The Awe of Transformation

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

For over a year I watched a house by the golf course go through a head-to-toe upgrade. It was already a cute house on a corner lot in a quiet part of town but by the time the owners artfully staged two pairs of crocks on the porch by the front door and put-up a for sale sign it was a twice-the-size gracious gray shingled cottage. It now featured a newly added two-car garage and a second floor master suite. I’d had so much fun watching the progression on my walks it felt a little like it was mine. I wanted it badly. Then a nice single woman of retirement age moved in and promptly began putting hanging plants and potted flowers around so that made it okay. We spoke the same love language.
Over on the other side of town a young family with out-of-state plates rolled in and took up residence in a rather ramshackle house that had been a revolving door for renters prior. It was a bit of a mess with no real good place to stash their cars. Before winter came, though, they shored up a ledge big enough to fit two cars and bordered the new space with railroad ties to keep from driving over the edge.
Summer came. One morning I walked past the woman in the ramshackle house on her hands & knees in the small overgrown front yard trying to figure out if there were any flowers in the tangle of weeds. She asked me if I happened to know whether the plant with spiky leaves was anything worth keeping. I thought it could be and told her it was one worth keeping and watching. A few weeks later the weeds had all been hacked down and a few salvaged flowers bordered the front porch.
Meanwhile, back on the other side of town heavy equipment had shown up. The entire corner lot was turned over and leveled save one enormous tree that had been chopped down to 6 feet. Over the next few weeks landscapers created an almost magical environment. The back yard had a new stone patio and generous, sweeping borders of flowering shrubs and flowers while a statement boulder, a meandering path of stones, a few quirky Dr. Seuss-looking evergreen specimen plants and more flowering shrubs and flowers covered the entire front and side yard. The crowning feature was a whimsical shingled roof now perched on the top of what had been the tree. A cute miniature window was built in with several fanciful birdhouse-like things fastened to the trunk. It put you in mind of a tiny quaint cottage in the woods. To walk past that house now felt a little like you’d wandered into a storybook. 
More changes were also afoot at the ramshackle house. The man had spent a few weeks digging up the front yard and re-seeding it while two little kids played. Next, he laid a path of gravel in front of the flowers by the porch. And then, the crowning jewels arrived…a few big hostas and some day lilies to fill out the flower border. Every time I walked up the hill, I was surprised by how excited I was to see if there was any new progress. By the end of the summer the grass was in, and the house had a tidy look about it.
With both projects complete I’ve often thought about how odd it was that watching the humble transformation on one side of town was no less exciting than watching the spectacular transformation on the other. In a strange way, it was almost like these two households had been in a weird conversation with each other with me as the courier. But I wondered, if they were to visit their counterpart, would the ramshackle house people be able to stay grounded in their own beautiful vision when in the presence of splendor and would the storybook lady be able to see the quieter transformation across town at all?
I want it to be true. We all probably bounce back and forth across town in different ways. Sometimes we’re in the ramshackle house; sometimes we’re in the storybook. Wherever we are, here’s to our ability to stay grounded and to see,