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To Live Well, Design for Events, Big and Small

“Eventlessness has no posts to drape duration on. From nothing to nothing is no time at all” 

Some ideas stay with you. This one, expressed by John Steinbeck in East of Eden, comes to mind whenever I get that panicky feeling that time is going by too fast or when life feels like the long road of chores.  It reminds me to add events to the calendar and to take chores off.

One of my happiest summers was spent attending to one daily event – reading by the lake. A few other things took place: biking to work, working, biking home and I must have eaten breakfast and dinner, although I have no memory of it. I do remember reading inside on rainy days with a bouquet of lilies by the open window. That summer, a fellow student was doing research on the effects of growth hormone on star gazer lilies so I always had a big bouquet at my house. She showed me how to remove the powdery, orange stamen with a fork so they didn’t stain the white petals. I must have driven to work on rainy days so I could bring the bouquets home but I have no memory of it. Anyway, it was a rainy summer, as it often is in the north. Storms would gather at the other end the lake while the sun was still shining on my deck. Eventually, a cold breeze would blow, smelling like rain. Some time later the sun would go dark and the light would turn steely gray. At the moment the rain arrived, the humidity in the house would rise and the lilies would release a godly perfume that was wafted around by the breeze. To this day, I make a trip to buy lilies before a summer storm.

Tasks are things you forget and events are things you remember. It is easy to overlook and mislabel the many small events that make up our lives. Events are personal. What qualifies as an event is different for everybody, but I would suggest some global qualities: events engage all the senses; events are dynamic, that is, something happens; events connect us with our deepest human qualities; they connect us with each other or the natural world or both. When designing your home and property, make space for all the events that could be the posts to drape your beautiful long life on. Here are some moments and questions to get you started:

Morning on the fourth of July. The grass is still damp. A child is sent to cut flowers from the meadow for the table.

Flat boulders trail through the pond shallows. Frog song, the first green shoots, a child catches fish in a net.

In summer, the coastal breeze follows a predictable path up one side of the property before dissipating. A tiny lath house, just big enough for two day beds, sits, with doors open on all sides, to catch the salty breeze. Two friends laugh inside.

In the sunny, dry part of a property, a hammock sways in a fragrant herb garden.  

Early spring mud season, kids play on the sport court that doubles as a parking court in other seasons

What are your happiest memories?  

What simple events take place in your life everyday? How can you make them more beautiful? 

What events happen every year and how could you make them more interesting?

What natural events happen around your home? Where is light reflected? How does the air move?

What events signal the change of season to you? To me, spring arrives when the peepers start singing. As a child we always celebrated this with a bonfire and s’mores 

What is your favorite place on your property?  Can you create an event for this place? My in-laws converted an old shed into a sap house. For them, the end of winter starts when the sap starts running. In late February, there is a gathering in the sap house to have maple treats and warm syrup.