A Long View
Last night a storm blew in all of a sudden the way they always do in summer time. From the goat pen I watched a storm head gather and double itself 50 times above us. When a big cold wind blew in, the clouds moved along faster. I never noticed these things before, or I did, but I didn’t stop and take note. There’s a difference. Right now we’re sitting on the front porch that faces onto the big pasture. The thunder is rolling in again from the north east. If I step out to the front yard I’ll be able to diagnose exactly where it’s headed, how wide it spreads. In the city I could only see what was just above. So I didn’t look up much. I missed a lot.
But all of that matters so little compared to what’s outside the door we spent so many hours scrutinizing and considering. In the end, who cares if they are painted French blue, full lite, solid wood, or are 36”?
For the longest time I contemplated finding an old, small house to move out here, plop down in the woods and just build acres of porches around. Even now, in this house I do love, I am wistful for that old creaky, leaky place.
What would I do differently? I’d think long and hard about precisely what matters most, and I would have focused on just those things: front porches, baby goats running in the forest, a garden with a view of the hills, a clean kitchen and warm bed. For those of you considering the big step of land and house and are starting with a blank, rugged slate – give yourself this much – at least: an honest shoulder shaking. Why are you really going out to the country? What do you think will matter most once you’re there? You can never know for sure what will draw you in once you’re there – but you can try.
Last week when Jer was out of town for the 4th of July, I hunkered down at the farm by myself, unsure of the extent of country fireworks or how my group of animals would respond to them. Before the sun set, the distinct sounds of pop! and whizzz! surrounded us on all sides, but I couldn’t see a thing in the sky. It wasn’t until the huge butter colored moon wobbled up into view above the tree line that so many little explosions in the sky appeared beside it. The beauty of it caught me off guard, and I sank down into a chair on the porch. The lights from the fireworks and the moon reflected off the windows behind me and in the eyes of four little goats who stood mesmerized, staring at the sky above, chewing their cud quietly. If we hadn’t positioned the house just so, or placed a porch across the front in just this way, I might never have been audience to precisely this view. No architect, no matter how well-trained, can plan this for you.
In asking for advice about building a house in the country, someone questioned my “regrets.” I don’t have many – only that we should have traded this inside space for bigger porches and more land. But the perspective from here backwards is always better informed, and that sort of thinking is useless. The first step is really just figuring out where you want to be and then work like crazy to get there. For me, getting there could have meant a creaky, leaky shelter with an expanse of tin-covered porches and a long view of the big sky.