It was in an old part of the city that had fallen out of fashion that I saw the house.
Looming on a bluff above the lake, it stirred in me nostalgia for beauty, a longing for a time when buildings were crafted to nourish the soul.
I longed to walk its wooden floors, climb its curving staircase, cross its gallery landing, and take in its mystery.
I traversed the cracked pathway to the door and gazed through the window in the arched portico.
Lion heads the size of apples were carved into the stone that framed the glass. The leaded pane was frosted with years of dust and dirt.
I peered past the grime into the entry hall, where the stairs ascended from the Moroccan tile floor. I glimpsed the drawing room to the left and admired the coffered ceiling, bookcase-lined walls, and broad stone fireplace. I looked up and marveled at the arches and the vaulting.
I felt the kind of reverence the pious feel in prayer.
The old oaks in front of the house stood in splendor as well, their branches bent into magnificent curves. Vines grew up the brick and stone facade, some choked by others, brown and dry; some burning red in the autumn sun.
There was an old sign buried in the overgrown grass. The ink had faded years before, but I discerned the imprints of the words FOR SALE OR RENT.
There was no indication of where to inquire.
I strolled down the path away from the house and turned to absorb its beauty once more.
I looked up at the bay windows on the second story.
In that room I could watch the sun rise over the lake. I could sit at an old wooden table in a creaky wooden chair and my pen would scratch across the paper in fluid motion. I could spend early mornings working on my novel before walking to the news office.
If I had a haven to come from and return to, I could bear the dispiriting work. I would come home and spend the evenings with candles and a warm fire. I would have my books; I would read all the volumes I cherished again and again until they healed my soul’s wounds like a balm.
It would be drafty and cold in the vast old house, but it would be worthwhile. It would save me from the gloom of the rooms I inhabited now, with their dearth of windows, their overbearing landlady, their smell of old cabbage, and their lack of pets.
Yes — I would rent the house, and I would get a cat and a dog. The cat would sit in my lap; the dog would nestle at my feet.
The house seemed to call to me.
Yet its dark windows gave it the appearance of being asleep.
And of waiting.