Feng Sui Inlet Style

By Jan Rice

Mention the decorating term “feng shui” to my husband and you’ll get that look that says, “don’t bother explaining it ’cuz ain’t nobody knows what it means.” The rest of the world knows that it’s a way of decorating your home to make it feel “right,” to get positive energy flowing in the right directions, and the Chinese seem to have a corner on this market. You can even pay good money and hire a specialist to come into your home and send all the bad vibes packin’.

Well, I’m here to tell you that our family owns a 90 year-old creek house that just plain oozes feng shui. It is one of the last of those vintage cottages still standing, a classic camp cabin with beaded board walls and ceilings and a wrap around porch that can sleep the masses. There is so much positive energy flowin’ in that house, the Chinese decorators should come for a seminar. Our family home on the Inlet even has a soul, a collective soul of five generations. To say it has ghosts sounds too scary because that it is not, so I’ll say it just plain has a soul. It’s a compassionate soul for all the people and stories that have passed on before and for what will pass in the future. You think I’m kidding? Strangers, who know nothing about us or our more illustrious forebears, are enveloped in this as soon as they set foot in the front door, which is really the back door, but who’s keeping track?

You’ve heard the term “if walls could talk?” Our walls talk. Sure, they creak when the breezes are blowing the big live oak out in the yard, but they talk the universal language of living, loving and crying. These walls are covered with photos spanning all 90 years, and as you walk in the door, smiling and laughing faces greet you at every turn. The fragrance of these walls, if you will, speaks of decades of our warm and humid coastal climate, sending many a guest gasping for air to the nearest drug store for the latest antihistamine. Drugs in hand, they somehow always venture back.

There is not one wall, window or floor in plumb, not that the best of carpenters haven’t tried through numerous add-ons and upgrades. Our testament to the times is supported by cypress pilings pulled out of the swamps for their strength and durability, but harshly tested by Mother Nature in her most violent moods. It’s understandable that even the best of these warriors can’t stand as straight as in their youth. Unbidden floods have invaded her brave underpinnings, but to no avail. Unfortunately, it has also most likely sent a recovering alcoholic or two back to AA, as immediately upon entering the door you wonder how many drinks you’ve forgotten you’ve had.

Life in its fullest is embodied in our little creek house. There are family prayers lovingly embroidered and framed on the wall, reminding us of our strong religious background as well as the days when Grandmother wouldn’t allow playing cards on Sunday. There are chairs missing a part of an arm, and chinks in the wall reminding us that all wasn’t always well, when harsh words were spoken and tears were shed. There’s still Merthiolate in the rusted bathroom cabinet, reminding us of those days of medicinal torture when an oyster shell found its way into a knee. There are cabinets and drawers that, despite constant vigilance, somehow hold souvenirs of insects and critters and remind us how close to Nature we really are. There are pictures of grandparents and great uncles proudly displaying their bounty from the sea, while we wistfully regret that bounty disappearing. And that proud live oak, the anchor to this house, is thinning at the top as many aging beings are wont to do.

But our family loves this house, some coming from thousands of miles each year as their summer pilgrimage. Everything about life is embodied in this house, and like life itself, it can be fleeting. Not a one takes its future for granted, especially with the foreboding storm forecasts of late. Development is encroaching on our little bit of heaven like a marching army of ants. The pace may be slow, but it seems inevitable. We are trying our best to preserve what we have, not only for ourselves and our future generations, but to share with others. Our home is the epitome of simpler times when life was slower and the days were orchestrated by the tide. Low tide meant the busyness of fishing, shrimping and crabbing. High tide meant relaxing with a swim or a swing in the hammock, the breezes rustling the pages of your book. The heat of our summer days before air conditioning meant slow down and rock on that porch telling the same family stories which never seem to get boring. There is always a new generation, wide-eyed at the telling. Yes, our house has a soul, and I am glad for that. Yours can too, but it just takes time to find it.

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