Early Friday morning I arose and headed outside to capture the approaching dawn. The hills were still cloaked in mist as the first rays of light spread across the landscape. Using a long, dark dress and a rose from my garden, I stepped in front of the lens and composed a series of pictures to catch the moment.
Please visit my other blog to see the rest of these dreamy images.
I have been very busy with a new project, which I hope will ultimately turn into a new career-- fine art photography. We did not move, as some of you may have suspected. I am still in the same cottage in the woods, and now that summer is upon us with a heavy hand, I am so very happy we chose to stay. The landscape has proven to be the prefect backdrop for my photography.
For me owning a home is like being in a relationship. There are ups and downs, good times and bad. There are things you learn in time that were not apparent during the courtship phase, and there is a bond that develops when you fully commit to being there.
This is where I am currently in my relationship with my home. In terms of looks and style, it is not perfect, and does not fit my dream of what my home should be like. It is not the equivalent of Cary Grant or even Hugh Grant, if I could envision them as houses, but is perhaps more like a young Richard Dreyfus or Dustin Hoffman. The home is small and cozy, but filled with a radiance and warmth. It is comfortable and solid, not too fancy for everyday use.
I am coming to accept these traits, the strengths and the limitations, and to let go of the longing for something that is unattainable or would require a sacrifice of the intangibles that have made living where I do such a treat. Those intangibles include the true darkness that pervades the night sky, not needing to shroud my windows at night, being able to sleep with open windows and hear the sounds of nature-- spring peepers are happily singing every night this time of year, watching dear graze in the fields around the house, watching hawks soar above the tree line, watching vultures fly in overlapping circles, seeing the sun rise and set from inside the house.
If we were to move back into town, all these things would be lost, and I know we would miss them greatly. That old house I wrote about recently is like a world unto itself, as my husband said when we were touring it. It feels like stepping back in time to be wrapped in its sheltering embrace, but I am not one who lives my entire life within the confines of my house, and that embrace would become smothering in time. I need quiet and darkness at night. I need sunlight and air and space. I need to work in the dirt and to connect with the natural world. I need a house that nurtures this connection and feels a part of nature, not separate from it.
The limitations of this house, as one who has now lived there almost a year, are mostly related to its size and lack of storage space. We have amended the problems that existed with the plumbing and electrical systems. The space issues are things we can work around with a little bit of creativity and finesse. A small space can also be a blessing in that it forces mindfulness about what is brought into the house, it forces one to be tidy because little messes make the whole place look unclean, it is quick to clean, cheaper to maintain.
So, I have decided to stay where I am, to focus my energies on making my current house dreamy, instead of pursuing my dream house. I guess I am fully committing to my house and no longer shopping around for something better. I feel lucky to have a home that is safe and comfortable and feel silly for entertaining those voices of discontent that tell me it's not good enough. I am choosing to ignore them and to focus on the strengths of this home that surrounds and protects me. She may not be perfect, but the reality is that she suits me quite well.
How would you describe your relationship with your house?
Today when I cam to work, I spied some notes I had written during a few quiet minutes, where I listed traits of my dream house. The reason why this is fascinating is that upon waking this morning, I was giving up on the house I posted about yesterday, mentally moving on by choosing to not go anywhere. Moving is expensive and completely unnecessary for us to do right now. Our border collie loves being out in the country with acres to patrol and deer to chase off. I love the views seen from my great room and hearing tree frog serenades as I fall asleep. My cats love the avian life that flocks to our bird feeders, strategically placed where they are visible from cat perches around the house. My husband loves having an office with a view and a deck. I was resolved to the notion of staying and maybe, someday, adding on to our tiny house so that I could have an art studio and a mud room.
And as I get ready to see my first client of the day, I see this hand-written list on the top of my clipboard.
My Dream House:
1. is an OLD house (1920's or older) with original details-- floors, doors, trim, windows, fireplace, staircase
2. has a claw foot tub
3. has an abundance of windows and natural light
4. has plaster walls
5. has a second story
6. has a proper entry
7. has an open staircase
8. has a front and back porch
9. has high ceilings (at least 9')
10. has a proper dining room
11. has large rooms in the common living areas
12. has been well-cared for
13. has period features, such as pocket doors and built-ins
14. sits on a property with mature trees and space for gardens
15. is located somewhere quiet either out in the country or possibly in town on a quiet street
16. feels solid and protective, is well-built
17. has good views through the windows-- either natural scenery or a pretty street with nice houses
18. has a connection to nature, either through woods being close by or through a well-tended garden
I wrote this list a few weeks ago and had not yet seen the grand old house, aside from the fact that we used to live in the same neighborhood and I would wonder about the house as I walked my dog past it most days. That house has about 90% of the things on this list. I am not sure exactly how quiet the street is on a daily basis, but when I used to walk my dog there at random times throughout the day, it seemed pretty quiet. I don't know any details yet about how good or bad the major systems in the house are, which could certainly be a deal-breaker. I just find it curious that I write out this list on a whim, and this house shows up for sale.
If I hold out a little while longer, perhaps a house possessing 100% of these traits will become available at my price range.
And yet, when I left for work today, it finally felt like spring in the country. There were many birds singing their little hearts out, the grass is becoming greener by the house, trees are in bud, the sky is perfectly blue.
Life is really made up of a series of choices. At most times we have the power to choose, if not what happens to us, at the very least, how we relate to it. Not all choices are easy. Sometimes there are two right answers; other times, two wrong answers. Right now, I am choosing to embrace to mystery and the wonder, not making any decisions either way. I need to let this percolate a little while longer and see if the flavor changes or deepens.
I have been bitten by the old house bug once again. Even though there are things I love about my house, like the expansive views, there is a core part of me that still longs for an old house. I miss the interior features of the house we left last year, but definitely do not miss its main street location.
While looking at Realtor.com yesterday, I spied this new listing. There was a note of panic in my husband's voice when I took my computer into his office and said I had found a newly listed house I wanted to see. I understand that anxiety-- we have moved every year for the past 3 years, and it is so much work, on top of everything else that we struggle to keep up with. Nonetheless, we went to see the house.
The pictures from the website are awful and do not highlight the coolest features of the house, like both sets of pocket doors separating the parlors from the main hallway/entry way. The house was built in 1907 and is basically a large foursquare with Victorian-style trim and three-sided bays in the two front rooms. It has 10' ceilings throughout the main level. There are 2 bathrooms, both with claw foot tubs. The overgrown yew bushes completely obstruct the front porch and front door, which is surrounded by sidelights and topped with a leaded-glass transom. Most of the plaster walls are covered with 1970's era paneling, but all the original trim and doors remain intact. The original floors are also intact, although the finish is badly worn in some of the rooms.
Here is a poor quality photo of the staircase:
It shows the paneled walls (yuck) but also shows the style of the trim.
There are obvious cosmetic needs, but those are less concerning than the potential needs of the electrical system and the plumbing. We have only taken a cursory look and have not had anyone inspect the place, so there are a lot of unknowns regarding its true condition. The roof, exterior, and foundation seem to be in good repair. The furnace is older but allegedly works fine.
This house is more than we need, twice as big as the one we are now living in. The yard is one sixth of the size of our current lot. There are neighbors close by, and streetlights. Plus, the house needs a fair amount of work at best. It is not practical and possibly not even affordable, depending on the overall cost of improvements.
She is a grand, old dame, however, and a girl can dream.
Spring has been quite coy this year, teasing us with promises that she is nearby, only to dash our hopes with frosty nights. I picked these daffodils a couple of days ago, still in the bud at the time, when below freezing temperatures were being predicted. They have fared quite well on my kitchen counter.
Today we have warm temperatures and gusty winds; a thunderstorm is looming just beyond the hills to the south.
It is my hope that wherever you find yourselves, you are experiencing the lightness, anticipation, and relief that come with the turn of the seasons.
Let's face it... if you live in the mid-west, the northeast, the mid-atlantic, and even the deep south, this has been one very long winter! The entire eastern half of the country seems to have grown weary of dreary, cold, snowy days and is desperate for spring-- this could just be me, but I doubt it.
Here are some ways I am coping with this seemingly interminable winter: by focusing on the beauty that still abounds in these frosty days; by reveling in the sun when it shines, bathing in its warmth as it streams through my windows in the late afternoon; by getting outside and just breathing in the fresh air, letting it fill my lungs and rejuvenate me; and by celebrating the occasional, warm days that have been interspersed with the cold.
Planning garden projects has been helpful. So have tending to my houseplants and bringing in fresh flowers from the grocery store. Forcing bulbs in pots or bulb vases provides a way to bring a bit of spring and new life indoors. The dormancy of winter can feel like death after awhile, so focusing on new life is a way to counteract that.
Taking my camera outside also helps. Practicing photography is a way of staying in the present. When I am shooting, everything beyond the lens just fades away.
Yesterday morning, there was mist rising from the creek and ridges to the west of my house. With snow still on the ground from our most recent storm, the entire scene was magical. Looking through the bedroom window as the sun was beginning to rise, I felt as if I were being offered a glimpse into something rare and fine in the challenging, sometimes dirty world. This pulled me from beneath the fluffy, warm comforter. I zipped my long, down coat over my robe, pulled on my winter boots, and headed outside with my camera and discovered something even more magical than the mist.
Overnight, frost had settled on every leaf, seed head, blade of grass, and tree branch.
I had never examined frost this closely before.
Nor do I recall ever noticing that it resembled spines or thorns, protecting every surface in its icy embrace.
The four previous photos show a rose of Sharon bush, seed heads still intact.
Even the remnant of barbed wire fencing seems delicate when adorned with frost.
If you also live somewhere where the winter seems intolerable and far too long, how are you getting through?