Thursday, September 23, 2010


Overdue greetings from MWCUville! (To recap: Mr. Sandyshoes, on sabbatical from his home institution, is visiting a Major West Coast University for the fall semester, so we have all moved out here for a few months). It has taken some time to get used to our home-away-from home. It has taken even longer to get around to writing about it, but now the girls are in school, Mr. Sandy is at work, a routine has happily settled upon us, and Noted and Blogged is back to noting and blogging.

The house we're living in is almost a hundred years old, has three stories plus a finished basement, and is full of nooks and crannies, window seats and little closets. It's a far cry from our own 1980s, basic Cape-style box.

The owners of the house are professors with grown children. They are good-humored, thoughtful people, and I liked them immediately on my arrival last month to officially begin our tenancy. We did a quick tour of the property, me taking notes on how often to water the plants, etc. I really, really don't want to wreck the joint.

Their home is full of antique furniture, Tiffany lamps, Oriental rugs, and walls and walls and walls of bookshelves filled with all the volumes two academic lives can accrue. There are books on feminism, literature, politics, geography, language, history, sociology, poetry. Books in English, French and Arabic. Initial shelf scanning revealed nothing by Stephen King or Carl Hiaasen... maybe there is a "guilty pleasure" shelf to be discovered later. In any case it feels good to be renting from nice people who read a lot.

We wrapped up the tour in the formal living room. Over the mantle, there is a painting of domed dwellings closely gathered on a hillside beneath a burning orange sun. To either side of the painting is elegantly framed Arabic calligraphy, with intricately patterned borders in jewel tones. I haven't the foggiest idea what it says, but it's lovely to look at. The man said gently, "I am from a Muslim country, and this is Arabic writing. If it bothers you, or if you think it might offend your guests, please just set it aside and I will put it back when we return." I was embarrassed for our whole country - this is what it's come to, that he felt he should say that to make me comfortable? I could only shake my head -- of course I wouldn't take it down, it's beautiful. He then showed me some old photographs "of the oasis near the cave where I was born." "It's not every day you meet someone who was born in a cave," I said. He looked at me, smiling. "No," he replied. "Americans do not understand this."

I received the house keys, unloaded boxes from the car, and we shook hands and parted ways. They left for the airport to begin their journey across the globe. I headed north to reunite with Mr. Sandyshoes and the girls where they'd been visiting friends after their flight from Boston. Though it would be another week before we dipped our toes in the chilly Pacific and I declared my trip across the continent officially completed from ocean to ocean, the solo part now did feel complete, from house to house, from home to home-away-from-home.