On that Sense of Place

I write a lot about my home and how much I love it and post way too many photos of the view from our top deck on Facebook- our Chez Gainey, as we dubbed it almost fifteen years ago when we bought this crazy old house that will hit the century mark in a year and a half. We jokingly say that we’re glad we don’t have to put the dogs through college, as there is always another project to do or a repair or replacement to be made. We are so very far from wealthy, but through hard work, determination, dreams, and a lot of love, we have been able to turn this old place into something very special to us.

As Dan and I sat in our newly almost-completed front yard after dealing with what had been a huge mud pit for seven months thanks to a bad contractor, I thought about all we have been through in this home, and how I have developed that rare sense of ‘place’ here. There’s only one other place that I feel same connection – our special waterfall in the Nantahala Gorge of Western North Carolina. That place that touches your soul and makes your spirit soar. That place that you feel you have always known, even if you are just seeing it for the first time.



We have poured so much money, blood, sweat, and tears into this house, laughing wryly and saying, “One time expense!” Oh, if only. It has never bothered me, though, as the joy we receive from working on the house, sharing it with others, and enjoying the oasis it is for us in our hectic lives makes the money inconsequential. You can’t put a price on peace and tranquillity, no matter how hard you try.

So much life has happened here, so much love, so much heartache. We grew together as a couple as we poured our energies into nesting and making our home evolve into the dreams we envisioned for it. Little by little as we could afford it (and often when we couldn’t), we would do something else to move those dreams forward, sitting on the top deck to dream then about what we would tackle next. We healed the house from the mistreatment of a former owner, and it healed us time and time again as we faced challenge and loss and it framed our celebration of the many joys that have graced our fifteen years under its roof.

What is that sense of place, though, and why do I feel it here? It is difficult to describe in a way that doesn’t sound mystical or overly romanticized. To me, there are many levels; part of it is the bond that comes from digging my hands into the soil and planting, of pulling weed after weed to make the yard beautiful. The bond of working alongside my husband to build a happy life and a retreat to escape to after a long day at work, of living in a structure through every season and type of weather.

We’ve been in this home when we received the news that my oldest brother and sister and Dan’s mother had passed; when Dan was laid off from a job that he loved and we scraped by until he found a wonderful position to finish his career. We’ve cared for my mother in this home, loved and lost dear friends and pets, celebrated happy times with friends and family.

This is the place that I feel completely safe to be myself, to be vulnerable, to be weak or strong- to be what I need to be. I come here to recharge my batteries, to dream, to heal, to be inspired. Working on this house has been both draining and exhilarating, but always worth every pulled muscle and empty wallet.

The funny thing is that I felt that exact way from the moment Dan and I first followed the realtor up the steep stairs from the street to see the house for the first time. The house was a mess at the time, every window shuttered off to close out the world. But…I knew. I could feel the spirit of the house, feel the potential, the connection, the history. This was home. Dan told me he felt it, too; it was the home that Love built.

All I know is that I wake up every single day grateful to be here with Dan and our little menagerie, and I look forward to the adventures that lie ahead. I’m grateful to feel that connection that makes me yearn to come back when I travel far away. Homecoming is all the more sweet.

I think that sense of place all stems from one source: love. When we greet the world with love, that love attracts beautiful things to us. We resonate with the beauty, interact and grow with it. It becomes a part of us and we become a part of it. Whatever the case, I am grateful for this place that is my refuge and my joy- crooked roof and floors and all.

10 thoughts on “On that Sense of Place

  1. Beautifully, and lovingly, written, Denise.
    I sense the joy, peace, and love, from your thoughts, and pictures…….. 🏡🐶🐕🐈💑

  2. Superbly, perfectly beautiful. Your new yard looks so inviting! I really like the way the photos in this post reflect the Seasons…I love the Seasons – of our weather and of our lives. You do such a marvelous job of expressing the positive in all things. I am so happy for you, Dan, and the Gainey gang…you all DO put love into the world and it reflects in all you do
    You are all incredibly nice beings, human and otherwise.

  3. It’s funny . .. as I was reading this , gazing at the first pics, I got such a strong feeling . … what was it? Love! So I smiled so big when I read your sentence about this being the house that Love built ! So true ! So sacred .

  4. Having that special place to call “home” is mystical and magical! I knew the moment we walked into our house that it was “home” for us. This made me smile as I can relate to all the worries and joys of having that sense of place…

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