Working for the Work Ahead

 

It’s a simple set of tasks, an annual ritual that signifies the changing of seasons, a reconfiguration of habits, and the compression of our living space back into the modest square footage of our 1880s farmhouse. Still, every fall when we pack away our porch furniture and winterize the wraparound porch, it’s a reluctant exercise that we avoid for as long as possible. Some of the work, like picking up leaves in the front yard, is pleasantly autumnal. I’m alone with my thoughts while raking and vacuuming up the browns, yellows, oranges, and reds that have made our lawn an earthy carpet for the past few weeks.

Together, Jaxon and I hang sheets of plastic over the porch screens and tack in glass window panels (actually a massive supply of cabinet doors he found in Ikea’s as-is section several years ago), a move that closes in our cabin-like summer retreat but drastically reduces the edge from icy northern winds. Our summer porch bed- a cozy full-sized box spring and mattress that somehow holds two adult men, two grown dogs, and an occasional visit by the cat – will be leaned against the shingled inside wall until we bring it inside for use by holiday guests. The cabin, as we call it, will go dormant until springtime.

In eight years of homeownership, we’ve made these rituals into central markers of the passage of time. It’s not as as nostalgic as Thanksgiving (my Super Bowl for cooking the big feast) or Christmas (our lowkey day of dog park visiting, leftovers for lunch, napping, and homemade soup). But, wrapping the porch and putting away the yard furniture represents a ritual of work, anticipating the dark and frozen winter to come while looking forward to the days when we can walk outside in shirtsleeves and drop the top on Jaxon’s convertible. We do our work so that we can repeat the cycle, fulfilling the patterns we’ve established that keep us connected to our home.  Continue reading

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Reflective Thinking

I feel unsettled, not necessarily by anything occurring around me, but by the amount of time I let pass before deciding to write something new for the blog. Part of my purpose in creating this space was to challenge myself to keep up on my writing and reflections, even as I have managed the multiplicity of tasks surrounding my Ph.D. work. It’s been easier said than done. I last wrote a piece in June, not far removed from a winter season that seemed to drag me (and everyone around me) into the depths of a frozen ennui. Today – heh – Jaxon and I could barely bring ourselves to walk the dogs on this frigid November Monday, when I can’t help but wonder if summer really happened.

Yet, I know it did. On multiple occasions, I meant to write about some key occurrences, each hitting an existential note in some way. To sum up:  Continue reading

Our House

Houses like ours were truly made for the holiday season. I often think of myself as its current caretaker, not the “owner” per se. The story of how we came to buy it and what we’ve done with it is pretty cool.

We live right in the heart of South Minneapolis, in a Victorian farmhouse built in 1886. Well, the original building permit for a barn structure says 1886. The historical records show that it was finished as a homestead in 1894, the basement and foundation were added in 1897, and it was first wired and plumbed in 1907. The place has incredible bones—the original hardwood flooring, banister, and trim are intact, and we’re blessed with a wraparound, screened-in porch that serves as our outdoor living room and bedroom during the summer months. We used to rent half a duplex up the block, and jumped at the opportunity when the previous occupant put up a “for sale by owner” sign.

Even prior to buying the house, Jaxon and I have always put time into decorating for the holidays. It’s one of those rituals, though a lot of work, that feeds both of our creative outlets and reminds us that another year together has just passed. Since he owns all of his late grandparents’ antique ornaments and a whole lot of Eastern European glass ornaments from before the fall of the Berlin Wall, my partner has the ability to make Christmas trees that cause Macy’s to weep in shame. Throw in the TV showing a roaring fire in our fireplace, and the charm factor goes sky high this time of year.

The dining room tree is our “red, gold, and green” theme, very homespun with more woodland ornaments. The living room tree is shinier and has a mid-century modern feel to it. This year we added in some strings of the class big bulbs, just to heighten the nostalgia. Here are some pictures.

Our mid-century modern tree.

Our mid-century modern tree.

Red, gold, and green!

Red, gold, and green!

Note the nostalgic light bulbs.

Note the nostalgic light bulbs.

Note the more homespun ornaments.

Note the more homespun ornaments.

Periodically one of these ends up on our bookshelf or buffet. Good for meditating!

Periodically one of these ends up on our bookshelf or buffet. Good for meditating!

Also, here’s a link to the Minneapolis Star Tribune’s feature on the house from a few years ago: http://www.startribune.com/lifestyle/homegarden/37505914.html