At the end of July, we moved into a new house, and within a few days, she had found a place in the kitchen for two thousand and one dishes and glasses that have somehow come into our possession.
In the den she achieved that just-so balance with the couch, loveseat, and chairs. The space both encourages conversation and provides several vantage points for movie-watching without making the television the focal point of the room.
Unrelated tangent: I dislike walking into a den and being confronted by an enormous flatscreen, drawing attention to itself like a large-busted woman wearing a low-cut blouse. What you put on display tells people what you value.
I lived in another house down the street for a year and a half, and though I faithfully paid rent, I may as well have been squatting. I never put photographs up on the wall. I noticed that the desk would look better facing the window rather than a blank, “smoker’s teeth yellow” wall, but a year had passed before I moved it.
Unrelated tangent: Thank you, Ellen DeGeneres, for coining “smoker’s teeth yellow.”
I will buy paintings, print photographs, and accumulate interesting knicknacks, but they stay packed in boxes. My feng shui lacks a certain panache. By contrast, Megan takes out all of her favorite things and arranges them like the stylist she is.
I suppose my creativity and curiosity canter down other avenues. I write. I help people build healthier businesses with branding, marketing strategy, and good storytelling. I’m an entrepreneur. I go fly fishing and try to think of ways to outsmart trout.
I polish my sarcasm like a pair of leather shoes.
Megan’s nesting ability is one of the many things that I love about her. Though we both work, she is the better homemaker. The original meaning of “home making,” as in “homemaker,” must have been close to nesting. A homemaker was more than someone who stayed at home to take care of the kids. A homemaker created an environment that can give the word “home” its positive connotations: comfort, safety, intimacy, and a sense of identity and belonging.
Moving was unsettling—literally. We didn’t know where half our stuff was. Home was a place not of tranquility but of chaotic piles, long to-do lists, and Comcast’s exorbitant service transfer fees.
Unrelated tangent: Comcast, you are a titanic leach. Your customer service causes angels to lose their wings. Furthermore, driving customers to their wit’s end with empty promises, bad communication, and predatory pricing structures shouldn’t go by the name “customer service.” Your corporation epitomizes everything I despise about free market capitalism. Shame on you.
July also happened to be a slow month for my business. Everyone goes on vacation, and without decision-makers in town to pull the trigger, proposals fall to the ground like kites without wind. Checks go unsigned, and calls and emails, unanswered.
I was just as guilty as everyone else. I put certain projects on hold while I rode a jet-ski on Lake Erie.
By the end of July, I was beginning to feel the strain of more money going out than was coming in. To top it off, I no longer had an office, that one tiny island of consistency in a sea of tumult. With the extra room at the new house, a home office made more financial sense, but, as I’ve already established, I’m not a good nester.
Megan sensed my tension and offered to help:
“Why don’t you go to a coffeeshop and work, and I’ll set up your office for you?”
When I came back several hours later, she had organized my creative habitat.
The things most precious to us are seldom simply what we need to survive. What sets us apart from non-sentient creatures is our fondness for extra cargo: keepsakes and baubles, trinkets and souvenirs with no practical value other than nostalgia or fond memories attached to them.
In King Lear, Shakespeare offers a profound insight into what makes us human:
“O, reason not the need! Our basest beggars
Are in the poorest thing superfluous.” (Act 2, Scene 4)
The superfluous is what makes a home a home, and, I might add, transforms hardwood floors and plaster walls into a creative habitat.
An aesthetically pleasing environment has a noticeable impact on my work, and my sweet wife unpacked all my favorite things and threw a dash of feng shui into the mix.
· The cane my grandfather received from Chief Ekong, the Paramount Chief of Ukpom, a small village in Nigeria.
· My dad’s gold Seiko watch with an automatic movement.
· Royal KHM and Royal HHP typewriters from 1937 and 1953, respectively.
· Remington Model 1100 12 gauge shotgun
· Fly rods
· Picture of my dad standing next to the 210lb. Warsaw grouper that he caught off the Emerald Coast in Florida
· Dozens of books that I love for one reason or another, including the illustrated version of The Elements of Style by William Strunk and E.B. White and Danny, The Champion of the World, by Roald Dahl.
· Stacks of old journals chronicling my spiritual epiphanies and failed romances
· Quilt my grandmother made when she was 19
· Tobacco pipe that I bought in Vienna
· A turkey feather from my friends, the Doodys’ cabin, in Townsend, Tennessee
· An icon that my friend Andrew gave me as a gift
· A pod from a Catawba tree at the Abbey of Gethsemani
Your list of cargo would contain other tiny treasures, but what Marcus Mumford sings in “Sigh No More” hold trues: “Man [and woman] is a giddy thing.” Chewing bubble gum, lifting weights, planning vacations, letting our minds skip through the realm of future possibilities—we’re bizarre creatures—dreaming dirt.
Praise God for nesters and homemakers like my wife and mom who know how to make a place beautiful and comfortable.
P.S. Be sure to check out the Burning House: a series of lovely pictures of other people’s treasures (not those kind of treasures, you pervert).