I sit in my tiny house, glancing around at the nest which I have created. A little settee, a pink oak rocker, a seat created from a cedar chest and cushions; these, with a scattering of small antique tables, form a sitting room. I write at the desk of my mother-in-law’s secretary which the carpenter who built this house disdained. You’re losing three feet of counter, he cautioned. I shook my head. He did not understand the concept of artfully using small spaces, nor the affection for my mother-in-law that prompted me to plan this area around the contours of her cabinet.
At the end of the kitchen counter, where a cumbersome RV stove once stood, I have placed a small bookshelf from home. Next to it stands an antique stool with fold-down steps for which I paid far too much on eBay. It shipped from the wilds of Wisconsin. The seller claimed it came from an old barn, and that he and his wife had been using it for potted plants on their porch. I splurged on the piece. It looks perfect where it stands, next to the broad cabinet which the offending stove once blocked and which I covered with a curtain that I made on a small sewing machine bought from Amazon.
My desk flanks the wall near the stairs to what started as my writing loft and which I now use as a bedroom. My son and I bought that desk for $15.00 at an estate sale in Brookside, Kansas City, Missouri, where I raised him to appreciate second-hand finds. He carried it from the basement of the house whose owner had recently died, and then into our home from the car. I think he was about fifteen at the time, and he’s thirty-one now. The last time I visited him in Chicago, four years ago this October, we found a sideboard for his condo at a store near his house. We got it back to his place in my rental car and he carried it down the sidewalk and up two flights of stairs. Rarely have I so enjoyed a flea-market shopping experience.
My walls hold memories. Paintings and photographs by the various artists whose work I helped to market in Kansas City share space with childhood renderings from my son and pictures from my mother’s walls. In the sitting area, two shelf units hold what I kept of my extensive angel collection. Between them, a Dorothea Lange photograph and one by Genevieve Casey remind me to reach for the sky and recognize the limitations of the earth.
The Dorothea Lange photograph replaces one of the same image that my mother gave many years ago. I did not mean to order such a large size. The original one fitted into an 8 x 10 frame. It bore a snippet of poetry which stayed with me long after the poster faded and crumbled. Last year, on a gloomy night, I got on the internet and searched for the image. I scrolled through the National Archive collection of the Dorothea Lange works taken in the camps during the depression. When I saw this image, I realized that my original copy had been printed backward, with the woman facing out to the left. But the haunting look on her face, and the sweetness of the small child at her feet, could not be mistaken.
Genevieve’s photograph shows the reflection of a statue on water. I have some trepidation about displaying the work, because the statue might be copyrighted and thus her photograph of its reflection could be a very, very technical violation. But it nonetheless brings me joy to picture my friend sitting by the water with her camera, watching the rippling shadow of the dancer.
When I sorted through my belongings to make the move from 1300 square feet to just 198, I knew that I would want the pretty things around me which had always given me such pleasure. Now, when the Delta winds blow, when the sun has set behind Mt. Diablo and the owls assert themselves across the meadow from tree to tree, I sit snuggly in my tiny haven. Perhaps others see the comfort which this little house offers me as cold and lacking. But when the day draws to an end, and I close the door on the gathering darkness, this place welcomes me. The feeling of safety might be illusory. But like Dorothy and Toto, freshly escaped from the Land of Oz, I have come to realize that there is no place like home.
It’s the nineteenth day of the one-hundred and fourth month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.
This world is not my homeI’m just a-passing through My treasures are laid up Somewhere beyond the blue. . .
From, “This World Is Not My Home”, written by Jim Reeves;
This World Is Not My Home lyrics © Sony/atv Tree Publishing