Wednesday, July 11, 2012

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.

A huge aspect of the entire house design was always the porch.  At one point during the 100 house iterations, our porch was scrapped.  In fact I’m sure I hung onto that version of the house plan in one of my dingy, worn out house notebooks where so many scribbled versions of this place are stashed, just because.  It was a moment of desperation to erase porches after one of the 15 bids came back with an astronomical amount of zeros at the end.  Doing this again, I’d make the house smaller, porches bigger.  Add more windows.  I’d extend the roof awnings out beyond the point of utility just so there’d be more tin to catch the rain.  Sitting under a tin roof during a thunderstorm is alarming, exhilarating, and relaxing all at once.  It invokes the kind of emotions that, if bottled, could probably cure most of what ails us – anxiety, discontent. 

Things moved fast since we packed up the last of it from Austin, accumulated farm animals and started living in this new place.  So fast, in fact, that I already think I’ve forgotten everything that went into getting here – although the forgetting has been like licking wounds.  Necessary to heal.   Recently, folks have reached out to ask questions about our process as they begin their own journey into the country.  What would you do differently?  How did you decide on the roof pitch?  Why did you settle on this vs. that?  I love the questions and am glad for the way it’s forced me to turn it all over again in my hands a few times.  There is a lot we would do differently.  And we wouldn’t do it again – not this way.  I love the house – the light and space and the big views of sky that come in from the high windows.  

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.    


Aunt Lisa said...

oh, I believe ya'll did just fine.

Brett said...

Well, looks as if we'll be doing the same...soon. If all goes well we close on the land 2 weeks from today.

We meet with our home designer, which whom you had recommended, again to discuss the latest iteration and my wife too is weighing heavy on wrap around porches.

I feel that we too will be riding a similar rollercoaster to yours very soon, however, with better insight thanks to you two!

"Just want to tell you both good luck. We're all counting on you." -Dr. Rumack, Airplane! ;)

No Name Farm/Ranch said...

Woo hoo!!! Brett, that's fantastic news! I really look forward to hearing more about your property and house plans. Take lots of pictures and keep a journal/notes (blog!). In a few years, you'll be grateful to have the record of how far you've come. It's like a nice pat on the back. Buckle your seatbelt, sir. :)