House Words & House Pictures – Escapees from a House Journal I

“Houses are really quite odd things. They have almost no universally defining qualities: they can be of practically any shape, incorporate virtually any material, be of almost any size. Yet wherever we go in the world we know houses and recognize domesticity the moment we see them.”

Bill Bryson At Home: A Short History of Private Life

bowls

Bowls – maybe they all have bowls.

Considering April

My young friend and her parents came to stay at the Buffalo during her spring break, and I loved having them here. It seemed so neighborly to have people you love next door, like in my old neighborhood. They enjoy this place – like sleeping late and reading, walking in town or on the beach, going out to dinner or eating at home by the fire, some nights rewatching favorite movies.

As they headed to the ferry on their last day, we walked the trail at Bloedel Reserve – past pink rhododendron blossoms, hellebore, and primula, much green grass and ducks on the pond. Part of the charm of Bloedel is the manor house, a graceful mansion that looks so livable (if one were really, really lucky). My young friend’s mother and I smiled to see it.

Houses have been much on my mind. I recently read both Bill Bryson’s book “At Home: A Short History of Private Life,” where he rambles, as is his wont, through our relationship to houses and their contents, and “A Day in the Life of a Smiling Woman,” a collection of Margaret Drabble’s stories. These wonderful stories span her whole career as a novelist, but have never been collected together before. I remember houses in Drabble’s books the way one remembers characters, and first wrote about her here.

Then, looking for April inspiration, I came across the dummy pages, quotes, and illustrations for a house journal my young friend’s mother and I once talked about doing together. I also found an old sketchbook with line drawings from a solo trip to Hawaii long ago, when I drew all the utensils in the kitchen drawers instead of vistas or flowers.

These thoughts moiled around until April seemed a month for houses – with open-ended possibilities, visits, details, houses in movies? The art of life is much about house and home.

In these parts March has gone out like a lamb (albeit a lamb well-hydrated by rain), a beautiful ending with flowering trees and blooming bulbs. Indoors, on the sunny days, light reveals cobwebs, dust filigrees, and smudges – and that will surely be another part of the month of house – to see if I can inspire myself to a “deeper clean” or just draw pictures of sun splashes, never mind the housework.

Frances in a sunspot