“This is the bright home in which I live, this is where I ask my friends to come, this is where I want to love all the things it has taken me so long to learn to love. There is no house like the house of belonging.” – David Whyte
Well, I wanted to write a blog post about the fabulous home of designer Thomas O’Brien showcased in the latest video by Quintessence. But I’m fighting back tears…it has sparked childhood memories of sliding down the banister of my grandparents huge old Tudor in Detroit, shaking out cornstarch on the linoleum so our feet would slide when we danced, and of watching scary movies at a friend’s renovated old mansion in Birmingham, where I used to dog sit…of the smell of old polished wood and ancient roses…and life.
My parents bought a rambling Cape Cod when we five kids were little. It was old by 1960’s standards; the architect had built it for his mother in 1926. I loved that home for many reasons, including the hidden staircase from inside my sister’s bedroom closet to the attic. And the faerie-sized garret doors perfect for squirreling through to hide. But I remember playing hide and seek outdoors most of all, crawling inside the peony shrubs that lined the 400′ lawn between the house and the Detroit River. They were so old, stems so woody, that they were hollow in the center, a natural fort of branches. They had been planted when the house and gardens were new as a frame inside the majestic willow sentinels. Those trees were taller than the fourth story of the house (where my room was in the eaves) and drifted lazily down to the grass. They whispered to me at dusk that everything would be alright; I swear they bowed to me every sunrise. They kept my tender heart swathed in hope.
As the house let sway the hours of the day, activity increased around me. I heard the movement of a family, sometimes peaceful, sometimes in glorious song together, often engaged in a personal war, always a family. The willows were still. Downstairs my father or my sister practiced on the grand piano in the living room hours on end. Their repetition, their mistakes, unnerving then, are now fond remembrances.
Such an enchanted life we all live, whether or not we realize it in this moment. I am grateful for all of it, all of the struggle and the beauty. Here, I get a sense of it all rushing back to me. I love watching and listening to these two. Thomas is obviously happy to be sharing the home he truly loves. Susanna Salk always puts a smile on my face. She’s such a “tourist” – she gawks and is demonstratively awestruck – as we all would be. And she’s paying attention! There is no pretension or affectation. She admits she’s embarrassed at just noticing the fireplace two hours into her visit! They both make me feel more creative and more alive by their inspired way of life. Watch closely, you will see the willows in the garden bowing…