As we move into the fourth day of NaBloPoMo, cracks begin to show in the smooth surface of the blog. Weird shit bubbles up from the cracks, oozy black and magma red. Laziness demands that I drop out. Or that I start quoting from books I've been reading.
From Gaston Bachelard's idiosyncratic, vague, obfuscatory and glorious 1958 work The Poetics of Space:
... If I were asked to name the chief benefit of the house, I should say: the house shelters daydreaming, the house protects the dreamer, the house allows one to dream in peace. Thought and experience are not the only things that sanction human values. The values that belong to daydreaming mark humanity in its depths. Daydreaming even has a privilege of autovalorization. It derives direct pleasure from its own being. Therefore, the places in which we have experienced daydreaming reconstitute themselves in a new daydream, and it is because our memories of former dwelling-places are relived as daydreams that these dwelling-places remain in us for all time (6).
I never really had the privilege of revisiting the earliest houses of my childhood. In 2004 I returned to the house where I did most of my growing up, from ages eight to eighteen. Disturbingly, the very shape of the property had changed; a half-acre side lot that I used to mow every summer weekend had been sold, and a tall set of rowhouses with a faux-maritime theme had been erected on the spot. The house itself had been painted a deep sky blue, almost cobalt in its intensity, with a bright white trim, and the look of the place seemed a touch contrived, like the ugly rowhouses next door, as if the owners were taking a little too much pride in having moved to a little Nova Scotian village. They had kept the balcony my parents had had built, which ran the entire length of the front.
The successive houses in which we have lived have no doubt made our gestures commonplace. But we are very surprised, when we return to the old house, after an odyssey of many years, to find that the most delicate gestures, the earliest gestures suddenly come alive, are still faultless. In short, the house we were born in has engraved within us the heirarchy of the various functions of inhabiting. We are the diagram of the functions of inhabiting that particular house, and all the other houses are but variations on a fundamental theme. The word habit is too worn a word to express this passionate liaison of our bodies, which do not forget, with an unforgettable house (15).
We pulled up in front of the house, not wanting to actually park in the empty driveway. I got out and went to the side door, only to discover that the side door had, at some point in the last fifteen years, disappeared. Its absence meant that I had to go the front door, which was placed smack dab in the middle of the house and whose only means of access was the balcony. It was a bit of an oddity, which may have been the reason why we rarely used it when I lived here. Nonetheless it was the only door. I walked along the balcony, passing within feet of the shuttered windows. It felt like a violation to walk so close to someone else's window, so I kept my eyes straight ahead. I knocked and knocked on the door, which had a merry brass knocker in the shape of a ship. No one answered. We had to fly back home the next day.