Fourstoried


Brain things / Sunday, July 7th, 2019

If I had my way, I’d have a four-story house, a four-story house with a view.

The walk-up attic is light, bright, with balconies under each end, and French doors swung wide for the sake of the breeze. Skylights let in a world of sunshine. The walls are butter yellow, and the furnishings patio style, with comfortable lounge chairs, glass tables, tall lemonades, fresh daisies. This is where I sit when I want the light to soak into my soul. Music plays from hidden speakers, soothing instrumentals and the sound of water. I am alone, or with one other. I breathe in the fair air and the happiness.

The floor below, what I call my upstairs, is a cozy place, with white backgrounds and countless precious belongings. Here I keep everything I treasure: little trinkets from my children, mementos from long ago, strange stones I find on my walks, plant snippets I am trying to root. Above my sink is a line of jars, behind my bed are rows of pretty quilts, on all my walls are shelves and seashells and vases of new-blown flowers shedding petals, with photographs everywhere of all the faces I’ve loved. I have chests full of old diaries, packets of sweet letters, wordless figurines, travel keepsakes, the work of artists I know in person. We sing a lot here. Into this space I welcome the people I like best, and we sit and chat with cups of tea (china from my grandmother, pottery from my friend), and soups from-scratch and tasty treats (concocted from old recipes in my cluttery, beloved, harum-scarum kitchen).

Below is my downstairs, a cool, straight, modern flat with gray walls and immaculate furnishings. Dim lighting sets an atmosphere of regality, elegance. The couches are pristine, the floors always clean and dark, with luxurious fur rugs in the centers of the rooms. The art is aloof and compelling: hidden figures and shapes, hints of nature and architecture. It is very still here, polished, cohesive. I play jazz music, or a cappella choral, savoring the clear, textured, complex delight of the perfect tones, and the way the dark and the light play off each other. I welcome people into this space. They find it beautiful. I serve hors d’oeuvres, grilled meats and vegetables, glorious multilayered desserts. We have fascinating, intellectual, stimulating conversations, our humor and our insights overlaying themselves in joy, like the layers of the melting trifle. Sometimes we are silent.

Down another flight of stairs is a basement, very dark. There is a single French door opening onto a brick-laid patio and backyard, but most of the time I keep the panes covered with heavy floor-length drapes. I never enter from that door. I only descend to this place, where everything is deep and unmoving. I am utterly alone. The music is the stillness, or percussion when silence is no longer lyrical. I do not know or care what anything is made of. I do not eat or drink, though at times I sleep for many hours. Here I come to let the blackness take me, when it breaks through the breastwork and drives holes into the universe. The walls absorb despair and grief, and tell no tales. Nothing is asked of me: nothing required but to remember, no one to see.

When I am spent, I climb three stairways through nuance and the love of many people to sit and breathe beneath a skylight.


Where do you live?

24 Replies to “Fourstoried”

  1. I live in the Chamber of Sticky Notes, but I think a house like yours might have its root in an adjacent cavern. While I love the idea of the upstairs and attic, I rarely find my way there, and am not completely sure how I’d live there for substantial periods.

    But sometimes, I travel inward to a remote mountain peak, with deathly-cold beauty surrounding me, the brilliant emptiness of the Milky Way blazing down, and an echo of terror and grandeur goes with me back to my hobbit-hole.

      1. ❤️
        I’m going to be mulling this over for a while, I think.
        My house isn’t fully clear in my mind, but I think it’s something like a little white, thatch roofed cottage with a red door and thick, cool walls surrounded by a wild little garden of lavender, thyme, and the ilk. The kitchen has a flagstone floor, the kettle is always singing, and there’s always something nice to eat in the tin. It has a fireplace, comfortable chairs, lots of books, and a companionable cat. And it’s very quiet.
        Maybe it’s just my summer home. I don’t know. But I’m going to be spending a lot more time there in the future.

  2. This is so neat. I keep coming back to see if anyone has posted more “houses”. Doesn’t seem like many ppl are feeling brave enough. 🙂 I’m not a writer nor am I poetic but I still love this.
    For me a house has too many rooms. I think mine would look maybe more like the “Joel” commenter. (I love his descriptions!)
    For me it would be a cozy “wind in the willows” (Badger maybe?) type of den, one room, deep in the ground, cheerful fire, hot cup of coffee, and lined with books, books, and more books. Good books, books of truth, books of courage. I can never stay as long as I’d like in this den, for there is a mountain climbing guide that stands outside the door and blows such a rousing tune that I throw down the books and impulsively rush outside to climb those mountains. But those mountains turn out to be hard, and rough. They cause me to leave tears, knuckle skin and drops of blood behind and I wish I had never started this climb. At times all I can see is the rocks in front of me and the only thing I hear is the Guide telling me the next move to make. At times I can pause to look around and catch a hint of what the summit might look like, but I can’t look long, the guide keeps pulling me along over unfamiliar, harsh terrain. When at last I reach the top, it is indescribable. I soak it in, and am so GLAD I made the climb, so GLAD i followed the Guide. The descent from that mountaintop is easier somehow, and when I finally reach the warm den, I dive in, pour a fresh cup of coffee, and peruse the books until I find the perfect one to mull over and ponder. Maybe a book on mountain climbing techniques. Maybe a stirring story of someone who has scaled rougher and higher mountains than I ever will, maybe if I am hurting and battered it is simply a book of soothing psalms. I curl up and read until the bugle sounds again….

  3. Oh I love your house Shari.

    My “house” is small. The there is a living room with a gas fireplace because who wants to go chop wood? There is a large bookshelf with lots of godly reading material.
    I also have a collection of cds featuring my favorite a cappella Christian music.

    It’s has a kitchen with a lovely collection of teas and sweet china teacups. When guests come they can choose their teacups. And let’s not forget coffee with all the fixings.

    Off to the side of the living room there is my sewing room with a sewing machine that when it malfunctions it repairs itself with the flip of a switch. Also when a needle breaks a new one pops out.

    My house has a KJV Bible in every room with pen and paper for taking notes.
    Outside there is a beautiful vegetable garden with beans, corn and tomatoes. I also have blueberries and strawberries.
    That pretty much sums it up. My house is simple but I love it.

  4. I accidentally replied to someone’s comment above, but they don’t sound like the sort who’ll mind. 🙂

  5. I would take a road tour and visit all the houses mentioned here and then when I return home, invite you all over!

  6. My house is compact, and yet nothing about it feels too small. There is a foyer on ground level. Here it is neither dim nor bright, only a comfortably furnished space to enter and take off one’s shoes.

    A short flight of stairs leads up into the living space of my house, where almost everything is in straight lines and neutrals I especially love cooking delicious food and serving to anyone who stops by. The decor here is minimalistic and intentional, pointing me toward aspiration and achievement. The light fixtures are easy to clean; the big bay window has a fern hanging in it which does not obstruct a bit of the view.

    A short flight of stairs down from the foyer leads to a great room with various musical instruments, quality speakers, deep plush carpet, mismatched chairs and pillows, floor lamps, paintings, bookshelves, all in a sort of creative mess- random, but choice. There is no theme, and if there is one it is bound to be changed sooner rather than later. Here I dream and dabble, experiment and practice.

    A tall privacy fence in the back circles a patio and a pool; here I lounge alone with a cool drink and deep thoughts, swim and dive aggressively with the frustrated thoughts, where the troubled thoughts get rinsed away and filtered out. The water is always clean, and cleansing. There is only one hammock; but a big-ish patio table for lively pool parties with my friends. The stone planters have simple combinations of petunias, geraniums, and sweet potato vines- striking, if simplistic.

  7. I’m fascinated by this exercise! I will have to revisit it sometime to explore it in more depth.

    I have a house, full of the heavy feel of books, the sound of children playing, and the smell of bread baking on an autumn morning. But instead of showing you my house, I will give you a peek of my garden.

    There is a flagstone path leading to my garden, the rocks worn smooth from my feet. The garden is ringed with protective shade trees. Under the trees, flower beds loop graciously around the garden, a tumble of color and shape and form and fragrance. The birds are singing and the air holds the faint buzz of insects.

    In the middle of the garden lies a clear, pebble-lined pool. By the pool, a worn wooden bench with a broken back holds a pencil and a tiny silver cross. At first glance, the water looks so beautiful and peaceful and clear. But if you taste it, you will find it salty, for it is the pool of my tears.

  8. One room in my house is full to the brim of books, and papers and lovely little things. I love to sit here and sort through them and lift up glass trinkets to the light and let the light scatter through them. This room has many doors, each of which open up to a new view. I like to open one up for a while and enjoy the view while I sort through the many, many boxes and books and beautiful things. Sometimes I get impatient with myself that I have so many things in this room and it is so disorganized, but then there is also the fun of discovering something and being surprised in the spaghetti-like mess. There are always new things to find in this mountain of boxes and books and trinkets. There are many, many doors to this room and I am always discovering a new one. Sometimes I get disturbed with myself that I can’t be content with only one or two doors. There are windows too, windows of funny shapes and sizes. The walls and floor are of wood. Sometimes I spend too much time in this room and the other parts of my house are neglected. Sometimes I let people into it, but I always wonder what they think of the mess. And sometimes people come in and they somehow make all my beautiful things look so ugly and it makes me angry. Every now and then I find a very beautiful thing and I take it out and put it in the next room.
    That room is the attic room in my house, I think. This is where I am silent. There is a fire in the grate, and outside it is always raining. There are candles and rugs and cozy lighting in this room. There are precious stones from far off mountain tops in this room, and sometimes they let off the scent of the mountain air. Here is where there are books of poetry, and I read and muse and think things to myself and wonder how to say them on paper. Every now and then I will let someone else in this room and we will sit and dream together, but not often.
    There is another room that I let people into. This is a sunshiny room, one with white curtains and walls and wooden floors and one brick wall and tall windows that let in light and a yellow cat. This is where I laugh with others and we say witty things and clasp hands and dance. There are green plants in this room, but I have someone else take care of them, because I spend too much time in my first room and forget to take care of the plants. They just die. We dream in this room too, but light, bubbly dreams, not deep soft ones like in my attic room.
    There are other rooms too, like the deep dark one that makes my stomach go flip-flop every time I go into it. I sometimes go into it, but I leave something behind to tell others where I am, so that I do not stay too long. Because if I do, I cannot come out easily.
    Where do I live most? In the first two, I think.

    1. I identify with so much here, especially with the “company room” and the private room you (and most of the rest of us) carefully protect. Thanks for letting us have a little tour!

  9. This is so interesting to read. And I can’t resist adding my voice.

    I often dream of houses. I once dreamed of an ancient house. It was in need of repair, a large 4 storied house with wide cozy porches and white pillared stairs coming down from double doors.

    It was surrounded by a great vast desert. There, the Lions lived. They roamed about the house, but could not enter.

    The house, for all its imperfections and aging structure was my safe place. I chose to stay within its walls.

    I watched some leave and tried to warn others of the Lions. And wept and felt great sadness when they fell.

    But I knew the choice was theirs to make. I sat in the back garden finding peace with that and watched the desert with those who remained.

    A lion stood on a distant hill with the wind waving through his great mane. I thought I could see him smile menacingly.

      1. It’s one of those dreams I’ve never forgotten. It taught me things. About life, family, church and following God.
        I’m not one to believe all dreams are somehow prophetic or to spiritualize them.

        But houses and our dreams about them do seem to hold something allegorical don’t they?

        I enjoyed reading the house story comments here.

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