Like a memory, every time a story's told it changes. I can speak to memories because they're personal and if I'm paying attention I can see one set of small truths swapped out for another. How is a memory not a story? A thing you tell yourself until it's gone, or changed so much you no longer recognize it, and yet it remains gospel. I think the truth of a story is the evolution of its change. I have a story that's nearly as old as me. If I had to pin it in place I'd find it in a creek bed in summer, or just above in the crotch of the reading tree. Not the beginning, but the first place I can mark with any sort of surety.
I want to be alone, unmolested by distraction. I want to read until I don't, catch minnows in a cup, and pound rocks in August when the creek's gone dry. I want silence. I want to be still, and most of all, I want to be safe. The world is an unknown entity; anything can happen and that's OK, but I've wanted the right to step out of that world since the story began. Or, that is how the story begins. I don't tell myself the story in any concrete way until I'm much older. I am a wife and mother of two. I am a year or two away from thirty and already tired and I like books and trees, horses and dogs, and cats, and the forest. I love the beach, but only one in particular. I wish for silence.
In my father's house there is a green room, two steps down from the rest of the house. It's full of books and window seats. I adjust the room, just a bit. Now there are French doors, a small terrace, and a large kitchen garden. Later I add the forest and close off the room; I push the walls back and make a bed and there it remains for another couple years. The next time I tell the story I've added a front door, a fireplace, my rocking chair, a sink, and a good size table. Apparently I have work to do. I start using the front door, not to let people in, to let myself in and out. I have gone to work in that place called Corporate America and I dress in battle gear and carry a broadsword. Most of the time I like what I do, but I still need the armor or I'd come back without a face.
The house grows, but not too much. I experiment with compartmentalization. If I add a room over here, or one there, then maybe people can come and go and I will still be safe, and I will still be who I am, and I will still have peace. In the end, the rooms vanish one by one and I am left with the single room. It hasn't changed much but it's bigger. I question the wants that expand a three hundred square foot cottage to it's twice the size and sometimes more. I add a second story in a time when a man convinced himself he'd like to spend his life in that place with me. When I make him go away, I remove the second floor but leave the stairs. I want an attic loft but I'm not sure why.
These days there's a great deal of clarity as it pertains to the lower level. I know what the cottage needs and I know why. I know where the cottage lives and I understand the necessary attributes, in and out. I know why it expands and contracts. I no longer know what it looks like and the French doors have been gone for decades. They stopped making sense. The fireplace turned into a pellet stove over night and I allowed an actual kitchen and a bathroom to evolve. You'd think the bathroom would have been there from the start, no? No. It, as well as running water, didn't become desirable until I got closer to the truth.
In my mind I have built and pulled apart and built again but it's always been the thing I learned to call the widow's house which is wrong, wrong, wrong. I'll have another name, or I won't, but it surely will not be that. It's only just this year that house stepped off the pages and looked at me, which is far different than me looking at it. When a house finally stands itself up, a whole lot of other truths come with it. For a while I thought the house was literal and from thirty-seven photographs I got to know it and its property about as well as anyone can by looking at a screen. When I finally got to the house and looked at squarely, I realized it wasn't quite yet literal. Close though.
The house also has a story. I don't know much of it, but walking around the property and looking at the foundation I can see what's happened in its fifty-five years. It's not old enough to have this sort of trouble, and yet it does.
I can't save this house, it can't save itself. I can't save the property, other than to let it go back the way it's meant to be and occupied by any sort of building was never in its plans. I walk all over the two acre lot and decide there's no way in hell a place like this would perc. An engineer could stand there with his stopwatch all day long. That dog won't hunt. The ground is wet and squishy and I can see the long pipes meant to put in a new leaching field. That's not ever going to happen. The dug well has been abandoned for a drilled well at the very highest part of the property and as far away from the septic as possible. It doesn't matter. It doesn't matter because, mostly, the standing water just twelve feet out the back door. It looks like a vernal pool, but maybe not. Maybe somebody tried to contain the downhill flow. This doesn't make a lot of sense unless you're a house and really don't want to go.
That pool of water and discarded building materials made me cry but I let go, no trouble at all.
I said, sorry, and walked away. There's a three hundred square foot cottage on two acres with full exposure about a mile the other direction and because you can walk, with impunity, on Vermont property (unless otherwise posted) I repeated my inspection of the house and land and found it good. It's not for sale and nobody lives there just now, but I discovered I'd planted an orchard, built an addition, and brought back my chickens.
I wish I had that sort of clarity with the rest of my life. Clarity doesn't cast a thing in stone and we so want to do that sort of thing. We want answers, we want to be sure, we question everything, looking for, and often making holes in the boat.
Clarity doesn't live in the temporal world.
I don't need the house, but the house does need me and when I'm good and ready I'll make a choice. In the meantime, I know most of the whys and I know those whys shift almost continuously. The thing that's never shifted are the parts that have become me since maybe about the time that poor house was born.
If I could do it all over again, which I cannot, I'd have been a midwife. That aside, I'm more than happy to be a witch. Pretty much one and the same. It's good to be home, Vermont.