Little House on the Heide
Too Fast, Too Slow

It’s mid-November and I would like to report that planning has been approved, or that renovation of the house is already underway. Or at least that the guy has dumped a truckload of new soil on the property, the guy I can’t even call to coordinate delivery of the soil.

Don’t take this the wrong way, M said, but I think it would be better if I call him, which left me wondering what part of my identity would be hard for the guy to deal with: foreigner or female?

And I wish that Herr G were busy digging a trench for a hedge and that my rubber boots were sinking into mud as I pondered where to plant the new trees. But no. While we did harvest a few baskets of apples, a small bowl of walnuts and some stunted carrots, things have stagnated otherwise.

Herr G is missing in action. He doesn’t respond to email. I call every few days and get an answering machine. And work on the house is progressing at a similar rate. M took a week off to draw up the plans but when we sat down to discuss them an argument erupted. To me it seemed he had dithered away the week drawing up unnecessary alternative versions.

The last time we were there I had pulled him through the house, announcing exactly how it should be – tear down this wall, knock in a window here, drop a fireplace there and smack down a deck. I’m not an architect but it couldn’t be that complicated, so what was the problem?

Looking over the plans, we ended up screaming. After he stormed off I grabbed a pen and marked the un­accept­able versions – all but one – with an X, adding notes to the remaining drawing and leaving the mess of papers spread out over the kitchen table. Done, I thought. In the morning everything was gone.

A few nights later I ask if he saw my notes.

“Hmm,” he mumbles, jaw clenched.

“It will never be finished if we don’t start soon,” I prod, once again testing the limits of his patience.

He sighs, looks into my eyes with a sad smile.

“It’s a process – why are you always in such a rush?”

The days are getting shorter. Soon we will hit that stretch of the year when the clouds never lift, when there doesn’t seem to be enough light to see, much less to breathe, because the lack of light affects my entire body. And our daughter is fifteen, next year she’s decided to do an exchange in South America, having located the point on the map that is furthest from home. Sure, we still have her little brother, but soon she’ll be gone!

I think: It’s all going too fast.

“It’s all going too slow,” I say. “I want the house to be finished before R has kids of her own!”

M says I’m being dramatic. I tell him I can’t imagine another year in that moldy bungalow. I need to know that we are moving forward, that next winter we will be able to drive out to the house we have sunk all our money into and take walks in the woods, light a fire, look out over frozen fields and see mist lifting off the surface of the lake.

“A house in the country is just another thing,” M reminds me. “A thing won’t ever make you happy.”