by Zinta Aistars
The fire in the wood stove is dancing. The bin next to it is filled with split wood and kindling. Dinner is cooking in the kitchen, and the salad is tossed in the bowl, slices of bread and cheese on the side of the waiting plate. My clothes are unpacked and set on shelves and hung on hooks in the bedroom. My paintbrushes and pads of new rice paper are spread out on the kitchen table, beneath the big picture window where daylight spills in. My smooth stones, the sort I like to paint, are lined along the windowsill.
My groceries are put away in the refrigerator and shelves. My toothbrush is in a cup in the bathroom, and my little bottles and pots of moisturizers and lotions are in a row beneath the mirror. My slippers are tucked beneath the bed.
My books are on the coffee table by the big brown leather couch—Anne LaBastille’s Woodswoman series, Part Three and Four, and a sizable stack of poetry books and advance review copies sent to me, requesting reviews. I’ve chosen a couple books from the bookshelves in this house for reading in coming days: a selection of Rumi's poetry, Island Farm by Grand Rapids, Michigan author Arthur Versluis, and The Good Life: How to Create a Sustainable and Fulfilling Lifestyle by Sherry Ackerman.
My car is parked inside the big red barn.
A soft, lazy snow is falling outside, the snowflakes twirling on their way down to the ground.
For the next three weeks, I’m home.
This is David’s house. I will watch over it while he is far away, very far, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, thinking his own thoughts about home and where to find it. I’ve left my own house to my son’s care. Like musical chairs, we are all trying on someone else’s house and temporarily calling someone else’s space … Home.
He’s left notes for me in several places, and I follow them like breadcrumbs. Directions for this, instructions for that, telephone numbers for neighbors and services. A kind wish for me to enjoy my stay.
I bustle about all Sunday afternoon, arranging for my own comfort, adding my own … self, I suppose. Little shards of myself. Little puzzle pieces that will make me feel I can put down shallow roots, if even for a short while. I look out the windows of different rooms, taking mental pictures of the scenery, then put my boots back on, throw on a coat, and head outside. I sense that I am getting my bearings. Storing pictures in my mind. No doubt, I will wake in the morning and wonder … where am I? and then recall. The photos will align in my mind, and I will know … here I am, at this house in the countryside.
I’m only an hour away from my own home, yet that slight shift in space can seem to be a great distance away. From suburbia, where my neighbors are just feet away from my own house, and I can hear everyone’s car pull in and out of their driveways … to here, where I look outside and see deer move along the edge of the woods, and last summer’s tall grass, now yellow and dry, lean heavily under the weight of new snow. Neighbors are far away and out of sight.
There’s this sense of strange and a sense of comfort all at once. My heart always pulls toward country, even as I have lived in city, too, and enjoyed it. How long, I wonder, when I will forget that I am in someone else’s house, and come home, here, after the work day, and without thinking, drop my car keys on the kitchen counter, set my briefcase on the chair, fall back into the cushions of the couch, and heave a long, relaxed sigh at the luxury of evening ahead.
How do we make a house home?
I walk to the end of the driveway, stand out in the empty, snowy street, and look west, then east. No one. Nothing. Only the silent fall of snow. I look back at the house, studying its angle, the sweep of the ancient fir trees that nearly hide its face to the street. I like it. I walk back down the drive, go back inside through the back door, slip my boots off and set them aside, hang my coat on a hook, and then stand in the kitchen and call:
A crackle of wood, then a snap, in the wood stove replies.