Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Oh, deer, I'm not perfect!

Today I got to wear one of my other hats, that of real estate photographer; this deer stands in the yard of the house I was shooting this week.

It's a fun gig, all things considered, and the only one I have that pays these days. The pay is reasonably good, too, but unfortunately I only work with one agent, so the jobs don't come up all that often.

This house was particularly beautiful, and the landscaping was lovely, though you can't quite tell from this photo; it was pretty cloudy this morning so the colors weren't exactly popping...

The best part of these jobs -- other than the money -- is the opportunity they provide to admire other people's houses; to see how they do things, what they landscape with, how their rooms flow... What I'd REALLY love is to see how they live, how they furnish their homes, but the woman I work with always stages their homes with furniture she uses for that purpose, so I see the same bed from house to house; the same chairs, the same knicknacks... But it's still fun.

And how am I going to turn that into a blog? you wonder. Hmm. Maybe I'll just make this one a gift to all of us, to you AND to me, and say that when a house is all staged like that, well, yes, it's a great opportunity to imagine how it could work for you or your family. But frankly I miss the mess. If I were looking for a home -- which I'm not -- I'd expect things to be tidy, but sort of cluttered, lived-in. I like to see UNIQUE photos and memorabilia, not artwork from TJMaxx. I'd like to find kid's games in the cupboards and grandma's old silver baby cup tucked away in the sideboard; towels that are a little frayed and sports equipment in the hall that leads from the garage into the kitchen. And I'd LOVE to see where they put their computers; how they arrange their offices; where the catalogs pile up in the kitchen.

Because that's the daily stuff of living, and I want to know if a house is lived in. Yes, if it's all removed, you can get a feel for the bare bones. But a house is so much more than its bones...

I guess what I'm saying is this: if you come to my house (and let me know first) I promise to clean up for you. But I'm not going to put EVERYTHING away (because I can't, for one thing; I'd never find it again!). And if I come to visit you, I expect the same thing will be true -- you'll tidy up a bit, if I give you enough advance warning. But I'm hoping you'll trust me enough to let the real working bits about the house show through.

Because the fact is that those working bits are an important part of life, part of who you are and how you walk through your day. And, since I've just realized that those things aren't something for you to be ashamed of, maybe I'll stop beating myself up about the way things tend to pile up in MY kitchen, and the way the clutter levels seem to rise and fall on MY desk and dresser, and in MY closets. After all, if I can tolerate imperfection in you, shouldn't I be able to tolerate it in myself?

...and as I was writing that last sentence, I suddenly remembered my very first conversation with my friend Claudia, whom I met at an Episcopal Women's Getaway at our diocesan camp and conference center in 1989, just a few months after we moved out to the west coast. I didn't know a soul, and had gotten lost on my way there, so I arrived late, taking the last chair in a roomful of chattering women. The woman next to me first asked if I was the priest (which made me laugh) and then proceeded to tell me about an article she'd read in the Seattle Times that claimed creativity was inversely proportional to housekeeping.

"I'm not very creative," she mourned, "So it must be true; my house is always immaculate."

"Well," I responded, "I must be EXTREMELY creative, because my place is always a MESS!"

There was something in the self-acceptance of those two statements that had us grinning at each other like idiots, and we've been friends ever since.

So Claudia, this one's for you!

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