Andy and I currently live in a one hundred year old school which was converted to apartments some time ago. Our apartment is on the fourth floor, built out of the attic. One of the best things about it is its ancient, partially-exposed skeleton. Huge chestnut beams support the ceiling of our living space. A beam enters our kitchen at an oblique angle and is bolted to the floor with correspondingly large hardware, rendering most of the open space in the room useless. I tried to count the rings on the end of a beam in our bedroom once, but lost count around 50; I could only conclude that it came from a very old, established tree. The beams are beautiful structures, and relics of an era. If I could I would saw a piece of one to take with us when we move, but I don’t want to be responsible for the building collapsing…
Rolling out crust for Thanksgiving pies makes me ruminate about kitchens. We’ve never hosted Thanksgiving ourselves, but I’ve made pies most years; it seems to be one thing that hosts are happy to farm out to guests, and it happens to be my favorite part of Thanksgiving cooking. Our first condo had four small peacock green squares of counter. At any given time only one was free for cooking. Making pie crust meant clearing small appliances off of a square or two and then inevitably bumping my elbows into the wall next to the counter. Our next apartment had a small kitchen with a luxurious granite island which was perfect for rolling crust, and even better for displaying the finished pie. In our current apartment we have a very large kitchen; most of it, though is empty space bisected by a beautifully awkward beam that holds up this end of the building. We’re left, once again, with not much pie-making space.
Just before I graduated from college I applied for a position with Teach for America. I had to present a mock lesson as part of my interview. After some thinking, I spent hours preparing exaggerated, colorful pictures of bird legs (think Big Bird) and used the countercurrent multiplier theory from my animal physiology class to explain how birds kept their skinny little legs warm. I was hoping for a high school science position. I did get hired, but to teach kindergarten in rural Louisiana. For many reasons I decided not to take the job. I did save those bird pictures, though, and a part of me will always wonder what life could have been had I taught kindergarten deep in the impoverished south.
I recently returned from a conference in Georgia, about 30 miles outside of Atlanta, and it wasn’t anything like I thought it would be. I was expecting a flat, brown suburban landscape bisected by packed superhighways. And there was a little of that but to my surprise as we drove south from the airport long rolling hills rippled out of the lush trees. Georgia was, in a word, pretty! Most of my time at this conference was indoors, breathing cool, dry, controlled air. The day before I left, though, I was able to get out, walk and even run.
Our neighbor who is a neurologist is almost done with a gut renovation of his condo. Andy and I recently went to see it and we stood inside the vaulted space which smelled crisp, like construction. New walls were punctuated by hundred year old chestnut beams. Everything was coated in an imperceptible film of white dust. Brian, the neurologist, explained how he thought of his place like a human body: its frame was a skeleton, electrical wires its nerves, drywall its skin.
Andy and I are taking the plunge and building a house! Yes, after living in five places over seven years, we’re finally ditching our nomadic lifestyle. As of right now all we have to show for this commitment are some stakes in the ground and a mortgage. Over the course of the next six months though, this nebulous piece of land will grow into an actual home. We’ll be blogging its construction here (thanks for the idea Matt W!).