On a nearly daily basis one can sight a fresh coat of white paint blanketing a closet shelf. Yet early signs of move-in are already being reported.
· Dave and Brent took the table saw, the last tool to migrate south to Tom the Builder’s.
· Hay well-laid all around the bare perimeter, the spreading pattern diagnostic of those expecting a new lawn.
· Insurance agent sent a bid to insure our house. Actually forget this one. The presence of an insurance policy, particularly one so under-valued, indicates nothing special.
· The first completed room, the pantry, documented and verified to be completely trimmed, painted, and cleaned.
· No one, save yours truly, scheduled to work in the house today, or this week for that matter.
· The yoga loft, the second completed room, investigated for possible nesting sight of TV, due in part to the book shelves sudden claim upon the guest bedroom.
· Doors locked, an aggressive yet typical territorial behavior.
Indeed move-in feels like spring in Minnesota. Like the vernal equinox, I’m beginning to question the significance of a move-in date. We’re already hanging out, savoring pecan rolls hot out of the masonry heater bake oven. Before week’s end, jars may line the pantry shelves while shirts hang in our closets. Yet as any Minnesotan knows there is one, and only one, irrevocable sign of spring: ice out. For move-in, perhaps ice-out is bed-out. Or bed-in. Or whatever you call that great day when my nephew Daniel and I hoist the king-sized bed out of the cabin and into the House the Land Built.
The whole house to myself, to do as I darned-well please. And who would have dreamed that I pleased to clean? Sweeping. Vacuuming. Mopping. Oh such a joy to begin vanquishing the dust. Not just regular house dust mind you. Nor the wind-driven pollens of the prairie. No, this dust reminds me of my youth leader days, when an innocent pizza making party degraded into a full-fledged flour fight. In my eyes. Down the back of my shirt. To this day I can still find a fine white dust on the rim of my ear. Tom the Builder’s exacting (and very expensive I’m often told) blades produce a sawdust nearly as fine. Worse by far is the ubiquitous sheetrock dust. Sheetrock! What a misnomer. There’s nothing rock-like about it. It crumbles at the base. Dents with only a sharp glance. And produces the most wicked of powders. Lighter than air, the time it takes to settle onto our floor (and every other surface) is measured in half-lives and will be instrumented by some future archeologist to precisely date our structure, long after all else returns to earth. Still there’s a pleasure in seeing my mop water turn from clear to milky white.
And even more when I toss it from the lip of the east porch onto the yard. [Less so when the mop bucket accidentally slips out my hand and tumbles into the mud.] One half-life removed, a theoretically infinite number to go. At least there is no new dust being produced. As Tom the Builder said, “while it does look nice, the real purpose of all that flooring, paint and trim is to trap the dust.” And there---beneath the yoga loft cork floor and behind the kitchen’s Putnam Ivory paint---may the sheetrock dust, the archeologist’s calendar, lie in wait.
Cleaned, cleaned and cleaned some more.
Yoga loft cleaned, well enough at least, so what’s the first item to bring up there? Yoga mat? Meditation chair? Jim Brandenburg photo? All great choices, but no. Yesterday I stumbled upon it, amongst the hundreds of boxes in the shed’s hayloft: the compact stereo, Linda’s little CD changer, her meditation music machine from the old 4140 back room. Unpacking the little unit, plugging in the speakers, it looked so lonely there in the far corner of the empty yoga loft.
It needed one thing: a CD. Which one? Which songs would the double-thick walls listen to first? Digging through my stash in the Prius, I found it. Actually I found them both. Two precious CDs. I nervously loaded them into the changer. Selected CD5. Touched ”play”. So quietly they began, those strings, I wondered if the yoga loft walls were whispering. Louder now, I thrilled to the recognition: Requiem, my dear friend, Doug Weatherhead’s, amazing creation, sung by our church’s (well-augmented) choir. I don’t know why but I collapsed, there on the floor before the little stereo. Were my tears joy or sadness or just the surprising explosion of life? No matter. There it was. And there I was. Of course, I had to call Doug to tell him. Over so soon, too soon it seemed, then click! Oh yeah, another CD. Songs of the Corridor, by my dear brother, Steve Larsen. Seven years ago, inspired by the very first version of my soon-to-be-finished novel, he recorded a dozen songs capturing his take on the book. I sang along, harmonizing with Steve, like I did all throughout our childhood years, conjuring up the best of memories. And the double-thick yoga loft walls listened to it all. Doug. Steve. Me. The connection. The great connection. That’s what I invited up into the yoga loft. That’s what the House the Land Built is all about.
Shopping---a sport I’ve never really enjoyed much, save only a very few shops, like Clancey’s Meats and Butter Bakery, of South Minneapolis---is slowly carving away at my soul here in the deep southeast of Minnesota. Needing to keep the construction beast fed, we drove (again) to Rochester, surprisingly unimaginative for a doctor/engineer city of 100,000. After two hours at Pier One (Linda says we were shopping for ideas), Hiller’s Flooring America (carpet for stairway) and Lowe’s (LED bulb, coat hooks, toilet seat), I’d almost forgotten why I was buying any of those items. Still, we needed a mattress. Oh boy, what could be more exciting? Exhausted, tempted to go home, we pushed on. The greater sin is to have to drive all the way back. In Minneapolis, we could have a found a store featuring many eco-friendly mattress options: organic, wool, real rubber. Not out here. But our disappointing experience with the Natural Built Home Store in Minneapolis taught us something: a good product is one thing, good service quite another. While product availability has challenged us throughout this entire build, the quality of service is not only good, but sometimes even heartwarming. Or, as yesterday proved, quirkily delightful. We found Rest Assured, where they not only sell mattresses but make them, right there in the box room of their shop. As he would have in any mattress store, our rep, Eric, invited us to lie down upon one mattress after the next, working our way up in comfort (and $). But unlike the Slumberlands of the world, Eric could really explain the differences between each bed. Why? Become when he’s not selling, he’s making beds. And when he invited us to tour the shop, I jumped. Ever since watching the black-and-white Industry on Parade as a boy, I’ve loved to see the secrets about how stuff is made.
Even more, I love to ask the workers questions.
“Who makes the beds?” I asked Brendan, hard at working filling a hotel order.
“We do,” said Brendan.
“Everyone that works here.”
“Every step in the process?”
He shrugged yes. So did the workers standing near. Wow! On the way home I told Linda that I couldn’t help but look for signs of good or bad quality. Though everything wasn’t perfect, Rest Assured does one thing, perhaps the most important thing impacting quality, that you’ll never get at Slumberland. Everyone understands why they’re doing what they’re doing. When I’m a cog somewhere amidst a mile-long value stream, it’s hard, almost impossible, to understand how my work impacts others. Transparency! In the House the Land Built, that’s the one principle to which we keep returning. So one day (very soon I hope), when you come and sleep on your Murphy bed, and you awaken, a little sore from splitting wood, perhaps you’ll feel Brendan’s fingers gently massaging you back into your slumber.