medieval art history, navel gazing, horizon scanning
Wednesday, November 21, 2012
10 Years in the Same House
Village of the Year 1000 - Morbihan, Brittany
If you Google "medieval house" while seeking an image of such a structure before finding your own (see left), the top hit will actually be a Minecraft tutorial on how to build a medieval house in the imaginary universe that is Minecraft. Oliver and I could totally bond over this! But for now, I'll just savor the idea of a virtual hearth, as the surrealism and good fortune of today set in. For today is the 10th anniversary of the day we moved into this house. Oliver was five months old, we had commuted from our previous town with the little guy twice before calling a realtor for a house in this town, and we had decided that moving the day before Thanksgiving was a good idea. We couldn't find anything with certitude except Oliver for the next month, but we made it: we settled in, and this funny 1960s split-level house with a nice, long history of eccentric owners became ours. I don't think that we're the longest-lasting owners of the house, but I do know that this is the longest I've ever lived in any one place. Mac, too, for that matter. This is my twelfth abode in life, spread out over eight cities and forty-three years, with long-term Parisian and Breton stays blessedly sprinkled throughout. It goes quickly, this living in a habitat thing. And I think of the big moves: from Switzerland to the States, and (bigger even, more intense) from the Northeast to the South, and then (who knew?) from the South to the Midwest. Each time, re-establishing a world, making it familiar. And I do think of medieval habitats: hearths rebuilt, thatch renewed, births and deaths from year to year. The Village of the Year 1000 was just that until it was abandoned for bigger villages in the fief around the 1500s.
Alley outside the Village of the Year 1000
But archaeologists were able to clear part of the main alley that encircled the village and it's here, more than the perpetually renewed thatch houses, that you can feel and start to see the age of the place. The moss does such good work signifying time and ruin (and I have lunch next week with a botanist to talk about moss and time and ruin in preparation for Brittany in January). Remembering habitats has been a strange and fleeting process: I remember neighborhoods better than rooms, individual furniture better than floor plans, specific events better than addresses. These frames of the familiar, borderlines of the mundane, keepers of fragile memories. As I commemorate and realize the steadfastness of this home, the others become more narrative, less structural - more moss, less thatch.