A small woodshed stands attached to the north side of our house. Its floor is dirt, and because the shed is not tightly sealed, I often share it with several chipmunks who leave empty black walnut shells strewn around as if they are at a ballpark. One recent morning I saw what looked like an […]
By Mel Allen
Feb 08 2022
A small woodshed stands attached to the north side of our house. Its floor is dirt, and because the shed is not tightly sealed, I often share it with several chipmunks who leave empty black walnut shells strewn around as if they are at a ballpark. One recent morning I saw what looked like an old shoe sticking up from the floor where I had just tossed aside the wood. In fact, it was not a shoe, but rather the sole of what I believe to have been a work boot. Our house dates back nearly 200 years, and while I do not know the age of the shed, I imagine many feet have trod where mine have over the years. I unearthed the old leather sole, now just barely more than threadbare leather matted with soil. If I were ever to write about this house by the river, I might begin with that time-rotted sole and wonder about its own wanderings about the yard.
That is the thing with putting together an issue devoted to home: It is more than walls and a roof; houses always come with stories. As Roland Merullo writes in “The Meaning of Home” [p. 18], “A house … is a living creature.” He finds his intimate relationship with his old Cape to be “a lot like marriage. There’s the constancy, the decades of daily closeness, but it never really stays the same, and sometimes utterly surprises you.”
Inside this issue you will find stories that show how homes connect lives, past and present. Dana Paradis and her husband found their historic Cape the way many have before them: They fell in love with New England on vacation and wanted a place of their own. After several years of looking, they discovered it. The c. 1775 house had just come on the market, and as Paradis tells writer Kate Whouley, “We drove up Friday early for a Saturday appointment, and as we crossed the bridge, we could see a rainbow over the Outer Cape.” [“Old House, New Life,” p. 26]
Rowan Jacobsen remembers the first time he walked in the woods behind his Vermont farmhouse: “The Maples and the Robins and the Birches had been here for generations. This is how we do it, they seemed to be saying. The house itself had seen 175 summers. We just tried to fit in.” [“The Ephemerals,” p. 90]
Wherever we live, our homes and gardens give us a desire to put down roots, to fit in, often where others before us have as well. This issue is for everyone who cares for these “living creatures,” these places we call home.