Snowfall has its silent beauty, but as March days breath deeper, the first rains of spring patter and tap the poetry of awakening. The rhythmic rattle on the cellar bulkhead hypnotized me into a sleepy haze last night, and I dreamt of eddys and gushes and gurgles and whirlpools, but when I woke this morning at my sister’s house, the romance of thaw and melt drowned like the Wicked Witch of the West. Streams cut gorges down the driveway, carrying away gravel and gutting a narrow bend down to axle-width. Dirt roads are gullied, riverbanks ragged and schools shuttered. In the basement, a laundry basket and litter box bob next to flower pots, scrap lumber and that last bottle of Chardonnay we were saving. Worst of all, the furnace, hot water heater, washer, dryer and dehumidifier are Katrina’d under more than a foot of murky water. Lucky for us there’s cordwood and a sump pump to rent. But wouldn’t it be nice to just call the landlord?
My real estate obsession began in the mid-nineties as I fantasized about buying, renovating, and selling houses as a means to a financial end. I audited the New York State realtor’s class and skipped certification because I didn’t want to sell houses as a vocation, I just wanted to understand the process and the legalities. After years of renting, I finally bought a charming 1929 Arts & Crafts Bungalow with hand-milled kitchen cabinets, (now extinct) American Chestnut trim, and gorgeous hardwood floors on a corner lot. What a feeling to own a little piece of the world! It was all mine. No downstairs neighbors, no sharing the driveway, no cheap remodels.
But you know the story…
When I finally sold it, almost 10 years later, I was glad to be rid of it: shovelling the sidewalk, replacing the roof, painting the clapboard, cleaning the attic, spackling the plaster, replacing cracked windows, mowing the lawn, spring/fall cleanup, paying for insurance, fixing the plumbing…if you’ve owned property, then you know: all mine means ALL mine. Picking out Bee Balm Red to paint the library is fun, cleaning up the electrician’s mess is not.
Although a happy renter now, I can still imagine doing it again…shopping at Brimfield Antiques Market for treasures, finding just the right shade of Farrow and Ball, designing the Japanese bath I’ve always wanted. I can picture an orchard of peach, plum and crabapple trees, rows of raspberry bushes and the long table set for 12 with handmade napkins and vases of wildflowers. I see the writers and artists retreat in the renovated barn and a couple of guest cottages down a stone pathway. However, visualizing your dream home is like visualizing your soulmate – we don’t conjure the hiccups and crashes, just the bear-skin rug in front of a wood-burning fireplace.
So I wonder…is it worth it?
As the coda of my hibernation approaches, I think of how I want to spend my money and my time. Spring signals a new cycle, and I contemplate the lightness of living simply versus the responsibility of stewardship and maintenance. Both have their merits and drawbacks.
Given your druthers, which would you prefer? To be or not to be – Lord of the Manor?