Saturday, July 15, 2006

Mr. K Builds His Dream Home
The Mississippian Period

There’s a passage in William Gibson’s novel Pattern Recognition where the main character considers a theory about the soul, travel and jet lag. Her thinking follows the line that modern travel is too fast for the “energy body” or soul, which trails behind your physical body and then takes the time that we call “jet lag” to catch up to wherever you’ve landed. You feel disconnected because you’re not all there.

My physical body has been traveling fairly fast these past few weeks and my energy body just caught back up to it at 2:30 in the morning. I sat up in bed, suddenly acutely aware of all that we are trying to do this summer: a wedding, a move, buying our first home, a new job in a small town, and I’m currently teaching two new preps in summer school following supporting Jes through the GAS conference.

The teaching alone is currently taking up an enormous amount of both my time and my energy such that I am now reaching the hidden-reserves stage of sanity and sustainability. We’re working on a lot of change all at once and, while I am normally something of a cool character when it comes to things like this, a slightly overwhelmed feeling has managed to get me out of bed and onto the computer to vent.

I don’t have pictures on this computer of the house that we are trying to buy. They are on Jes’ laptop, currently at her mother’s house, but I’ll get some up in the next few days. It is something of a time capsule as a structure. The living room is literally a log cabin from the mid eighteen hundreds. The rest of the house has been built over, around, and through this original structure. At the university I attended they built a new library by containing the old library in the new, larger structure. This is the same idea.

I like the house quite a bit. What I like more is that it sits on top of a hill on a five acre lot with pear, walnut and cherry trees overlooking the rolling hills just south of the Missouri River. The danger of "setting" as a draw has been well considered in films like The Money Pit and Mr. Blanding Builds His Dream House, and yes I do feel a little like Cary Grant at the moment. If you’re on well water and the power goes out then you are S.O.L. There's a lot that can go wrong, but there's also a lot that can go right.

In my last post I had said that we had bought the house. In truth, we put an offer in on the house and the offer was countered by the seller. We accepted the counter at our original bid, minus one of our provisions. We are now in a phase of timed responses for both parties in which there are multiple conditions to be met and possible “outs” considered. The house is rural and thus has potential issues with the well, the septic, termites, and potential structural issues that we need to assess with the help of an appropriate team of inspectors and assessors.

I found myself wishing earlier tonight for some kind of artistic outlet to vent my compacted emotions. I was standing in Mary’s backyard flipping chicken on the BBQ and draining a Lemp beer, imagining that I had the ability to take brush to canvas and express everything that I don’t have words for. I feel like I’ve been drinking blended margaritas made out of equal parts of joy and fear. See, that’s why I need a paint brush, my metaphors are just bad Jimmy Buffet. Here’s a better one: It’s like Jes and I have been waiting for each other for so long, now that we’re together we’re trying to live a full life all at once. At this rate she’s going to be pregnant before I get the yard mowed (just kidding).

Back when I was growing up on the eastern side of Wisconsin I remember sitting in my third grade class and listening to a lecture on the Mississippi. It was a state history class and the teacher was talking about the western boarder of the state. As she moved on to discuss the symbolism of the badger on the state flag, the Mark Twain mystique of the big river, big enough to separate states, captured my imagination and I remember thinking, “someday I’m going to see that river, I’m going to touch it”.

I recently learned that I have an ancestor who was a steamship captain, running on the river down from St. Paul to St. Louis. I feel like some of that relationship with that water is still in me, it pulls at me. When we moved to St. Louis a few years later the change in my life felt a little tied up with the will and the longing to see this thing that was vaster than anything I had yet experienced, running the length of my civics class America. The cold horizon of Lake Michigan, with the dirty foam and dead fish of mid-seventies pollution didn’t excite me like the deep well and pulse of the arterial river waters, cleaning themselves in fresh rain, melted snow and motion; opposing the Rockies and the Blue Ridge through a winding crevasse that was itself once an ocean, some three hundred and fifty million years in the past.

St. Louis, the city that really formed me, isn’t just a Mississippi town. It’s a two river city, an island city, etched on either side by the southward wash of northern and western waters. It’s a city at the confluence. Just as the Mississippi drew me south, I am now moving from the confluence up the western branch of the rivers to make my home on a high hill just south of the Missouri. Our land-to-be owes both its slope and soil to a former path of the Missouri River. For Jes and I it’s the confluence of our lives, the meeting and the merging of our histories, our friends and our families. There is power in coming together and I need to remember that as obstacles arise in all that we are trying to do we have the power of two rivers to carve the land to our liking, to melt stone, move mountains, and find the path of least resistance into our shared future.

Happy Anniversary Jes. –k-


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