The Single-Family Mystery

Two years ago, in July, Gregg and I rented a house on Craigslist and spent a week in Beacon. I remember how magical it was to be in a place that (unlike Brooklyn) cooled down at night (the Earth breathes easier, when less paved). I remember roaming new territory, on each daily walk – in particular, I recall the enchanting lure of a flight of steps in a sidewalk, describing a sharp curve and leading to what seemed like a secret part of town.

Now we live just up the block from that sharp curve; those steps comprise part of one path between high and low sides of our house. Yesterday evening on our front porch, with a cool wind promising (but not delivering) rain, I caught a whiff of sense in where we are. More could gather on this porch, to watch the world go by above, and bask in the messy beauty of our amber waves of grass.

Yes, in the six months since we moved in, I’ve often wondered what we’re doing here. This is my first time living in a single-family house (as something other than a boarder), and the experience has bewildered me. Why so much space? Why so many rooms? Why three whole floors? Yesterday morning, returning from my walk, I thought, This house needs more people in it. Indeed it does. It needs more people for the sake of conviviality, and for the sake of the quarter acre it sits on, which will need tending by more than just us, if it’s to host a forest full of food, including lots to share.

I still don’t know the whole of why we’re here; I’ve been noticing, lately, how often I show up in a place for one purpose, only to find that I’ve really come for something else. It was, in part, the loneliness of single-family living that propelled me to Earthaven; perhaps, between this slope in Beacon and that valley in Black Mountain, there’s a messy, fertile edge.

If you liked this post, you’ll love my memoir, Mating in Captivity, in which my twenty-two-year old self enters a cult with a radical take on sex and relationships. Learn more here.

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