the purpose of building a house

The Windy Drizzle arrived to Portland with all the sensationalized pronouncements of being the worst storm in fifty years(!) Rumor had it that trees might fall over in the high winds, that branches may hit the deck unexpectedly, that stained glass windows hanging in porches could swing swing off their hooks and shattered glass could end up in someone’s foot, a child’s mouth.

Wednesday, as the sun set for the last visible time for the foreseeable future, my wife and I pulled the massive tarp over the tiny home trailer. We tied it down over the pile of lumber I had stacked into the vague shape of a gable roof to shed the rain.

Under the tarp lives a complete subfloor, insulated with 3″ polyiso rigid foam and three wall frames. Five more to build, sheathe and raise before the roof work begins. Before the tiny home becomes a viable shelter. All there is to do is wait for the next weather window. Here we are.

The terribly obvious realization came to me yesterday that the process of building a house isn’t about building a house out of lumber and nails and glue and insulation. It’s about building a home within myself. The purpose of a house is not so unlike Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Building a house requires a familiarity of the materials and tools needed, and some knowledge of what a house is for.

Assuming the former, let’s talk about the function of a house: first, to provide warmth. Where will the house be built, or in the case of one on wheels, where will it go? What kind of weather might it encounter? Just as I would don a rain jacket before going outside, the house needs to withstand water. A house is a place to rest, eat, drink, clean. It should secure its inhabitants and their most precious nouns from that which is feared: the unknown. Some combination of trust, experience, and deadbolts typically achieve a relative peace.

Next, the house should provide space for connection. To what? Others, in most cases. Self. My goal is a space to write.

I need a creative space that balances focus and inspiration, movement and stillness, observation and reflection. A space that acknowledges the creative process, and encourages the overcoming of Resistance. Writers and artists dedicated to their craft might relate to the penchant for distraction from creation, the constant inner voice that says “you should be writing” when washing the dishes, clothes, or toilet seems, oddly, more important.

It must stock enough tools to feel empowered, capable, strong: books. pens. paper. typewriter. electricity. light.

The space will embody a nucleus, the center point of mass and energy in an atom. It must be surrounded by enough open space for electrons and protons to spin wildly in service and exploration.

Next, a house must provide a sense of accomplishment, of having reached a destination. When a traveler returns home, she benefits from a soft landing in a familiar space. Not only will my house provide a space to land and connect to self and muse, it will also, through sheer immersion, facilitate ongoing work and the completion of writing projects.

Through function, the house is given form. Built to serve the needs of its inhabitants, a house, in doing so, becomes a home. We’ll talk more about that next time.

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