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.

Creativity is not one of my strong suits. Oh, I appreciate art and creativity well enough (as I interpret these concepts anyway) and there are times when I’m inspired enough to want to produce something, usually via baking or photography, scrapbooking or writing. The first time I baked ciabatta bread I truly felt I’d created something beautiful (and delicious!) My photographs can sometimes turn out to be quite artfully composed – I’m better with composition, however, than I am with the technical aspects of operating my trusty camera. And occasionally (but never often enough) I am able to find the words I’m seeking to convey ideas or emotions that come to mind at those most quiet of times when my heart sometimes speaks — or whenever a word or a phrase pops into my head and I am compelled to flesh it out and DO something with it.

Beautifully and skillfully created drawings, paintings, sculpture, crafts, photography, writing, music and film: I marvel at human achievement. As the old saying goes, I know what I like. Sometimes I’m blown away by what others have created and incredulous that mere mortals are able to fashion such fantastic works of art. And always I’m jealous, wishing I had even a modicum of the talent used to deliver such breathtaking results.

My sisters chide me for my tendency to get choked up when I’m in the presence of light or goodness or grace or the mastery of the written, sung, painted, spoken, woven, sculpted, danced or otherwise illustrated words of the human soul. Watching the Thunderbirds perform at an airshow several years ago brought tears to my eyes. The power and magnificence and beauty of these awesome machines (and the humans associated with them – both the pilots and those responsible for designing and building them) almost brought me to my knees. I was simply awestruck and that moment became lodged in my psyche as a reminder that exquisiteness can be found in many things, if only we are receptive to what’s offered.

Being immensely creative and masterful of any sort of artistic medium is not, as I’ve noted, a characteristic that I possess. I have tried however! In college I took an Art 101 course to fill out my credit requirements for that semester. Going in with low expectations and a willingness to see what I had to offer, I found the assignments to be fun, challenging and sometimes a little off the wall while they allowed me to dabble in a variety of art forms. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that while I wasn’t exactly artistic I did possess a tinge of creativity and that I wasn’t afraid to employ shock value or quirkiness in the delivery of some of my assignments. One especially memorable creation of mine (which the instructor photographed and used in a slide show for future classes) made use of women’s feminine hygiene products as dinner accoutrements – much to the embarrassment of some of the male students in the class. I’m pleased to report I got an A for that assignment and for the course overall.

When I am excited and passionate about what I’m doing, when I am inspired to succeed, when I am motivated and willing to experiment this is when I’m most likely to feel good about the results. So perhaps I am creative after all. It’s just that I don’t have the artistic ability to go with it, to actually produce many things of real beauty. And I’m OK with that (but oh to be able to paint like Monet or write like Jane Austin).  Lest the reader think I’m merely being coy:  for every artistic ‘success’ I’ve had, there are numerous scrunched up pieces of paper in the trash, or cooking/baking results that went awry or photographs that have failed — miserably.  It’s precisely because these efforts — few and far between — have hit their targets that I cherish them all the more.

Where there is passion and motivation for any endeavor the outcome may be seen as pleasing, comforting, interesting or satisfying. When something you’ve made is wrought by your own hands, under your own power, fueled by your own imagination it can be powerful stuff indeed. Some might even call it art.