I just finished Julia Child’s My Life in France. While much of the book is about cooking so much of it is also about friendship. Near the end of the book, Julia makes the decision to finally give back her countryside house “La Pitchoune” in Provence. The home was built on her friend’s land with the promise of giving it back—no strings attached—at some point in the future. Julia realized that the house was no longer hers and was filled more with memories of people that had passed away than with her present life and dreams of the future.
How contrary to our modern ethic with real estate! More is better and maybe forever, unless of course something better comes along and there’s a cashout. How illustrative of our modern times that you can rent Julia’s “La Pitchoune” house on AirBnB. Perhaps it’s better that the kitchen can be used than turned into a museum, but at $678/night, it would certainly be more affordable to rent the kitchen by the hour.
One of my favorite wry authors, Sandra Tsing Loh, self-coined the phrase hauslust over 10 years ago in her article Our Houses, Ourselves. It included a review of Megan Daum’s Life Would Be Perfect if I Lived in That House:
In Daum’s life, one of continual and energetic cross-country moving, the search for the perfect domicile is less practical than wildly emotional—so emotional that at times she has literally no room for any other relationships.
More recently in The Atlantic, author Honor Jones lists in How I Demolished My Life all that she wanted.. a farmhouse sink, the best kitchen cabinets, a perfectly clean house, and realized that her troubles were deeper than Honey Nut Cheerio dust. She wanted a divorce.
What is it with divorced women and real estate? After the terrible conversation when I told my husband how I felt, and that I didn’t think I could change how I felt, I read Dana Spiotta’s new book, Wayward, about a woman who realizes she wants to leave her marriage only after she impulsively buys a fixer-upper. I read Deborah Levy’s Real Estate, about imagining into existence a home of her own after her children are grown and gone.
I recently re-read the short story "How Much Land Does a Man Need?” by Leo Tolstoy. The only time Pahóm was blissfully happy was when he first worked his own plot of farmland; “when he went out to plough his fields, or to look at his growing corn, or at his grass-meadows, his heart would fill with joy”. Shortly afterward, he reprimanded anyone trespassing on his land to pass through or perhaps have a cow graze on grass. Eventually his lust for acquiring more and more land was the only thing that would satisfy him and ultimately led to a pointless effort to get even more land.
Conversely, I worked for a short time at a environmentally-minded architecture and landscape architecture firm, and the principal of the firm once addressed a small gathering of people. “Buy land, if you care what happens to it.” He was an advocate of networks of local landowners stewarding their own land and not leaving it up to governmental agencies to decide the fate of the trees, water and earth. Perhaps the lesson here is buy as much land as you can manage, and take good care of it without getting greedy. Think of future generations.
This past New Year’s Day I found a trail via Google Maps this past New Year’s Day for a family hike. It was on a hill along the ocean in La Jolla, and each joyful pocket along the trail had a bench and lush plants. I saw this along the trail.
How beautiful and humbling to think of the La Jollan Indians gazing out at the sun and ocean, high up on the bluff. It’s nearly impossible to get oceanview property to call your own in Southern California without big bucks or inherited land, but at least there are public parks and beaches open for all to enjoy.