Carolyn Kremers: The Non-Conforming House – Part 4

count.  My goal for
each installment of this 4-part experiment was 750 words or fewer (remember?).  I’m painfully aware that I was never able to
meet that goal and always wrote more.  I think I’m not cut out to be a blogger (!)  Not only do I write too much, but I also do
the opposite of what a blogger is supposed to do: I revise, edit, polish.  Spend way too long on one blog-post.
yes, the dream: my night-dream.
How many
people in the US—of all ages and backgrounds—aspire, I wonder, to not being
homeless?  Or, more precisely, how many
have a fear (even vaguely—in the back of their minds, or in the front) of being
homeless someday?
did.  I remember the two main emotions I
felt when I “bought” this land and cabin in 1993: relief that Now I’ll never be homeless, and humility
that I was now the steward of a singular small stretch of boreal forest and
tundra and of all that might dwell or visit upon it—then, and perhaps far into
the future.
So, the
but first.  I already know that this Blog
#4 will be, as the other three have been, too long.  And I know there won’t be room for me to
comment on the dream and its (ironic, multi-level) end.  Therefore I’m inserting a few points of
information here:
My writing is often
influenced by topics and writers I’m thinking about and reading at the time I
create a draft.  In the case of this
month (October 2014), there were several such texts.  One of the most influential, I think—perhaps
because of its own experimentalism and courage—was British writer and
translator Ted Hughes’ astonishing collection of poems (begun a few years after
Sylvia Plath’s suicide in 1963 and completed more than 25 years later,
published 1998),
Birthday Letters.
For more insights about
how Jungian thinkers attempt to interpret and interact with dreams, consider
looking online at
Jung (by Daryl Sharp) and Understanding
Jung (by Ruth Snowden), among
others.  Also, of course, read Jung
A fascinating and
useful text for me has been Radmila Moacanin’s book (published 2003),
The Essence of Jung’s Psychology
and Tibetan Buddhism: Western and Eastern Paths to the Heart.]
So yes,
the dream.
weekend, on the night before Blog #3 was written, I dreamed about my
non-conforming house.  I dreamed about a non-conversation
with Tony, the 30-something, apparently competent drywall-hanger and expected
mudding-and-taping painter—who, in my waking life, had come to my cabin last
Wednesday and hung most of the drywall in the new bathroom, but then had not
returned (inexplicably) on Thursday, Friday, or Saturday.  I dreamed that Tony needed to be told by me,
and to be provided with, the proper kind and color of fabric to nail to the
newly-paneled walls.  And I dreamed that
this fabric would hang down beneath all that beautiful, albeit vertical (I
would have preferred horizontal), golden tongue-and-groove: the T&G paneling
that already covered the top half of the walls.
actuality, there won’t be enough money this year to do the T&G ceiling that I would have liked for the
new bathroom.  But maybe someday.  And (as far as I know) there won’t be any
paneling on the walls—just paint.
In the
dream, though, I felt very worried that Tony would use the fabric already
available in the room: a big, neatly folded stack of ballet tutus with
pale-blue satin bodices and calf-length white-net skirts.  The netting would not be useable, but the light-blue
bodices could be cut away from the skirts and laid flat to hang all around the
I did
not want pale blue!
My cabin
already had plenty of blue.  I wanted
something neutral—something to match the T&G paneled walls (paneled?) and the natural-colored
birch-plank vinyl flooring (which, in actuality, was ordered by me from Spenard
Builders Supply, arrived in Fairbanks from Portland, Oregon, via barge and
truck, and is currently sitting in a stack of three heavy boxes in my cabin.)
I wanted
Tony to use a warm off-white cotton fabric—ivory? bone? vanilla?—something like
the length of puckered, cream-colored cotton that had covered the open back of
the kitchen sink cupboard all these years (since 1993, when I bought the cabin
and had the sink and shower put in, and the hot water heater and water pump
were installed in the horrible, dank root cellar).  Something simple and plain.  Natural. 
Something that blended in and fit the feel of the new room.
later, in my waking hours—just now as I’m writing this, in fact—would I remember
that this was/is the same length of cream-colored cotton that I sewed into a
window curtain for the old duplex that my beloved partner RobW and I rented
(and somewhat renovated) in Capitol Hill in downtown Denver, 1975, when I was
23.  And it is the same piece of fabric that
I mailed from Colorado to the Yup’ik village of Tununak on the coast of the
Bering Sea in 1986, when I was 34, thinking the fabric might come in handy.  Which it did, for I used it—in my little
construction-hut-turned-into-a-teacher’s-house—as a curtain to hide what Phil,
the principal, proudly called “the new honey-bucket room”: a small space
that had materialized in one corner, as Phil and the school janitor sawed away
some bookshelves.
Is it that
this fabric washes well?  And/or that I
haven’t needed—or chosen—to wash it often? 
Is it that I am no refugee, no citizen of a war-torn country, no single
mother with children to feed and take care of? 
Not the victim of a house fire or hurricane, earthquake or tsunami, not
someone with money or the inclination to throw things away?  Is it that I have suffered my own tragedies
and shortcomings, but this fabric is not (or
is it?
) one of them?  Is it that this
fabric is “simple and plain” and knows how to “blend in”?  That it represents one of my favorite colors
to wear and look at?  Or that it feels
soft and friendly to the touch—safe, somehow? 
What is this fabric’s history, this unremarkable/remarkable history?
But back
to the dream.
would I get the time to find and purchase such fabric?  Today was a weekday, and I had no time on
weekdays to do personal things like shop. 
Furthermore how could I tell Tony—who was no longer showing up at my
cabin, so he wouldn’t see a note, and I had no phone or email address for him,
and Rhett the contractor was out of town for a week—how could I tell Tony that
I didn’t want the blue-bodiced tutus, and please don’t cut them up and nail
them on!  And how could I choose this
fabric (even if I had the time, which I didn’t), when Tony had not yet brought
his color-wheel (the one he promised to bring in a day or two) to help me
choose, first, the proper paint?
pick an off-white,” I’d said to Tony on Wednesday (in actuality).  “Something like the color of this wall”—and
I’d shown him the one pair of painted walls in my cabin, where the living-room
shower still stands, waiting to be removed.
ask my advice about color,” Tony had replied, with a laugh.  “My wife says I’ve got no eye for
color!  And anyway, there’s lots of
shades of off-white, you know.”
yeah.  It depends on what you want.  Some are more golden, some more yellow or
orange.  Some are more tan.  Or even grey. 
I’ll try to bring a color wheel, so you can see, so you can choose the
paint you want.  It all depends on what
you plan to put into the room with it—what you want to enhance.”
I responded to Tony, in my mind (and perhaps to some of the well-paid
people in America, such as the President of the University of Alaska, who have
the money to think about “enhancement”).  All I
want is a real bathroom,
plumbing that can be hooked up and actually works, sometime before Thanksgiving,
when it could get down to minus 40 degrees outside.
But yes,
back to the dream.
In the
dream, I kept looking, again and again, at the amber-glowing T&G on the
upper walls of the new bathroom. 
Ceaselessly my eyes circled the room, trying to erase the images of the
blue-bodiced tutus already nailed below and trying to forcibly replace them
with the “more appropriate” neutral cotton fabric from my past—trying
to envision that, nail it there, and be certain (reassure myself) that it would,
indeed, be the best and right choice.
Carolyn Kremers lives in
Fairbanks and teaches part-time in the English Department at the University of
Alaska Fairbanks.  Her books include
Place of the Pretend People:
Gifts from a Yup’ik Eskimo Village
The Alaska Reader: Voices from the North (anthology co-edited with Anne Hanley), and Upriver (poetry; a sequel to Place of the
Pretend People).  Upriver was a Finalist for the 2014 Willa Award for poetry, from Women Writing
the West. Carolyn’s website is

1 thought on “Carolyn Kremers: The Non-Conforming House – Part 4”

  1. Kornelia Grabinska

    What a dream, Carolyn. So much here.

    This may be too private, I just wanted you to know I read this and enjoyed your writing immensely.

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