Monday, October 24, 2011


You are a place of old age, a place of cracking cement and rusted metal, old glass and old ideas.  You are a place to find metal cups in metal cabinets, orange polyester party goers, and coral lipstick.  

You are Fallingwater.

Which means, really, you are a place fresh and vibrant, ahead of your time.  You are straight out of the 1950's before there were 50's.  Born in 1936, when the world was still building boxes, Mr. Wright was building beauty, and you are IT.  

This was an unplanned pilgrimage.  Matt and I were in Pennsylvania for a CES Couples Conference  staying at a Mennonite camp retreat that turned out to be just 30 minutes from Fallingwater.  I insisted. Matt obliged. 

We pulled into the car park and stopped for just a moment before getting out of the silver Chevrolet rental.  
"I don't know that you understand just how big a deal this is for me." I said to Matt.
"How come," he asked?
"It's like doing something vicariously for my Dad that he never got to do for himself."

Matt obliged and then he engaged our tour guide so intensely that she asked him if he was an architect.  Matt is the master of questions . . . and observation.  Despite pressing our guide to the very fringes of her allotted minutes in each room she still failed to mention to us that we could be part of the "in-depth tour group" starting shortly after ours.  Matt's interest was heightened such that they should have offered and "in-depth-after-hours tour" just for the two of us.

My Dad made wood do the bidding of his hands for a living until his hands betrayed him and then he taught high school kids how to do those things.  It wasn't the "perfection of the life" he might have hoped for, but it provided for his family.  In my early years - many of them - like the years from birth to about eight years old, my Dad was a student of the Industrial arts as well as anything else that caught his fancy.  Which was everything.  Which made graduation a thing always on the distant horizon.  

Somewhere in those years my Dad studied architecture.  If you study architecture you are introduced to a fellow called Frank Lloyd Wright.  Mr. Wright is more than an architect, but I do not know his words or work well enough to render any interpretation of what he is.  

I will let him speak for himself:

A philosophy is deduced from nature, and if according as the philosophy is parallel to the truths and processes of nature, it endures.  Without philosophy there is no understanding of anything.  Man is a phase of nature.  And only as he is related to nature does he matter, is he of any account whatever above the dust.

He is well known for works such as Fallingwater, The Robie House, Taliesen West, and most notably, The Guggenheim Museum in New York City.   I knew these words as a very young girl.  My young mind was the keeper of images so unique they could vary in a hundred ways and every one of them be a Frank Lloyd Wright signature, as recognizable as a Coca Cola logo.  The lines and circles of his leaded, stained-glass windows.  

You have seen them.

They might bring to mind words like "art deco" or "arts and crafts".  While not a student of architecture myself I am pretty sure Wright can be found somewhere in the midst of those words, or perhaps those words can be found somewhere in the midst of Mr. Wright.  At any rate, there is some correlation.

I tried to  walk through Fallingwater with my father's eyes.  I tried to invite him into my fingertips to say "I have touched it.  This cantilevered thing of genius." I tried to give his ears the sound of falling water that can be heard from every part of the house as a river flows beneath it and down through Pennsylvania woods.  I took one leaf from one rhododendron that fills the forest, to put in my journal and write - Here is a living thing from a living memory that my father gave to me.

You are Fallingwater.
I know your name from my Father's tongue and your beauty from my own eyes.