if this be a home, let it be filled with light

Untitled
By the time I’m nine I know the world is a dangerous place. I’ve heard whispers about razorblades in apples, about Charlie Manson and his family. But no one is offering any clear information. –Nick Flynn

I think about a painting I used to love. A desperate woman crawls up a field. In the distance there’s a little wooden house. It’s gray, fallen to blight, like a woman who wakes one morning and realizes the years that have passed, feels her skin crumble like tissue, but the house, like the woman, stands tall, proud with the knowledge that she was once beautiful. That her face was once a map that everyone wanted to navigate and conquer.

But back to the scene as it plays out. You get the sense from how she’s leaning forward, how her hair has come undone, how her belt binds her to the ground, that reaching this home, a future version of herself, is unimaginable. All she wants is to be a girl, playing house in older woman’s clothes. All she ever wanted is to get there, but then it occurs to her that she doesn’t really know what there is. She knows the shape of it — her life stretched before her like some messy tableaux — but she can’t make out the details. Nothing’s in focus.

I’ve visited this painting quite a bit, and wondered what it would’ve been like if the woman could create a string of miniature houses — like a set of tire tracks — leading her home. One house would be demonstrably larger and richer than the previous one, and she could fully inhabit the place, lean out the windowsill, trace the dust with her hands and lay her head down on the wooden floor. As the years press on, she could shed each house like a piece of clothing, and the house would remain like a photograph, an indelible mark of the person you once were rather than the person you don’t know how to be.

Sometimes I think about all of the homes I’ve lived in over the years and all I could see are numbers on doors: 77 black, 182 white with a screen, 1256 stone, and so on. But what doesn’t make it into the frame are the insides: the color of the carpet, the furniture in each of the rooms. I can see them in pieces, but not completely, and it dawns on me that all of my homes feel like a single version on repeat, and I struggle to move forward, to shed, because I don’t know what I’ve definitively left behind.

I’ve never built a house that was a home until now. 38 years. The years.

IMG_5167IMG1231
IMG_5166IMG1231

In this house there are books everywhere. On the floor, under coffee tables, stacked against the walls and ensconced in bookcases. There is a considerable amount of blue, a few mirrors, cashmere, and linens piled a shelf high. There is a loft with a view down below. Home is a door that can be closed, allowing me to retreat, exhale, but it’s also a door that can be opened, letting the air rush in. Last week I told a dear friend that the apartment I was leaving was a form of chrysalis, a place that allowed me to change shape. I also said that this was the place where Sophie died and out of nowhere I was overcome by her loss, as if it had just happened, and I looked at Felix, my new love, and I had to remind myself my heart is large enough for both my boy and sweet girl to fill it. Friends came and helped me lug bags and books and boxes down a flight of stairs and Sarah said that this place will bring me something new. I nodded, didn’t say much, but thought that finally home is a place where I can lay to rest. A place that feels permanent.

As you can see, I’m still unpacking. I’m still waiting for bookcases to house the hundreds of books piled on the floor. i’m exercising patience because I’ve got a strict budget {ah, the freelance life!} and I can’t just run out and buy a dining table, chairs, floor rugs, chairs, lamps, and all the things my heart desires just yet. But what’s more important to me is what I create in this space, not the things I fill it with. I have to remind myself of that every day.

In this home, in the memory I’ll now have of it, is love, is food, is friendship like a cat’s cradle held into two hands. I know each room completely. From the paint on the walls to the moldings to the grooves in the carpet, to the B-list books hidden from view. I know this place. I know this kitchen. I know this love.

IMG_5164IMG1231

4 thoughts on “if this be a home, let it be filled with light

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s