Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Story House, Chapter 3 - Found Treasure

The view opens from the moment you pull into the drive and is
now visible from almost every vantage point of future homesite
and garden shed

On some days, I can’t decide if moving onto this property was the craziest, dumbest idea I ever had or the most joyous and perfect. There are moments when I’m just overwhelmed by all the challenges, along with the potential that seems to exceed the limit of imagination, and I wonder what ledge I’ve stepped off, whether there will be an end to the learning curve. But the moments of delight that are liberally sprinkled throughout the shadows of uncertainty, of pure frustration, are irresistible, and I’m pulled by them. Like finding the old barbed wire speared dead center through the cluster of live oaks that stands between my garden shed and what will be the front porch of my house. We think as long as 50 years ago, or more likely longer, someone put up a fence alongside the oaks, close enough to the trees that over time they grew around it, absorbing the wire, healing the wounds it must have caused. We unearthed a few of the cedar posts, too, and found them to be only somewhat rotted, which shows just how impervious cedar (or more accurately Ashe juniper) is to weather and time.

I knew I wanted to find a way to use the wire, to preserve it. It’s like the horseshoe I found and set on my front step, and the chair we found abandoned underneath one of the oldest oaks on the property that some hunter left behind. I pulled it up to sit beside my front porch for the time being. I’m amazed at how sturdy it still is. The things I’ve discovered here, from the clumps of pink-blooming wild flowers in full bloom for weeks now without a single ounce of my effort, to the fox burrow, to the shimmering tail feather a chaparral shed near the birdbath, is a link in the chain of this land’s history. Such finds set me to dreaming; they tell me a story. Even the gorgeous view that has widened with every cedar tree we cut down sets my mind off, wondering who might have stood here in this very spot a hundred, two hundred, a thousand years ago. Did they see what I see? Did their hearts rise? Were they overcome by a fierce wish to protect this land as I am? A few things they wouldn’t have seen a thousand years ago are the thick overgrowth of Ashe juniper and the barbed wire. Neither is native. But for better or worse, each has had their chapter in this land’s history. They’ve left a mark on its soul.

As for the use of the wire, what to do with it came to me the way a story does, in a sudden image. But instead of a character or a situation, I saw a wreath, studded with flowers. Weeks before, without knowing what I might do with them, I’d bought some vintage looking, painted metal flowers, and on the day I conceived the idea, David and Chris happened to be welding the roof structure onto the shipping containers David is remodeling into a house. So I took my length of wire down to them, and after David formed the hoops, Chris welded them in place, then I brought my found treasure home, wired on the flowers, and twined a garland made from finer wire through the hoop. The entire project took an afternoon and now on the door of my garden shed hangs a reminder of that old fence.

I look at it and wonder about the man who built it, his purpose for doing so, whether his plan came to fruition ... what happened to him and his family. Sometimes, when I sit on my porch steps, staring off into the blue distance, I can hear the voices of the ones who were here before me, whispering, telling their stories, weaving them from the lively, determined wind, and I lose myself in the sound.   

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