The last yellow leaves came down in the wind today and the light has taken on a winter hue. I walk about barefoot before breakfast, gathering up CDs and ripped magazine pages that have been scattered throughout the living room like confetti.
Later we drive again to look at the house we're in a tizzy about. It's rather awful really, built the year I was born and decorated in the poor taste and color pallet of the late 1970s. Barn board on the walls, linoleum, wallpaper, and crappy kitchen appliances. But the land is so beautiful I gasp, looking out a the view.
Set up on a hill looking out over the Green Mountains, it is twelve acres of woods and fields, a small stream, old apple trees. My mind imagines space for gardens, chickens, maybe a pony. We spend at least a half hour walking about the house taking pictures, trying to visualize what it could look like if we put down pumpkin pine floors, knocked down walls, and pulled off the awful rustic siding.
Outside, walking up on the hill above the house, the air smells sweet like drying leaves. Old stone walls scissor their way through the trees; remnants of a different time when the fields were tilled by hand and people worked at a slower pace.
Bean has almost grown accustomed to drifting off to sleep in the car and waking up in a new place, on a tour of other people's homes. Today he plays with his echo in the empty rooms of the house, and copies the rhythm and pitch of our voices with his "uh-uh-uh-ings."
Before we started the process of looking we should have written a list that said: here the things that matter to us. But we didn't, so we get caught up in the moment, pulled about like body boarders in a rip tide. Standing on the terrace looking out towards the hazy blue lines of the mountains, all I want is this.
Later, after we make pasta and garlicky bread with friends for dinner, and then gorge ourselves on berry pie, ice cream and coffee, I sit at my desk nursing an overfull stomach and glum thoughts. I imagine the long weeks turning into longer months of renovations waiting for completion. I picture the dark sloped ceiling of the bathroom upstairs, and the strange, somewhat problematic two sided fireplace in the living room.
I picture us arguing the way we are now---over the little choices: the stove, the dishwasher, the colors for the walls, the very floorboards. I am not sure how much choosing we can take. The ability to make choices is the ultimate expression of human freedom. Yet it is the possibility of choice that invites guilt, fear, failure, risk. Taking one path, we leave the other unexplored. Committing to renovating here, means we cannot also build. My dreams for a decadent master bath put on hold again.
Ready for his bedtime bath, Bean crawls away top speed into the kitchen, giggling as I chase after him. Then I think: THIS is what matters.
I'm happy in a tent. Happy with just my sleeping bag and the dome of heaven above me, starry and black. I was happy as a child too, in all the strange houses I grew up in that were never renovated until the month or two before we moved. It is so easy to forget this: that in the moment right here, now, happiness means hearing my son laugh, or eating the sticky sweetness of warm pie. Being present in the moment allows for a certain flexibility, that imagining into the future stunts.
DH pulls up a chair beside my desk. He's drawn floor plans. I can feel the warmth of his skin next to me as he explains the outlines he has drawn in pen. I like what he has drawn.