The house and I resume old conversations. May Sarton
How does one begin a conversation with a house? Recently I decided to ask Simplicity what she wanted me to know about her. Writing about a house as if she were a person with thoughts and feelings, I was curious what would come of this question asked of a familiar friend with four walls. What would she have to say? By granting Simplicity a voice would I no longer be in charge of this story? Depending upon how this experiment turned out, would we be co-writing from this point forward? Too many unknowns, but the greatest was a nagging thought that I was about to come face to face with myself. Was I ready? Could I be that honest? Just as truth shows up when I journal each day using a process called morning pages, this was a time I did not want to miss any wisdom and insight that she might offer. I was ready to take dictation. Once I asked the question, my pen started skittering across the page.
Simplicity, what do you want me to know about you? She began talking without a hint of hesitation. Words were flying as if she might not be given another chance to speak.
“I am a proud house, nothing fancy, nothing elaborate, just what I am. With simple lines a sound structure was built. ‘Uncomplicated with character’ would be an accurate description. My simple plainness allows you to create me in so many ways. I am like a blank canvas that receives whatever you paint on me. These old walls of mine invite art. Colors perk me up and furniture moved within my walls adds comfort and interest. Cozy places happen in these boxy rooms. My many windows and doors keep air flowing, are ways to move people and ideas throughout my strong frame. Floors are old and bare with countless living footsteps having walked on them. Bumps and bruises of my lifetime show up in my worn woodwork. I do not try to hide these as they keep me real. Thank you for seeing me and not being embarrassed. Tall ceilings give you space to expand your living and they make me feel deliciously elegant. Two interior staircases keep you fit and help me stretch my frame. How fortunate I feel to have three porches which allow me to breathe and extend myself to welcome others. Oh, yes, and how I love my new grounding and supportive base. Being moved to this lot meant a new basement for my old bones. I have greater confidence in myself and know I am much stronger. The move was a new beginning for me, just as it was for you. Thank you for loving me into being a stately house, a home, once again. Did I love you into being, too?”
Simplicity paused as did my writing. “Did I love you into being, too?” my four walled friend has asked. Oh, yes, my heart readily responded.
This house and I understand each other. I, too, am a transplant on this lot, in this neighborhood, village, and state. I left a job I loved, family and friends that were supportive, and a community that raised me. I left with eagerness to begin this new life with the man I loved. Everything about this next life of mine felt like an adventure with opportunity and possibilities. When I saw this house, I empathized. She and I shared a common story. She looked intentional and committed standing on this formerly empty lot with no landscaping to soften her, not even grass. Void of any inside decor, it was as if she had sorted herself out, cleaned off her desk to write a new chapter, emptied herself to be willingly filled with her next story. I felt I had done the same.
Soon I was to discover that this new chapter would not be easy. With confidence in my skills and an updated resume, I stretched into a variety of different vocational avenues, was interviewed, but not hired. Both relief and disappoint accompanied this. No job seemed to truly fit. Struggling with my worth in the world, Don suggested that this may be the moment to dive deeply into my hopes and dreams and bring something innovative into being. I looked at this as a sort of sabbatical from work, from making money. This was time to work on myself, give space to whatever was shaping and forming in my heart. But what was that? What was I interested in? What fascinated me? What skills and talents were mine? My deepest fear was that I wouldn’t find myself. Depression was my companion. Who was I now? Who was I without a job to name me and without income that gave me a sense of worth? What did I love that much that I would go to such lengths to create it? I realize now that my hope for a home was that it would help me discover myself. Could that happen with Simplicity? I had to trust that this old house would support my questions, could handle my frustrations, calm my fears, allow my wallowing and indecision, and lovingly hold my depression. So much to ask of four walls!
Simplicity did not abandon me. Her spaces invited ideas, insights, guests who expressed appreciation not only of who Don and I were, but of Simplicity’s worth and uniqueness. Her simple structure and welcoming spirit to experiment with her spaces gave courage to birth my consulting business which I called, Spatial Impact: Interpreting the Language of Space. I threw myself into research on ways our environments shape our behaviors and eventually went back to school to receive my master’s degree in that area.
As I tried to find myself while defining my unique work, Simplicity’s spaces became a palette with which to play and explore theories of spatial relationships. Her rooms and passageways were teaching me about the clarity of design, attention to detail, and how to create confidence in moving through a space. How could this space open up, invite, welcome? How could a feeling of intimacy be improved in this area of the room? How well did our spaces talk to each other and make sense in our daily patterns? What parts of the house were more pleasant to be in and why? Does this house and the way we have furnished it, truly represent us and our core values? How does our house communicate and what does it say? Each of these questions was clarifying in understanding Simplicity. Each was also insightful in finding myself.
“Did I love you into being?” Simplicity has asked. This time I let the words of May Sarton speak for me. ” I have brought all that I am and all that I came from here, and it is the marriage of all this with an old American house which gives the life here its quality for me. It is a strange marriage and its like does not exist anywhere else on earth . . . and just that has been the adventure.”