It’s been a year.
A year since we bought a house and began the process of remodeling it. A year since opening it up and letting the walls come down around us.
A year since I packed up my studio, my paper and scissor heart, inside walls of cardboard and said goodbye as we boxed up the life we once knew.
It's been a year.
Since I began writing words in the midst of sawdust and sand. Words that would turn into a story I never knew existed until I found the space to listen. Words that would write windows inside our walls.
And there, inside these days of want and worry, structure torn from the ground and brought back to life.
A year of listening.
It was July when we left the remainder of a life unpacked in boxes to find the clear waters of a summer unexplored.
We found our quiet place. Our Minnesota place.
The sweet cabin nestled between pines, smeared with light. The hue of morning fog softening the hard outlines of change.
There was the yawn of his open hand finding mine. The sun, dappled across his cheek like the memory of a paintbrush spun. The path we once walked together, narrower now. Filled with a new kind of growth, a swing of fern over sand.
The grass was taller. Stones, smoothed by lake’s touch. Steps made new by a season refreshed.
And his words, a lyric strummed inside string pulled too tight.
“I don’t remember this part, mama.”
His eyes, round with wonder.
“It feels new.”
And all of the places we allowed the dent of time to keep us from opening the doors of our hearts wider to this bend of light.
“It is new, sweet boy.”
“It’s all new.”
Sometimes we have to start over.
Take the roof off and feel the sky. Make the windows bigger to let more light in. Feel the spread of an early morning sunrise warm our naked feet.
Sometimes we have to take the walls down.
Let them rest awhile on the ground. Feel the earth after years of holding the roof up over our heads. The strain of muscles gripped too tight.
Sometimes we have to let go so we can make something new.
There are the ghostly reminders of a life once lived.
The bend of wire unwrapped from a bag of bread. Curled and abandoned under a door, unhinged. The lost cap from a broken jar. The milk jug’s pull of plastic unraveled over loose gravel. Remnants of a moving truck pressed deep inside the soiled ground.
And the battered shell of time worn by a sea of impatience, written and dissolved under the weight of moving tides.
“Step over the dead branches, sweet boy.”
Look up at the handsome sky.
Open your heart and your eyes will see.
There were places where the boards, the shingles and framework needed to be torn down. The rusty nails that no longer held things together, replaced with new words.
The dark places behind the drywall. Places where the storm never settled. Where the rain and charge of lightning left moisture to spread and mold. Places left too long without care.
Places that needed to be dug out and relearned.
And sometimes it feels easiest to write the hard parts. Like a loom spun over and over again, needled over time. The arguments, the torn hours of separation, the pulled crease of adolescence woken too soon.
And I used to make myself wrong for staying too long in these moments, hovering over the rough edges, touching the wound. But now, I wonder if it is these places touched by the storm that actually save us. Keep us from hanging onto the branch too long, allowing the current its power to move us along.
“Be careful here, mama. The path is slippery.”
And there’s the time in between, left homeless, when the walls are still going up. exposed to the wind and the dark night skies when worry caresses sleep with shaky fingers.
When the structure has yet to be born. When there are just words floating between the leaves waiting for a room of their own. Windows wide without the protective sheen of glass.
There were times when I wondered if the story was nothing more than the wind whistling between the rafters, taunting my wayward heart. Words rubbing up against each other, sheets of winds pushing each cloud farther across the sky.
But I showed up with hammer in hand and found new words inside the framework bubbling up from inside the new found light.
And I listened to the breaking limbs above us.
Keep going. Don’t stop. A home takes time.
A story is born to a listening heart.
And the art supplies hushed inside boxes whispered,
“You’ll find us again when you’re ready. When you new home desires color.”
And the story whispered,
“Color me something beautiful.”
"Color me something brave."
And sometimes finding our true selves can feel like pulling a coat over our shoulders only to find it no longer fits. The sleeves pulled up above the wrist. The buttons torn from a careless tug.
“I can’t remember the way it used to look, mama.”
I watched his feet find the mossy slips and rocky edge dangling into the red, fevered sky.
“It was beautiful, sweet boy.”
“It was always beautiful.”
And the hours of wait when nothing seemed to get done. When the leaves shook and danced over open walls and sinking floors. The soft whisper of dust settled. The filament of words lost and found between fold of insulation.
This house would stand taller. Stronger. Windows open, letting the rain fall over the panes of cracked glass, shattered.
Take me back to the story I remember.
To the path once walked with eyes closed shut.
And how many whispers felt the bend of an ear inside these walls. Inside these pages torn. The notebook pushed inside pockets. Pen wrapped inside gloved hands.
We are writing our way back home again. Carving our names inside the hard oak floor of goodbye.
Sanding away the fear.
There is a story being built inside of us. Outside of us, around us and through us.
I can hear it.
The sound the floor made when the hammer met the nail. A gentle quake of bend and release inside wood narrowly touched for years.
The splinters of growth and urgency. Pages born from the mourning. Born from the crush of words sawn and stacked in corners waiting to be made smooth, sanded and primed.
The arch rising and falling inside a pile of rusty nails, pulled from a crushed board.
A book can look lovely with its cover closed, all of the bones, the words, the story sealed and held between fearful hands.
And sometimes it takes courage to turn the page even when the story is crumbling, when your eyes burn with sorrow, when the characters choose against us.
But if you’re quiet enough, you can hear the story between the breaking glass. The pounding nails charting their course across wobbly boards.
“We found it, mama. The end. The end of the path.”
There’s another story. I can see it pressed against the soft evening horizon. Its silhouette spread out, reaching for my hand. The voice still soft. Its words still a gentle nudge. A nod. A smile. Damp eyes asking for me to follow.
“No, sweet boy.”
"This is just the beginning."