Stories of Home

Brian Doyle '78 | May 24, 2018

Wandering through the thick copse of birches in my yard not long ago, idly looking for birds’ nests and mouse bones, I discovered a totem pole I had never noticed before. It shocked me. It was 15 feet high, black, and topped with a peculiar grinning face. It stood next to a birch tree. The birch shone white against a knot of glowering oaks behind it. The pole was dark, erect, sudden: the birch tree’s negative twin.

My neighbor planted the totem pole, I learned later. He is a famous artist and a good one. In his home are angels, demons, bears, roses, nudes, moons, birds, lovers. He is a whimsical and pragmatic man. “There are too many things to paint,” he tells me. “I stay up late painting and get up early to paint.” He paints in his home, having learned over the years that there he is most comfortable, most himself.

“At home I am me,” he says, smiling. “Away from home I am a famous artist.”

Another story, also about home: My brother Peter is a cabinetmaker, a wonderful one. He carves poems with his hands. Years ago he rebuilt a small, ancient cottage, turning it into a spacious and comfortable home. He did the work himself and cut no corners. Even the lintels are beautifully carved and carefully shaped to their particular niches.

In his home he and his wife and son welcome visitors of every stripe, shape and color—except one. There is a woman in Wyoming who may not enter his home. Once she was married to a dear friend of Peter’s. The man came home one night to find her in bed with another man. The couple divorced. The man now lives quietly with his ancient dog, who walks backward in the morning before he gets his bearings straight. His former wife lives in Wyoming with the other man.

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 by Daily Domer Staff

Posted In: ND Magazine