House work / by Christina Rosalie

In a new book by William Stafford that I picked up on my artist date last week I read: “…The process of writing is kind of a trusting to the nowness, to the immediacy of the experience. And if you enter into the artistic endeavor with standards, already arrived-at ideas of what you want to do, you’re not entering creatively into the immediacy of encountering the materials.” Tonight, using a crowbar to pull up section after section of linoleum, I thought about how this is true for work and art both. Always, when I work with my hands, I find myself right here, in the moment. My mind grows steady, in tandem with my hands.

When I let it, the work becomes a meditation. I find the right question in the nowness of the experience. The bare simplicity of wood and wall, of metal and adhesive define a narrative; clarify the answer.

When I was a teenager my father taught me how to use sledge hammer and ax; and also how to true a line, plumb a sink, and wire an outlet. Now, when I am working with my hands, he always feels nearby. He was the kind of man who could fix carburetor or a motherboard. He understood electrical wiring, and architecture; these were the hobbies he chose to stay grounded in a life full of spiritual pondering.

I feel lucky to be able to share this kind of work with the men of my life. Then, with my father. Now, with my husband, who is in every way exactly opposite from the exacting craftsman that my father was, but just as able with his hands.

Where words sometimes leave DH and I tangled when we try to talk about what we imagine for the house, working side by side is something we do well. This is our second renovation project, and together we own many tools.

We destroyed the last of the old kitchen cabinets today, throwing them into the huge metal dumpster we’ve rented. DH leaned up against the garage door, cheering as I swung the sledge hammer into the wood. The each crack echoed a little in of our quiet valley, where the only sounds were a few nuthatches calling from the tops of birch trees.

It felt good to wield an 8lb hammer. The hear the crack of the wood, to make it splinter. And it felt good to look up and see DH smiling, his face framed in dark tousled hair, backlit by the setting sun slipping over the edge of the hill the is now ours.

seed heads in a snowy meadow

ice from the spring water cistern in the field below the house

the woods at the edge of the upper field

the branches of an heirloom apple tree

spring cistern

our house, seen from the meadow below