An Ode to Termites: or, the Flexibility of Dreams

Dreams are funny things: moments of memory that catch in your heart, propelling you through time, or perhaps, fantasy. It’s hard to say.

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Ever since I was a little girl, or perhaps ever since I was about 10 or 12, I have wanted the same thing. I have wanted a small house in the country with enough land to have a few alpacas and a couple of sheep. Long ago I decided if I was a very rich lady, I would have one house here in Texas for the winter, and one house in Maine for the summer. One can’t, after all, limit one’s dreams! What would be the point?

The crazy realization came a few days ago when I realized that I am in the process of buying a small house in the country with enough land to have a few alpacas and a couple of sheep. It is a small house in Elgin, and it is made of many bricks and tiles. So many bricks and tiles, as a matter of fact, that it strikes the beholder as a bit mystifying. I don’t really know how all of this happened, being that at this time last month, I was swallowing the bitter pills of attachment, loss, and grief. This month, November, came with a house for me, and……a new studio!!! Who’s to say what turn in the road is ahead; I suppose it is only true that we must continue to walk it.

The house that I am trying to buy is not mine yet, and today I had a very interesting inspection with a wonderful inspector named Travis. Maude from The Big Lebowski kept popping into my mind while I was waiting for him in the backyard, after I had tired of walking around behind him, going “oh my god!!!” after a very significant discovery was made: I kept hearing her say, “he’s a good man, and thorough.” Travis took the full three hours to finish the inspection of this old brick house. He discovered, to our mutual dismay, a crazy amount of termite damage.

That sounds scary, until I tell you the magic and mystery of the Brick House. It is about 98% brick, concrete, and tile. Barely a smidgen of it is made of wood. Unfortunately, we discovered today, that all of that wood has to be replaced. I was a little upset for awhile and even chatted with my partner, Cody, about possible solutions and almost killed him when he suggested welding I-beams together to make frames for windows. I lost my mind when I asked him when the last time he welded was, and he said 1998. It turns out that what Cody was trying to say, in his somewhat mysterious and indecipherable (sometimes) love language, is that he wanted to help me make a beautiful house. When he finally said that, I forgave him and we realized what to do.

Remove the wood! What? You can’t just REMOVE THE WOOD!?!? Oh, but we think that you can, because, as I said above, the house is 98% concrete, brick and tile. It has no wood framing, but is made entirely of bricks and concrete bricks. It has a concrete ceiling for crying out loud. The only wood in this house is in the trim work: the door frames, the window-frames, and the doors. No big deal. Our idea was borne from beautiful homes with arches like these ones (yes I realize these homes have wood in them):

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The above three images from the wonderful Instagram – Gold Dust Collective

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Concrete art by David Seils 

And we soon realized that all was not lost, and just because you can pull apart the door jambs in this house with a set of, I don’t know, tweezers, hope springs eternal in the creative brain. The plan is to pull all of the wood out, and re-sculpt the trim areas with concrete stucco, a la Southwestern houses shown in many stunning architectural magazines. After all, who says that all door frames have to be rectangular?

Tuesday I have another inspector coming, an engineer this time, and the, ahem, termite guy. If the engineer gives me the go ahead, and that we have structural integrity despite the efforts of termites, I will move ahead into the land of alpacas, sheep, stucco and a giant garden with lots of flowers. I have decided that the owners have to pay to drop a termite treatment of sizeable proportions onto the house before I will buy it. After all, I can’t be *that* crazy.

November: your soil is a-turning and what it is releasing is very interesting. In the back of the property today, in the overgrown back-40 that I learned used to be a horse pasture, we found an old tractor. Turning the soil, indeed.

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Being Guided

Clouds may block the moon
Covering your reflection
Still I see your face

I experienced a lot of wending and winding in the month of October, and as we slip into November, it seems much the same. With October came the loss of my jewelry studio of 10 years: a wonderful place that I shared with like-minded spirits and its beautiful owner and wrangler of souls: Bob. I miss that place, and hope we find a new venue soon. I am experiencing a lot of friction at school with teachers whose ethos don’t match mine, and my great, ever-expanding heart is more than a bit bewildered at what seems like powering the Shame Train in the direction of 7th grade little girls rather than thinking about them as the delicate little fledglings that they are. 7th graders…so special. Then, an agreement and a plan to take over a friend’s farm, a process that has involved a huge amount of time and energy over the last year fell through at the last minute, due to differences in expectations.

I am endlessly fascinated by humans, and by our ability to change our lives so fundamentally, so quickly. The friend who owns the farm is about to have her own baby, but can’t seem to see that the reality that we have a 13 year-old would make us want to live on the farm, as originally agreed, by ourselves. It is strange to be a step-parent who is now fully-oriented in the direction of this kid’s success. I have all these little girls who I work with every day, and while I think of him slightly differently because he lives in my house, I care about each of them just the same: I think about the power of their self-determination, and my own determination to give them access to knowledge without limit, with laughter and love.

Nevertheless, I am disappointed, a bit worried, and a bit sad. But, the clock of time and life keeps turning, and I found myself on Saturday afternoon touring the UT Austin Art Building as part of the MFA Open House. I learned that the program is fully-funded, that all grad students teach, and that, as a grad student, I would have access to all the studios, all day- and night- long. It seems like an amazing opportunity. As I was walking back to my car along San Jacinto street, I was reminded of being a student there over ten years ago: wandering around under tree branches and in the shadow of buildings. There are many new buildings now, and I am older. I think that if I am afforded this chance, I will spend every day, in the morning, drinking coffee under this one very crinkled Live Oak that grows between the Art Building and the Texas Memorial Museum, just thanking my lucky stars that led me to this.

So, I digress. But, all is not lost, or bad. The theme for this month is, indeed, “Turning the Soil”, and it would seem that is what is happening. Stirring the pot a bit, turning over new and old leaves, exploring ideas and options, focusing on the fact that the right thing will happen, even if I can’t see it right now. We went and looked at a property in Elgin yesterday: an old house that needs work and sits on 5 acres. I immediately thought of learning how to use a chainsaw and hacking down some trees to create a campground back in the property somewhere. I thought of creating spaces for birds to eat yummy birdseed and live in the old trees. I thought of the old building on the property that we think is an abandoned brick house with trees growing out of it: very Secret Garden. Neither of us ever thought of living in Elgin til we drove out there yesterday and saw all the old Victorian houses, the horses in paddocks, the Cottonseed Oil Mill, the old depot, the downtown of Southwest-style brick buildings and tiny shops: a place for a farmer’s market, a co-op, and a thrift shop. I thought: good enough for me! Life is full of surprises: if you don’t watch it, it will change on you in a blink, as my grandma would say.

I think it’s time to wait this out, finish the art projects that need to be added to the portfolio, stand tall, and look inward.

Maintain an open heart in your stillness;
This cycle of obstruction shall pass
Walk with peace in every step.
#12
Above      Qian/Gan        Heaven, energy, spirit power
Below       Kun        Center of the Earth, responsiveness