That’s a text I sent myself one day
to remind me, simple is perfect.
Cottages and bungalows and cabins.
Big, soft chairs.
Corners and nooks and window seats and alcoves
Places to write become places to live. I like it that way. Even in a big house, I’ll end up in one room, in one corner with a comfortable chair, a small table, a light to turn up or down. A few old and much-loved tchotchkes here and there. A window is nice.
I like looking at tiny houses. Converted sheds in the back yard draw me in. Little outbuildings turned into offices with a single bed or comfy couch in case of company. Or in case the occupant needs a nap. That’s just about perfect.
It’s clear this is now a lifelong pattern. Whatever the size of the place, I live mostly in one room. When I’m tired of it, I go into another room. That’s two rooms so far.
The concept of small spaces seems normal for a writer. Less distractions. It’s cozy enough to be filled with thoughts, or in the absence of them, it’ll contain the angst.
Here’s what I see on a morning walk: Cars parked on the street bumper to bumper, with barely an inch between them. Vehicles with their wheels up on the sidewalk where baby strollers and wheelchairs and assisted-walkers fear to roll.
Vehicles clog the small village where I live, parked along every winding lane, every mountain road, many of them parked askew so that this morning as I walk carefully among them, a driver approaches, weaving through the space that’s left, becoming a skilled participant in the getting-to-work marathon. As more walkers and runners and kids with backpacks join in on their way to school, it becomes a dodgem game.
How did one small town get so full of shiny metal?
Well, here’s a cottage that’s been expanded with its garage “repurposed” and its driveway fenced off. Four vehicles park out front. Here’s new construction – a giant house going up where a cottage once lived. It’s being built fence to fence with no yard, no garage and no driveway. More vehicles join the lineup.
As I wander, I wonder something else. If this house is too big for the block, is it also too big for the times?
I do remember how it got like this. I participated. The thinking was, I’ve worked hard and my home (and sometimes what I drive) are part of my very identity. If I can pay for it, I’m entitled to it.
It’s going to take a whole lot of re-thinking to change that part of our American dream. We’ll need to figure out a new personal definition of success, ways to find gratification in making better choices. And we’re just now beginning to ask the tough questions: Is this home/car necessary? Is it right for the preservation of the larger community?
The biggest personal hurdle is getting past what is our right and moving on to our responsibility. The toughest question is, just because we can, should we?
Ó Anita Garner 2009