Until today, when I visited Fallingwater.
If you know me well, you are probably thinking it was something else.
Like the fact that we were on our way home from dropping my eldest off at college to start her freshman year.
Or my sister’s recent cancer diagnosis, difficult surgery and more to come chemo.
Or our family’s coming to terms with the fact that we have been unable to save my mother from her chronic pain or failing memory and must now make difficult decisions about where she will live.
But you would be wrong.
Yes, all those things have been going on lately. And while they certainly explain why I haven’t been blogging, they are not why I cried this afternoon.
I cried because this building, this home, this marvel of cantilevered concrete, steel and glass was so beautiful, so ingenious, so damned glorious that I could find no other response than tears.
How could I not cry, when the sudden downpour that began during our tour, a cascade of water from the sky that poured down around us as we walked under the covered walkway to the guesthouse so that we felt that we were actually within a water fall, turned into a radiant sun shower and then stopped just as we stepped out onto the highest terrace?
Or when I learned that Wright was 67 years old and at the low point of his career when he designed Fallingwater and at an age when most of us would be heading to retirement, he jump started the second half of his career, the half in which he created some of his most memorable designs, including the Guggenheim?
There are those who will say that Fallingwater as it was initially conceived and built was not perfect, and they would be correct. The concrete cantilevers needed steel reinforcements Wright had not planned, as did the stairs. Cracks appeared in the main level flooring almost immediately and as it continued to sag over the years, they threatened to bring the building down. But Fallingwater was saved – not by restoring the cantilever to its original position, but by stabilizing it where it had settled. As a result the building is slightly different, but stronger and just as beautiful as when it was first built.
As I write this, I feel as if I am again standing on the concrete cantilever at Fallingwater, and can feel the forces of gravity and counter tension pulling upon me.
I’ve survived my daughter’s senior summer and the move into the dorms with our relationship now settled into something different, but intact – better even, for the transition.
And as for my larger family – my eight sibs, my parents and I – we are learning that, despite our numbers, we are not invincible. Like Wright’s folded concrete cantilevers, we have sustained a crack or two. Already we are finding ourselves changed, settling into a different place than before, and will need some reinforcement and some shoring up as we go on.
But we will go on, strong and beautiful as ever.