Where the doors are moaning all day long,
Where the stairs are leaning dusk ’til dawn,
Where the windows are breathing in the light,
Where the rooms are a collection of our lives
It’s that old house on the corner – the one with the peeling paint and the whispers clinging to the edges of the windows.
Go ahead, just up that staircase around the back of the house. It seems rickety, but it’ll hold. It gets narrower and steeper at the top, until it feels more like a ladder than a staircase, and all of a sudden you’re clinging to the side of the building, blending in with the vertical carpet of ivy that embraces the walls.
Once you find your way to the little door at the top, go ahead and let yourself in; you’re expected.
The door might need a little extra push – don’t worry, you won’t bring the walls down. That’s it.
Welcome to the attic, the haven. It’s filled from top to bottom with the most glorious light.
You’re right at the top of the house now, so the walls do double-duty and act as ceiling too, meeting in the middle to form an A-frame. On the east side the wall is sloped right down to the floor at a 45 degree angle, and features two generous skylights that look out on the terracotta roofs and function like drum skins for rain-fingers and filters for sunbeams. On the west side, about two-thirds of the wall slopes down from the centre point of the ceiling to meet the floor, and the other third of the wall comes right down vertically from the apex of the ceiling, making the room much narrower on this end.
This one vertical wall houses a glass door that leads out onto a south-facing balcony overrun by a tangled hallelujah of plants, where flowers, culinary herbs, vegetables, and vines clamour for attention.
This is the best place for thunderstorms. You can watch the lighting rip the sky open, feel the air tremble with the force of the rumbling; tip your head back in the pouring rain and wash yourself clean of everything that came before.
Come back inside for a moment, though. The kettle whistles on the gas stove, fogging up the window with all its enthusiasm. There’s a fresh pot of tea on the scrubbed wooden table, and wildflowers in a mason jar. Strung from the ceiling are rows and rows of drying herbs, and the walls are lined with jars of various teas, herbs to soothe any ailment, homemade jam, and bottles of sweet blackberry wine.
The space is small, but lived-in and comfortable. It has the quality of nestling around you in your aloneness, giving you space to breathe your solitude and delight in the sweet softness of quiet mornings, but it can also open up to house the hearts of dozens of dear ones, the rafters ringing with laughter, poetry, song, and the art of friendship.
Scraps of paper congregate on the fridge, holding snippets of poetry waiting to grow up, while scores of well-loved books and partly-finished art projects line the walls. There’s a hammock under one of the skylights for reading with a little table for your teacup, generous space on the worn hardwood for yoga, for dancing, for rolling around in fits of giggles, and a fireplace against the far wall where the stories gather.
A slender ladder leads up to a sleeping loft, built on a platform that holds a nest of feathers and pillows. Sleeping there, right under the skylight, is pretty close to sleeping under the stars – but also a lot warmer and drier for when it rains, and the pattering of water hitting glass soothes the throb of the city from the fibres of your muscles.
Welcome home. Make yourself comfortable. Rest, revive, re-inspire, replenish. This is a sacred place. A place for nourishment, for dirty jokes, for howling at the moon, for wild discoveries, for bittersweet remembrance, for community, for aloneness.
The woman who lives here might be a witch. No one seems to know for certain just how old she is, but there’s something in her patient gaze that makes you feel like she sees right down to the bottom of who you are, and loves you fiercely all the way through.
Home has always been a tricky concept for her. She moved around a lot as she grew up, crossing oceans, packing boxes; she was used to being the new kid. When her parents separated and her family broke apart, the tenuous concept of ‘home’ as a specific place dissolved entirely.
So she learned to build it herself, but not in the way you might expect. She has never settled in one place for long, and instead she builds home in people, in communities, in her own habits and patterns of being. She finds home on the yoga mat, in the stretching and strengthening of muscle and sinew, in the shower, in the forest, in the company of loved ones, in cups of tea.
She carries home with her wherever she goes. This little attic space is a distillation of all the homes in her heart, and, precious though it may be, don’t think for a moment that she wouldn’t just get up one day and leave it all behind. It is never lost, you see. The memories may be anchored in space and time but they’re safeguarded in shared experience and in art, and they work their ways into the essence of her being and come to rest like fine wrinkles on her skin, writing the map of her life across her body for anyone who takes the time to read it.
The Cinematic Orchestra. “That Home – Cinematic Orchestra (Extended Full Version).” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 8 May 2011. Web. 8 June 2014.
The Wine Pages. “Blackberry Wine Recipe and Tips – Homemade Homebrew Blackberry Wine.” The Wine Pages. n.d. Web. 9 June 2014.