So I just finished reading Frances Mayes’ classic travel memoir Under the Tuscan Sun, and I absolutely loved it. It’s the story of her buying a rundown Tuscan farmhouse on five acres and renovating it with her new husband over a period of several years. Anyone who has ever been to Italy can both relate to and laugh at her frustrations of dealing with the Italians under any sort of time constraint or budget. I love Italy and would do anything to be able to buy land and an old stone home and do just what she has done. Che brava!
There were many lines and passages that really spoke to me as I have been renovating my home and am working to tame the grounds. Of course, my humble home, built in 1960 on a suburban corner lot, does not require the great degree of restorative power that her Bramasole did (PS: I love that her estate also has a name–meaning “something that yearns for the sun”). But, I, too, am beginning a new chapter of my life in this home, and am both experiencing redemption (while also hoping for more…) as I put down roots and bravely face the future on my own. She writes, “To [move] is to walk away from a cluster of memories and to buy is to choose where the future will take place” (page 7).
So I realize at this point that I should probably explain one *minor* detail of myself, which is that my husband left me last summer and we got divorced in November, after barely three years of a pretty disappointing marriage. On the one hand, I never pictured myself getting married, but on the other hand, having gotten married, I certainly never pictured myself getting divorced. So there’s that. But it happened. It all happened. I got married, and then I got divorced. And, by the way, the majority of it sucked. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my husband and was committed to him for life. But he and I were never able to get on the same page at the same time about many significant aspects of life together–when/if to pursue more higher education; when/if to move to the next level in our careers; when/if to try to have kids; when/if to buy a house together; etc. See? Not good. But, once he was gone forever and I was free to reclaim my life, I found my house. I wasn’t exactly planning on buying a house in light of the rest of my life having imploded and fallen apart. But, often we don’t plan for the most wonderful things that come our way.
So I identified with Frances and the feeling of deep inner peace when she found Bramasole. She writes, “During several years of looking, sometimes casually, sometimes to the point of exhaustion, I never heard a house say yes so completely” (page 15). I think my husband and I always wanted a house to call our own and to build a home together, but as I said, it was never meant to be. We went through phases of looking at real estate in town, and several times saw houses that were so cute and that we really loved. We’d get excited about making that next step together. We even got pre-approved for a mortgage, just in case that one special house came available and we wanted to jump on it. But, as I said, there were always other significant reasons that held us back–again, the prospects of graduate school and career advancement, and the likely necessity of relocating to another part of the country for either/both of those things to happen for either/both of us. When things were falling apart, my husband blamed me for being the reluctant one when it came to buying (or rather, not buying) a house. In his eyes, it was my fault that we never made that next step as a couple. I was the one that halted our happy American dream of a young bright couple fulfilling all of society’s expectations and moving into our first home, soon to be followed by our first baby, of course. (Now that I read that–ugh.) But, all I can say is, I had legitimate reasons for thinking we should wait a little longer before committing to a property here, knowing that neither of us were necessarily committed to this location for the next 5-10 years. AND, I’m sure as hell glad that we didn’t buy a home together, knowing now that he was not committed to me or our marriage for the long haul.
So aaaaaaaanyway, now that you know that tidbit about me, let me transition again to my current wonderful life and the satisfaction I have with my lovely new home. As I mentioned in an earlier post, my home dropped into my life just when I needed it–when there was still a crack in the universe that was letting in so much light and potential and which enabled me to continue moving forward in my life, even if I was alone and without a husband.
Frances continues to write, “The house is a metaphor for the self, of course, but it also is totally real…Because I had ended a long marriage that was not supposed to end and was establishing a new relationship, this house quest felt tied to whatever new identity I would manage to forge. When the flying fur from the divorce settled, I had found myself with…an entire future to invent. Although divorce was harder than a death, still I felt oddly returned to myself after many years in a close family. I had the urge to examine my life in another culture and move beyond what I knew. I wanted something of a physical dimension that would occupy the mental volume the years of my former life had” (page 15). Couldn’t have said it better myself. My house has given me a place to live into the life I want to lead and know I can, and it has also provided a physical space for me to turn the page in my life–leaving the place where I disappointed my husband and where he disappointed me–and begin anew. Not that I would ever say this to a widow, but divorce is worse than a death. It’s awful to lose your husband; it’s worse to see him drive by on your own street. But as I’m half a year out from the divorce at this point, I’m doing a lot better, and really I just think about him as though he were dead. I’m able to smile and laugh at wonderful things that we saw and did together, and to appreciate the blessings of those good times. And then I’m able just to be sad that he’s no longer here, but also to know that he’s simply gone, never to return again.
As I read the first few chapters of Under the Tuscan Sun, I found myself underlining many passages and writing many “a-ha” comments in the margins. Looking back at my notes, I see three words that showed up in succession: risk, hope, peace. I realize that this is the outline of any relationship that is meant to be and will stand the test of time. While I am not currently involved in a new romantic relationship, I am in a new relationship with my home. But it did start with taking a risk. I wasn’t sure if I could really afford my own house, if it was smart to make such a big move after so many other huge changes, or if I would even get it from the seller. But I felt the call and like it was meant to be, so I took a risk, and so far it has worked out great. I took that risk because although my heart was broken and bleeding, it still held a little puddle of hope inside. Hope that life could be good again, and that I could get back on my path and achieve my deepest desires. And ultimately, I took the risk because my hope was strong enough that ultimately I felt that deep inner peace–that feeling that says it’s okay and right to move forward because everything will be alright. The peace which surpasses all understanding.
I love my home, my self, my life, my yard–even the mountain of yard waste that still needs to be turned into mulch. I love that to live life to the fullest, we must take risks borne out of hope and carried out with peace.
PS: Here’s the progress I made while working under the Boise sun this weekend.