Sanctuary

The small hip roof over the bathroom windows was sheathed today, along with three sides of the carport. The ultimate facade revealed itself, and I can now imagine what it will look like six months from now.

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Serenity at Longleaf Preserve is what we originally planned to call our home. But it is clear that the serenity we hope for will not come from the triumph of hope over experience, nor from the palliative of mere optimism. No. What we are crafting here is a sanctuary, a place for healing and strength building, not mindless hiding. A place for full-out living each moment allotted to us. A place for children, friends, and wayfarers to read, talk, sing, love, share meals and take gentle care of the land and other creatures who have also found their way here.

A romantic notion?

You bet.

Things Unseen

David and Tim arrive quietly every morning in their paneled van from Mooneyham Heating and Air. Neat and polite, they are installing the duct work for our heating and air conditioning system. Many Augusts from now, when the heat and humidity are oppressive outside, I will remember them and imagine their work underneath wood, sheet rock and paint, the cool air whooshing efficiently through its silver foil channels, keeping us comfortable.

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I watch this home as it is being built cell by cell, and think of our own human bodies, and how the unseen parts make them work. We are all beautiful, amazing and perfect, especially in our imperfection. I think, too, of the invisible hot core of our planet home. And our hearts, our souls, whatever it is that makes us us: mysterious, ineffable and worthy of love.

Post Postmodern Garden of Eden

I am learning that at some point in the realization of a dream, the Big Idea achieves a consciousness of its own, and begins to unfold and reveal itself to the dreamers. It surprises, confounds, delights, and suggests or sometimes demands changes unforeseen in the written plan.

While Buck wrestles with the engineering of fireplace placement and new building code requirements for doors and windows, I dream of fig trees, grape arbors, and a rose garden.

Concrete was poured last Friday afternoon for the carport and the breezeway which will connect it to the front door of the house.

It was exciting to see Gary Mooneyham’s heating and air conditioning crew arrive to start their work Monday morning. The framers are concentrating on punching out of the main structure so the other trades can come in next week.

Tomorrow a big truck will bring all of our windows and sliding glass doors. That will be a watershed moment for me. I’ll be hopping up and down like an excited child.

The full moon this past weekend was astonishing as it washed through the open structure like a beneficent search light. I have never experienced the moon appearing so near that I could imagine it coming right down to rest at my feet. We turned our faces to it in silent wonder.

Meanwhile, with the prodigious energy of survivors, the Longleafs, ferns and wild flowers are putting on a show, making my morning walks an exercise in contemplative ecstasy, here in this Post-Postmodern Garden of Eden. I think Jung would have loved it here.

Home by Thanksgiving?

IMG_1876 The merger of old and new is beginning to look more natural here in this view from the back. The framing feels like it is going on forever. There has been stormy weather and high turnover among the framing contractor’s crew. Plus, this is a complicated job. There are several small roofs with smaller trusses and then a large roof with trusses requiring a crane to cover an open area two stories high. The crane arrives today or tomorrow. Then, the trusses can be covered with plywood and felt, and the finished profile will emerge.

It took Buck two years to design this addition to our cabin in the woods. He dreamed on paper and now it is rising from the ground. It is not a “turn-key” job. He figured and figured and figured. He is the architect, contractor, sweeper, leak fixer and dreamer-in-chief. My theme song for Buck is John Denver’s “What One Man Can Do.”

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“What one man can do is dream. What one man can do is love. What one man can do is change the world and make it young again. Here you see what one man can do.”

The task of linking old and new feels impossible some days. The old screened porch will become a foyer and dining room. The fellow below had to wreak a little havoc to help us make that happen.

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Richard arrived yesterday, full of good cheer and personality. But the vibration of his jack hammer knocking off the stone ribbon and concrete block step from the former screened porch rattled our ancient tooth fillings. Buck and I went to lunch and left Richard to his enthusiastic  destruction.

Fantasy Becomes Reality

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The news bones are connected to the old bones. Them bones them bones gonna walk around; them bones them bones gonna walk around. Them bones them bones gonna walk around. Now hear the word of the Lord.

It was 2:45 this afternoon when I left the house in all its noisy, bodacious creativity. Buck stayed to meet with a cabinet man from Flomaton, Alabama who was driving over to bid on the project, while I drove downtown for the weekly “caring ministry” class at Christ Episcopal Church.

I drove from rapidly developing country property into town land in decline. The most striking scenery was a vacant pasture recently turned into grazing land for actual cattle — Black Angus by the look of them, with many little calves enlivening the view. Their eventual fate may not be so bucolic, but on this afternoon, I wanted to pull over, slip under the fence, and set a spell in their presence.

Later, driving the 35 minutes home from town, happy that I had made a vat of spaghetti sauce earlier in the day, and that a loving man and glass of mellow red awaited my arrival. I almost ran off the road gawking at the sunset. I at first thought, “Damn, I wish I had my camera,” and then, “Damn, a real writer would know how to describe the high, scattered clouds decorating the lush coral sunset melting like a copper ingot in the impossibly blue sky.” Me, I need my camera.

Our framer, John, told me he would have a set of stairs built to the second floor before he left today. Driving home from town, pushing slightly over the speed limit, hoping to get there before the sunset made its final curtain call for the day, my mouth was dry thinking of what it must look like, up those plywood stairs to the raised platform, unguarded by any borders. I hoped Buck was already up there, taking in the scene.

But when I opened the gate and bumped all the way to the house, driving too fast for a smooth ride on that dirt road, I saw a strange pick-up truck, and knew the cabinet man was still there. Maggie met me at the car. I stuck my head in the door to say hello. Buck knew I was hot to run up the new steps. His eyes held mine as he said, “Be careful. There isn’t a rail.”

I feel like Jonah, in the belly of the whale. There is an organic process at work here, a digestion. The dead opposite of boredom.

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Is there anything more exciting than a newly built stairway to the stars?

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Every great house has a surprise or two. One of them here is Buck’s design for a bridge spanning the distance between two undeclared spaces on the second floor.

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Going down? The elevator is a concession to the optimistic hope that we will get old enough to need it. That, plus it seems like a ridiculously fun gadget in the meantime to carry us and a supper cart up to the second floor terrace for sunset, moon, and star gazing.

Chapel In The Woods

It’s “just” a series of second story floor joists. Maybe it’s that electric blue sky. I don’t know. To me, it looks like an avant-garde chapel in the woods. I almost wish we could leave it just as it looks in this photograph. Almost.

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The Lintel Blessing

Coming home from an expedition in search of an exterior front door, we were surprised to see a bold, black scrawl of words written on a piece of framing. We were even a little uneasy, until we read the words.  “God bless this house with spiritual growth and love,” was written on the lintel of what will be the opening to the front door of the new house. The frame containing the lintel piece has not been nailed into place yet, and is lying flat on the concrete slab.

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It was late afternoon, one of those crispy blue moments when everything is seen in sharp relief, breezy and fresh. Quiet.

We opened the door, went inside and Buck asked me for a marking pen. I found one, and he added his own addendum to the message: “And God bless all who built it,” with our names and the date.

I have an idea who wrote the blessing. And I have an image of that person finding himself alone at the job site this afternoon doing a bit of work. I even have a sense that he may have found a space for spiritual communion here among the longleafs. Maybe it didn’t happen that way, but not everything needs to be fully explained. A little mystery along adds depth to the richness of our tapestries, and allows for the open moment of possibility, a respite.

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