So we have this house. We live in it, coming and going and back and forth every day, but don’t have as many pictures as we should. The fear I saw in it, three and a half years ago, remains almost solely in my memory. The sagging roof line along the sun porch remains, but the bushes which ate up half the yard were dug up and hauled off years ago the peeling paint along the eves and the bare window sills given a fresh coat.
After three years, the birth of a child, and the other starting school, we’re beginning to know the house well enough to see what we want it to be. So last month, while my parents were here to take the small people away from a day of noise and dust, we bashed an old window out of the side of the pantry/mudroom at the rear of the house and I made four cuts, as plumb as the last three years have taught me, for the new door. About a month later we pushed through two busy days of cutting, chiseling, and general detailing, ending with a big window where the old door had been, and a new set of mini french doors (23 7/8″ wide, each) where the window and part of the wall had been. We still have a lot of painting to do, and a lot of bench, shelf, and table building after that, but the guts and flow of the new daily entrance to our house got sealed up the night before the first frost of the coming autumn.
The house has begun getting inside me, as we have the house. This project dug into the original layer of the building, into dimensional 2x4s with a live edge, presumably milled from ponderosas felled on site, into layers of thick pine siding, into hand forged nails of at least 5 different sizes. We found floor joists sitting on nothing, and poured concrete into gaps, tying the new door sill into the footer. We found an old door sill, buried under two new ones and hidden by a bit of exterior decking, a groove worn in the middle by foot traffic predating the first world war. We’ve trimmed old windows (salvage we purchased from a similarly old home down in Butte) who sashes were almost as hard as metal and flowered pine into the air, scent trapped since the 19th century. It felt portentous, moving a back door that has stood in the same spot for over a century, and as I’ve pulled out layers of stubborn timber, and then used old stuff to frame up and patch in the new openings I’ve accumulated endless splinters. Much like the desert gets into, and then back out of, you I discover new splinters in the 48 to 72 hours after a project day, as puss pushes previously invisible slivers up toward the surface.
It’s a cliche, living towards the very edge of middle age wanting nothing more of a Saturday than an uninterrupted 10 hour shift moving a wall. The children, when they aren’t observing so close as to be underfoot, or trying to swipe hammers and screwdrivers, do well being entertained, but would prefer to go on a float trip. Often I would too, particularly after burning hours wrestling with a wall that is out of square, level, and plumb all at once. But as far as novelty is concerned I’ve been on a lifetime of float trips, while in ripping a straight line and driving trim nails true I am only getting started. In life situation, temperament, and locale (a neighbor just listed their house for 52% more than they paid a few months before we moved in) we are not tied up in every project going only towards increasing future value. It allows M and I to be playful and, to a certain extent, impractical. One, or at least I, can’t learn without messing things up. And the house has a lot to teach us. Fortunately, when it comes to timing in life, I’m in a good place for listening.
Especially now, when I don’t have to worry about nights below 40 degrees overlapping with big holes still in the house.