Friday 23 December 2011

Home for Christmas

We are home. The snow has covered the world in a white blanket, the wind wuthers around the eaves, but we are home at last, warm and safe. The children sleep soundly in the washitsu, and Mika wraps presents at the kitchen table, as I write while I wait for the christmas pudding to steam on the wood stove.
This last month has been a whirlwind, and I am eternally grateful to all my friends who rallied together to get us into this house before winter. The first task was to clean the house free of dust and mold, remove the piles of accumulated trash and give ourselves a clean and healthy start. My friends travelled from all points and gathered for a working bee, working at fever pitch. Steve, who organised the event, made a video which is here on youtube. The upstairs floor was a single layer of boards with gaps between, warped with age a loosened by rusty nails. Any dust from upstairs would sift down to the rooms below, and any attempt at heating would leak up through the gaps and vanish into the rafters. Gennevieve, Debbie, Julie, Bill; Thank You.

Separating into four main groups, we tackled each challenge. One group was dedicated to the continuing clean up operation, cutting up the scrap timber from upstairs and stacking it around the old shed for winter. It is their efforts that are warming the house now. Giichi, Laura, Heather; Thank you.

Another group cleaned the mold, dust and soot from the downstairs walls and ceilings, and the children sleep soundly in that room right now. Jane, Jo; Thank you.

A third group tackled the kitchen, ripping up the old floor, laying damp proof sheeting, relaying the floor, putting in new studs and insulation, then laying a new floor on top of that. This evening the children helped me mix the christmas pudding, each making a wish as they stirred. We sat at the kitchen table for dinner and laughed and joked...Thank you.

The fourth group screwed down the ricketty floor/ceiling boards upstairs, layed new studs and insulation, then a new floor on top of that. With funds from donations from friends around the world we managed to buy enough materials to repair and insulate three rooms downstairs and the studio work space. With the cieling insulated and sealed, I can now keep the living and working space warm...Steve, Brendan, Takashi, Aja; Thank you.

We shared the work, and went where the help was needed. At breaks we would drink starbucks coffee essence (Thank you Startbucks!) while Bill played his guitar and sang...the children all helped, I gave them each a hammer, and in years to come they will be able to point and say,"That is where we fixed the floor" or " This is where I bent a nail...". This is their home, they have helped to make it real, it belongs to them.

Since then our young friend Raku has been helping, finishing the floor, filling gaps, sticking bubble wrap to windows...As I walked home from seeing the children off the school the other morning, the sound of his cello hummed across the snow, and as I entered the house it's music thrummed through the new floor, the whole house becoming a sound board.

I have made a door above the stairwell from an old sliding door, and it keeps the warm air downstairs where we need it. I hope that the upstairs will become a gallery in the future, but not this winter. It will take a lot more work to achieve that goal, this year I have more important things to do...

We moved in on the 15th of December, nine months to the day since we evacuated from Ichikai. A good time to start a new life. I bought a small fir tree that day, and this morning we set it in one of my large bowls in the washitsu and decorated it. The christmas tree from Ichikai I planted in the garden there when I returned to pack our bellongings, it belongs there. This is our new christmas tree, and I hope that it will grow along with the children. We sang carols as we strung the tinsil on the tree, hung baubles on the boughs and as I set the star on the top most point of the tree. Our home is already full of love and music and laughter, friends become family, a house becomes a home.

The work is far from finished, but that's OK. Tomorrow is christmas eve, and we will move the last of our belongings here in the morning. Because of you, who have sent us help when we needed it, we are home. Now we are truly safe, and I have what I have wished for...a home for christmas. Thank you.

God Bless, and Merry Christmas to you all.