I had heard the story. A woman bought the unfinished framework of a one-story house in a field and started to build it higher and wider. The wind-bleached wood looked like bones against the blue February sky. As she scrambled between the ribs of the top floor she whistled, the neighbors say—continuous whistles, as if she only ever breathed one breath. When the season spread into spring, and then summer, she became quiet. She ran out of songs, one neighbor said, but I bet she just wanted to listen to the heavy hum of cicadas. She bought a harness and belayed herself up and down each of the six outer walls to shingle them with cedar. By the end of the summer she was brown, and her hair had turned blonde. She painted the cedar shingles white. In the autumn, when the frost stiffened the fields, the neighbors didn’t see her anymore. They could hear hammering from inside, and sometimes a drill.
No one else ever touched the house’s bones, they tell me, though when I climb up the stairs years after they say she began it seems incredible. The rooms are complete and smooth. The second floor is made out of windows. There is no furniture. To the right of the staircase, on the third floor, there’s a small hexagonal room. The woman has a low, square table set on top of a Turkish carpet, and stacks of paper, and a jar of yellow pencils. It’s February, and the water in a clear drinking glass is frozen. I look up and notice there’s no ceiling. The woman looks up from a sheaf of lined paper. Such a pleasure, she says, to wake up to that blue sky.