Imagine the amount of air that moved through these ducts, heating spaces and toes, providing a warm place for a dog to lie against on the coldest days. To build takes days, months, years even, but destruction takes seconds, or hours. These ducts in the back of my truck, scrap tapping against the window; I’m driving it away to recycle it into something new. I look at all the metal in the world; mined and forged, molded and shaped, pieced together into things we’ve made. I imagine the first fire: simple, direct, bodies warmed. How did we get here? This tangle of metal, aged now, heaped as waste, the work of it finished.
Our turtle, Trevor by decree, greets our friends on the stairs leading down to our future garden. By nature slow, in water, buoyed by salt and waves, turtles are weightless. Years ago, shoulders heavy from my lost mother, in Hawaii’s warm blue, a turtle rose up to greet me and floated there. I’m still, eyes agape, wonder filling me, smiling. We broke bread, spoke awhile, I bowed to it with pressed hands and egg-beater legs. The ancient years collapsed into a moment then, and then again when I placed our Trevor just there, just where he could surprise, and spark a memory.
Spiders have a bad rap, hanging as they do from doorways, windows, rosemary and juniper as if ready to pounce. They announce fall, nets catching the last flies, gnats; intricate threads drip diamonds early mornings when the fog is hard against our windows. There it is, waiting, waiting for the hapless, still as dark, legs attached to nothing it seems, waiting to sense a slight change, to prey, to wrap the slightest being, scare the timid, herald cold’s arrival with a shiver though it didn’t mean to. Down the tensile it travels when winter comes burrowing with us until warmth returns.
In the first days, we revealed the house, the land and sky, felling trees in hours while the neighborhood watched. An old Japanese maple was discovered, which now angles toward the sun, wind shedding its broken branches. Other trees, so long neglected bud anew. Trees are resilient, are in constant need of the elements. We are collectors now: Red Bud, Lace Leaf, Variegated Maple, Vine Maple, Dogwood, and Paperbark. We are specimens. We are planters. We are urban foresters. At night, we hear them breathe.
A small fire to be sure, but fire nonetheless. Borne of a spark, faulty wiring the verdict. It just needed maintenance. A check up, steady hands and tools to close the circuit, cap the wires. Electricity flows, bends, arcs, and dissipates. In this home many of the sockets don’t work, but enough do, and all of them will when the work of moving electricity through the walls is done. And on occasion, when the lights go out, when storms break the arc, there will be enough energy to carry us through.
A beacon for houses, the nightlight is a safe passage to our front door. If one feels at sea, find our house, the one on the corner, with the cracks, failing plumbing, electric wires haphazard in their power. Know our light will not go out, despite admonishments that renovation is hard, the challenges will pull at our foundation, all the warnings. Ships find their way along coasts, resist danger, hear the tolling bells. The light at our doorway, the shoals of our landscape, will be forever lit, and you are welcome, and we are home, home safe.
Lines like roads etch the stucco. our house’s face a roadmap of weather: rain, wind, sun, and today, this fog. Fog against the windows, in the eaves, sun just breaking through. We question whether to demolish and strip away the years, or patch and repair, leaving the history, and the roads traveled, as proud reminders of the lives lived. Who are we to decide the fate of a house, built by unknown hands, loved and neglected, loved again, and then left to ruin? My thought is to renew and restore, patch and paste, keeping the history of the house intact so the whispering cracks and crevices continue to speak.
Stare at the underbelly of compost, the rot and dark and loamy steam of it rising on a cold morning, its weight sinking arguments of matter. When the door closes and questions arise, questions that leave you stranded wondering if the compost will spring new life or be left, piled like detritus, left for another day, or left altogether until it sinks into the miasma of lost dreams, I suppose, that one needs to dig in, spread the compost around, work it into soil already there. See if it helps, and if it doesn’t, move on.
A map of the world contained in a leaf, structures of democracies and dictatorships, declining governments and birthing nations. The world’s backbone reaches up and out; tiny tendrils of hope and life dissipate from it. The root of all life breathes in and out. We tore down trees whose scale and care were shopworn; reforestation is imminent. Maybe this country’s needs can be seen in this leaf, this tree, its roots; it’s time to plant again, in the fall, in the coming darkness, so that when light returns in spring, our house, our country can begin anew.
Rain hard as tropical washes the retaining wall, cementing in place a structure built block by block. It’s not so hard, come to think of it, when the eye sees the pattern: square, then short, big block, then long rectangle. Pieced together it forms a barrier stronger than hands, stronger than the earth we moved to make it. Geometry is lost on me, but here, a beautiful thing recycled rises to meet the eye, teases it a little, and when the rain falls, changes the equation to a thing that’s new.