On Parting with a House

I put the  house I lived in for seventeen years on the market this year and it felt like I’d put in on a chopping block. This was not only my house, but an exemplary house, broad-shouldered and profoundly rational. It faced squarely south and bore enormous small-paned curving picture windows that let in a lot of light. I live now with my partner Ellen in her house not far away, a bungalow beneath towering spruce trees on the edge of a bird-filled wetland. Our lives have reached a point where we need to let go of one house in order to restore the other. We decided some time ago that my house did not suit us–so big, and somehow less private–but it has still been an agony letting go.

My sons were three (Jacob) and seven (Gabe) when I moved to this town with my ex-husband. He and I had a few good years there it was a nice place to be a family in. I wrote my book Believers in an attic studio and wrote some great poems there. Later, my father came and lived there when he was dying, only we took such good care of him that Hospice kicked him out and he moved to a nursing home.

A massive beech tree grows out back, dominating everything. It’s been scarred by children but remains amazing, easily a century old, with edible nuts that are hell on bare feet. Someone will no doubt take it down in order to built a garage and family room or something. There’s a playground way at the end of a long backyard where I let a maple forest grow after my sons grew up.

Liminal describes the time that elapses during transitions from one state to another. Some are very short, like the instant the New Year is born at 12:01 or the moment at which you marry, and some, like undertaking a complicated real estate transaction, feel interminable. They have a certain tension.


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