The front door of our house is in need of repair. A pane of glass, cracked in a windstorm before we’d ever even moved in.
Ditto the screen (collided with said door); the garage; the basement; the deck. And not to forget the garden that needs tending; the weeds uprooting; the leaves raking, weekly (daily?) because suddenly, it seems, it’s fall. There are things to be done and dollars to spend and hours to give in devotion to this small plot of land, and the small house upon it.
Homeownership, in a word.
Recently, my husband and I spent a week in the Pacific Northwest, a place I’d never been and to which, once, I might have clung. Cancel the flight; send for the cats. To Seattle, especially, which felt like Boston and Chicago and San Francisco conjoined and flung out into some National Park. It was young and vibrant, and the geography every bit as gorgeous as Maria Semple describes it. Mountains abutting city streets spilling out onto a Sound that, much as I adore the Long Island iteration, was something special.
It was perfect, each day imbued with friends and food and so much Pinot Noir. We played tourist and flâneur at once. We mapped out where we’d live and work and how we’d spend our days. And the whole time we were there, I couldn’t wait to be home.
Years ago, Ann Patchett had an essay in The Times, which I bookmarked then and have revisited more than once since. In it, she writes (succinctly; sublimely; oh you’re good, Ann Patchett) of her home in Nashville. “I understand the world is full of spectacular things I’ve yet to see,” she says, “but I can’t imagine any of them would satisfy me as deeply as this house.” She continues that, “Home, once you find it, presents an inexhaustible set of wonders, a world that isn’t very wide but is endlessly deep.” It is “the stable window that opens out into the imagination”; and it is good not because of the porch or the floors—however lovely they may be—but because such is the life within it.
I’ve lived in many different real estates, seven in the last five years alone. (Which, when written out, does seem like a few too many.) There’s something amazing about that transience, about being able to dream up a life in Seattle and then, actually, realize it. But there’s something to be said, too, for being anchored to the earth. For having this space to which you and your love return from work each day. Where you’ll uproot a weed but not a self; where you’ll live and make life.
There’s so much that’s inconstant—in the world right now, especially; so much to fall apart, and break your heart. And as I look out from my writing desk today, onto the deck that needs fixing (or, more accurately, tearing down) and to the burnt-orange leaves falling on it, knowing that I’ll see the same tomorrow, I’m just…really glad and grateful for that stillness. For this house which envelops this life, in all its smallness and infinity.