Tuesday, February 28, 2012

On little houses and wildness ...

I haven't written for a while ... lots on my mind and lots going on around here ... packing and getting ready for our trip back to South Africa next week for a family wedding ... lovely lovely ... getting ready for goodbyes to very very good friends who are leaving while we are away, which I am not really ready to face head-on just yet ... little projects and organizing and a week of winter break from school means I am a little behind and it's been a little busy.

But i have been wanting to write, just trying to catch the thoughts - sometimes they go swimming and it's hard to pin them down, get them to flow to the page - silver streaks, half glimpses and they are gone .. what was i trying to say ... what was i thinking .. almost formed, oh, and it's gone. Which is why it's taken a while to come back here.

I got a lovely early birthday present in the post, all the way from the land of pubs and red buses ... my old home ... London town ... (pretty much anyway). a beautiful and unexpected book on shelter ... but on the little little kind. Small tiny just-big-enough-for-one most times kind of houses. Not showy or flashy or pretentious. Not huge and sprawling. Unexpected. Little surprises. Just a box from the outside and then you open the door and it's magical and tiny and all so well thought out. Some are studios and man-caves and secret hidey hole homes in the forest. Some are retreats from the world with the owners able to escape the demands of big-house-living for a while. Some are remnants of the flower-power generation ... treehouses, crazy houses. Little sheds in the field. Some are off-the-grid-living. Which really appeals. They are homes of dreamers sometimes. Free spirits. People who battled in the conventional world and had to rethink. And flourished. 

I have been thinking a lot about this book and these houses - on the day it arrived on went 'Max and Ruby' for Lexi and i sat on the couch and drank in the book. It's not really about beautiful homes or well taken photographs ... it's kind of more of a visual documentary. But it did get me thinking. Which i am guessing was the point. About how easy it is to fall into the trap of having to aquire and show ... wealth, space, home, car, vacations, dinner parties. Not that any of those things are not wonderful in and of themselves, but they can take over, it's easy to lose focus. Little houses mean streamlining to what is really essential. One beautiful bowl on the counter instead of a whole room full of treasures. Everything has to be carefully chosen and be functional, not just decorative. How full our lives can be with clutter and activities and shoes for every kind of weather ... rainboots and shimmery sandals and snow boots and spring boots and flip-flops for the summer ... wardrobes and bookshelves and gadgets and tools and the basement overflows and toys in every corner ... we fill up on shopping and things and surrounding ourselves with objects in our castles (metaphorically speaking) ... and sometimes I think the focus is lost. The sunrise over a field. The walk in autumn leaves. A cup of tea in silence. The simple life. Not that we should all live in little houses. Not at all. With kids alone it is hard enough with lots of rooms and space, especially in the winter when it's cold out and we have to be entertained inside for months on end. It's just that it's appealing - having less - only what is needed - really focusing on how one lives and what the choices are that we make. How our homes should reflect who we are, how we want to live. It seems harder and harder to do that and living off the grid or in a tree has a great appeal. Better yet for me, a mobile home for a year, home schooling and travelling. Or a boat. A caravan. Moving. Seeing. Keeping it simple and open.

And then I had a dream about a girl from art school with long knotted hair and no shoes who could paint, really paint. Flower child with enough wild to keep her from being tamed. I haven't seen her in almost 20 years and we are not in contact but there she was in my dream ... walking around barefoot in her black skirt, wide headband holding back the waves. She had built her house on the roof of another and the floors were black but everywhere she had added paintings - to the floor .. to the walls and furniture ... beautiful glowing self portraits of herself over time. Her house was quiet and light filled and it was raining on the black roof outside - she had moss and ferns hanging in pots beside the open door onto the roof. High up in the sky - suspended. She lived on the Eastern Cape coast in Africa and it was green and wet and beautiful. Methinks there lies a painting in there somewhere.

When i woke up i was so sad ... i wanted to stay in her up-in-the-roof house and finish my tea. And i thought that she had the balance right. That girl in my dream. The wild and not quite tamed. The being in nature but close to it all. Not quite subsistence farming because not all of us can or want to grow our own greens. But that girl and the little houses ... they are keeping me thinking thinking about a better balance than now. A way to find the wildness and barefoot again. A simpler life, more focused on what is important. Like running outside and kids swimming in a lake instead of swimming lessons and an ordered life. Making tree houses and getting feet dirty instead of planned playdates and polite hellos. Not that suburban living can't also be fun. But there's a wildness missing. A feeling of really living. Being ALIVE in all the fullness of that word. How we grow up and get jobs and settle down and buy houses and cars and then the mortgage and schools and PTA meetings and .... it's a little too claustrophobic for me sometimes and I want to escape. Find a better balance. Get my balance right. 

That balance will be different for everyone. Some people hate getting their feet muddy. And that's OK. As for me, i am looking forward to heading back to Africa next week and finding some river mud to sink my toes into.


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