The Home Within Us
Today it really feels like spring. Canada geese are again nesting on the abandoned beaver lodge in our pond, while purple martins (flash of blue) and red-winged blackbirds (flash of red) swoop among the cattails. Basking in the beauty around me, I have been sitting in the sun reading essays from Marilynne Robinson’s brilliant book, “When I Was A Child I Read Books”, while waiting for the hot cross bun dough to rise. In the first essay she observes the schism between science and religion, positing against this view her opinion that the more science discovers, the more it puts us in touch with the ineffable and ultimately inexplicable miracles of the universe. As so many things do, this led me to think about the relationship between our lives and our homes.
At its most basic level the purchase of home is an economic transaction. A price is negotiated, money changes hands, and the deed transfers from the former owner to the new owner. The new owner moves in, and now this collection of rooms made from wood, or stone, or cement, or sheetrock, has a new master and/or mistress. This, to extend Ms. Robinson’s analogy, is the science of it.
As time passes, however, a spiritual transformation takes place. Gradually, over years, the owner and the property grow together. The house, or apartment, begins to reflect the owner’s preferences and habits: furniture, wall color, books (or, as in the case of the Kardashians, lack thereof!), use of space. This random collection of materials becomes home. We seek it as a refuge when things become difficult, we are soothed by being enfolded in its familiar glow. It takes on the music of our own lives.
In this, as in all things, one size does not fit all. Some people crave light, some crave quiet. Some prefer to feel expansive in big rooms, others would rather feel cozy in smaller ones. And often we don’t know what we respond to until we enter it; often what we love is not what we expected. During my years as an agent there have been those occasions when a buyer walked into an apartment and knew immediately that it was right, that it sang to him. More often this feeling creeps up over time, sometimes during multiple visits before the closing, sometimes not until years later when the house and its owner have bonded. And this bond is deep – deeper than economics. How else otherwise to understand the sellers who sell their home to the family which reminds them of themselves twenty years earlier, even if theirs was not the highest offer? Or the family which owns the same house, not necessarily conveniently located, for multiple generations?
Not everything can be explained in practical or scientific terms, and almost everything is more complicated than it first appears. Certainly this is true of residential real estate transactions, which can have a surprisingly powerful resonance. As agents, we have the privilege of facilitating this transmutation through which one person or family’s life interpenetrates with another’s through their sequential ownership of the same property. And with every owner who spends multiple years there, the patina of the place grows richer and more layered. As agents we only scratch those surfaces, but working in proximity to something so significant is enough.