I’ve been thinking a lot lately about houses–what they represent about our deepest hopes, longings, and fantasies. Normally I don’t think about houses. Talking about real estate annoys me. It was hard for me in my late-twenties when some of my more interesting and quirky friends developed a mono-focus on buying houses. Instead of talking about wolf-sitings, or the mating habits of spiny dog fish, party conversations entered the flatland topics of mortgages, refinancing, and countertop tile.
Yesterday I made 2 cups of hot chocolate and went to visit my friend, G., who is a local contractor. He has been hired to take a reasonably sized house and turn it into something bordering excess. He toured me around big empty spaces–the master bedroom, the massive walk-in closets, and the identical bedrooms for kids one, two, and three. While we talked through the airy rooms that smelled of drywall, he outlined some of the projects: $18,000 for wall texturing, $10,000 for a window. I silently computed how far I could stretch that same amount of money ; that one window could easily translate into a year of hotsprings, decent wine, and the lesiure to write.
Dealing in numbers and blue prints, G.’s job seems deceptively mechanistic, but he often finds himself privy to some of the more intense of human dramas. Building a house can put a strain on a marriage–not just over wallpaper preferences, or money, but over deep issues of commitment. Even as he adds expensive details to this house, the couple contemplates divorce.
It seems heartbreaking to me. To put all of ones energies, hopes, and love into a project and have it fall apart before it is barely realized. To find oneself living alone in a monument to things lost.
Whether or not the couple’s relationships pan out, G. does beautiful work. His talent shines most when let loose on his own projects. This year he built the Moonshine Luv Shack and drove it all the way to the Black Rock Desert for Burning Man. I spent a week on the shack–eating, sleeping, socializing– and fell in love with its small spaces, its odd details. Comfortable, mobile, quirky, full of love and friends, it was the best space I have ever lived in. It was a style of living that combined a sense of both mobility and settling– and felt more in harmony with real life and all its surprises.