“When I say artist I mean the man who is building things – creating molding the earth – whether it be the plains of the west – or the iron ore of Penn. It’s all a big game of construction – some with a brush – some with a shovel – some choose a pen.”
Part of my writing will be historical as I seem to have crossed the Great Divide of middle age. Once upon a time, we built a home on a ridge in Vinton County, Ohio. We built it with our own hands. We had some guidance but did a great deal of the work ourselves. I took on the concrete block basement, the foundation. We stayed in this house, in its various states of completeness, for ten years. My husband, myself, and our four children had thought this was our dream home. It was our great Opus! We settled in and liked to say we homesteaded. We grew food, goats, flowers, chickens, turkeys, rabbits, and pets. We grew a family and some memories. We have stories. Lots and lots of stories.
In the winter, we heated the home with wood. There is no other heat that compares to the heat that radiated from the great cast iron stove. With the stove located in the middle of the house, the heat enveloped you and made you feel safe. The sounds of the fire crackling, the kettle sizzling, the ashes rattling up the flue were all part of the experience. The task of building and maintaining the fire were largely mine. I felt a sense of artistry in keeping our furnace from burning out. I could coerce the tiniest bit of hot coals into a new raging inferno with the right touches of kindling and wood, and placement and draft.
In the summer, we gardened for food and for beauty. I was rather addicted to the dirt. I loved to amend it with whatever manure I could find, composted horse manure mostly and some from our goats. I would dig it in. The feel of soil never was “dirt” in my hands. We had some good crops. But each summer’s food garden was different. The weather dictated the winners. Some years it was tomatoes, other years squash, and even a few bumper years of peppers. Beans seemed indifferent to the weather. We never succeeded in growing enough food for six people to survive on for the whole winter. But we kept trying. We learned to can the bumper crops, mostly the tomatoes. Sometimes corn or blueberries. Neighbors would share their bounty with us and we with them.
All the while, Scott and I continued being musicians, Scott the composer and both of us cellists and pianists. We would have salon concerts in our home. We invited other musicians of all genres. We played Brahms while wearing overalls. We were an oddity in rural Ohio, symphony musicians that we were. Scott’s compositions were not well understood in Appalachia. So we traveled outside the county for work, the ultimate reason that we moved on.
Those ten years are a treasure. We were younger. We were very naive. We needed a home. We created it; we built it, we warmed it, we fed it, and we built loving memories that carry us all, years later. When we moved, I cried…a lot. We left our dream home. But on returning to the empty house for one last visit, I was struck by a monstrous reality…we were no longer there! It was an empty vault, a structure without life. WE were the life, the home, the warmth, and the nourishment. The house still stands (although we often joke about how long that will be) as a testament to our tenacity. Our family has moved on. We are now about new creations, new adventures, and new memories.