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Saturday, February 11, 2012

Alternative Home Builder: Week 27

Maybe I wanted to feel a little sicker than I did.    Everybody else was sick.  Linda.  Tom the Builder.   His boys, Dave and Brent.  Brent---tall, quiet Brent---now he’s to blame for it all, dragging himself around the house last Thursday.  Sure, he went home early Friday, but it was too late by then.  At least for the others.  I’m only sniffling, certainly not lethal enough to stay home, wrap myself in blankets and sip steaming green tea.  Ah well.  At least I got to drive to town to fetch Linda a box of lotion-drenched Kleenex (toilet paper pretty much feels like 100 grit sandpaper after the first dozen blows).  I’ll take any excuse to wind beneath the limestone cliffs of Whitewater State Park. 
Still can’t believe how lucky I am to live just above this jewel of the world.  Returning home, I felt ahead of the game. Or at least ahead of task-master Tom.   90% installed, Marmoleum kitchen tiles await transition pieces.  Same for Yoga loft cork flooring, 60% installed. 
Only the basement stairwell & stairs, guest bedroom and closets await their final coats of paint.  Maybe I’m just tired, but it’s really starting to feel like we might actually finish this thing one day.  One day soon.  And best of all, we’re not even waiting to be done to welcome friends.  Today, my friend Randy asked if he and perhaps 8 or 12 others could come down and spend a day in the Yoga loft talking about what hope there is for the natural world.  (Funny expression, isn’t it:  natural world.  Is there another world I haven’t heard about?) 
Maybe Randy’s invitation shielded me from the virus, connecting me to the best source of wellness I know, warmer and certainly more engaging than green tea and blankets.   When are you coming down?

I did get sicker.  But rather than the hoped for blanket, I’ve earned a badge:  bad cop .  We’ve a disaster with the Marmoleum countertop, involving not only the usual suspects of schedule delay and cost overruns, but this time I feel violated.  A trust broken.   I couldn’t even blog about it last night; it’s hard to type while I’m ranting and raving as I pace back and forth.    All along, Linda’s played good cop with the Marmoleum store, so we decided I’d don the stiff hat and big shoulders of the bad cop.  The good news is we’re not alone.  Once again Tom the Builder is doing all he can and more.  Before I call the store this morning, he’ll provide inspiration, ammunition (dates, $, agreements) and alternatives.  On the phone with me for an hour yesterday, he already providing much inspiration.  I must confess, when I first met Tom, inspiring is not one the words that came to mind.  But now?  I mean look at the detail he put into our staircase.   
Though he would never wax on about it, Tom understands that the enemy of great is good.  Half a day of never-say-good-enough carpentry to wrap a single post in red elm.  This morning, when I call the store, I want Tom at my side.   How then could I not do the right thing?
Being sick isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.  Neither is bad cop.  I got what I wanted.  Or, I should say, I got what I asked for:  my deposit back.  Now, at least I can move forward without dragging this ball of money worry around my ankle.  In reality, I didn’t get what I really wanted.  I wanted to feel understood.  That didn’t happen.   I wanted trust to return.  That didn't happen.  And through some great miracle, I wanted a solution that worked for me and Linda.  And, most tragically of all, that certainly didn’t happen.   To me, the House the Land Built is, and always has been, as much about Linda and I moving forward  together, the dance of the dream, as it is getting the “right” house, whatever that is.  Perhaps the right house is the house of the dance.   Process not product.  How not what.  I can only hope that today, as we explore countertop options with Tom the Builder---sans ball around my ankle---I’ll feel a little lighter on my feet.


We danced the dream as well as could be hoped, especially with Linda feverish and bed-ridden for a half a day.  While it would be a stretch to say we were waltzing by day’s end, we were moving, together, in more or less the same direction, away from the ultra-green Twin Cities based countertop store toward a local mom and pop shop who may carry a line or two which inspires us.  We’ll see.  Suddenly we seem open to many possibilities.  Perhaps it was the refund.  But I think it’s more than that.  Something happened at the very end of the day which flung our minds and spirits, if not our sickly bodies, into a rose-between-our teeth tango:  the polycarbonate wall.  Whoever would have dreamed that a staircase wall---four sheets of flimsy greenhouse plastic trimmed by red elm---could set our hearts on fire.  “It’s like the Grand Finale,” said Tom the Builder who normally speaks with Winona reserve.  From the beginning, from the first drawing by Architect Paul, none of us had any idea what it would look like.  Especially Tom.  Yet whatever skepticism he felt, he didn’t just lay it aside but took it as a personal challenge.  Three days his entire crew worked---piece by exacting, splintering, sometimes frustrating piece of red elm frame---until finally, yesterday afternoon, they inserted the polycarbonate panels. 
And hey presto!  The whole exceeded the sum of the parts.  The polycarbonate became the sky, less the thing you notice and more the backdrop breathing new life into everything else.  The red elm posts, so warm and strong.  The staircase, a mysterious silhouette.  The main entry to the house, now offering you such a welcome.  So we danced.  Not toward countertops or new dreams but because if we didn’t our hearts would explode.  With joy!  With gratitude.  For Architect Paul and his dream.  For Tom the Builder and his boys for bringing the dream to  life.  For life and its unanticipated abundance.  I’m a lucky man.  Rah-dur!
 As the wind stilled and the first stars---Jupiter and Venus actually---peeked through the great bank of windows, Linda and I settled into the red elm window seat before the fire.  On the floor between us and the fire, a square slab sparkled with starlight of its own.    “It’s like when they refused our variance to live on the west end of the Land,” said Linda.  I knew exactly what she meant.   We didn’t get what we asked for.   We got something better;  our homesite on the east end.  But we’d never have considered this spot if they hadn’t refused us.  Then, the east end was so ugly we didn’t even want to go down there.  What once was a pond, was now a runoff-filled malaria breeding grounds. 

Boxelder, parsnip and goldenrod---thugs that they are---were overrunning the field.  Only when left with no choice but to build on the east end, did we see its potential.  And now, years later, we can imagine living nowhere else.  That’s what Linda was saying about EcoQuartz, our sparkling new countertop choice replacing Marmoleum.  We (Linda actually) had designed so much of our kitchen around the eucalyptus green Marmoleum, especially the Marmoleum floor.    But now, three days after abandoning that decision, we’d danced our way to EcoQuartz, and its stars-upon-the-earth color Terra, a never-conceived-of possibility.
  I could wax about its beauty, durability and post-consumer recycled content, but that doesn’t explain all we felt there in front of the fire.  I wonder how much of our joy was the dance itself?  The thrills, missteps and spills. The mystery of the destination.   And the “us” of it all.    She and I, insisting on, reaching for, finding that connection.  Dancers, fingertips barely touching then, suddenly, thirty feet apart.   And that, the dance of the dream,  is as beautiful, at least, as the sparkling Terra itself.    Perhaps, one day Linda and I will celebrate some new adventure and Terra will join us, our bare feet leaping with joy upon his earthen stars.

1 comment:

  1. Hang in there you two. Love the red elm post.