When I was in my twenties I traipsed around the world. My younger self embraced the opportunity to travel and document the work of a non profit. It was on these jaunts that I started to observe and absorb the nuances of culture in the regions we traversed. Food, traditions, colors, décor, and landscaping were all catalogued into my impressionable mind. I was collecting ideas and inspiration that would carry me a lifetime but was oblivious to what was happening at the time.

Collecting Ideas

I had a job to do. My husband and I photographed and wrote about the organization we served. But as I traveled by bus and by boat down country lanes and alongside motorways in Western and Eastern Europe, then later through waterfronts of South East Asia, I was drinking in the surroundings.  I was making mental notes at what I most admired and enjoyed. I was exposed to sights that would never have graced my eyes in suburban America.

Lasting Takeaway

One of the most lasting takeaways from my time abroad was the vine covered stone cottages that dotted the countryside of England and streets of Europe. A home ensconced with vines was magical I decided. The greenery created a warm and decidedly welcoming environment. 

When we bought our first home, I was determined to mimic the beautiful landscapes I had fallen in love with. In faith, as a young mother, I planted two small ficus repens vines that cost me seven dollars each. I never thought what two decades of growth might bring.  I could only envision a front porch wrapped in vines. Life was too busy to try and imagine twenty years in the future.

Over the years the vines not only enveloped my entrance and graced my porch but also my front windows and over the garage.  It seemed overnight runners had spread around both sides of the house and along the back to my delight.  They were utterly enchanting. Everyone from the UPS driver to trick-or-treaters commented on how magical my home was, reminiscent of a scene from The Secret Garden.  The vines wrapped my home while inside our family cocooned. My little English Cottage in the South brought a wonderful presence to the cul de sac. My home regal with greenery bespoke of country living with carefree abandon.

They Grew With Ease

The vines required little of me. They never needed water or fertilizer. They would occasionally get slightly unwieldy and would need to be trimmed.  Once they reached a certain height we bought a gas powered trimmer to ease the work. We sometimes had the offer of help which we heartily welcomed.

As the branches entwined themselves around one another our family entwined our lives around one another. Two children, two dogs and two parents found solace from the world inside those walls. Life carried on year after year as the vines grew and grew.

North side of my home

Certainly much has been said about trees having feelings. It is believed that trees make friends and care for one another. They can feel pain and have emotions. Peter Wohlleben’s film Intelligent Trees documents this phenomenon. Although vines are slightly different, as their stems require support which my home was happy to oblige, I think it can be said my vines and I had a symbiotic relationship.

These vines inextricably became a part of me. I lived in the house with vines. But our relationship came to an abrupt end. The Home Owners Association deemed they violated the Housing Bylaws. So after almost 20 years of growth, of winding and weaving on the walls of my home they were removed one warm sunny afternoon in February. The woody tendrils had rooted into the stucco but the branches were so interlaced they pulled down like one sheet. I have lost something that took years to create.  Under their presence I raised children, amused dogs, hosted dinner parties, welcomed guests, toiled and rested while these magnificent plants wove their beauty.

New Chapter

After the vines came down

I am standing steadfast against the waves of sadness that greet me every time I leave my home. I grieved when I saw all my vines piled high on the curbside to be taken away. A piece of me goes with them.  I want to embrace this new chapter. I want to welcome the opportunity to be creative in dressing up these four bare walls with an engaging palette.  I want to add window boxes, shutters and draping Petunia Bordeaux. I will dig deep into my youthful memories and hope to find those hidden gems that will help make my house a home once again.

Peace be to you, and peace be to your house, & peace be to all that you have
1 Samuel 25:6