October 31, 2002

Goose Creek: First Night

Last night was the third year anniversary of our first night in this 'new' old house. Three years ago, for the first time in the 130 year history of the house, a midnightly pee could be had indoors, with light at the flip of a switch. After the six hardest months of our lives, the old shell of a house was warm and bright on this, the first morning after the first night.

The first contractor we spoke with about the possibility of renovation had suggested we call the fire department and let them use the old house for practice. Harumphh! Judging a book by its cover. Well, its internal organs were none too impressive, either, the house having been variously empty but used for community smokes and mason-jar parties; a hippy commune that left several upstairs rooms full of abandoned dreamcatchers, crystals and mysterious herbs; and years of free housing for the eccentric 'inventor' who lived here in one dark, cold room on the north end of the house, when we first came on a bleak February day, to see if there was the possibility of life here, three years and six months ago.

On that first night spent in the house, the silence was frightening. We had lived in quiet places before, but there was a severity in the calmness about the place that we had not been aware of during the frantic effort to make the house livable. Now that we in fact lived here, finally, the serenity and remoteness of our new home was unsettling. The noise of the creek was deafening. Now it was 'our' creek, burbling and chuckling the prevailing background theme music unfamiliar to Ann and me, who just the night before had slept high above any waters, on the edge of the Blue Ridge, up in the clouds. I wondered during those first days of life in this house if I might suffer clostrophobia, sunk between ridges looking up at them rather than perched atop one.

The unfamiliar crunch of a car passing on the road in the dark was alarming; they were all rank strangers, potential intruders, passing so close to the house just outside our bedroom window. Our new neighbors were hardworking folks, loggers and such, rough-cut, not the retirement summer home folks who drove past our recently emptied cabin on Walnut Knob. It took an act of will to turn down the vigilance reflex that made me want to fetch the shotgun if a car slowed down, or stopped with the engine running. Later, I learned that this would happen often, it happens still, as folks see the transformation that has taken place in the old Metzler place, the party house, with the rotten porch across the front of it, gone now. They stop, too, at night and admire the valley, open pasture once again, our "field of dreams", when the moonlight turns the thin fog an opalescent blue and a silhouetted pair of deer browse in the dew-soaked clover. I can hardly fault them for that, and they are welcome to share our new home with us.

It is all our new home, all of it. It is not just the house, with its new windows, wiring, freedom from outhouses, and its own comfortable black velvet dog. Our home is all of where we live and move and have our being. The high inaccessible ridges where the deer go during the daytime; the bit of flat land where the grasses grow tall and the woodchucks chuck wood; the reaches of rocky creek whose waters ebb and flow predictably with each rain. It is even the sad timber-harvested berry patch up behind the house, where the white pines are making new forest for our children's children.

It is good to be here. I wonder what I will say about our lives here on this morning, three years hence. I cannot say that there is a place yet for everything, nor is everything in its place. But we are deeply rooted here, with all its faults. And as I have said on many occasions, Lord willing, when I move from this house and this home, it will be in a simple pine box, to a place more beautiful and peaceful than Goose Creek.

Posted by fred1st at October 31, 2002 08:13 AM

Well said!

Posted by: ron at October 31, 2002 09:32 AM

I love this story of your house.

Posted by: Artichoke Heart at November 1, 2002 11:58 AM

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