In This House
Our house. In the middle of our street. It is a very very very fine house. But it is small. It is full to bursting.
Ican't tell you how many friends tell us we have to move. "You NEED something bigger" they say. 2 rooms upstairs and 2 rooms downstairs "is not enough" for our 3 big selves and our cars and books and movies and fabric and yarn and paints and crayons and cats and fish and slugs and trains and plants and clothes and dishes and canned goods and tents and bicycles and cutlery and stuff. Not to mention that we "aren't exactly tidy people".
I agree. The house is full, but not just of things. Its full of memories. Its full of neighbours who are constantly popping in for a cuppa. Its full of handmade cabinets by the landlord's cousin who loves to phone or stop 'round to talk about America. Its full of careful planning to get everything in and still being able to close the front door. Its full of cats who know exactly where is best to nap and which neighbour will brush and feed them.
It would be easy to pack up and move. We don't own it. We are not tied to the slumpy property market in the same way Owners are. We are just tenants. In a system that values OWNERship, we should be working towards something being ours. In many people's eyes it would be better and more respectable to own a house somewhere far away from our lives than to pay rent and be somewhere that is at the hub of everything we need.
I often find myself swayed by this thinking. I see the mess. The clutter. I tidy up the toys 6,000 times a day in our 10'x12' living space and I get angry that there isn't anywhere to put anything. I sit on the computer next to the TV blaring and I stomp away that I can't have my own space, my own wing to arrange flowers and paint and sing Elizabeth Mitchell's version of Woodie Guthrie's Car Car.
I stomp and think to myself, "How did it get like this?" But so often I am struck by something I read in India almost 10 years ago, Louise Bogan's words in Journey Around My Room
"The initial mystery that attends any journey is: how did the traveller reach his starting point in the first place? How did I reach the window, the walls, the fireplace, the room itself; How do I happen to be beneath this ceiling and above this floor? Oh that is a matter for conjecture, for argument pro and con, for research for supposition, dialectic! I can hardly remember how. Unlike Livingstone on the verge of darkest Africa, I have no maps to hand, no globe of the terrestrial or celestial spheres, no chart of the mountains, lakes, sextant, no artificial horizon. If I ever possessed a compass, it has long since disappeared. There must be, however, some reasonable explanation for my presence here. Some step started me towards this point, as opposed to all other points on the habitable globe. I must consider, I must discover it*"
And I stay. I consider the the windows that need cleaning, walls that need painting, the beautiful view of the abbey and the ochils, the neighbours, the memories, the mess, the cleaning and I decide that the path that led me here does not yet lead me away. So I make a commitment to declutter, to grow a thicker skin and drink more tea and less coffee.
Because in this house, there is always mess
but a happy (and usually filthy) little boy who plays and plays and plays. Who loves his neighbours and his park and his life here.
And in this house, I chose to live.
*As if to prove the point, when looking for this quote in the shed in my journal an old table, a drill, a box of books and a bag of paint supplies fell on me and I have a nasty welt on the back of my arm. Do the lessons have to be so hard to learn?