Weeping Walls

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

When the walls of my house began to weep, I thought I would drown. But what happened next was a lesson in courage and faith that led me into my first studio.

I had just been through a divorce and was feeling humiliated and filled with self-doubt. My husband had left with my stepchildren. I began to wonder if I could literally drown in tears. I was doggy paddling, barely afloat under the weight of the house we had shared; I no longer knew who I was, or why, and surrounded by those empty walls, I felt trapped. I realized that as long as I had to live there, I could never move on. Once buoyant with children's art projects and padding feet, the house was now a hall of refracting silence. It pulled me down like the world's saddest, biggest boat anchor. For months I struggled to cut myself free from it, but at the crest of the real estate crash, no one was buying.

I had worked hard to make the house desirable to buyers, believing rituals like turning all the mug handles due-north would bring an offer. I polished every surface. I fluffed the toss pillows into an inviting cascade. Fresh baked cookies and perfectly rolled towels disguised my sagging hopes from house hunters. But as summer dragged into winter, and dozens of couples tracked through the foyer, there were no bids. Down I drifted, feeling hopeless, and helpless.

But in the middle of that long winter, I was surprised to find my mind preoccupied with hope. I had just finished my first silversmithing class, and I felt empowered. Surrounded by strong, independent women, I learned to handle an acetylene torch, power tools, and volatile chemicals. I drove home from class in a black ice storm. Car accidents littered the highway, trucks were jacknifed across lanes, but I remained calm as I considered a new future as a metalsmith. When I arrived safely at the house, I stood in the empty living room and examined the ring I had made with my own hands. The house crackled as ice pelted the windows. I slipped the ring onto my finger. For the first time in months, I allowed a smile. I told myself, "You got this."

And that's when I heard it.

A subtle trickling sound seemed to come from everywhere. I wandered through each room, inspecting every sink. No broken pipes, running faucets, overflowing tubs. Finally, my eyes fell upon the walls. They were – weeping. Glittering streams meandered in lazy threads from the second floor to the basement. Blisters had emerged in the drywall like barnacles. Sodden circles had pooled at the foot of every corner. The house too, it seemed, had given up and settled in for a good, long cry.

Somehow, the ice storm had caused the entire roof to begin leaking. I climbed around the balcony in the freezing rain, searching with a flashlight and not the faintest idea what I was looking for. I panicked. The water was going to ruin the interior of the house. I would have to remove it from the market, mired for months in insurance paperwork and prolonged, costly repairs. Worse, I would be indefinitely moored to this moldering albatross. For all my furious plotting, polishing and pointing of mug handles, there was nothing I could do now. I was going down with this ship.

Soaked and cold, I plopped onto the wet carpet like a frustrated toddler. I wept along with the walls and sobbed to the ceiling, "You win! I get it! I am not in control." These terrifying words now said, I held my breath and waited for a wave of hopelessness to overwhelm me. But, to my surprise, my tears stopped. I could almost hear the thump-thump-thumping of an anchor chain as it slipped loose – I had "let go, and let God" as the saying goes. When I no longer had to navigate this roiling sea but could just ride the waves, peace came flooding in. I was free.

Later, I learned that the ice storm had caused damming under the shingles, allowing nearly 24 hours of driving rain to seep inside. Having had my moment of clarity, I was able to bend with the torrent of construction and delays, and in a few months, the house was back on the market. With brand new carpet and fresh paint, it looked better than ever, and it sold in just weeks. Soon, I moved into an airy new house and set about building my first metals studio, and began rebuilding my life.


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