What a lovely little house this is!
Built in the 1920s, it has many elegant original features. The open fireplace in the master bedroom, the deep wooden cupboard in the living room, doors and handles with enchanting character. Even a little brass doorbell at foot level by the front door.
And yet there are problems festering. Damp spots in corners of the kitchen, black mould gathering on the old back door and on the bathroom walls, and flaking damp paint and plaster in the under stairs pantry.
I asked a builder to take a look and offer advice.
Tank it up! Remove the plaster from the affected walls, tank and replaster them.
It sounded sensible. Highly logical. Remove the damaged plaster, apply an impermeable membrane to stop any moisture coming through and then replaster.
And yet my gut protested. It sounded right but it didn’t feel right. I researched more. And eventually came across information about restoring old houses. I would never have considered this an old house. But an old house, I learned, is a structure built with solid walls using breathable materials.
Being built in red brick with lime mortar and plaster, our house fit the bill. Thus began my journey into learning the art of undoing.
Almost everything in the house has been covered in layer after layer of unnatural, unbreathable materials.
The outside of the house has been rendered, preventing moisture from being absorbed and released through the bricks, which is how the structure is designed to work. Areas of repointing have been done in unbreathable cement-based mortar instead of the original lime. Modern gypsum plaster has replaced the old lime plaster, which would have allowed the property to breathe. Over the plaster are layers and layers of paint. Plastic, grotesque, impermeable paint.
Through my research, I learned that the way forward was to undo these layers, one after the other, and so restore the property to its original state and intended way of functioning.
I couldn’t help, of course, but draw parallels between what I was learning about the house and the lives we live.
How, over the years, we accumulate layers that do not belong to us. Layers in the form of conditioning and what we learn about the way we are ‘supposed’ to be in the world. Layers in the form of stories we tell ourselves about ourselves. Layers of habitual thinking that have become so calcified they appear to us as the truth.
These layers burden us. These layers prevent us from breathing deeply. These layers cover over the natural beauty beneath.
Sooner or later, all these layers begin to cause problems. Thoughts and feelings that are designed to continuously come and go become sticky patterns. Pain and suffering start to seep out around the edges.
But like the damp spots on my walls, or the black mould gathering on the door, there is a gift in the appearance of these problems.
First, they are signals awakening us to the fact that something isn’t as it ought to be. Second, they are invitations to look beneath the surface to find the root of what is going on. And third, when the root of the surface problem is known, we have an opportunity to peel back the layers, one by one, slowly returning to our original nature.
Just like this house, in our original nature, we welcome both the sunshine and the rain. The wind and the stillness. We absorb. We release. We take in. We let go. We breathe.
The plastic paint is stubborn. Progress can be slow and frustrating. Occasionally I am rewarded with a great piece that just comes away. But no matter how painstaking the process, I will do it. I will keep undoing the things that do not belong to this house.
I will do it because I have love for this house. I will do it because I can see how beautiful it will be. I will do it because the house deserves my care. I will do it because if I take care of this place, I know it will also take care of me.
It is a new year. It is a new beginning. There is a fresh and vital energy in the air. There is an opportunity to commit to the undoing of all the things that do not belong in your house. An opportunity to peel back the layers that have been burdening you for too long.
Don’t do it because you should. Or because it sounds like a good idea. Do it because you have love for your self. Do it because you can see how beautiful you are and how much more you can still shine. Do it because you deserve your own care. Do it because you know that in offering yourself your own tender care and attention you will be supported and strengthened from within as you continue your journey through life.
There is gold beneath the mould. 🙂
Love and courage,
Sounds like a super cool house. Must be wonderful to be in particularly after its all fixed up.
It has the potential to be really beautiful when it’s all done. A lot of paint stripping to do!
Christine Noble Seller
Thank goodness for your gut Leah! My being fully embraces the parallels you’ve draw. (happy sigh). Your weekly letters are a gift… opening my mind and heart. Much love, Christine
Thank you Christine! It is a gift too to know how these letters reach you. I loved Anne with an E so much. So, so much! The bell is amazing. Just needs a little work to restore the shine. Happy New Year dear Christine. Sending lots of love xx
Christine Noble Seller
Ps – sounds like you’re enjoying Canadian tv series… Anne with a E!
Christine Noble Seller
Pps – love the bell too!
Such great correlations and symbolism of our habit of hanging on to what no longer works! I have never heard of a foot bell. Very cool! Thank you for the photo. I am glad you feel better, please stay healthy.
Love and hugs, Bonnie
Thank you, Bonnie! I had no idea about these bells either before I saw this one. I promise I will do my best to stay healthy! I hope you are your family are well over there and the winter isn’t too harsh. Sending lots of love. xx