My house sits on a hilltop. From my lawn I have a view of trees and green, rolling fields that blur into blue and white mountains in the distance. I’m far enough from major population centers that on a clear night I can look up and see the thick bands of stars that make up the milky way.
The house itself is unique and charming. It’s post and beam construction and the superstructure, the posts and the beams, were all fitted together without benefit of nails. My parents logged the wood for the beams themselves and had a friend plane and shape them. My grandfather and great-uncle did the wiring and plumbing. My parents and their friends poured the concrete for the foundation and did most of the rest of the work themselves. That was all thirty years ago though, and “most” is not all.
My uncle and I installed insulation in the roof and put drywall up over the ceiling last fall. Well, we installed *most* of the insulation and *most* of the drywall. There are still a few sections to do.
Before I moved back into the house, a tenant put up siding … on the south wall. When I moved in the north, east, and west walls were all still bare (thirty-year-old) plywood. The first summer I lived here my uncle and I, with the help of my neighbors, started putting up siding on the west side. It’s not done yet either.
There are framed sections of wall that still need to be drywalled. There are sections of drywall that need to be mudded and textured so they can be painted. The stairs are still the funky temporary things my parents put up thirty years ago. There are two areas under the eaves in my bedroom that will, someday, be closets but right now they’re just odd unfinished spaces. Some of the doors and windows are trimmed, but not all of them.
I could go on, but I won’t. I’m sure you get the idea: I live in an unfinished house. There are lots of good reasons it’s still a work in progress and will remain so indefinitely. They’re not really important. It is what it is and I love it anyway. (I won’t lie. I’ll love it even more when it’s done, but even in this half-finished state it’s a great house.)
I’ve been thinking about half-finished projects a lot since the most recent family work party coincided with my writing group’s annual retreat. I left my mother and uncle to work on my unfinished house while I holed up in a cabin with my writing friends to work on my unfinished novel. The retreat is over and my novel is still far from done. My family leaves tomorrow morning and the house, ditto.
I wonder if I’m too easily contented by small measures of progress: a doorway framed, but the door unhung; a chapter outlined, but not written. Or maybe the reason I’m mostly happy, mostly stress-free, is that my need for progress is so easily satisfied. Better to be content and moving only slowly? Or better to be discontented and thereby driven to move faster and do more? I don’t have an answer, and I don’t know that there is one. I could, and probably should, move more quickly, do more every day, than I do. But I’ll be living in an unfinished house, and working on an unfinished novel, for a while. Today I’m at peace with that. Tomorrow, who knows?