Whenever we have guests, I try and see our house through fresh eyes, to get a feel for what someone who doesn’t live here might make of it. I never like what I see.
Some of the things we’ve gotten used to, like the peeling 1960s wallpaper in the bathroom or the two dead arborvitaes whose transplant didn’t take, look seedy and sloppy. Some of the things we haven’t gotten used to, like the stained carpet that will eventually be replaced by wide-plank pine or the bare spots in front of the house where the chickens ate all the hostas, look even worse.
Then there are the piles of crap from all the projects we’ve got underway. The bricks for the never-ending wood-fired oven. The giant flowerpot that will be a tandoor. The PVC pipe for the greenhouse. The washing machine parts for the chicken plucker. The oyster paraphernalia.
I saw all those things as Kevin and I tried to whip house and grounds into shape for our friend Allison, coming to visit from Brooklyn.
Allison had been here before, but it was when we first bought the house and had the excuse of newness. It was perfectly reasonable that we hadn’t gotten rid of that carpet when we’d only lived there for a month. Now what’s our excuse?
Allison is one of our all-time favorite people. She’s smart and charming, open-hearted and curious, gracious and vivacious. And she didn’t give a shit about the carpet.
What she saw was what we’ve built in the two-and-a-half years since we bought this house. She saw a beautiful, functional chicken coop and seven healthy birds. She saw a garden where there’d been only scrub and sand. She saw four contented turkeys in a spacious pen, and two well-established beehives. She saw flourishing shiitake mushrooms and a robust little fig tree.
We took her fishing, we took her to see the oysters, we took her lobstering. We took her to a farm-to-table dinner at Coonamessett Farm, and introduced her to some of the friends we’ve made since we moved here. While she was here, she ate lobster and bluefish that we caught ourselves, tomatoes and onions we picked from the garden, eggs from our free-roaming hens, and one-third of the one fig that was our entire crop (the other fig fell off, and those free-roaming hens got it).
She saw something constructive, something productive. She saw the hard work and the skill acquisition. She saw a lifestyle that was interesting and compelling, and two former city-dwellers who built it, from scratch, with joy. And she made me see it too.
To hell with the carpet.