What Gives You Shelter


Let's start with the house. So many stories to tell about this little place, backed up against the woods on the bank of the Susquehanna River. We moved there in the first weeks of the pandemic, and left last summer when the sewage line backed up into our basement + well water, and when the persistent mold issues in the house became overwhelming.


In between those two times, the house became an anchor for us, a place that sheltered, an entity that we learned to be in relationship with. This kind of relating then slowly filtered into the rest of our lives + relationships in that place - with the river and their many shapes, with the geese and other bird neighbors, the spiders, the snakes, the trees. So it feels important to begin here, with that first teacher.

 

This little house. When we moved in, delighted, telling the house our dreams of creating a place of respite for our loved ones, everything almost immediately started going wrong.


The washing machine poured water on the floor, the dryer vent pipe was disconnected from the wall, meaning that I walked into the laundry space while the dryer was running and every surface was dripping with condensation. The stove had a family of mice living in the insulation, and when we first turned it on, we had to flee the house because of the smell. We lived without a stove for a few weeks, because our landlord couldn’t figure out how to get one delivered during the beginning of the pandemic. I could go on, about the water, the mice, the carpenter ants, the mold…


All of that to say, here I learned that houses have a sense of self/place—a spirit, a purpose, an orientation. Their own needs and desires. And like any kind of relationship, living with this awareness means that you learn to adjust around the things that the house cannot change about itself.


This is a house that loves to have the windows open, that cares for every dying creature it can, that loves spiders. A house that was cared for diligently for many years, then neglected. Held at least one dying person, who died alone. It holds space for dying carpenter ants, for the small bugs and mice, and once in the basement a tiny black snake, all of whom come here to live out their brief last days.


This house is focused on breaking things down, on falling apart, on what’s not attended to. Mildew is growing on all of the beams and wood paneling in every room, on our clothes, on the backs of the dressers, on anything we take our eyes or minds off of too long.


It is a wild place that has sheltered us, and taught us about our own wildness. That built our capacity to navigate difficult situations without turning away from each other, or from what is.


I will miss being here, in this funny little house by the river. I know now, from living here, when I enter a house: to put my hand on the wall, to listen for the house-sense. To remember that I am a guest, to thank what gives me shelter.