We have neighbors who have done the most astonishing thing. They moved out of their house for nine months and completely remodeled it. Head to toe, top to bottom. It's a funny thing about neighbors. We have some who are friends, good close friends, and we have some who are neighbors, the kind we wave at (sometimes) as we pass in our cars, but who I wouldn't recognize if I saw them in the grocery store. And some are in between. We don't see them enough. We catch up in grocery store aisles and in the middle of the street. We're always saying things like, "Oh we should do this more," and, "I feel like I never see you guys!"
Sara and her husband are those kinds of neighbors. Every time I'm with her, I have that settled sense you get when you just know that you like someone. That she's my kind of people. We've been laughing that we've seen more of each other over this past winter as she and her family decamped to deep in another part of the neighborhood than in years previous, but it taught us to be more intentional.
I love a work-in-progress, and these guys did this massive project the right way by clearing out and involving every surface of their home. We watched from far and near, commenting from the front yard fire pit as the green siding went up (We love it!), and from the bird's eye view of occasional wintertime tours.
Sara, it was clear, was fully engaged by this process. I think she may have found her calling. There's a bit of a back story here. When we first moved here, Sara invited me to a spirituality workshop given by her church. I think it's an annual thing they do, for women, and those of you who've known me awhile might have just spit out whatever morning beverage you were enjoying with this blog post at the thought of me at a church-sponsored spirituality workshop. Lauren and organized religion are not so tight, but Lauren and exploring spirituality and Lauren and making friends and Lauren and being brave are trying to get closer. That weekend with Sara, at her church's spirituality workshop continues to be one of my most resonant. It stands out for me. I should thank her for it every time I see her.
So when we stood in her half-finished kitchen and swept our palms over the subtly textured surface of her new granite counter tops, and she talked about being swept away with the glory of God's creation, I was right there with her. I might have chosen different words, had it been my own experience, but the awe? The pure astonishment at the gifts the earth gives to us? I was right there with her.
The feeling she described when the counters, the cabinets, the backsplash tiles, that gorgeous tile over the stove and the fixtures all came together, that sense of perfect oneness, for Sara it was the knowing you get when you've found the perfect gift for someone, I was right there with her. For me that feeling comes with a well-crafted sentence. We got each other in that conversation. It was a perfect accord.
If I love anything more than a work-in-progress, it's a house filled with empty rooms. Neel and I differ here. To him, those rooms are sad, to me they're expectant and waiting. I've loved walking with Sara through her empty rooms. Expectant. Planning. They've been moved back in for a few weeks now (and of course we haven't seen them except to wave as we drive past!), and I can't wait to see all of their stuff in place, the pear painting in the kitchen, the sofas against the deep deep color of the living room walls. I wonder, though, happy as she must be to be back home if sometimes my friend doesn't yearn, just the tiniest bit, for the echo and the expectation of those empty rooms.