Making a Silk Purse

You know the phrase… Making a Silk Purse out of a Sow’s Ear? That’s what we’re up to. Our 1888 house is a sow’s ear. Any number of people have looked at our house and said, “What a great lot! If you tore the house down, you could bring in a modular.” They mean well, but they don’t appreciate stepping up and down from room to room. I like the stepping up and down. Each additional room is another decade or two of history waiting to be told.

good news/bad news

First there were two and a half rooms and then they added another, and another, and a third. Finally, they decided that they were finished. Some bits have a foundation; other bits have rocks placed here and there. Think of the nursery rhyme: There was a crooked man and he walked a crooked mile. / He found a crooked sixpence against a crooked stile. / He bought a crooked cat, which caught a crooked mouse, / And they all lived together in a crooked little house.

Like a lot of old mining town houses, ours was built on the cheap with whatever wood was at-hand.  In a back room used for storage, one piece of  exposed wood reads “Toilet” in big, block, black letters. Recycling is not a new idea.

In some cases, the additions were just one-room cabins dragged by horses… rolled on logs… from point A to point B. Few of the houses are square and ours is no exception.

Presently, between snow storms (two this past week and another expected on Saturday) and frigid weather (-4F or -20C) we are trying to re-roof the house. Did I say that nothing is square? The existing roof framed with 2 x 4s had no insulation, and so in addition to removing rolled roofing and rotten shingles, we have framed a new roof to allow for 12 inches of insulation. But the walls were not sturdy enough to support the new and improved roof, so we have had to beef up the walls as well.

Reinforcing the wall to support the roof

Better Homes and Gardens will never feature our house. It’s a given. But that’s OK. I love the quirky nature of the place. I wonder about the people who have lived here. I wish that I knew their stories. If I weren’t so busy tanning this sow’s ear, I’d get busy researching the history of this house. If only the house could talk.

Meanwhile, getting back to the here and now, it snows and we cover the roof. The sun comes out; we shovel off the snow. We work like mad. Oops, more snow. We rush to cover the roof once again.

Two steps forward; one step back


Writers’ Trigger:

I am reading Shipping News by Annie Proulx… again. This is the third time. And I’m not reading it because I’m hard-pressed. I have a number of books on stand-by and some books in the process of being read, but I needed to return to Newfoundland with Quoyle. I love this story and the people who live it. How disappointed I would be to travel to Newfoundland and not find them waving on the shore… awaiting my arrival.

Consider this quote from Henry Green writing “The Art of Fiction” in The Paris Review, Summer 1958: Prose is not as quick as poetry but rather a gathering of insinuations which go further than names however shared can ever go. Prose should be a long intimacy between strangers with no direct appeal to what both may have known.

  • I find this to be true. I know more about the characters in Shipping News than I do about some of my closest friends. Through their writing, I know more about my fellow writers in Word4Word than I do some of my closest friends.
  • Comment on the quote or…
  • Choose one of your favorite authors/books and write about the intimacy you feel. On what is this intimacy based?

About timeout2

I have lived 100 lives. I write essays, short stories, poetry, grocery lists and notes to myself. If I am ever lost, look for a paper trail, but be careful not to trip over any books that lie scattered here and there. I am a reader. I am a reader in awe of writers. When I don't live in Westcliffe, Colorado, I live in London where I am a long-time member of Word-for-Word - Crouch End.
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4 Responses to Making a Silk Purse

  1. Doris, what a wonderful and interesting house you have got. What is it you are trying to do, a silk purse or a cotton purse? Well, I can see how difficult it must be for you to keep up your daily two hours writing but keep it up despite.
    It is still warm in London, when I see your pictures I am longing for snow and freezing weather. On the other hand I am glad I still can live without heating because my radiators are still covered with my framed drawings covered in bubble wrap.

    • timeout2 says:

      I was thinking, that there was no way this house would ever be a silk purse, so I down-graded the finished product to a cotton purse. But you are right. I’ve dropped the ‘cotton’ and returned to ‘silk.’ How nice to have such a discerning reader.

      • PJ Bindley says:

        My Friend,
        Your house has a history of its own just since you and Mark have owned it. Maybe you could write about the history you have created in it. I love coming there. It is warm,and homey. I remember the first time Jordan and I came….he was just a kid and loved the trees, the yard and the sheds. We sat in the swing on the front porch We drove up to the mountain where you were thinking about building the yert.and looked out over the valley. You truly live in paradise. We’ve walked the town in falling snow flakes and in bright sunlight; your house reflects it all. That’s why you treasure it and will respect its history. 🙂

  2. timeout2 says:

    Thank you! I had never though of the history that Mark and I have made in this house, but your note reminded me that when we bought the house some 18 years ago, we had a video camera and took pictures. Where are the VHS tapes? I need to find them… to revisit the house when the dining room had FIVE doors (how do you arrange furniture in a small room with five doors?) and cheap, dark, 1950s panelling over the walls. Oh yes, and the ceiling was two different heights. The ceiling to the south was high… but the ceiling to the north (yes, these ceilings are in the same dining room) was shorter. I need to find those VHS tapes. xo

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