Saturday, January 19, 2008

Big Old Empty House

I'm back in New Hampshire for a week, hiding out a bit (friends and family know I am here), enjoying a few days with our daughter before she goes back to college and attempting to organize my office and some of my books into boxes to take back to Kentucky.

Upon arrival I was struck by how empty the house was--not of stuff but of people, even an expansive sense that we have truly left. The scent of the house welcomed us--that old wood smell and something else, not quite describable, but known and recognized by the nose, the most potent vessel for sense memories. With most of our family now in Kentucky, even our elderly aunt, and our dog who has never left here and always welcomed us home, the house has been quiet apart from a friend who is staying here for the winter.

The pipes rattled some and the house creaks more than I remember which is odd because I have always lived in an old house, except recently, and this is something that should not have surprised me. A few plants have died from my pre-Christmas neglect; even our housesitter, a green thumb herself, couldn't revive them. And the ceilings are so vast compared to where we live now.

The house seems like home yet also more museum-like than I remember. But it doesn't really feel like home anymore--more like a stage set for another life. Is this because the people who inhabit the house have left it, hermetically sealed, the air and soul of the place gone with them? Is home really where the heart is? I'm beginning to think so.

Right now I am in the thick of a fabulous novel, Atonement by Ian McEwan, for our book group this month. The Cupcakes will be gathering here on Monday for tea and book chat. We also read Northanger Abbey, Jane Austen's first novel (also on PBS Masterpiece Theatre, tomorrow night, January 20) and the contrast of the two different but similar novels is compelling. I am not disappointed. McEwan has written a novel in the 19th century grand style, lush with descriptions of place and time and setting, the landscape and house as much of a character as the members of the Tallis family who inhabit it.

I am not likely to be blogging much in the next few days, apart from on Cupcake Chronicles. So please join us there for our blogs and discussion. In the meantime, I will continue to pack and contemplate the places where I live and have lived. Sometimes walls and the empty welcome of a familiar place are good company.


Blaine Staat said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cat said...

What an awesome post Catherine! You said it perfectly about the heart of a home and just what that truly is. How often we forget that in our day to day busyness of life.

I also love how you mention the smells and sounds of a home. To me...those are the things than can conjure many different memories or thoughts (past and present). I love the smells that come from an older home or, as I shared with you earlier, the smell of a book when you first open it. Call me weird maybe but I associate that to all things good and is usually the first thing I notice when walking into a home or opening an older book...maybe it is the history...or that I think about the people who have been in the house previously and what went on during that time. With a book it is the same. Who had read this before me and the many hands it has passed through before it came into my possession.

Boy! You got me to thinking of things I haven't thought of it quite some time!

Enjoy your time with your daughter and with the Cupcakes! I know they must miss you a great deal! I ordered Atonement from the library - still waiting on it to arrive but I look forward to the comments from the club.

Praying for a safe trip back!

xoxo Cat
(I deleted the previous - I forget that the blogger account is under Blaine's name)

a Cupcake near you! said...

What a lovely post; I had not been here since the corncakes so had missed that first day of school. Can't wait for Northanger and Atonement tomorrow, in Whitcomb Abbey! Love, Edie

Anonymous said...

You can run, but you can not hide. Is this pull blinding?