My current house was built by its former owner, making me the building's second occupant. Living in a home built by another from the ground up has been for me an unique experience. Unlike, say, the pre-War apartments I rented in New York City or the brief period I called a 200-year old farm house my home, my current home was designed and (from what I hear) completed from the work of one man, a man I met only briefly during closing.
What is unique about the experience is that, the more I learn about the house, the more I learn about this man. Or at least my imagination of who he is. He is not one to cut corners as evidenced by the quality of the materials he used. He appreciates nature; there are several vantage points in the home where a person can take in all sides of the home, beautiful and plenty vistas given the presence of a variety of trees and wildlife. Most of all, he celebrates the holidays attested to by a great room where once a toy train transversed the length of the walls and passed by a alcove built for the presentation of a large Christmas tree. He had even strung lights in the garage which had burned out a few months after I moved in. I only recently had the heart to take them down.
My growing connection to the house's builder and former tenant echoes a poem by Robert Frost, entitled "The Tuft of Flowers." In it, Frost dramatizes a farmhand who goes out into the field to help make hay, to "turn the grass once again" after another has mowed. Though they work together for the purposes of making hay, the speaker of the poem feels a deep sadness in doing his labor alone: But he had gone his way, the grass all mown, And I must be, as he had been, --alone, "As all must be," I said within my heart, "Whether they work together or apart."
Yet the speaker's gaze, with the help of a passing butterfly, lights upon "a tall tuft of flowers beside a brook." These flowers had been left behind by the farmer before him. The sight of these flowers, having been left by the unseen farmer "from sheer morning gladness" and love moves the speaker. He no longer feels so alone! Despite working by himself he feels "a spirit kindled to [his] own" and, at poem's end, exclaims "Men work together," I told him from the heart "Whether they work together or apart."
Amazing as it sounds, sometimes it is the smallest (and unexpected) things in life that make the biggest difference: wildflowers spared the scythe by a farmhand, Christmas lights strung for no one but the most perceptive to enjoy. Such things can shake us from our solitude and isolation and work to transform the way we see ourselves and others.