In the middle of the night there is a pingpoingscritchscritch that gathers velocity in her sleep, rearranging her legs and arms, soon despositing feet off the soft edge of the bed. It’s not as if she sleeps restfully, anyway, yet she has a habit of diving back into the blackness and willing herself to re-enter slumber’s sweet exile. But this noise is foreign. She soon is fully and consciously sentient and stands up on the dusty wooden floor. The very act of becoming vertical seems enough of a feat that she hopes the racket turns out to be worth the effort. On the other hand, she wants it to be nothing much. Either way, she will likely muse over it’s power to interrupt rest.
This is not, she realizes again, home. That is, it is not the home she knows well, familiar nooks and crevasses, creaks and whistles the other place offered like a nightly serenade in a cozy cave. The old spot was tiny, four hundred square feet. Enough room to live but not to entertain others for more than a short visit–not without some regret, at least. Yet she thrived within it, or perhaps it was the context, that job, those friends, the sculptures she created. Creativity ruled that space. It was required in order to live efficaciously, happily. Spareness and a need for objects skirmished, then made, broke and remade truces. But she is slight of stature and weight so such areas accommodate her with little complaint from either. However, her mind is expansive, a virtual accordion of energy and thought patterns. Space has little to do with her survival, much less thriving. It is all in how you view it, she thinks.
So here she landed, smack into a new job and this large, newish place. It is at least twice as big as the other, perhaps two and a half times. The house it is a part of is enormous but reverberates emptiness until renovation will be complete. The idea captured her attention even more when the lower rent was quoted, that of inhabiting part of a building in the process of transformation. But it is a little odd now, in a night beset by pings and scrtiches.
She finds her way through her room and enters the kitchen, bumps into boxes and a chair, pots and skillets. How is she filling it so easily already? Where did all this come from and how did everything fit before? Will things snug together like a smart puzzle again? The thought paralyzes her for a moment, an equation she can’t figure out and must. And will. Her apartment feels so full yet empty. She shrugs and leans toward the mess and the sound as she does any task, with resolution.
The five rooms take on their shapes as her eyes peer into the width and depth of each space. It is as if they come alive as she studies them. As if they are quiet, vacant expanses that have been waiting to relinquish their bland, amorphous state under her deft direction. She thinks of performance art, of the theatre of the absurd.
Pingpingpoingpingscritch. Breeziness wraps around the leftover space as wind swirls through raised windows. She pads over to the sun room, drops to her knees and sniffs the air. Damp. Earthen-sweet. It is raining. The drops are striking the multi-leveled metal roof and bouncing onto the porch and back hoe in the back yard. A few blow onto her arm. There is a green plastic chair in the sun room or breakfast room, she isn’t sure what it is, and she sits in it. There was a moon in the deep earlier, making its way to fullness, so the rain is a surprise. It seems more reasonable as she sits with it, closes her eyes, presses against the wall. The outdoors trying to come in feels like a mother murmuring or a mythic god beginning a long story. It is strange to hear life here; there are real acoustics. When speaking or singing along with the radio her own clear voice cascades through each room as if seeking a destination not yet found.
She sleeps. The rain and her breathing lift and take her elsewhere. Soon there are tree frogs and cicadas and crickets chirping and rasping with a monotony only found in hot, humid country. She walks down the road in the dark, into woods, and pauses at a clearing. The frogs jump across the path–she recognizes them even though she is night blind, sleep blind–and she greets them. They look like friends. They are on their way to studios where things will be created–etheral paintings, kinetic sculptures, crazy pottery and moving or satirical drawings and photographs. All of which you have to peer at as though into a very deep wishing well. So she feels like taking a frog home whre she gives it a place on her pillow, then guards its primitive beauty. It rests between comments, sees and is transformed by her kindness. The frog, it turns out, is humanoid and a friend. She feels a swell of happiness inside the dream. They share mugs of tea that fit well in their froggy and people hands as they talk creativity and cost of living and tenured teaching jobs and what it means to become art. For art to be more and less than what they even imagined.
The light awakens her. She comes to once more with reluctance. Feels a cloak of sadness slip and slide about her. A bright eastern sky blinks, blue-eyed and finely spread like chiffon above the river and grass. Her neck aches. Feet and arms are chilly. Stomach grumbling. Homesickness will grow like a pernicious weed if she isn’t careful. She gets up and carries out her morning toilette. There is so much more work to be done, aching neck or not. Tree frogs speaking in dreams or not. Here there are mosquito eaters, moths and tiny spiders that cling to the walls like ninjas. She leaves them alone, glad of company.
She picks up the tape measure and measures. Questions the boxes. What to do with you? Where to place your contents, well-loved items that carry stories of people who made them or gave them to me, every piece well-travelled now? This is home, she repeats without speaking. Here. Now. Or, if not yet, will be. It will accept her things, the comings and goings because that is what happens to places: they are somehow made to fit those who live there. But other times she is made to fit the place, the work, the passage of time. It can’t be helped and it sometimes is just what she needs. It is a mutual design encounter. She likes to accept challenges, even looks for them. You trade some things for others, life is constant bargaining, she thinks. She traces contours and textures of each handmade ceramic mug, cup, plate.
Across the road is a busy diner, a white church, a stolid hotel that seems empty, and people who do not know her yet but know she is here. Down the street is a market, a laundromat, a bank, a disheveled house. Turn a corner and there is a library that once had hundreds upon hundreds of villagers reading books, rubber stamps marking dates due. She will visit there. In this new place there are people whose names will become as familiar as the shopkeepers she has just left behind. There are faces that will stay with her and others that will fade the moment she sees them. But it will all imprint upon her, odd and lovely tattoos of life, residual nicks and bruises and invisible healing, colors and constructs, wonderments and passions that carve and illuminate her way. This is how it goes for an artist roaming the world. First, the nest is made, an honorable task. Then, the deepening work, the striving and living that begets the art that begets the woman. Or the wiser woman who begets the braver art. It all counts.
Her soft hair flutters as the front door is opened. August’s light divides the living room floor into two spaces, each shadowy side soon to become more useful. She steps outside. Her luminous eyes send greetings into the north country atmosphere as a passerby nods. The rain lingers as a taste of summer in her mouth. She finds her sketchbook, pencil hovering. Soon autumn’s radiance will arrive, then the shocking dreamscape of winter. In the passage of time another mystery or a few will be revealed. Possibilities. Home will again be a place to welcome her, keep her close to what matters. There is room enough for more than one good potluck, much more art.