When we were first engaged and began to plan and dream of owning our first house together, I became addicted to decorating magazines, books on remodeling and garden design. I drooled over décor shop windows and their stunning displays. Obsessed with making our home a cozy place to live and play, to laugh and love, I pored over photographs and journals and HGTV how-to programs, always taking note of even the most subtle of details.

We’ve lived now in our second home for fourteen years and I was surprised recently to realize, just a few months ago, that I’d let myself go in that arena, that I’d become stale and content and settled in with a more practical, useful, cluttered way of living day to day.

Annie Dillard, author of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, commented once that “how we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives”. Well, somewhere along this Track of Life of ours, I’d apparently made the non-decision that pragmatic and uninspired was a satisfactory, if not illuminating, way to live. I don’t know what jolted me from this lack of reverie but I’m glad to have returned to the joys of making our house once more a home that I love, that we enjoy wiling away entire weekends delighting in the antics of our puppy or quietly reading or thrilling to the many enticing offerings on Netflix, cozy and relaxed with a hot cuppa or munching down on air-popped popcorn, each of us fat and happy with a huge bowl in our laps, Coco alternating begging each of us in turn for a nibble (or two or three or more) of his favorite salted, lightly buttered delight.

The ambience of our home has taken on, over the years, a distinctly textured, layered look. We’ve not ever had a messy, unstructured framework to our rooms (well, okay, maybe except for the master bedroom but we’re getting there!) But, in the past several months, I’ve become inspired again to appreciate and savor the warmth and appeal of a home well loved and well cared for.

I’ve thrilled to the excitement – yes, excitement! – of remembering the vintage-look craft-wood sign a local artisan painted shortly after my dad died in 2007. It was designed by my sister Kelly and proclaims my father’s sawmill business (thus the name of my blog, A Sawyer’s Daughter). It’s been collecting dust and spidery offshoots for years in our basement. We’d just never found a place to hang it. Husband was concerned it was too heavy to hang on the wall without locating studs to support it and there just didn’t seem to be a place to accommodate its shape and size. But! I was recently inspired. Why did it need to hang on the wall? And so, it sits on the floor and leans against a bare space in our sunroom. The background color of the sign even complements the wall color there and I love the look.

Today, I recalled an ancient crate I’d purchased from a friend thirty-five years ago. I paid five dollars for it, enamored with the mushrooms and angels and flowers delicately decoupaged on the old wood slats. Certainly I could repurpose it somehow. Our office, my sanctuary as I call it, already a bohemian space filled with art and memorabilia, photographs and collected ephemera from just years and years, afforded no space for our ever-growing assortment of camera and photographic gear so it all just lay on the floor in its own crowded space between the armoire and our bi-fold closet doors. We rarely open the closet (another space in dire need of ‘guidance’) but to do so necessitates moving some (or all) of the cameras, bags and tri-pods out of the way. Well, no more! My delightful Mishawaka Woolen Mfg. Co. crate more than adequately corrals all of it and looks pretty darn funky in the process. Excellent!

Down the road from where I live is an antique / used furniture place, near my sister Theresa’s house, where I stumbled upon additional ‘a-ha!’ moments. For a grand outlay of roughly $150, I purchased a sofa table, a gold-bronze set of rams-head bookends, a ‘tower’ shelfing unit to store craft items and a small two-shelf bookcase to help store my ever-growing collection of books, of which one can never own too many of, can one?

And then there’s the holidays. Decorating for Christmas is yet another way to snuggle into the arms of one’s home and to feel tingly-happy with color and music and the remembrance of waiting for Santa and cookies and gifts under the tree, caroling and winter whiteness and every good work of those with much to share with the world, putting aside, if only briefly, the madness and chaos that too often threatens to overwhelm us.

Yes, I am (still) so very much in love. With, of course, my husband of going on twenty-four years and our amazing, how-could-we-live-without-him puppy Coco and the life we share together but now once more – again, again! – with our home and the joys of tending to it, nurturing it, embracing it, loving it. Because to do so feeds the flame. It all circles back to us, sustaining and enveloping and cultivating the continued seeds of growth and warmth, safety and comfort, love and jubilation of life. With cold winds and swirling snows pressing upon us in the coming months, what better to way to hunker down against the elements of both the world and the harsh months of the Midwest winter than to feel comfortably ensconced in the Love and Wonder of Home.

My father’s sawmill:
Lovingly built and nurtured
For more than fifty years.

He got into the business
Grudgingly, at first
From my mother’s dad.

Prostate cancer took Daddy from us
He’d lived a good life.
I miss him.

It’s sad that no one
Took over the mill.
No one to carry on his legacy.

So. We simply remember
With joy and with pride.

Daily Prompt: Apprentice

Image

My father’s sawmill, with its huge sawblade, multiple levers and gears, planers, chains and stacks of lumber, was not exactly a safe haven for kids to play.  Most of the time my five sisters and I were scrambling up and down the (sometimes massive) log piles trying to see how far we could go hopping from one log to another without touching the ground — or before one of the logs shifted and then you better move quickly!  Despite Mom’s warnings to ‘stay off those logs’ we returned there time and time again.

A softer, more pliable, place for us to play was the sawdust pile behind the sawmill shed.  A farm elevator transported the sawdust to a spot out back, hoisting its cargo to the peak of the device and then dropping it to the earth below.  Sometimes the sawdust pile grew quite high – and quite irresistible to us girls – perhaps fifteen feet or more in the air.  My sisters and I traversed the elevator, grabbed an overhanging tree branch and flung ourselves out and then down into this waste product of our father’s livelihood.  Mostly the sawdust was warm and slightly damp but occasionally we’d land or step into a deliciously cool pocket.  Funny how some things remain etched in our memories.  Feeling that cool sawdust between my toes is something I can conjure up at a moment’s notice.  Another sawdust memory is the time I lost a brand new pair of thongs (that’s what we called what now passes today as flip-flops) to the sawdust pile.  I searched and I dug and I dug and I searched for a long time but that new pair — our summer shoes, really — was gone forever.

For something a little more dangerous (read: a little more fun) we would sometime sit on top of a plank of lumber and hurtle ourselves down the rails leading from the saw blade to the far end of the building.  As Dad cut a log to the prescribed dimensions the board was deposited onto these rails where the hired help then grabbed each one to stack elsewhere in the sawmill shed.  We girls would climb onto a board, make sure we were securely situated and then grab the sides of the rails to propel ourselves forward.  The ride was never long enough and we thrilled to the speed!  Care had to be taken in how one secured oneself to the board however.  If you grabbed it too fully with your hand you ran the risk of getting one or more fingers pinched between the board and the rails.  Likewise as you reached to grab the sides of the rails to move forward.  It’s surprising, really, that all six of us girls survived our childhoods with all our fingers and toes intact.

Firewood

Growing up on a sawmill there was rarely a shortage of logs strewn about the place. These little fellas — firewood actually — await a smoky encounter with a fire-pit some cool summer evening. They do, however, evoke fond memories of their larger counterparts (stacked in a bric-a-brac fashion sometimes ten or fifteen feet high) that my five sisters and I used to hop, skip and jump across when we were younger.

To this day passing a semi load of logs on the interstate corrals my attention and that of my mom and siblings as well. Dad died in 2007, a year that marked 50 years in the sawmill business. Clark’s Sawmill was his pride and joy. He loved what he did as did my mom’s dad who was also a sawmill man. Dad told me once that when he went to bed at night he could hardly wait to get up in the morning to go back to work. How does that saying go? Something about doing what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life. That described my dad’s philosophy and love of the sawmill business and, happily, his strong work ethic became his daughters’ approach to work and career as well.