For 12 months now, Joel and our family have been working diligently on my grandparent's house to make it a home again. The work has been overwhelmingly disgusting, depressing and usually very difficult. He has come home exhausted both mentally and physically, and most days it is hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel even when it is there. And in spite of all of this, we are so excited to move in!
As we finally approach what should be...has to be...the last few months of work before we can move in, I have started to understand something about home ownership. When it comes to owning a home, owning land, your biggest enemy is also your greatest friend- Water.
All of the problems that we have had to conquer on this house have been due to water. Leaks have turned to rot, have turned to replacing entire pieces of the floor. Drips have stretched open seams and holes that have allowed vermin into the house or bought air to pour out. Water has ushered in mold, peeled back plaster, sunken the tubs, destroyed the joist, invited in animals, and given house-eating vines the will to live.
If we are ever going to be able to live in this house we are going to have to get the water under control. But how can you control nature? How do we expect to keep something as permeable and agile as water to bend to our wills?
As excited as I am to live in this space and call it my home, I am acutely aware that there is something very unnatural going on here...we were not meant to conquer water.
Every homeowner I have had a conversation with in the last year has described a way of living that involves continual upkeep and maintenance on their houses. There is always a project to complete or a chore to take on. This is the phenomenon of ownership. When you own something, you have to take care of it. Any amount of neglect will cost you dearly in time and money.
There is a fine line between you owning a home or a home owning you. When you are up against something like water then you can not ever rest. This makes me wonder at our human decisions and needs to own things. If we cannot rest from the work of taking care of such things, then are they really meant to be part of our lives? What could we be doing if we weren't maintaining our properties? Is the destructive nature of water something that we could ever tame? Why does the human race continue to build, and dream, and pursue these ventures when the test of time will tell the same story it has since the beginning -water wins.
As I ponder these things, I keep seeing images of Death Valley National Park in my head. The beauty of that desert landscape would not even exist without water. The glorious caverns and crevasses that we love to hike are only there because this vast desert was once a vast lake. Water tells the story of new life. It tells the story of continual growth.
Disney's Pocahauntus says it best, "The thing I like about rivers is, you can't step in the same river twice. The water is always changing, always flowing. But people I guess can't live like that, they all must pay a price. To be safe, they lose their chance of every knowing what's around the river's bend?"
Water is a symbol of transformation, of change and rightly so. When I find myself worrying about the gutters that keep spilling over and pouring water under the house, or wondering where that leak is headed down the wall, it does me good to remember that nothing stays the same. There is always change. There is always hope for a new way of being because there is no way this world will remain as it is. As long as there is water, there will always be transformation and life. If we are not growing then we are dying. There is no other way of being.
So it might be a pain to continually reroute the water so that it doesn't wash into our crawl space. We might always have to fix the plaster. But we can water our garden grow crops that will feed us, we can wash our bodies and clothing, we drink our fill and be healthy knowing that we are part of a world that doesn't leave us trapped. We are water, we need water, and we are shaped by water, so drink up and live in the flow because it leads to new beginnings.