When Juri and I first met, we sometimes talked about his introverted life.  He seemed to want to insulate himself against the world.  He wanted high fences with higher plantings around the edges of his property.  I agreed with that; it made his large property seem like a private oasis.  But he wanted more privacy than that.  He didn’t like windows on the street side of his house, or in an entry hall.  After he finished the fence he wanted a locking gate into his driveway.  

I thought that was going too far.  Based on his increasing sociability at our dance nights in Poulsbo, I said, “I thought you were becoming more out-going.  If you put up a locked gate, none of your neighbors could contact you if they wanted to.”  He said, almost suspiciously, “Why would any of my neighbors want to contact me”?  I answered, “To invite you to a neighborhood party?  To warn you of a fire?  To borrow a cup of sugar?  Just to introduce themselves and say “hello”?  He was quiet for awhile. Then he said, “I’m just as isolated as I ever was.  The only difference is that I have pulled you in with me.”  I said, “What if I forgot the key to your gate when I came here?  Would I have to go to a service station and call”?  (This was before cell phones were common)

A year after we stopped seeing each other I had occasion to go to his house once again.  He had called and said he had something he wanted to give me and asked if I would stop by when I was in town.  He HAD put a gate across his driveway, but it was not a locking gate.  I thought that was encouraging. Then I saw the new entry deck and changed my mind.

In the remodeling design for his house, I had eliminated the long narrow, almost windowless living room and created a new one using the streetside end of the old living room, plus the original master bedroom. Then I used what was left of the old living room–the end next to the dining room–for a generous new entry hall, and on the outside a pleasant entry deck. This new entry deck was on the south side of the house next to the driveway and filled a U shaped space between two existing extensions of the original house. Having the entry in that place was advantageous inside and out. Inside it was in a centralized location. Outside it had a view of the orchard across the driveway and enough space for guest parking on the orchard side.

The new entry hall I had designed was invitingly open to the new living room on one side and connected to the dining room through a five foot opening on the other. In its back wall, a door led to the rest of the house, and if that door were left open, one could see the basement stair railing with a lovely painting hanging on the wall above the stairs.  A slate floor plus a window beside the door further defined the entry space.  This windows was not a standard, formal side-lite but a “real” window.  Juri was hesitant about it, but I told him the hall needed the light, and it could be curtained or have opaque glass if he wanted.  I reminded him that this entry was much more private from the street than the first one, so didn’t he think it could be a little more “down home”?

From the exterior, the front door was set to one side of the entry deck, so the deck had an empty space at its other end. To make it friendly and welcoming, I had placed chairs, a table and potted plants there.  Instead of a railing, and because the deck was only about two feet high, I had used a bench across the deck’s open side, with flowering plants on its ends and on the edges of the three extra wide steps.  

That was the way it had been planned.  The way it had gotten built was another story.

Juri had made up for the lock-less gate by eliminating anything that might have been inviting about the front entry.  He had reduced the depth of it so there was no room for a table and thus no reason for the west end of it to even be there. There was a railing instead of a bench at the deck’s edge and at the sides of the steps, which had been reduced in width to a bare minimum.  There were no window beside the door.  There was nothing on the deck.  It was like entering a prison.

 On the interior, the prison atmosphere was doubled: tripled.  The front hallway was completely enclosed with walls.  There were flush doors on all four sides and into the hall closet, and of course there were no windows.    I had never walked into such a sad feeling house.  It felt like it was crying inside and rigid with fear.  It felt like Juri must have felt as a child and probably still did.

A couple of years later, Mall told me Juri had gotten married and now had four step children.  He had sold his house and bought another.  I thought he had probably sold his house, not because it wasn’t large enough for a family, but because, subconsciously, he couldn’t bear to walk into it.