Tuesday, January 6, 2015


I'm no stranger to outbuildings. You know what I mean: sheds, of course. Or little barns, perhaps. Any extra structure, usually smallish in nature, erected away from the main dwelling place, would fit the description. The outbuilding might hold hand tools or mowers, animal feed or fertilizer (the bagged or boxed type, or maybe even the fertilizing critters themselves...) An outbuilding can hold hobbies, like a wood-working shop, or a mechanic's playground. Perhaps it houses an old project car or motorcycle; it might host a child's pals or collections, plastic bins brimming with memories. It holds things that won't fit in the house but that need to be kept safe.

My husband built a shed at our old home, a beauty, nestled in the lovely garden that he'd also created. The shed stood proudly, a sturdy 8x12 building that briefly contained all his yard goodies and a handful of mine. More recently, it held all the overflow from our home—the extra stuff that made our small house appear smaller, and which the realtor advised us to hide so that potential buyers would be fooled and would make offers on our spacious dwelling... That realtor was smart, because her plan worked and now the wonderful shed (a selling point!) is likely being thoroughly enjoyed by the current owner of the house. Sigh.

My childhood home sported two outbuildings while I was young, and each was unique in purpose and style. The "shed," aptly named, was the favored home of my father's gadgets and noisy machines, plus old toys, a cot from Grandma, our bikes. It looked like a small house, with a real door and windows; it was roomy, had rudimentary loft space above, and was crammed full (it still is). The other building was "the chicken house," because that's the purpose it had once served; this little gem was often stacked full of hay bales, to feed the hungry cows and then, later, two spoiled ponies. It also housed a round bin of grain, as well as various litters of kittens, stashed by their mothers in impenetrable corners, and likely an occasional lazy black snake.

These buildings at my parents' home have since been joined by yet another shed-like structure that lives behind the large cement-block garage. (Come to think of it, the garage may also count as an outbuilding, because it is separate, and playing home to the family Jeep is only half of its job.) I don't even know what's in this newest little shack, and I don't need to, because it's not mine. It is my father's.

(My father—both my parents, in fact—like to hold onto things. I try to shake off this tendency and intentionally migrate toward minimalism, although I can see validity in the opinion that just because you don't need something right now doesn't mean you'll never need it again. I suppose that if times change in America, and I am no longer able to easily and cheaply locate more copies of whatever I cast away in the past, then I'll need to find some outbuildings and begin clinging to as many items as possible. For now, I will keep trying to make regular trips to Goodwill and its many cousins in the charitable store world.)

I'm pondering those useful shacks because of what they do: they hold all of someone's extra stuff that won't fit within the normal perimeter of space. They are specific to the owner. What's contained within can be shared, or kept secret. A little building like that can remain locked for years, or be perused on a regular basis; it's personal and practical.

The reason I'm thinking about outbuildings, though, isn't just because I want one for our yard. I do. But my brain has been feeling too full of upsetting facts and feelings, and I could use more space somewhere to store it all. I don't need a physical realm in which to pile stuff; I just need an emotional outbuilding, where I could store all my extraneous upsets and worries and frustrations and unanswered questions. If I could get them out of my regular storage space, then maybe I could improve my day-to-day functions. I could address freelance work, a commissioned painting, my son's school and shopping tasks, all without accidentally knocking down the shelf where I store the thoughts about the world, my family, illness. I could pay bills without having to rearrange the pile of concerns about ISIS; I wouldn't have to stop working so that I can re-order the now-confused observations about where America is heading. I could take all those extra burdens that are slowing down my processor (brain) and place them in neat, tidy, compartmentalized outbuildings for my head. Then, I could go about my business and stop being reminded of all that mental clutter because I accidentally bumped into it while looking for necessary information buried in the gray cells.

I don't have Dumbledore's pensieve, and therefore I need a thought shed, or two, or five. And I need locks on them. And loads of space inside. If only I could purchase something like that at Lowe's.

No comments: