Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Less House. More Home.

Many of you who know me have gotten caught up in this conversation with me, as it's something I've been thinking about/ working on/ embracing/ struggling with for a few years now.

Coming up on 3 years ago we moved into our current, sweet 1928 bungalow home. It sits right off Main Street in a quaint, neighborly small southern town, right on the cusp of a cool, hipster city. We love having access to both: the amazingness that is Asheville, while embracing small town life. My oldest child can walk to his school. Firemen literally stop to get cats out of trees (I've seen it with my own eyes). And our downtown parades involve everything from the high school marching band, to Uncle Billy's lawn mowing/lawn racing tractor.

Neighbors know one another. Everyone walks. Kids scamper in and out and around each others homes no matter what the season. And they are cared for and watched after by a village. A community in the best sense of the word.

As are the adults. Potluck parties and holiday socials. Casseroles and cards upon hearing of sickness or struggles. Mama's nights out, walking together to the corner wine shop when we're all at our wits end. Checking up on each other. Supporting one another. Growing together.

And here sits our house. Our bungalow. All 1650 square feet of it. With it's era-appropriate creakiness and original glass paned windows. A wide front porch that feels like it's own room (and often is), having hosted ice cream socials and bike pedaling lessons and and late night beer drinking.

We purposely downsized to have all of this, even though our house is small by most American standards. And with two rambunctious boys, it can often feel smaller. Noises echo. Voices carry. Storage is minimal. When a room is in even slight disarray, it's glaringly obvious. When any of our family of four needs a place to retreat, the only semi-safe bet is the bathroom (and don't think you won't be spied upon through the old key-hole and timed for "lollygagging".)

And I can sometimes (well okay, often...) be heard talking about plans for house renovations. Bumping out walls. Adding on space. Buying new furniture. Reconfiguring and readjusting our little bungalow. Stretching it's limits. Maybe in ways that after awhile I realize are not part of the smaller living mindset that I have wanted. That I do want. For myself and our family. Even if I sometimes have to challenge myself to embrace it.

And so, our house then becomes more than a house...it becomes a home. A home which encompasses the neighborhood. The neighbors. The community. Shared driveways and front yards and tree swings. It's easy for many of us to get caught up in More. In Bigger Equals Better. Lord knows, I struggle with it.

But I love what my bungalow makes me realize time and time again: That small homes do create close families. That small neighborhoods do foster real community. And that living in a "fishbowl" (as we sometimes lovingly refer to our open-windowed house in the middle of a busy street) helps us really see each other (just hopefully not naked through my neighbors eyes).

I repeatedly embrace the Bungalow. And I appreciate the Bungalow embracing, and reminding me, what's important.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

I Know You Are, But What Am I?

"When did you first know you were an artist?"

That's the question that has been twirling around in my head for some time.

Along with, "What actually is an artist?" Should it be capitalized, as in a title of sorts. As in "Artist?"

To be an artist does one have to make a living making or producing something that they then sell for monetary means? Does it mean you are high up on the rung of creative persons, always brimming with original ideas? Is artistic the same as creative? What's the difference in Art and Craft? Where's the distinction?


I've always known that I enjoyed artsy-things. Colors.  Patterns. Words. Photography. Dance. The subtleties that color life more richly. Even in my profession as a counselor, I am drawn to ranges of emotion. The rawness of it, at times. I like the way light dances and curves and shifts as much as I do the texture and scent of old wood. I like to note the wide range of octaves that just one person's laugh can embody. Or the subtle way a new haircut can change the way someone carries themselves.

My husband jokes that I'm a seasonal person. Red wine and soup in colder months. Chili being strictly forbidden in the summer, in exchange for cold bottled Coronas and anything that smells like sun-kissed sun feels. There's sweet marrow in the details.

And yet,  although I have this geeky knowledge of myself, coupled with the belief that we are truly all artists in one way or another (you Cake-Baker, Child-Raiser, Plant-Waterer, Joke-Teller you!)...I have never thought of myself as AN ARTIST.

When my father noticed my posted question, he replied that he knew he was an artist at age 10. My father works on cars and engines for a living. Tweaking them, making them faster and more efficient. Getting his hands covered in grease and developing new ideas. And even he acknowledges that that itself is art.

And then I began here. Dabbling in painting furniture. Stenciling numbers up my stairs. Rearranging furniture and creating seasonal displays and completely realizing how much I loved it all. How the more I did it, the closer to myself I became. How the often heady-head shushed itself when my hands were working, and simply went with the flow.

The invitation to participate in an upcoming holiday craft fair arrived. And there was (and IS!) a deadline. A reason to not neglect creating. A purpose for challenging myself creatively and diving headfirst into...dare I say it again...ART! So I created this little space. A name. A logo. I got business cards and am narrowing down my display ideas. And while it is overwhelming and scary, and I have every normal doubt that is both human and heady, it feels freeing in ways I cannot describe.

It feels like this little burning ember down inside my soul just said, "Finally, woman! How long did it take you to acknowledge my presence?! To pay attention to me! To give me a name!"

I think I'm an artist.
I am an artist.
And so are you.