Last week, my friend Ruth, who has been giving the kids piano lessons, came over to tune our piano. Our living room and the kitchen are essentially one long room, so while Ruth wrestled with our ornery piano’s strings, I canned tomatoes. The kids ran in and out as we chatted about this and that, the last heat of the year pouring in through the open windows.
Before too long our chat had taken a turn toward the serious and we started talking about finding purpose.
“Sometimes it feels like trying to tune a piano,” she said, half joking, and we both laughed at the terrible sounds the piano was making at that exact moment. “You have to stretch the string first one direction, then the other,” she continued, cranking her tuning wrench back and forth, “before you can find the true pitch…the place where all the keys can play in harmony.”
“Boy, that’s just exactly right, isn’t it?” I replied with a deep exhale.
You see, I spent most of my pre-ranch life feeling like a desperately out-of-tune piano — very ironic for a person whose main source of income was making and teaching music.
Moving to a rural place, engaging with the seasons, the animals under my care, the weather, and the land have all helped me feel more harmonious. Still, as my friend Ruth noted, it is always a work in progress. Even in an ideal location, pianos need to be tuned regularly. Or, as the poet Rilke wrote: “No feeling is final.”
After spending the better part of the last few months traveling, I have a few weeks at home with only two more travel dates planned between now and next April. For most of the summer and fall, the kids and I lived out of suitcases. We’d come home long enough to wash our clothes, tend briefly to the overflow of garden produce, take a few pasture walks with the dogs, and then it was back on the road. As a result, our poor house has sat sadly neglected.
It tends to stay cleaner when the kids and I are gone. My husband doesn’t scatter Legos across the floor or prepare elaborate meals without us, but he is also out working during most daylight hours, so house maintenance isn’t a priority. There were cobwebs and dust in every corner, as well as piles of clutter I never seemed to make it through before leaving again. Plus, I just think the house missed us and it showed.
Our first official week home happened to be an especially long, busy one for my husband, and he arrived home on Friday to find the house in much worse shape than he’d left it, despite my previous proclamations that I was going to wrangle everything into order.
“We are in the ‘it-gets-worse-before-it-gets-
I’d moved most of the furniture on the main floor to new locations, unearthing the many layers of detritus that had lain hidden the last few months. Whereas the house had looked a little dingy before, now it looked like a full-blown disaster.
Today, the house is singing with joy. We’ve pulled tall stools up to the kitchen island so the kids can sit and help while I prepare supper. The little loveseat that serves for morning snuggles is right next to the propane stove that provides our winter heat. Best of all, the kitchen table is tucked beside the sliding glass door where it can be flooded with light.
I’ve been dreaming of a breakfast nook like this in every place I’ve ever lived, especially this one, but it didn’t seem possible to make the pieces fit with the layout of our house. Yet, here we are, the impossible made possible, the sublime nestled in the mundane. There is magic in leaving home so you can rediscover how wonderful home truly is, and there is magic in the fine-tuning of an already pretty-in-tune-life, but, my favorite magic in this moment is simply sitting at the table with my coffee, enjoying the view.
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