Growing Home, published 2007 in Snow Monkey #18
This home is a good one. The outdoors has been cold these days, but in here it's warm.
The neighbors and i get along well, and when we're collected we're extravagant with our icecream. From our freezers to our stomachs, the icecream tames the outdoors for us, like philosophy. When we spoon in the crafty cold, we borrow its wintry voices. These voices decorate the room with tales of gentle snow on the hills, and green needles climbing high.
The neighborhood blooms from the bitter white, the added homes filling up with friends all around us. With such growth proceeding so rapidly, i find it frequently necessary to apply new order. Once the pathways between us are laid down, a simple map organizes me among everyone.
The manager tells me that a home for nailbiters has just been introduced into the owner's design. The nailbiters'll be heading here from the balmy South, where the ocean breaks down beaches. Here, there's always work to be done: the builders're already busy raising the home they intend for the incoming mumblers. Just to think: Mumblers in our own community, joyfully eating icecream with us; and before too long, nailbiters right beside them! Things get more interesting all the time!
I know that the paths i construct to link me to each new home must be firm before the new people are set to arrive. Each of the homes in this community — those of the nailbiters, the mumblers, and all the others that already live here along with me — requires a different sort of route, appropriately conceived. I think i've done well with the people that do live here at the moment, and no less should be deemed to the others. It seems obvious that my rapport with these newest people will depend strongly on my ability to rapidly add myself to their association at the moment they move in. If a path isn't secure when a new door finally opens, i could very well lose permanently my chance for engaging with them, and the agreeable balance we all hold dear thus jeopardized.
Occasionally, there're obstacles that confront me along the way. For example, as i begin my route to the mumblers, crawling a tight tunnel under the thicket which restrains the snow well above me, i find a mirror in the ground, blocking my path. I don't know what it's doing here, but i do know that if i try to cross the mirror it can burst under me, making bleeding shards for my hands. The mirror needs moving. But as my fingers dig under its rim, it occurs to me i've no good idea where to put it. I certainly can't let this mirror stand at the side of my path, unless i wish to view myself every time between home and mumblers, always in that transitional pose. I don't want that sort of reflection; i desire only the one that interprets me as composed and still, an established figure.
Certainly, one can blind this mirror by facing it into the thicket, but even there it'll remain potent, always waiting to reflect me. And by its disposition, i'll fear it still judges me, clandestinely gleaning my information and then, instead of bouncing it back for my approval, stuffing it away among the deep branchings.
In the end it feels best to bury the mirror. After all: so long as this mirror remains underground, its glass meeting dirt, it won't be able to bounce anything at all. Its talent will die in the unseeable brown. As i work, i come to like my solution more and more. How interesting to think of a buried mirror! Every time i communicate with the mumblers, i'll recollect this glass that lies helplessly underground, stopped by dirt.
When all is finished, i pat the cold soil. My fingers ache with this cold, but my new pride encourages me. Donning my gloves again, i anticipate my expanding neighborhood with optimism. There're splendid things that want to be opened and appreciated by my fingers and eyes and my twistly thoughts. In the same way that i've completed my pathway, i'm confident i'll be able to seize these eager things, and direct them properly.
The people who're building our community have a house all their own. I visit them to learn about their job. They give me coffee and unroll their maps. Their cartographies describe the arrangements of the existing homes as well as those under construction, and the newest lines indicate their newest intentions. The full layout appears as if it can form a kind of blocky person, arms and legs reaching and putting on weight, then a head to conceive it all. I wonder if this form'll continue changing into the future, under multiplying barnacles. When asked if they've an idea when the construction is likely to end, the builders can't tell me. Instead, one of them appeases me with perspective: "Listen," he says, "as long as there's work to do and i'm being paid, i'm happy. I don't ask any questions." The others agree, laughing.
We discuss the interesting neighbors we already have, and the possibilities that our community's future might allow us. How'll the incoming people change our minds and feelings ? How many of them will give us things, and how many will take things away? It's fun to speculate, but we won't know for certain until after the people arrive and have begun to share their personalities with us.
The manager tells me we'll soon have room for collectors in the community, as well as sullen scowlers, and inspired daydreamers. It's the daydreamers who arouse my curiosity the most. I ask him: "Do you think they'll know which way is up?" He shrugs: "I guess we'll know that when they get here." Secretly, i hope that these daydreamers can teach me something.
The manager adds that the builders've just begun a home for the incoming pessimists. Enthusiastic, i push back my hair: "Pessimists!" He indicates on his map where they're going to live. He adds that their house might be joined by another or so, because it turns out there're a lot of pessimists to cover.
Now i'll have to learn my way there, before they come.
When i'm home, i begin the new pathway, wending through vegetation. Although the snow is not difficult to trudge through, the procedure does not prove as easy as i'd hoped, because a great root soon blocks me. There're tools that i can employ to rid myself of this root, but i don't want to hurt its tall parent in the process. In the end i decide to dig a tunnel beneath the root. I go to the builders and borrow a shovel from them.
As i work at it, the cold, stubborn soil frustrates me. And there's so much of it to move! The eventual ramp leading down to the shadow and then up again to the snowy plane has to be a long and deep one, because i want the travel between myself and pessimists to be easy. The ramp takes many long hours to arrange, but in the end i'm satisfied, if exhausted. The eventual pathway between myself and pessimists takes a little more time to complete, but when it's done, it's for good.
Still, i'm not finished with these pathways, and i don't want to be. As long as i'm here, i hope for the enduring multiplication of neighbors.
Posted by Owen Kaelin