Of Houses, and Dreams, and the Chambered Nautilus

I have a recurring dream in which I discover new rooms in my house–not the house I actually live in, but some other house which belongs to me in the dream.  I turn a corner, open a door; and there is a room I have never seen before!  Inevitably I think, Now I can have a writing room.

I love this dream.  It is a message of hope, I think, of untapped reserves waiting to be explored, of possibilities previously unimagined.  It fills me with a sense of energy, freshness, discovery, and renewal, even more than dreams in which I can suddenly breathe underwater or fly.  Doorways and corridors open up where none were before, revealing chamber after chamber of lovely usable space–an inner space, secret and mysterious, like the compartments in the shell of the chambered nautilus, a sea creature which I understand is very good at math.  This clever cephalopod builds its own environment, adding new chambers to accommodate its growth, spiraling its shell to the tune of some fancy irrational number known as Phi, which is the ratio of two consecutive Fibonacci numbers.  (Go figure.)

nautilus alive

Personal environment, a sense of place, is important to me.  My taste in architecture favors old houses with window-seats, dormers, and odd little nooks and add-ons.  I have never lived in a house like this.  Our current house is 1620 square feet of very open floor plan.  There is little wasted space:  no foyer, almost no hallway, certainly no writing room.  Here I have lived for nine years with a husband, three children, two dogs, up to two cats at a time, and assorted rodentia (domesticated).  The rooms are spacious and full of light.  Even the surrounding countryside is spacious:  a flat, wind-swept prairie, with a wide prospect all around.  Quite simply, there is no place to hide.  We have homeschooled from the beginning (the children are sixteen, thirteen, and twelve), so we are all here together much of the time, knocking around the house, competing for space and hot water and computer time.

All this is funny, because I love seclusion, and hidey-holes, and woods, and hills, and hollows.  As an artist, I confess I sometimes feel, though I really know better, that I have a birthright to solitude and private spaces.  (Didn’t Virginia Woolf have something to say about this?)  Yet I deliberately chose this location and this house plan.  (Greg had quite a bit to say about it too.)  It was the right choice.  At the wise age of thirty-eight, I understand that if throughout my adult life I’d had license to indulge in all the privacy and quietude I thought I needed, I probably would have grown into a confirmed nutball, with little of interest to write about.

What privacy and quiet time I get usually come early in the morning, or (ironically) in a crowded Starbucks, tucked into a corner with my laptop and noise-canceling headphones (and ceramic mug from home and lumbar pillow, and a shawl to take the edge off arctic-blast air conditioning).  And it has been enough.  Indeed, God has blessed me abundantly with a beautiful family, meaningful work, and the drive and wherewithal to put words to the page or screen.

If the Lord wills and the creek riseth not, we will soon leave this house for an even smaller one:  two small bedrooms, one bath, tiny kitchen.  Do I feel any sense of constriction at the prospect?  Not at all.  I feel the world opening up before me like a newly discovered chamber.  This move is part of a change of lifestyle that we have dreamed of for years.  We are returning to the land where Greg grew up, in order to become professional farmers.

The plan is that Emilie and I will move down first, in order to clean the house and get it comfortably habitable.  Meanwhile, Greg, Daniel, and Anna will stay in our current house, finishing some home repairs, mowing the grass, and generally keeping the place presentable for prospective buyers.  At first we thought both girls would make the move south with me, but when I considered what sort of diet the guys were likely to subsist on in such a case, I suggested that Anna stay and cook.  At thirteen, she is already very capable in the kitchen, and I believe the experience of planning and executing meals for three people will test her mettle, and prove it.

Emilie and I may move as soon as early June, with a dog and a rodent or two.  After years of dreaming and planning, we are about to get a foot in the door.

And that door, I think, will open to a spacious chamber, with room for us all.

4 comments on “Of Houses, and Dreams, and the Chambered Nautilus

  1. Jackie says:


    I, too, have had a recurring dream through the years about a strange house with unfolding rooms and new spaces each time I visit. You have described it beautifully. I like your defination of what it might mean.

    We are going to sorely miss you. I wish you all the best in your new business. What exciting things await you! New place. New house. New people. New adventures. Please promise to keep in touch.

    God Bless,

  2. Paul Terrell says:

    Wow, this almost makes me want to pack up and go with you. This was a very enjoyable read. You should write more!

    Do let us know if some folks from church can “descend” upon your place to help with anything. We’d be glad to do whatever needs to be done.


  3. Sunydazy says:

    I really enjoyed this! I’m so glad you have this blog. I look forward to reading much more!

  4. […] them on 23 April 2008 (Shakespeare’s birthday, serendipitously enough), though I didn’t make my first actual post until a month later. At the time, we were preparing to move to Greg’s family’s farm, three […]

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