Wednesday, June 20, 2012

How I Got to Live Here

A typed 3"x5" file card tacked up on a bulletin board at the university where I worked said a rural rental property was subletting for a year at $400 a month. I'd been living in a low-rent (bullet holes in my windshield) area of St. Louis for a decade and pined for change. I'd also been visualizing my ideal home: in the woods, near a creek, where night looked like night; I'd even taped up a picture cut from Reader's Digest. Given my situation it was a foolish impossible pipe dream. I phoned. A Dutch physics professor and his artist wife about to tour the world for a year said they sought someone clean and neat who'd occupy the house and care for their cat.
I drove 35 miles from town, increasingly enchanted by the hills and greenery. It was April. Found a little white house with green shutters and door, shaded by old hickory and oak trees (at that time I couldn't tell them apart). I glanced through the kitchen window at the porch and fell in love. The original three rooms of the house was a log cabin. Awkward additions had been tacked on. It came with 100 acres of Ozark foothills. My first night here was in June. I had no bed yet. I lay on the bedroom floor on blankets, the windows open wide to hear everything. The house is on a sandstone cliff, so when I looked out I saw starry sky. The cat was a sweet companion.

After 14 months the couple returned. I asked to be informed if they ever moved away so I could ask to be next to rent it. Moved back to the city and two years and two months later, on Oct. 1, 2001, I moved back into the Divine Cabin and they will take me out feet first. In order to stay here I have refused offers of good jobs and marriage. This old, drafty, complicated house requires hiring people to help me out but I'd rather do that than live somewhere with fewer challenges. The gorgeous stone fireplace doesn't work. The moldy, leaky, ugly, 4x8 bathroom (yes, it's the only bathroom) with the rusted hot-water heater got torn out and updated just this past year. (There's still no bathtub.) Nearly every morning from March through late November I have morning coffee or tea on the stone porch. It is my box seat on the universe. In the city, Summer Solstice meant nothing. Here it means everything.

Happy Summer Solstice June 20 at 6:09 p.m. CDT. Please celebrate anytime that life on earth is a peak experience. This is a meadow celebrating itself, across Highway F, not 50 feet from the LaBarque Creek.


Pablo said...

Your story reminds me a lot of Sue Hubbell's discovery of the Ozarks. I've read her books a number of times.

eve said...

catherine, i'm loving this post more than i can say. "...and get as near the heart of the world as I can." (i'm rereading john muir)

what absolute splendor.


Sylvia Sky said...

Yes, I have read and enjoy her work!