Friday, June 15, 2012

Signs and Portents

I'm going into week three of my Mother's death, and I suspect I'm in the reflective stage of grief...

It's been a rough couple of years in a new house.  I don't believe in curses, but this particular house didn't come with a good pedigree (former owner had a stroke, his insane wife took off on a world tour after leaving the house in broken shape for us to move into late because her mother's employees hadn't emptied their stuff out yet).  Rich people can afford to be incompetent.

I had trepidation about moving to where I teach, I value my privacy and find constantly being on display exhausting, especially when I'm THE TEACHER.  I thought a house up on a hill with only one neighbour would minimize the constant presence of students, instead I've found that it puts you up on a pedestal.  I'd tried working where I lived once before, and it didn't go well.  I'm not sure why I thought it suddenly would this time.  Students have boundary issues.

The move-in over, we began settling in to the newer, bigger house.  The sunsets were unbelievable, the extra space eagerly used, and living in a house that was 100 years newer meant that it was pretty much a turn key operation.  Other than some paint over the psycho colour scheme, it was finished (apart from the broken windows and taps).  It is more energy efficient than our holey old house, though the mortgage is much bigger.

When our little dog suddenly came up limp that August, only a month after we moved in, we were baffled.  She'd never missed a step in seven years, and she seemed like she was in the best shape of her life.  When we had to put her down in September with what looked like a spinal injury, we were stunned.

That autumn also saw what we thought was the sunrise of our second child turn into a sunset.  With that ended the medical intervention, and the hope.  We are three, which is wonderful, but I always thought we'd be four.

Around that time my Mum began her descent into the darkest times of her mental illness.  What has followed has made me feel like I'm orbiting too close to an emotional black hole (the new house is 40 minutes closer than the old one was).  A little piece of me fell into the emotional event horizon every time I came too close, never to return.

We tend to assign value to things based on circumstance.  In most cases these things have nothing to do with each other, but we have a tendency to make connections simply to try and explain why things happen.  I know that this house didn't kill my dog, or lose my child, or drive my mother mad, but some unfortunate timing makes it a symbol of these things in my mind.

Where we lived before was hardly perfect.  The trucks down shifting all night on the highway that ran in front of it, the insane neighbor, the old house sinking on shaky foundations... hardly ideal.  Unfortunately, the feelings associated tend to forget that and remember sledding on the hill, walking with Freya along the trails, and heading up main street after school to get a fresh baked cookie or a milkshake from the dairy (a frickin dairy!).  Even the crown moldings that almost had Alanna and I in fisticuffs ended up being part of a rather beautiful kitchen that exuded pride at some real home authorship.

Erin itself was far from perfect, but it seemed to press some odd but exact buttons for me.  The variety of walking trails, the bakery, the tea room, the just what we needed and nothing elseness of it.  The anonymity, where I was just a guy walking down the street with his family.  The timing of my walking into Freemasonry and Erin being my home lodge.  I've never been a good joiner, but I'm joined there.

This house has aspects that I love, like the hilliness, the view that comes with it, the shear extent of the sky, the winds that keep the bugs away.  Even the killer lawn mowing wouldn't deter me from that view.  When we first came upon it I had a romantic vision of a lighthouse on a hill.  The fact that the previous owner had a whale weather vane and a lighthouse door bell ringer only added to that romantic notion.

Size wise it's nearly perfect.  1800 square feet seem like the perfect fit for us, and I love the three floor vertical nature, from earth to sky, from cool basement to windy bedrooms, it feels like a tower reaching into the sky.

That romantic seclusion has been mared by the nature of my work.  Along with the never private studentness of it, it also possesses a sub-urban mindset that I find emotionally sapping.  Streetlights everywhere mean it's never dark, the neighbour with the yappy dogs that never stop,  the obsessive lawn mowing and manicuring, the Edward Scissorhands vapid aesthetic of the whole thing.  I've never loved suburban living, with the rows of SUVs and smug conservatives, I've tried it now, I'm still not a fan.

Finally being a citizen has made me more aware of the politics of where I live.  Living somewhere where my vote means nothing because I'm a tiny minority in a vast sea of self-satisfied, righteous righties makes me wonder what chances my son has of growing up without a red neck.

Lessons learned.  I'm still dreaming of the country home sufficiently large enough to create my own sense of space, our own aesthetic around gardens, and growing our own food, and making our house our home.  I dream of being off the grid, having enough space to make a go of it on our own; a compune.  A culture of home without the daggered eyes of society peering in, judging, demanding conformity; the ideal of the secluded country home, but it's expensive, and doesn't come without its difficulties, not the least of which would be still living in a blue sea of conservatism.  At least I wouldn't have to see the over weight, old, white frowns of contempt when I leave in the morning.

I recently read a quote that implies that living in a larger community offers you knowledge and diversity of experience without the crushing "parochialism of village life."  For the first time in a long time I've been considering an urban life, with all the advantages of city life, in a nice little home in an old neighbourhood with character that has us parking our cars much of the time, and where I can enjoy the anonymity of walking down the street with my family again.

Either the seclusion and chance to make our own society in the country, or the anonymity of an urban life, might shed the curse.