“Maybe we’re here only to say: house, bridge, well, gate, jug, olive tree, window—at most, pillar, tower … but to say them, remember, oh, to say them in a way that they things themselves never dreamed of existing so intensely. When this silent earth urges lovers on, isn’t it her secret reason to make everything shudder with ecstasy in them?”—Rilke
A temple to creativity; a sanctuary for my soul. The setting for my story and the stage upon which I play—my house is much more than a home.
Buffalo, New York boasts no shortage of nicknames—City of Good Neighbors, City of Trees, Queen City—it lives up to all of them. Stately architecture on tree-lined streets connected by radial parkways; front porches that invite conversation; a community of gardeners; a regal past. The houses here were dreamed into being during a period of tremendous affluence and achievement, and their dignity endures. Though this city has weathered long winters and tough times, its pride of provenance declares itself in the distinguishing details of each home’s careful craftsmanship and emphasis on personality. Sacred geometry, stained glass, turrets, griffins and gargoyles, even back streets yield a wealth of attractions.
The first summer I arrived, awed by the beauty and potential, I explored every corner of the city’s central corridor, walking with Artichoke, searching for a place to call home. Being myself dubbed the queen of serendipity, my accommodations that summer were only a block away from my future address, and this street was my favorite to stroll. I imagined, correctly, that houses on this block rarely turn over and when they do, they sell quickly and quietly.
Probability, even possibility, play no part in magic and I like to believe my home chose me. It took time for me to transition fully to Buffalo, and although I looked at a few houses to satisfy my curiosity, I didn’t look in earnest—until the day I did. Intuition buzzed its bell in my brain one afternoon and I googled this street just to see. An address came up on Zillow with a “Make Me Move” listing but no photos. Without hesitating, I hopped in my car, found the house and knocked on the door. When no one answered, I left my phone number and a note that read: “I’d like to buy your home.”
Before driving away, I decided to walk Artichoke and we began up the block. On the other side of the street a woman pushed a stroller. Although I had no reason to, intuition buzzed again and following instinct, I crossed the street and struck up a conversation.
After a brief exchange about nothing in particular, we went our separate ways, but when I returned to my car, I noticed the woman’s stroller on the porch of “my house” and I knocked again.
My House of Fulfillment
I bought my home in a private sale. The week before I moved in, my sister gave me a stack of design magazines, and dreaming about my new home, I compiled a short list of ideas and needs. On the list: a cast iron dutch oven and two matching plain wood tables I could use to extend my dining room table for entertaining large groups. I wanted a porch swing and debated the pros and cons of a push mower versus electric. All of these items I found waiting for me when I arrived: left behind by the previous owners; gifts of fulfillment.
In Basque mythology the house is a sacred place where the living and the dead meet on equal terms. My home has taught me that I am its custodian, the continuation in a long line of occupants, both past and future. I experience my home as a relationship and the things I immediately thought to change, I’ve come to view in a different light—to recognize gifts of history; to listen to what my house wants.
Like every relationship, ours—my house and me—demands a sense of humor and patience; it’s taught me to trust. I continue to discover new secrets; to find hidden clues in the occasional dross that surfaces from some previously undisturbed crevice. I feel welcomed when I walk in the front door; appreciated when I clean and paint; loved in the quiet, still of night. Like a lock and key, my home needs me and I need it—each of us amplifying the other’s magic.