Rock On!

Rocks on the property

I feel lately like my head is full of rocks — but it’s not all bad! Certainly there was the rocky road of the black paint brouhaha that we had to navigate: I found myself so distracted trying to stay upright during that bumpy and bruising journey that the every-day just fell away, and simple tasks like putting out the cans for recycling and trash collection fell off my radar completely. Whoops! We’re glad to put those metaphorical rocks in the rear-view mirror and look forward to a smoother ride as we accelerate back up to cruising speed on the project. Besides, we have other, actual rocks that happily command our attention at the moment.

The foundations for Acorn Lodge conform, of course, to current construction standards (i.e., they are poured concrete), but I love the idea of a home built on a stone foundation. Especially in a setting such as ours where the soil yielded a veritable trove of fine specimens when we graded and dug to put the foundations in place, it seems a shame not to incorporate them into the design. So the mason has his work cut out for him: he is charged with creating the illusion that the Lodge and Cottage sit on stone foundations. We can’t make use solely of the rock we’ve recovered from the property because much of it is over-sized, so I’m on the hunt for suitable stone to add to the mix, bearing in mind the importance of maintaining the integrity of the project. Just because it is an illusion doesn’t mean it should reveal itself as such by a failure on my part to pay attention to what is suggested by our setting: I want for the finished product to feel as though it mushroomed up out of the ground organically and for it to look perfectly at home in its surroundings, a natural fit for the sylvan charm that surrounds us. I am, therefore, determined to wear my rock hound hat until the ‘just-right’ rock is found and secured!

Meanwhile, perhaps the most exciting ‘rock’ of all has made its appearance at Acorn Lodge: the sheet-rocking has begun, and I say, “Rock on!” I was particularly pleased to walk into the kitchen the other day and find the breakfast nook looking ready to receive its panelling and trim. This is the space we will inhabit as we welcome each day, with sun from the east spilling through the windows; as well, here is where the two of us will enjoy cosy kitchen suppers when we want to give the dining room a rest. Cooking and eating are central to my notion of well-being, so besides having a functional and attractive kitchen to work in, I need a beautiful and welcoming place to sit to enjoy both the fruits of my labor and the company of those for whom I cook. As imagined, the nook will fit the bill perfectly, and in fact now that the sheet-rock is in place (‘on’), I can empty my head of each of the rooms as conceived, and begin to enjoy them as they are: rock-solid interpretations of all that I yearn for when I conjure my notion of home. No more plotting and planning — just appreciation for what is!

Breakfast Nook

“Write your worries in the sand,
Carve your blessings in stone.”

— Robert F. Kennedy

Good to Go


After a week’s worth of Sturm und Drang, we got the happy news this morning that we may begin painting again – our choice of black for the trim has been approved by the Architectural Committee — so we find ourselves relieved to feel we’re no longer going to the dogs but rather good to go! Truthfully, it will take some time to put this whole unhappy episode fully behind us, but we mean to take heart from the notion that “You can’t keep a good man/woman (project!) down.”

Initially rejected by the Architectural Committee, the black paint was decreed to be too bold (“shocking,” in fact), too much in contrast with the natural environment that enfolds the community. I will readily admit that at the moment, because the house is sheathed in white Tyvek, the black does appear rather stark at first glance. But the picture won’t be complete until the siding is put in place [the dogs were barking up the wrong tree]: the relative value of the black will be aptly matched by the brown of the cedar shingles, bringing the house as a whole into harmonious balance. Moreover, there actually IS no contrast in black with the environment except of one that has the effect of enhancement:

Black is a good foil for green.
In a garden or against natural surroundings, black will recede
and focus attention instead on green foliage.

Thankfully, with a concerted effort on my part, I was able to convince the Architectural Committee that my choice of black for the trim was based on qualifications of good design and was meant to contribute to the greater good of the community, in keeping with the committee’s guidelines and standards. We’re another step closer to making ourselves at home in Acorn Lodge, our little brown nut sitting prettily among the oaks.

I’ve long taken the following as my own personal set of guidelines and standards:

To laugh often and love much;
to win the respect of intelligent persons and the affection of children;
to earn the approbation of honest citizens and endure the betrayal of false friends;
to appreciate beauty;
to find the best in others;
to give of one’s self;
to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition;
to have played and laughed with enthusiasm and sung with exultation;
to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived . . .
this is to have succeeded.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

And so the transgressions of misguided neighbors will be forgiven, hope is restored in my heart, and I find myself grateful for the opportunity to rededicate myself to my ideals — it occurs to me that we are not merely building a home, but continuing to build character in ourselves in the bargain!


Emerson quote


Going to the Dogs


Doesn’t it seem a shame that some people, though they are of at least average intelligence and are comfortably well-off in their lives, enjoying advantages that some may never have the good fortune to experience, aren’t able to appreciate their position, to find noble endeavors in which to busy themselves, perhaps even meriting respect for benevolence which helps ease the lives of others? Here was I, innocently tooling along at 65 MPH (and feeling perfectly well gruntled, I might add) when, WHAM, a two-minute conversation brings me to a screeching halt. Okay, maybe I had already slowed to 40 because of a phone call the day before . . . but still. That truth is often stranger than fiction has been confirmed — you can’t make this stuff up, though I’ll pretend for the sake of handling the situation (and myself) gently that all of this is ‘just’ a story.

Once upon a time, there lived a pack of dogs in the Lovely Woods, woods that appeared peaceful and calm, a sanctuary for those who lived there. There were the Border Collies, a pair who displayed a high-strung need to keep everything in order and a fanatic willingness to try to keep everyone in line; there was the Pit Bull, whose temperament from moment to moment was anyone’s guess, now drooling with charm, now snarling; and there was the Basset Hound, a quiet hanger-on who nevertheless was eager to add to the baying chorus if circumstances seemed to merit. This pack of dogs was seen regularly patrolling the neighborhood, the Border Collies in particular on the lookout for anything that might be amiss or anyone who seemed not to be following the rules – this is after all, what Border Collies do best. And they knew they could always count on the Pit Bull as their staunch ally in nosing out threats and the Basset Hound as a loyal dogsbody when the need for action arose.
Enter yours truly, who wants only to paint the trim on her new home black. The painter is to begin the job by providing me a small painted sample; however, gifted with the first dry stretch of days we’ve had in weeks, he decides to give almost all of the woodwork a first coat of paint. The dog pack responds with a full alert – WOO, WOO, WOOF – hassling the workers at the job site, and registering a complaint with the Architectural Committee (to which we must answer regarding all design details). And so I receive a phone call: “You must submit samples before proceeding with any work. The committee is meeting tonight, so we shall consider the work that has been done so far as your sample, and render our decision about your color choice based on that.”

Tap the brakes, slow to 40 – there’s trouble stirring in the Lovely Woods.

I arrive at the job site the following morning, and the mason shows up for a meeting. We conduct our business, and then, because he is troubled by something that has happened, he shares with me that he had been up on the roof of the Cottage a day or two before when some of the dogs from the pack had approached the property with a group of others, upset about the black paint. The Pit Bull proceeded to detach herself from the group at the curb, and after acknowledging the mason’s presence, began to sniff all around the property and take photos before rejoining the group at the curb. And this is when the vicious barking and growling began: a diatribe against the project that stunned the mason with its vehemence.

Hit the brakes hard, I’m at a complete standstill.

Wow. Just . . . wow. Really?!?

In my world, the words ‘private property’ mean something. I’m a generous person by nature, but even had she wanted to take photos for innocent purposes (maybe she likes a design detail?) permission to be on the property, and especially permission to take photos should have been asked for as a courtesy. To have run loose all over the site without my knowledge, taking photos with malice in her intent, is beyond reproach to my way of thinking. (Perhaps this Pit Bull needs to be on a shorter leash.)

Further, to set forth her opinion loudly and publicly that the project is ill-conceived and bound to lower the property values in the neighborhood – all this when I am not present to defend myself or the project – that’s the kind of display that is frightening to experience (no wonder the mason was upset!). Moreover, her rabid rant was wounding to hear repeated. (Perhaps this Pit Bull is in want of a muzzle.)

Acorn Lodge is the product of my heart and soul, and it has been impossible for me not to take this episode personally. I am angry and hurt — and deeply shaken to find myself made newly aware that the Lovely Woods may not be quite the sanctuary I yearn for. I am generally a very trusting person (probably to a fault), always expecting that people are putting forward their best in the day-to-day. In other words, I’ve never been particularly afraid of dogs. But moving forward I will be wary, very wary, of the dog pack of the Lovely Woods as I try to anticipate the end of the story.

It may be hoped that the oh-so-capable Border Collies might come to donate their considerable energy to the community in some more worthwhile cause than challenging my color choice for the trim on my home; that the pugnacious Pit Bull might receive some training and encouragement to render her better able to respond appropriately (read: sensitively and courteously) to a perceived crisis; that the doleful Basset Hound might come to realize her steady companionship could be better appreciated by other quiet souls, ones with more worthy intentions. Sadly, I’m not sure I should hold my breath waiting for any of them to discover a Happily Ever After.

In the meantime, I will shake myself out; put myself in a good, long Down Dog pose; then begin again to wag my tail as hard as I can (“Fake it till you make it,” right?). There are neighbors whose  appreciation of all that we are bringing to Acorn Lodge is continuous and genuine – these stand ready with welcome and warmth, and with these I shall look forward to sharing the Lovely Woods.

Live and let live.