The cathedral was uplifting, the dungeon was terrifying and home was, well, just so home-like.
But homes can sometimes be very scary places indeed. And as writers we are always concerned about being trite and observing what has been observed a thousand times before. We try to see below and beyond and deeper.
Imagine a small, one-storey cabin near a lake in the mountains. The godparents of both my kids spent weekends and summers in just such a place. It was small, but situated on a corner with people passing in both directions much of the time. It had a flat, grassy lawn and the door was always open.
Ede lived there, and we all loved Ede. Ede knew everyone in the little lakeside community and she was always watching to call out ‘Hello” or ask after family members. The corner lot and the open door created a perfect setting for her. My two kids spent time there that they have remembered vividly and with fondness all their lives. Without knowing it, we all had a sense of this place and her warm caring presence.
Then, last week my son, using Google maps, ‘visited’ this cabin. He isn’t a man to show emotion but he phoned me brimming with both anger and sadness.
“Someone built a big brown fence all around the cabin,” he said.
Ede, his godmother, has been dead for a few years. Her daughters inherited the cabin. Presumably one of them built the tall fence. There might have been good reason. Perhaps there had been break ins.
When I passed the news on to my daughter she was equally shocked.
“They built a fence? All around? How could they do that? They knew how much their mom loved chatting to everyone as they passed by.”
We all have a sense of violation. It’s a strong word, but that’s what it is. The principle of love and openness has been violated. The spirit of place, built over years of happy living has been shattered. I am unreasonably saddened by this. I want to storm up there and rip that fence down.
But I think about the sense of place – the feeling that one woman, her love, openness and happiness created. I remember the afghan on the bed, the out-of-date colored appliances in the kitchen, the rug with the pattern from the fifties.
I think about Ede with her welcoming hug as we parked under the big tree. That must be gone now – it would be right in the way of a fence. The woman created the spirit of the place just as her husband built the walls.
One day I’ll write about just such a little cabin. It won’t be just any little cabin near a lake in the mountains. It will be a cabin filled with love and warmth and welcome. Its windows and doors will be open. The word ‘fence’ will not appear anywhere.