosted my book group here, sitting at my kitchen table with friends, making sugarless high tea for Irene’s 70th birthday, finding the stone that Cheyenne painted in greens and blues that served as a doorstop for years.
As I moved through the house, I kept looking at the wooden bowl that held my precious rocks—rocks I’d picked up over time, rocks that were gifts. “What am I going to do with those?” I kept asking myself. Yesterday I picked out the ones I want to take with me for my dashboard, as suggested by Susan Hammock—one from New Zealand that Glen, my cosmic twin gave me more than thirty years ago; one with a tiny fossil that I found on Bjørnø in Denmark last summer; one from New Mexico, and a round river rock engraved with the word Gratitude that my cousin Colleen gave me. I still looked at the bowl of rocks every time I passed it. This morning, after reading the Willa Cather quote, after my little teary farewell, I took the bowl outside and arranged the rocks on the stump in my front yard where my bronze Japanese rabbits used to sit. Then I dusted out the bowl and put it in the pile going to my neighbor’s yard sale.
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