The world over, in every town and city there are famous households. They stand as a testament to the people, the Stewards that once called them home. Tourists come from all over to enter these buildings in hopes of glimpsing, if only for an hour or so, the lives of people like Nostradamus, William Lyon Mackenzie and Abraham Lincoln. What is it about these homes that people hope to experience? I wonder if these famous people saw them as friends, as I do?
I concede it’s a little easier for me to understand, for I believe that every building lives. Yes, there are spirits, entities as well as people that exist within these spaces, yet I am talking more particularly about the spirit of any building, and in this case a home. Having moved many times, I have said good-bye to many loving spaces and now as I prepare to move to Costa Rica, I am going through my exit patterns again. This time has been most fascinating, what am I saying good-bye to?
Amazingly, in the past month the sale of two houses very important to me closed. Both homes where rich in character, were well known for their street presence and built in the 1800’s. One was a close friend’s home in Ottawa, the other my brother’s home in Toronto.
As I left the Toronto home for the last time I opened the garage door and looked into the alley I had seen 100’s of times before. My mind’s eye reminded me that this is the same spot where one of my favorite pictures of my young daughter was taken. Just a week before, I walked through the Ottawa home and was reminded of the first time I’d seen it, some 20 years prior to my friend moving in. In both cases I walked the inside of the homes so I could say good-bye properly, because both of these houses felt like a home to me.
Most of us move into a dwelling that “feels right”. It is an initial response, like meeting someone for the first time. We immediately know when the right home is our home. We will move mountains, take on seemingly impossible debts and even forego some creature comforts to live there. We tell ourselves, “Why would I need to go out when I love being here?” It is very much like falling in love. In fact how many times have you heard someone talk of his or her home and say, “I love this place!”
As I watched these Stewards prepare “their” homes for another, to separate their lives from the on going story of the house, their actions were very similar to the ending of a friend relationship. There were moments of frustrations, longing looks at a particular aspect of the home, even frustration at what had to be done to be free of the relationship. Was the sadness I was feeling the house’s, the steward’s or mine? I know there’s a multitude of experiences, laughter, heartfelt conversations that have occurred within the walls. Was I feeling these stories? It is an easy step to see how a house bears witness to the lives that are with in it, so when I suggest that a house is alive, what am I talking about? A house is just a collection walls and floors right? I am not so sure. I believe there is a collective presence that I have made friends with.
In my real estate and renovation days there was a renovation phrase called “gutting a house.” I would cringe back then, I cringe even now. To “gut” something is to remove its inner workings, like a fish, strip it of life. For a house that means those walls and their stories, floors that supported millions of footsteps are removed. Would you gut a church? If you sensed a level of discomfort with this last paragraph then I am comfortable that you see homes as living spaces as well, and yes, the double meaning was intended.
Watch people as they walk through famous homes. Notice how they energetically probe the space, how they touch the walls seeking for snippets of energy from the former famous steward. Those Stewards left for good reasons. There are times when we must move on, leave our friends. I smiled as my friend and brother’s homes were removed of the “things” that made them special for their stewards. All the decorating and styling was washed with white paint, furniture removed and staging furniture moved in. It is easy to see this as a distancing, a softening of the departure energy. The Steward and Home making room for a new Steward. I smiled because it was so obvious to see it was easier for the Steward to leave when it no longer felt like their home.
Leaving these two homes felt like walking away from a friend. I know I will, like my friend and brother, drive by these stately houses, these old friends. I will see what changes were made and look for what is similar. I know they will take on the characteristics of their new relationship. I am confident that I will secretly hope these homes look happy to me, then like two past lovers passing by on the street we will glance over our shoulders at each other, one last look. Now I ask you, are you sure these spaces aren’t alive or am I just anthropomorphizing wood, brick and windows?
I am in the final act of packing up my home, putting into storage “my stuff”. While I loved this home, I knew my time here would be short. Still, this home has endeared itself to me. These other two older homes seem to be telling me more though. They seem to be speaking of my short roots. I am by nature a traveler, best out in the world. I find it hard to settle down. With these three homes packed, it would seem that my anchors are being pulled up again. It would seem there is only one anchor spot left, my Mother’s home. We spoke yesterday and she is preparing to leave her home of 20+ years.
Am I nostalgic, yes of course I am. It is my hope this rambling musing inspires you to share appreciation with your home space. Touch the walls and let it know how you feel. Smudge your home. Place a shrine or altar within it, for it. Have regular clearing ceremonies and share with this space how much you care. Laugh at those wonderful times you have shared within it and offer Gratitude and Thanks for when it provided a safe harbour for you. Your home is the one place in the world where you can step inside, close the door and leave outside, outside. It is the one place where you can relax within. Listen to it, hear it saying, “You are safe, I have you.”
These places we live in are vibrant and have energy. Please free yourself from taking them for granted. If you have any doubts about this, try moving as much as I do, you will soon see they are friends that help you celebrate life. When you do, your life will be richer for knowing this.