If only dear old dad were sitting next to me, gazing out the hayloft door at the riveting scene below: men pouring footings---not only the foundation but the first material---for our House the Land Built.
The earthy smell of a deep, straight-sided hole.
The suction of mud underfoot. Straight lines of bright string. The wooden thud of hammers on forms. The sparks and burnt-steel smell of sawing rebar. And of course, the slosh, swoosh and intoxicatingly fresh smell of concrete.
Granted things are different now than in Rosy Larsen’s proud block-laying days: pumped concrete, poured walls, cell phones strapped to the hip.
Still, it’s men at work. Cigarette smoking, f-en-heimer slinging, Popeye armed men. Not that they all work as hard as dad, but then he was the owner-builder-paycheck writer.
“Huh Mike,” dad would say if we could stand---boot toes hanging over the sheer lip---and peer down at my just poured footings, “whaduya think huh Mike?”
“It doesn’t seem real,” I’d say. “It all happened so fast. Linda and I worked so hard for so long planning all this and now hey presto! here it is. The cement guys show up in the morning and by three in the afternoon we’ve got footings. No changing the footprint now. Cast in concrete as they say.”
“It’s gonna be real nice,” dad would assure me with a smile.
Then, when bluebirds began swooping into the great pit of our house, we’d forget all about footings and muddy trowels and we’d walk down the hill a little ways and light a fire in the pit. There we’d share tales about what really matters: the howl of the coyote, the smell of bread baking in the cardboard oven, the smoke, swirling, hmmm better shift the wind screen just a tad.
Of course none of this ever happened. Dad, ill as he was his final years, never made it to the Land. Never sat upon the John Deere. Never gazed down the long sloping prairie to the hazy Whitewater Valley and beyond to the silos on the far ridge. Sad as I am, I also know that he’s here. Right now.
Thank you, dear old dad, for roots. Not only the roots of my new house and the roots of my love of the Land but the roots of my ‘ruthless prioritization’, never forgetting to focus on what really matters. And right now, at this very moment, what matters is the wren flicking his tail upon the concrete guy’s trailer and the swallow, mouth open, banking hard along the excavated dirt mountains and, of course, the bluebird, perched atop the rebar showing off his beautiful late afternoon feathers.