December 3, 2010: A Place of My Own

It is really happening.
A dream come true.

Today, I began searching in earnest for doors, windows, shelving and such for my own little cottage- one I plan to build with Tim’s support and many hands this spring and summer.
A shelter of my own.
Made of mud and straw bales. Adorned with colorful bottles and mosaic tiles.
A place for daydreams and solitude and meditation and creativity.
A place to share tea and intimate conversation and playful arts with others.
A mystery. A curiosity. A dream manifest.

I don’t know when the idea first surfaced in me.
Probably sometime as a young mother in the wee morning hours before anyone else in the house was awake. In that precious daydreaming time, listening to the longings of my own heartbeat… I imagined a place I could retreat to be still, to be silent, to be ME.
Or maybe this cottage image appeared in a meditation class years ago when the teacher led us in guided imagery to a spot where we felt safe, and free, and alive. With eye’s closed, I rounded the corner of a freshly mowed path and  there lay the little house, door open as if smiling at me, beckoning me home.
Or perhaps it was on my physical therapist’s table as she teased my energy trying to relieve lower back pain. I colorfully described to her the stress-free place I’d go in my imagination… windows open, sounds of trickling water outside, smell of pine through the curtains- no phone, no tv, no clocks, no “to-do list”.
I remember her looking down at me, in all her Reiki wisdom, saying “Beth, the cottage you are describing is YOU. You realize that right? ”
Wow.
I love that interpretation.

Hmmm… the place I retreated when life was too busy and my well was empty… was the real me. The ME with the unlocked front door, guitar propped in the corner, open paint bottles, candles flickering, lace curtains blowing gently in the clean breeze, fresh fruit piled high in a bowl.

A place of my own.

silent. simple.
restorative.

Children have always understand what it is to need a place of one’s own… cardboard appliance boxes, wooden forts, concrete culverts.  I remember that giddy feeling of being just one step below the noise- slipping under the kitchen table, invisible to the hustle-bustle of adult feet and grown-up plans  A place to be alone with one’s thoughts.  A lookout from which to spy all the busyness of life without getting swept downstream or stepped on.

I think it is just hard-wired in us… to yank coats off  hangers in the hall closet for a topsecret hideout or rake leaves in a pile to make a nest just our size. What child hasn’t tucked herself in a corner, low in the bushes, or high in a treehouse… to run free through the fields of her own imagination?

Well, that longing runs strong and clear in me. Always has.
During my busy mothering years I found getaways in cushy reading chairs, long walks and a little green room (“womb”) I carved out in the basement. It was there that I reconnected with my own voice through journaling and my own breathing in the quiet when babies napped.
I love my family. I love my new life in the country.
and I know I still need a little place of my own to keep my balance.

I am convinced we are both social and solitary animals.
We all crave the warm intimacy of family and friendships. And, I believe, we also hunger for the sweet whispers of a voice found only in deep stillness.
Solitude is a rarity these days with 24-7 stimulation and demanding “on call” technology.
And yet, it is only in solitude, alone with my own thoughts, that I discover truly original ideas or wise, non-reactive answers to life’s important questions.

So, when we bought this land by the river, Tim and I began dreaming of where to build a “not so big house” for ourselves, and then we looked around for where we might fashion little corners of our own. (As I type, Tim is adding insulation and shelves to his workshop- a man’s imagination palace!).
I am grateful everyday for my husband- the one who, on a cold March day before we had even poured the footings of our home, looked me lovingly in the eyes and said “and you need a cottage of your own too, don’t you?”
Yes, after 30 years of marriage, he not only understands my need for creative solitude, he protects it.  As I do his.

My cottage, my Querencia, will be across the stream, over a swinging bridge, through a curvy mowed path. With woodlands protecting her back, she’ll face the south sun and fields of wildflowers. It is still just a dream, slowly taking shape on paper. But if I close my eyes I can feel it in my body… as if itwere my body.

I found this photo of a little sitting nook in an earthen house. It embodies the warm, nestled, whimsical feeling I want in my cottage. I will keep it with me as a compass… while I sketch, collect salvaged materials, and sculpt her round, earthen walls.

Everyone should have a place of their own.
The child inside is eager to remind us how.

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