I started this not so little rumination yesterday. The comments to that post already answered some of the questions I wanted to write about today. They also gave me more to think about.
After 15 years of living in the same house and garden, are they me? As
Liz suggested, unequivocally yes and no.
The house is concrete metaphorically. It is filled with tangible answers to decisions I’ve made, accumulated over the years. When R and I lived together here, he had some influence on decorating and renovating choices. Sometimes I’d let him decide, but I tended to bring those choices in my direction. The decorating style is what R called “eclectic” not without a tone of exasperation. (remember, he’s German)
Many choices were made with a balance of practically, price and aesthetic. Like furniture for example. The space between the two French doors is shorter than most couches, so we found a used, lime green velvet claw footed one which fit the space, and worked with that as a starting point.
That couch remains. I enjoy oriental rugs, which have many colors, so that opened up lots of possibilities. I also collect antique quilts. So those just have to get along with the rest. The living room is dark, so I chose a bright, clear yellow for the walls, which contrasts the dark, Sweetgum woodwork nicely. What we ended up with certainly didn’t look like something out of a magazine (thank goodness!) but it is very homey and inviting.
People often comment how comforting and inviting my house it. I guess that could be an expression of me. But the house doesn’t show the indecisiveness and general chaos of
my inside life. In that way, the house helps anchor me with its stability. When I’m not feeling sociable, the house is my friendly alter ego, assuring my guests that everything will be OK.
Then there’s its familiarity to me, which can be both good and bad. I tend to thrive on change, and the mute predictability of the house can inspire my contempt. It ties me down. Imprisons me. When I lived in DC 6 years before moving to Columbus, I had several house-mates who shared a rental with me. That was my heaven. I thrived on that mutability. I’ve recreated that somewhat in my house by renting a room out. Even during the first few years of my partnership with R, we rented a room out.
Jessamn’s comments mention of “dream” houses, those made in dreams, that is, reminded me of one of the few recurring dreams I’ve had. It began in one of the rooms of my current house, or one like it. I would find a new door leading to an intricate series of new rooms, each with multiple doors, leading to ever more elaborately shaped rooms, nooks and crannies, cozy little rooms with fantastic views, hidden rooms, secret rooms, invisible rooms. There was a definite feeling of magic in these dreams.
Now I come to the question of intimacy, either in relation to the house or an intimate expression of myself within it. This is where it gets sticky. I was talking to a new friend a week ago, someone to whom I just uncannily gaped open with, right from the start. And the words came out of my mouth which really surprised me. In so many words I said, or asked, “Is my house a huge deception, a denial of who I really am? Is it a cover-up, a structure upon which I try to grow a certain type of personality to create the illusion of stability and normalcy? Am I hiding my true self in the camouflage of this inviting house?”
The answers are complex to be sure. As Liz might write again: yes and no. But the feeling I had was more of yes than no to the above questions. I do think I create a beautiful, inviting house because I don’t feel that way. My real self is so completely effervescent, so relative, so mutable, that I need the weight and mass of the life I’ve tethered myself to in this house, precisely to keep me from floating away. Then there’s the other implicit question. If not expressed in the house, what is this mutable self? And, more importantly, how can I articulate or evolve the concrete house to match the mutable one?
The answer: paint color! Really, I mean it. I’ve repainted one new room several times in the past year, from pale Aegean Mist to Delft Blue, and now I’m leaning toward Eggplant, a color of deep, rich passion. And I plan to paint the now beige kitchen the color of a bright, orange pepper.
But that’s not the only answer. I think I’m confronted by my own inordinate skill as a shape-shifter. I cannot look to the house, or friends or life, to BE me. I must wrap words, thoughts, almost any form of self-expression around this vague identity. I must demystify it. I know that’s the main reason I blog. To urge to the surface the endless metamorphosis of constant becoming that is me. (or anyone, for that matter) To freshen the daily theme and notice the overall patterns. To sharpen the dialectic of my existence.
Then, perhaps, the house will be free of that burden, and can be experienced by me as a natural extension of me, instead of a shell I try to fill with my will.
Tomorrow, some thoughts on the garden, and gardening.