Except for my little office and a bathroom tucked into the northwest corner, the first floor of our house is one big room, with a kitchen area in the northeast corner, a big round table, glass doors that face east for morning light, a fireplace in the southeast corner, and then a bay window that faces west for afternoon light. The oak table, its top all covered with scratches, pen marks, and drips of wax, is where we gather to eat, or play cards, or play board games. It's where we have family meetings - and candle ceremonies for special occasions. The ceiling fan above the table has provided hours of enjoyment for the boys: if you don't know what I am talking about, try duct taping various items to a ceiling fan and turning it on.
When I sit at the table, I always choose the spot that gives me the view out the big glass doors. I like to watch the back meadow turning green, the dandelions jumping up all yellow. The words back meadow sound romantic but the reason we have to keep this field mowed is because it is the septic field, watered and fertilized any time someone in the house flushes a toilet. Several of my flower gardens are right in my line of vision, and I am looking forward to putting in plants at the end of the month when the soil is warmer.
For the first five years we lived in this house, we had no step outside the glass doors. So anyone who went outside had to jump down a bit to get to the ground. Not a big jump or anything ... but an awfully big step for anyone with short legs. It's amazing how quickly you get used to this kind of thing. It wasn't until last summer, when we were planning Daughter's graduation party, that it occurred to me that I ought to build some kind of step.
I decided to build a big step, 6 by 8 feet, so that it would be more like a little deck, big enough for a group of kids to play hacky sack on. Spouse helped me get the lumber one weekend, and I chose a sunny weekday when I was home alone for doing the actual work. Sadly, I had waited until the mosquitoes had hatched for this project. And it was a wet spring last year, so the mosquitoes were present in huge numbers. While I was running the circular saw, it wasn't so bad. I don't think insects like the noise. But when I sat down to hammer a million nails in, I was surrounded by a cloud of hungry insects who wanted blood.
I was in a miserable mood that day, brooding over something that now seems irrelevant. I had spent the morning e-mailing Artist Friend, venting about all kinds of things, and listening to the kind of music that just makes me melancholy. I think I was angry about something, but not admitting it. I am not always so good at the being-in-touch-with-your-feelings crap. And these damned mosquitoes were just the last straw. I slapped at them, swore at them, tossed my hammer onto the ground.
Finally, I got the electric fan that we put in the bedroom window upstairs in the boys' room and an extension cord. I put the fan right near me as I worked. The blowing air kept the mosquitoes away, and the breeze felt good as I worked in the sun. I hammered and hammered, nail after nail, allowing myself to feel angry. It felt good to drive those nails in, one after another, the pounding making a loud noise in my quiet woods.
This morning, I was feeling out of sorts, my feelings all mixed up. I talked for while to a friend who helped me sort out my feelings, then came out to sit on the back step and soak in the sun. I listened to all the noises of the woods - the chirping, rustlings, twittering, singing. The sun warmed up my sweatshirt, my jeans. New leaves were bursting from the lilac bushes next to me. A cat joined me, curling up in the sun. I remembered pounding the nails in last year, feeling angry, and how good that felt to allow myself to get angry. I thought about the questions SortingFriend had asked - and I wrote them in my journal.
The wind chime near our back door is a big one, with a deep, mellow sound that always seems nautical to me. I thought about how my Dad and I used to get up early in the morning when we were camping near the ocean, and sneak out to go prowl a marina in the newness of the morning. I thought about what a shy kid I was, never talking, often angry or passionate or frustrated, but never knowing how to express those feelings without someone telling me I was wrong to be upset.
I felt grateful for Artist Friend and Sorting Friend. And other friends too - the Wild Woman Friends, the Monking Friends, the Conference Friends, the Poet Friends, the Longtime Friends - who help me figure out my feelings. And don't make me feel bad for having feelings. I traced the nails on the deck with my fingers. It's a nice back step. I am glad I built it.