Today’s quote, stumbled on in the new issue of Covet Garden.
“The more enlightened our houses are,
the more their walls ooze ghosts.”
I grew up in an old house and it was little work to make the walls ooze ghosts. Ghosts to me being easy sparks for the imagination to create stories so vivid as to seem real and true. Benevolent ghosts, not the stuff of horror movies.
The walls in our old house were layered with wallpapers—big pink cabbage roses, yellow lines sprinkled with lilacs. The floors revealed newspapers and lost coins under the cracking linoleum and thin carpets. We found pale blue and clear glass marbles and wooden dominoes under the kitchen foundation. The floors in my brother’s bedroom sloped like a carnival fun house.
In comparison, our wee house on this west-facing Vermont hill was built in 1985—which is also the year I graduated from high school (explaining the profusion of Colonial blue and mauve in the carpets and wallpapers—which were the trendy colors that year). Not exactly layered with history—still a newborn baby, really, compared to the Pennsylvania farmhouse of my childhood.
We have removed the wallpaper, the carpets, and changed the roofline in our 14 years here. And I’ve tampered enough with the landscape to conjure up some ghosts from this property that was once the high mowing for the farm below our woods.
I can imagine a sputtering tractor making its concentric circles on this hilltop—hat casting a deep shadow on the ruddy face of the man at the wheel. Shirtless farm boys—and maybe a girl or two (not shirtless)—chasing after rectangular bales flying up in the hot July sun. Each one dreaming of a dip in the farm pond or the cool river, but that’s hours from now. Hours from the sweat and the itch of seed and chaff on sunburned shoulders, and under damp trouser waistbands.
Tonight’s crescent moon rose crisp in the twilight sky and I’m happy to think of it rising over these meadows after those hot days in the hayfield. Maybe the last boy wandered down to the farmhouse with the sliver of a moon hanging over his head.
The house will have to wait for its ghosts. For now we’ll add the layers of enlightenment, with years of slow living. Move the furniture, fill the house with stories, delicious cooking smells, fresh flowers, memories, and good cheer.
What ghosts do your walls reveal?