Hours of hard work to make something look authentic and beautifully untouched. Utter madness. Or is it?
We’ve been pressing on with the estate’s former aviary, turning it into a small gîte. It’s tough, dirty, and noisy work. All sandpaper, brushing machines and other power tools. We clean old cobble stones with hydrochloric acid. We scrape the rough edges of the antique beams to remove dust and dirt. It’s complicated because we use old materials and are constantly debating how far we are willing to go for authenticity. We love the aspect of antique glass panes and worn-out paint, so Thomas makes new window frames out of salvaged ones, and he puts in a floor of reclaimed applewood. It would be easier to buy new things, still we spend days adjusting a derelict door because we love its weathered green colour.
We refuse to compromise, we laugh, argue, shout and cry. Admittedly, I’m the only one crying. I smash a piece of (small!) furniture for the first time in my life and I regret my fit the moment I see the bedside table flying. Darling Thomas repairs it, figuring I desperately needed a bit of release.
In fact, the last months have been a bit of a struggle. There is this slightly ominous feeling – it pops up once in while – that we have bitten off more than we can chew with this restoration. Bills higher than expected, laissez-faire workmanship, loss of energy and fatigue. There is the passing of a loved one, Thomas’ mother Jeanne, the farewell, the confrontation with death and the passage of time. And there is this shaken world that seems to become a gloomier place with each news item I read. A looming wall of darkness.
But at the end of each working day, once the clutter and the noise are gone, the peace of this space helps me feel real and present. Inexplicably, this tiny house in the making starts to sing. It is a gentle melody of filtered sunlight hitting the walls and floor just so. Of a broom nonchalantly leaning against a wall like a prop in a fairy-tale. A sense of warmth and tranquillity. I catch myself humming a happy tune. And just like that, I remember how to find my way in this labyrinth of life, what I am called to do here: to see beauty in the flawed, the broken and the ordinary. Because our flaws, our brokenness and the commonplace of our lives make us so beautifully human.