Home is Where the Art Is

Home is Where the Art Is

It hadn’t been the best year, but I can honestly say I’ve had worse. However, 2020 wins for Grossest Reoccurring Question in the Fishburne House: “Why are there still slugs in my kitchen?!”

The Little House, by Virginia Lee Burton, was one of my favorites as a kid. I was a huge believer in the lives of inanimate objects. Jim Henson’s The Christmas Toy– totally plausible. Raymond Briggs’s The Snowman– required annual viewing. Disney’s Beauty and the Beast–fool, those household items were capable of song before the enchantment.

I’m a grown up now. Sure, I still name my car, talk to my books, and feel guilt over using one mug far more often than the others, but who doesn’t?

I loved The Little House for her expressive eyes, her loyalty, and her triumph over age and slowed metabolism.  It’s possible I’ve projected my more recent emotions.

The callous disregard of her feelings by the humans ticked Child-Me off. How dare they “Hurry by without a glance”? She is the hero of the story! The Little House has feelings! Dumb humans.


Things I’ve said within hearing of my house:

“Look at this door. What a piece of garbage.”

“Why bother filling that hole? This place isn’t worth the trouble.”

“Yeah it’s not as old as it looks. It should probably be condemned.”


When we drove down the narrow farm road and first saw our house peeking over the hedges, I couldn’t believe how fortunate we were.

I walked into the kitchen and actually said to myself: I don’t care what the rest of the house looks like. Fabulous kitchens in old homes have been deceiving women longer than Spanx have been disappointing prospective lovers. Counter space, an AGA, large sink, room for a table, and a cozy nook perfect for a desk and bookshelf seduced me from the start.

From the kitchen, I walked beneath stained-glass transept windows to an elegant and elaborate tiled hall. I will sleep in this hall. I don’t care what the rest of the house looks like. The quirks and delightful oddities of the house only further enamored me of it.

The peeling wall paper, the cracking entry wall, the guaranteed heating expense, the sloping and buckling floorboards, the weird shower room, the defiant glares of spiders in every single corner, blah blah blah did you see that kitchen?

The hottest English summer on record revealed windows painted shut, a nest of hornets in the laundry room’s gaping hole high up in the ceiling, and an undisclosed sauna comprising the bedroom we’d chosen for our youngest child.

The winter bestowed hundreds and hundreds of dollars in heating bills for an environment that did not qualify as even warm, a chandelier that leaked rain water, a cascade of water turned mold in the entryway, and external doors that did even less to keep out the elements than the windows–which we did not think possible.

Chimney issues. Septic tank issues. Radiator issues. Internet issues. Insect and arachnid issues.

I did not sleep in the hall.

I began to see the beautiful pattern as a kaleidoscope of agonies: physical, financial, emotional, and spiritual.


And then came Lockdown. There was nowhere to go. This house and I were not on good terms, and now it was not just my entire world, but everyone else’s in the family. I sequestered each child in a separate room to become their office. Sam worked in his area. I ran interference between everyone and then managed to find a few moments at the kitchen table to work on my own projects. I kicked everyone outside into the grass and trees to play. I cooked many many meals in the kitchen. We watched movies in the living room kept clear of school chaos. Everyone went to bed in their own room. We had plenty of room. There was a vastness to our confinement.

And every once in a while, someone noticed a beautiful shimmering design on the family room carpet. It sparkled and glimmered like silver threads pulled from a forgotten tapestry. But after appreciating the art of it we realized it was a slug track. In my family room. And then on the kitchen door mat.

After 13 years, this is the first house in which I’ll have no pregnancy or infant memories. There won’t be any new Fishburnes here. When I look back on each house, there are expandable jeans, cribs, nursing, nap times, diapers, first words, and grapes cut up into nothing. This house will have tearful video chats, too much whiskey, bitter home repairs, a touch more fighting, cancelled birthday parties, and almost stepping on slugs on the way to make coffee in the dark autumn mornings. Normally, the isolation would not bother me. This has been different.


As lovely as the simplicity of schedules has become, in this, England’s second lock down, the highlighted deficiencies in my personality are less so. And good grief, I’m predictable. Without the outside world to keep my selfishness in check, I’m Meteora. This is my kingdom. Do what I say. If you don’t, you will be destroyed. When it’s broken, it should be thrown out. When it’s ugly, it should be ignored.

I’ve written and painted more in 2020 than any other. I’ve made soul-deep friendships. I’ve never felt so much myself. Which sort of pisses me off because it’s been a pretty crap year. But like I said, there have been other crap years–which have eventually always resulted in something wonderful. Usually babies. Why does it take a wilderness to produce a miracle? Why do we have to be tested to prove our worth? Why are there still slugs in my house?

wilderness area is a region where the land is in a natural state; where impacts from human activities are minimal. Staying in this house, with my family, away from my larger family, prevented from both distraction and accountability, has left a shimmering trail. Beauty has been left in the wake of the disgusting. Beautiful not because of what I’ve done, but lovely because, though not a baby, something was born in this house. Something new is happening, and it’s going to be good.

(Originally appeared in Christina’s Blog, Smile When You Say That.  To check out some of her other blog entries, click here.)

Green Mountain Trail

Green Mountain Trail

Isolation has always been my love language, but as soon as I’m stationed overseas (which happens A LOT) or told to social distance, I’m compelled to begin creative projects with people I can’t get to.

Whether it’s collaborating with my brothers on music / art / writing or painting Bronte-inspired literary gifts for The Crow Emporium, this pandemic has produced unanticipated joy.

I think the only way to combat sadness, frustration, and terror is not to fight it; we have to make it work for us.

The “Silent Current from Within” Project

When we were small in Alabama, my father took us camping up on Green Mountain. I had one job: don’t get lost.

Camping on Green Mountain was The Wild. We drove up the road from the tornado-stricken valley where our house repeatedly survived, through dense vibrant forest, all the way to the top, to the lake. The winding trail. The little cabin left open for hikers to explore, take shelter, or pretend they were, say, a female Civil War soldier hiding from the enemy in need of a fire, more bullets, and a burlap curtain to peek out from.

We would drive to our site, pitch the tent, take out the pizza box, and pull up the antenna from Dad’s mini portable TV. I was assured that my survival skills were up to scratch as I ate processed cheese, watching black and white TV, on a Care-Bear sleeping bag IN THE WILD. Later once, at dusk, I went to the bathroom (a building) and forgot which way our tent was. For a terrifying moment I knew, in the core of my being, that I was alone. In The Wild. Well, I thought, standing on the gravel path, surrounded by tall trees, an outhouse, and the distant voices of unknown humans, this is where I live now. I was lost.


In the fall of 2020, so  . . . five months ago, seems much longer . . . my brother Charlie told me he’d finished a new EP inspired by Anne Bronte (of course, love it), Anne Carson (LOVE it, want to be her), and me (awesome, love–what?) ~-Reader, I wish you all health, happiness, and a brother who believes in you.~ He then asked me to be ready to come up with some sort of craft, because he was asking our brother, Chris, to write a folktale based on the prose pieces and the spirit of the music.


There are only four written springboards.

As Simple as Water” is inspired by Anne Carson’s “Camino,“ from her brilliant Anthropology of Water. In it, the journey itself is what gives direction. The road asks the only thing you long to give; I believe that is the thing you love that gives you life, your purpose.

In “If This Be All,” Anne Bronte’s heartbreaking and beautiful poem, there are no friends around; love must happen from far away; there is wandering and toiling, constant care, frequent pain. . . .You’re nodding your head, Reader. She writes, If this is it, God, then come get me. I wanna go home. Or . . . give me the strength to get through it. Because I know You can.

I wrote the piece leading to “A Marked and Mended Sign” for a friend who has become as close to me as any sister could be. We’ve never met. It began with a business-related email, which continued on to messaging and has resulted in a meeting of kindred spirits. I never saw it coming. I didn’t know anything was missing, and I have no idea how I’d come so far without her.

When I took a 6-week writing class in Italy (you can hate me a little right now; I know I do), I went with some girls to the Academia to see Michelangelo’s David. While in line outside, there were three fascinating middle-aged women, cousins, behind us. One was very athletic, no makeup, lousy outfit, an overbite; one was small, mousy hair, smiled a lot, agreed with everything, kept adjusting her purse strap; and one was tall, long dark hair, dressed to kill, bejeweled within an inch of her life, talked forever, danced with teenaged Italian boys, wore large glamorous sunglasses to shock said Italian boys with her age as she removed them, and also, she had cancer.

I lost track of the women as we funneled into the museum. Before I could get to the David, I had to go through corridors filled with unfinished, brilliant, sculptures: Michelangelo’s rough drafts. My mind was blown. I wrote a heartbreaking short story about three middle aged women seeing the David, filled with detail and meaning and character development and emotional tension. It was rejected for the next 15 years. And not “high tier” rejections, Reader. These were hard passes.

I kept thinking, But–The David scene! The Camping scene! They’re so good. Can’t anyone see that?

Nope. They couldn’t. Because they were hidden.


I joined a Facebook group in January last year whose sole purpose is to get 100 Rejections within the year. I made it to 78. It was a real mindscrew to not just be ok with, but EXCITED, for a rejection.




It–and I don’t say this lightly–changed my life. It gave me a direction as clear as any map. My list of rejections grew quickly and my spirits actually lifted. I took out that “boring three women in Italy story” and deleted everything that touched them until I had only the parts I couldn’t stop thinking about: The David and The Camping. Then I just talked to myself on paper.

It was the first thing to be accepted. Read it here 

Waterwheel Review (Love them; wish all magazines were like them) asked if I had any preference or knew of any artists to post as a companion piece. I messaged Charlie. “Until the Charm Fades” was born.

Sometimes hiding is neither cowardice nor preservation, but fermenting . . . gaining value.

I’m not the only one who did a lot of hiding last year. Some was forced, but a lot wasn’t. Also, my little fermenting metaphor isn’t 100% literary device . . . but I know that much of what’s been written, composed, painted, discovered, created, purged, ignited, realized, and accepted would never have happened without the isolation, fear, discouragement, and frustration we’ve all been through and continue to go through. We don’t have to believe it will get better. We just have to believe it could. That’s the only way to put a foot forward one more time.


On the Green Mountain trail, toward the end, there is an open-air chapel. Our dad was a minister, but more than that, he believes. No matter how gross we were, how tired, how whiny, or how exasperated he was with us, we would stop there and at least sit on the splintery benches. We’d still be fighting, but we sat down just the same. Somewhere in my child heart I knew: This is where I acknowledge Him. In the Wild. Even though I knew He was with me the whole time.

Anne Bronte was the baby of her family. She was quiet. Kind. Devout. Proper. But she wrote revolutionary, theologically-questioning, society-shattering prose and poetry. She knew how to acknowledge her hope while challenging everything that stood against it. I believe her faith was ironclad because she questioned.

Belief is a quest. If something doesn’t line up mind, voice, and heart–-then I know I haven’t found the answer yet. There’s a lot to allow, to concede, to compromise on a journey.

Preparation involves choices in equipment, nourishment, necessary comforts. Know your route. Take a map. Check the weather. Anticipate what you can and decide to power through what you can’t. It’s difficult to stay on course, questions and all, no matter how we get burned.

There’s so much out there that we can’t see coming, but it’s not all bad. In fact, it’s probably a lot better than we can imagine from our spot in The Wild.

The Good is hidden from us now, waiting. But that’s what treasure does.

Charlie Rauh’s EP, THE SILENT CURRENT FROM WITHIN, will be available from Destiny Records for pre-order February 12, 2021. BUY IT HERE 

A limited run of 36 packages will be offered at that time as well. Each package will include a hand written segment of “Note the Wind” (a folktale by Chris Rauh, written in response to the music), a full version of the story as a PDF download, a hand-drawn map detailing the landscape of the story, a compass, and a digital download of the EP and art work by me and Cameron Mizell.

Each segment of the story is also part of a larger image of the map, making the individual pieces completely unique.


For more from Christina, visit www.christinarauhfishburne.com