I am going to tell you something half made up.
I can almost measure my life by the evolution of dreams, that is, dreams of the future which may or may not pass into my sleeping life. They make sense, flowing into each other, and i hope that one day they'll make something that can carry a raft with all that i hold precious on it.
So. This house.
Ever been through the emptier parts of central upstate New York? I can't remember what town this was closest to, but maybe it was near Oneonta. It's the part of the state where i learned to love the round haybales that reminded me of shredded wheat, and that provided this small easterner with a footing when faced with the vastness of the west. It was dry, flattish. Golden in a worn way, not a "amber waves of grain" way, like this was a frontier that had been abandoned. The frontier had moved on, leaving these spaces exhausted, the grey split-rail falling, the barns collapsing in on themselves like bums at the end of a bottle. A landscape i love like i love all the worn and tired.
The houses here are far between. Most are mobile homes, prefab homes, the cheapest shelter that can be bought to put on the cheapest land. They live, with their rock gardens and plastic pinwheels and dwarfed by their satellite dishes (a sign of boredom or isolation, i can only imagine), somehow they live in the same space as these crumbling mansions. Aesthetics have withered in the face of economics.
And but so, this house. At a fork in the road, we'd pass it every year on our way up to the lake in Ontario. It was weathered and two-storied, with a columned porch out front, and holes growing in the roof like mold on a petri dish. Fewer and fewer panes in the windows each year - i can watch a time-lapse movie of its decay in my head even now. I was in love with that building.
And one day at school, walking perhaps through snow or past tigerlilies, i had a vision full-formed. I saw the house, the roof patched (pied tiles, of course, because how could we in those days afford to redo the whole thing?), people going in and out. The dead grass out front had been replaced by rows of herbs. Tom was working on shoring up the breaking-back bow of the porch roof.
Someone had painted the front door bright blue.
I knew out back there was a kiln and perhaps even beehives. I knew, inside, the kitchen was half-painted and full of sunlight and the smell of garlic and bread. Dan was moving things around in the kitchen, satisfied, silent, and surreptitiously giving. A grin. I knew the door would never be locked and that there would be rest there for those who needed it.
Dunno where that thought came from.
But it started echoing through my thinking, and evolved in bits and pieces, as if revealing itself. I saw our garden grow, and not only that; we taught ourselves about organic gardening and then taught the locals. Their plots and our plots grew veggies galore, and (wonder of the marketplace!) we could sell them in the City to bring money into the dust-dirt townlessness that's our neighborhood. Our flatbed truck, bouncing down the road to the metropolis, we're all got up for market and for shows, to sell our pottery to galleries.
We have places to stay because we give them a place to be. Them, those that are in love with the city but need sometimes to sleep in that upstairs room, the one where we haven't fixed the window yet because it is summer and the way the curtain moves is soothing. The vines we've planted grew fast, and creep in the window, blurring outside and in.
That house became a house of welcome, in the tradition of Dinah's place, where i'd felt so welcomed as a lost high-schooler. On a traumatic day i would climb into that house as into a nest of soft blankets. Dinah would cook for us. Fires in the backyard. Naps. My mother had almost been jealous of how at home i felt there, but it did not make me less at home elsewhere. It made me more part of the world.
The blue door was someone's whim. It became emblematic. I wanted to build a home in the beautiful ruins. We filled it with love.
The house, that beautiful, the physical house, was never rescued. Between the roads that forked, it sank into itself as thoroughly as the barns further down the road. All the white flecked off and it became grey, bent boards and nothing resurrectable. But it is a landmark nonetheless,
select boards saved to build a new home, later
when i pull together my dreams
invite my friends
and move in.