I spend the day pulling nails, removing plank after plank from the barn board on the walls in the living room and foyer. I wear leather work gloves, old pink corduroys, and a dust mask. Particles float in the air like plankton. Each piece of wood is old and feels light and brittle. Some splinter when I pry the nails out, but I am trying to keep as many pieces intact as I can. This is good wood: probably a hundred years old. I know this much: it comes from Addison County, and on one plank I found â€œKS + BC, â€˜29â€ scratched into the wood.
Every time I arrive at our after being in our crowded little apartment I feel like my heart is going to burst with longing and giddy glee. Invariably, I leap from the car and must go straight out into the fields where I walk along the old stone walls, taking inventory of all the small things I hardly know and already love: mossy covered logs, mule deer tracks, coyote scat, seed pods rattling empty in the wind.
Last week the fields were covered with snowâ€”nearly a foot in the low placesâ€”and zig zagged with tracks. Now the road dirt road leading to our house is thick with mud, and except in the shady wooded valley where sunlight barely creeps and the stream runs, the snow has melted. Brown grasses lie limp and pummeled against the sloping earth, but below the dead stalks, I can new green.
The robins arrived this week. I always know that spring is for keeps when they come. It might still snow, but the relentless turning of the earth means longer days and warmer air. Today as Iâ€™m prying the boards loose from crumbling gypsum, I feel spring fever, plain and simple.
I open the windows, and notice flies (I think must have been dormant) are now buzzing with irritating stupidity in the space between the window glass and the screen. Fresh air rushes in, and Iâ€™m warm enough in my faded red t-shirt. All I want is to get outdoors, when Iâ€™ve gotten every plank off the wall, pulling bent nails from each piece, and stacking it neatly, I give in.
The sun is falling towards the west, and in the east a gibbous moon is rising just above the trees.
I sit on the lawn and watch it rise.
I canâ€™t remember the last time I watched the moon slowly climb the sky, moving between the branches of the beeches as though it were climbing the rungs of a ladder. The sky is a perfect deep blue, and the tree tops are stained golden in the setting sun.
I listen. The neighborâ€™s sheep are coming in from the fields and I can hear them bah-ing plaintively. Then I hear an early owl call from the woods, itâ€™s whoo-whooing echoing around our land like a marble rolling in a glass bowl.
I hear mourning doves, flickers, chickadees and red winged blackbirds. I try to focus, drawing my eyes to where my ears pick up each birdâ€™s individual call; and I see them on the tops of trees, serenading the setting sun. I canâ€™t bring myself to move. In the field below me, I watch small red squirrels run up and down tree trunks.
The moon is above the tallest tree now, and the sun just below the twiggy edge of the woods. Sitting here like this, with my face drenched in evening sunlight nand my arms wrapped around my knees, reminds me why weâ€™re here.
Why we struggle on so many days to put together cohesive and civil sentences with each other, exhaustion stretching us so far and we forget to do anything else. Why weâ€™re living in a too-small apartment, in a neighborhood full of college kids whose whooping wakes us up at 2am, where weâ€™ve grown used to seeing the spinning red lights of the ambulance, called again and again to the house across the street as a woman screams and a man yells and then things get too quiet too fast.
Sitting on now on the lawn looking at the mountains and the tiny houses dotting the valley below like toy figurines, feels just like finding one of those store directories in the mall with the little red arrow that says â€œYOU ARE HERE.â€
Weâ€™re making a home. Making it with our hands and our longing; with our fights, our silences, our love making, our laughter, our work.
It didnâ€™t even take a month after Bean was born to realize that we wanted to move away from the congested tangle of Southern Connecticut with its perpetually snarled Highway 95, and itâ€™s disproportionate emphasis on money and belongings. Holding him when he was still small enough to fit along the length of DHâ€™s forearm, his little eyes shut tight in slumber, we knew it was not even a choice. We had to move: to risk everything and start new.
I canâ€™t help but wonder if we would have moved at that timeâ€”or everâ€”if we hadnâ€™t had Bean. A part of me pictures the fragments of our lives would have been like: sharp little pieces of worry poking up through our busy days. Commuting everywhere, so much time in the car. And another part of me imagines the excuses we would have: the unknowns, the cost, the labor, the risk all would have weighed too greatly when put in the scale along side our comfortable, if not stifled life.
How grateful I am for the wild unplanned joy of Bean, and for the fierce bugle call of our dreams that sounded as a result.
My feet sink into the muddy ground, and I rest my chin casually on a knee as I watch the bright scarlet wing patch of a blackbird dip and dive across the tree line. Here I am, I think.