In this Christmas season of 2020 I am thinking of my home that I shared happily with my wife Nancy who died last year. I am also thinking about sharing my home with Susan Scott, the woman who I hope will marry me in the next year. Is it a good idea to start a new life together with Susan in the house that I shared with Nancy? Many advise against it.
Here is my problem: I love my home that I have created on Clemens Road. I will admit I am a homebody. My life’s work as a creator of stories has dictated that I spent many hours in a quiet place where my imagination is free to be…to explore the world of ideas! This means a room where I spend hours reading and writing. It means an outdoor environment where I can go when my ideas need some time to percolate. This house and property on Clemens Road has been my support for a creative life for more than twenty-three years.
This place was not a home when Nancy and I found it. Yes, there were several things I liked when we made a first visit. The house does not face the road and it is surrounded with trees and bushes that provide a sense of privacy. Because the garage is closest to the road, the house does not present its best face to those passing by….it is an understated presentation and that appeals to me.
When Nancy and I bought the house, it had not been loved by the previous owner…that was my feeling when I first saw it…but there was great potential. The living room had a big window that looked out to a private backyard. The window was floor to ceiling and twelve feet wide. The room was large enough to host a large gathering of people for storytelling and music. The backyard had a terrace area with a tree near the house. I imagine the lower lawn as a place for outdoor performances with the storytellers and musicians standing on the upper terrace to perform. Because Nancy was a musician and I am a storyteller, we both imagined our home as a place where people could gather for enjoyment of these arts.
Like the inside of the house, the outside did not feel like a place that was loved by the previous owner. One spring day, shortly after we bought the place, I found myself looking at the tree outside the big window. It was a magnolia tree and it was in full bloom with a covering of reddish blossoms. Suddenly I remembered a passage from the memoir (Memories, Dreams, Reflections) of my spiritual mentor, Carl Jung. He describes in his memoir a dream that formed his concept of individuation. In the dream he sees a magnolia tree that displays a “shower of reddish blossoms”–the center of the self, the place where we discover our sense of who we truly are and what we must become in this world!
This synchronicity between the world of my spiritual mentor and my own world was the beginning of making the house on Clemens Road into my home. My magnolia tree needed much tender care and more than a little repair to equal the Jung dream tree. The tree had scars where large limbs had been roughly trimmed, one branch still rested on the roof of the house. The ground around the tree was bare and muddy. No one had paid much attention to the wellbeing of this magnolia tree.
I decided that summer to honor the Jung magnolia. I built a low, brick retainer wall around the tree–my representation of a Jungian mandala. Inside the wall I planted flowers with the tree at the center. Under the rest of the tree’s canopy I laid a brick and stone patio where we could eat meals in the warm months of the year. On the side away from the eating patio I made a smaller mandala of stone and concrete with these words in it: Vocatus Atque, Non Vocatus Deus Aderit (bidden or unbidden, God is here). Jung had these words carved in the wood over the door of his own home. From that first year the magnolia tree has shaded many happy summer meals on Clemens Road. It is lighted in the winter Christmas Season and has a feeder for birds year around. This tree has become part of my life and I believe it shares with me a similar feeling.
This home on Clemens Road has hosted many, many gatherings over the past twenty-three years. In the winter there were Christmas parties with twenty to thirty people gathered in the big living room to listen to stories and music by the fireplace. In the summer Nancy and I hosted every year over fifty people for a summer backyard storytelling festival…and every summer night we enjoyed a meal under the protection of the Jung magnolia tree….even nights when a rain shower came up suddenly, we continued to eat under our protector!
So am I wrong in hoping that Susan might want to come share my home on Clemens Road? I know that she, like Nancy, loves to host gatherings of friends and family. Like Nancy, she is musically talented and enjoys sharing her music with others. I think she would enjoy continuing the Clemens Road tradition of hosting gathering as long as we are both physically able…we both recognized that age will eventually limit our ability to continue this tradition.
My hope to share my home with a new partner does come with a few cautions. I say to Raymond Lowell: You need to allow Susan the freedom to make the changes in your home that she needs to make it her home. Raymond, you don’t have to forget your love of Nancy, but you do have to learn how to see that love as a model for the new love you will create and share with Susan. Growing old and living a long and happy life requires the ability to change while still honoring the past.
The decision to make the house on Clemens Road into the home of Susan and Raymond has not been made. This reflection is simple part of the process for two people to make a decision about their future together. I pray to God that that we are given time to enjoy wherever we decide to live.