Living the [Unfinished] Dream


"[Wabi-sabi] nurtures all that is authentic by acknowledging three simple realities:

nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect."

Richard R. Powell


It never ends.


The response comes with a laugh and a knowing nod from anyone who’s ever built or renovated a house: It. Never. Ends. Not the work. Not the maintenance. Not the journey.


Certainly not the story.


We frequently get asked about our house. The response? Well, we love it. It’s comfortable and cozy and we’ve been happy here for the past two and a half years. But it’s far from finished. Our family shenanigans are witnessed by drywall in various stages of mudding and taping. Our meals are prepared on plywood counter tops and our pots and pans are on open shelves at perfect toddler height. It works. Well enough.


There are times when I take in the unfinished plaster, the splotchy drywall and the missing baseboards and I imagine it finished. I conjure up the image I had when we were planning our home five years ago. I feel nostalgic for what never was. And I begin to feel just a little bit anxious.


Because when you put all that time and energy in, you want to make it to your end goal. You want to make it perfect, if only long enough to take some photos and throw the house-warming party before the child and the dogs and life take over and you move into maintenance mode.

But we never really got there. Life took over first. We moved in with rough-sawn stair treads, a semi-finished bathroom, a temporary kitchen and incomplete walls. Then we had a baby. You need only to see her room to understand which direction our energy migrated: It’s the only finished space in the house. That and baby proofing have been our two big house-completion projects these past two years.


Fantasizing about my alternate life quickly draws me back to reality: A life with all the time in the world to finish projects, take a bath, enjoy a moment to myself. A life without responsibilities and commitments. A life without the pressure and ongoing work of having an owner-built, rural home. A life without toddler meltdowns and tantrums.


It would be a life without us. And it would be about as dull as finished drywall.


If we weren’t working on the house, we’d still find ways to fill our time to the brink, because if we don’t live beyond our means financially, we most certainly do temporally. So instead I settle in. Squint a little to smooth the blotchy drywall. Admire the texture in our rough patches of plaster. Look beyond the missing trim to the mountain ash budding outside my window. Look beyond the scattered toys, the dust and the dog hair to the love, the joy, the lives developing inside these straw bale walls.


And I realize that our house’s story doesn’t end here. That sometimes an unfinished ending is really just a beginning.


I’ve written this blog’s final entry several times over, usually while pushing the chariot with one hand and thumb typing with the other while my daughter napped. But I couldn’t bring myself to post it. In the past two and a half years, we’ve seen the best life has to offer — namely, the arrival of a healthy little girl — and some of our most challenging days ever. There was still so much left to say; the hard part was finding the time to say it.


This house, this life, certainly myself: none of it is perfect. But in truth, I love it. I love its messiness. I love the uneven floors. I love the cluttered open shelves and the dust and the dirt and the imperfectness of it all. There will always be missing trim, just-barely-almost finished projects, something still to do. That will never go away. But we might not always have rainy Saturday mornings to lie in bed and read stories and make pancakes and do a puzzle.


And I might not always have an overcast Monday evening like this one, the newborn aspen leaves contrasted against a threatening blue-grey sky outside my living room window, little girl objecting to bedtime upstairs with her dad, to sit and just reflect on it all. So here it is: the start of the beginning, or the end of the ending — the reintroduction of the blog that just wouldn’t allow itself to be finished.


Because the story, just like house building, never ends.



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October 31, 2017

November 8, 2012

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