Names: Terraphilia & Creek House

Sunday, June 30th, 2013
The for-sale sign seen across the front yard just after we had a brief shower of rain this evening. The for-sale sign seen across the front yard with its blooming wildflowers and silky bunches of native grass.

The for-sale sign is up!

My house/ guest cottage/ historic studio complex is officially on the market. The house itself is not quite finished, but it's close. The shower-tub area in the master bath still needs fixtures and more trim, and there are a few touch-up details elsewhere.

I can finally see the end of the finish work, which helps me feel a mite less overwhelmed.

I am ready to sell. So ready that I spend time every day "fluffing" the house and yard to make sure they look their best. (The yard is a particular challenge in this third year of serious drought.)

While I was working in the yard this evening, reveling in the cool air after a five-minute rain-shower, I pondered a friend's question: "Have you named the new house yet? "

I hadn't even thought about a name.

Terraphlila: A house designed and built to love its patch of earth. Terraphilia: A house designed and built to love its patch of earth.

Names have power. A name is a symbol, a kind of shorthand for the meaning and often also the value we attach to the thing named. A name can inspire, amuse, remind, teach.

A name can also subdue. One of the first things a conquering culture does is put its own names on landmarks, replacing the names given by the culture it has vanquished, as if to erase that culture, to sever the bonds that weave culture and family to place.

I respect the power of names. I call this place and its reclaimed half-block of formerly industrial property "Terraphilia," the word Richard and I coined to describe the bone-deep force that motivated us in work and life:

An intrinsic affection for and connection to the Earth and its community of lives.

Terraphilia reflects the spirit of the house and guest cottage Richard helped design and build with their earth-friendly, sculptural feel, and his respectful restoration of the historic studio. Terraphilia also reflects the love and effort that we put into reviving this patch of ground to its native beauty and resilience.

Garage and studio in the foreground, tiny house in the background. The deck is the flat roof space in front of the second-story studio. Garage and studio in the foreground, tiny house in the background. The deck is the flat roof space in front of the second-story studio.

And the new tiny house? As I watched the garage with second-floor studio sprout from the footings this week like a mushroom after a summer rain, I pondered names. Nothing fit.

Until I clambered the ladder to the future deck on the south side of the studio in a quiet moment. As I scanned the panorama of the peaks rising beyond town, a sound worked its way into my consciousness.

The same sound I had heard when I sat in the open front door of the house, my legs swinging in space where my front-entry deck will be. The deck that will extend my tiny house outside to the upper bank of Ditch Creek.

The sound that struck me wasn't the sound of passing tires on asphalt, a dog barking from the back of a pickup in the Safeway parking lot, or the clickety-clack of skateboard wheels coming down the trail. It wasn't the thunder of a motorcycle engine or the chirping of swallows dipping and swooping in the air.

Ditch Creek, vibrant and sparkling after a decade of restoration work. Ditch Creek, vibrant and sparkling after a decade-plus of restoration work.

The sound I heard was the murmur of running water. The voice of Ditch Creek itself, making its way downhill under the canopy of native willows, Indian plums, red-osier dogwood and skunkbrush sumac Richard and I carefully planted to restore the channelized, weed-infested and trash-choked creek to health.

There was the name: Creek House.

I fell in love with this thread of urban creek 16 years ago when my late love and I bought this then-very-neglected place. The name honors the sweat and time--and faith--we expended in bringing the creek back to life. The joy we took from watching it revive.

Even though I will soon leave the place Richard built for us, the place he and I lived in and loved, I'll still have the creek and Creek House. Love endures.