Thursday, July 16, 2009
There is an old house on a back road I take occasionally. I love it unreservedly. There's something about the way it sits against the sky, up higher than the road, that moves me.
As I think about it, things set against the sky--horses, hayrolls, houses, sheep---are peculiarly satisfying to me as an artist. I guess it's because most of us live in such clutter that we don't often get to see clouds float behind a house, a horse or a hayroll. Seeing the sky behind things is part of why I love North Dakota and other places out west so very much.
She's lost her windows, which means she won't stand for long, but it's all about the roof in the end. As the roof goes, the house goes.
Two maples, planted as tiny whips, planted too close, planted not that long ago--twenty years? hint at a time when she was lived in and loved. Now, they let the squirrels into her empty windows, bring the carpenter ants to finish the job.
Even without windows, she looks cared for, as if whoever is mowing the lawn will be sorry to see her fall.
The clothesline, still strung with pins, the old pump, the thin wires running to her...they all make me ache for the time when children ran through.
Pulling back, the rest of the story: an old trailer, rolled in when the upkeep got to be too much, maybe when the furnace broke down for the last time, or the roof got one too many holes in it. They're living in a narrow box now, leaving the gracious old lady to stand alone. It takes money to keep an old house standing, and people who live on the dirt roads don't have much of that.
I'd love to swoop in and save her, love to keep her standing against that summer sky, with a new coat of white paint and windows to keep the coons out. But the windows in our own house need replacing, and we have to feed our kids first.
I can only drive by slowly, watching her go.