The House of Dreams

Finding a nest of your choice is no mean task in the Bay Area, but we managed it thanks to patience and resourcefulness on the part of the husband.

We moved in to our new nest this year, so it seems only fitting that I read Anne’s House of Dreams by Lucy Maud Montgomery twice in 2021. Once, as soon as we moved in earlier in the year, and again, when I have been flitting to Prince Edward Island in Canada later in the year.

It seemed too much to ask for all the things dear to one in a home, and so we kept on looking for years on and off. The new nest, may have some things that realtors, buyers, and property assessors don’t seem to take into account, but these things played a big role in my mind. Our realtor stoically bore with refusals of homes based on reasons that drive statisticians up the wall.

‘But’, they say, ‘proximity to freeways matters more than proximity to a stream.’. I see them exchanging looks that suggest worry on my behalf. 

‘Trees? You can plant as many of them as you’d like – why would you look for trees near your home? I mean. Just trees. ‘ I disagreed. I loved the sycamores, fruit trees, and the cypress trees in our small strip of land in our previous home, and insisted on having many trees nearby.

Walking paths for elderly people? One person asked me why I did not consider putting elderly visitors up in a hotel when they visit and buy that mountaintop house anyway. I gasped. No – a flat, safe area would be required for the visiting grandparents to take their walks in.  

So it went. 

One was rambling, one was tumbling. 

One had a nice backyard, but one did not live in the backyard. 

One had a swimming pool, but no trees. 

Really, it is curious to see how houses have developed over the years. 

Our new nest is far from perfect – the kitchen has a wine cooler in prime real estate territory (for teetotalers most of the time, this feature is being used to store yogurts and juice boxes for the children). I need a stepping stool to get at the closets with spices. 

But there are things past closets and wine coolers. Trees, for instance, or a home library and a ledge with a window looking into a marvelous tree for another, and, the best gift of all – a walking trail by a river nearby. Reminds me of the passage in which Gilbert Blythe tells Anne of Green Gables before their wedding about a little house he found for them at Four Winds Point. That is how I felt. There was no other way to feel. 

“So far, good,” said Anne, nodding cautious approval. “But, Gilbert, people cannot live by furniture alone. You haven’t yet mentioned one very important thing. Are there trees about this house?”

“Heaps of them, oh, dryad! There is a big grove of fir trees behind it, two rows of Lombardy poplars down the lane, and a ring of white birches around a very delightful garden. Our front door opens right into the garden, but there is another entrance–a little gate hung between two firs. The hinges are on one trunk and the catch on the other. Their boughs form an arch overhead.”

“Oh, I’m so glad! I couldn’t live where there were no trees– something vital in me would starve. Well, after that, there’s no use asking you if there’s a brook anywhere near. That would be expecting too much.”

“But there is a brook–and it actually cuts across one corner of the garden.”

“Then,” said Anne, with a long sigh of supreme satisfaction, “this house you have found is my house of dreams and none other.”

Anne’s House of Dreams – By L M Montgomery

The river near the home has nourished us in several ways. It is very like the stream in the passage above, although it isn’t exactly in our backyard. We live in a suburban area built up by such factors as Strong Economic Growth, Silicon Valley culture and all the rest of it. The river is a few blocks away, but it is there. Just flowing, and relaxing us whenever we can get away from it all to take a peek.

The trees don’t form a bough, but they rustle and tousle with the winds. And the chirping of the birds is quite enough to charm one.

Slowly, but steadily, the laughter, companionship of friends, and love is transforming the house into a home. To that, I am grateful.

A Dip into another Dimension

The July 4th long week-end is always a special one. It comes panting along after the first half of the year has whizzed past in a blur of life. The northern hemisphere goes on as it always has with winter transforming into glorious spring that gradually melts into summer haze.

School finishes with a flurry for the children and their long, luxurious summer holidays are there to stay, while those of who belong to the sterner corporate world have no such long, idle, ideal, vacations to look forward to. But the infectious joy of doing nothing is catching, and by the time this long week-end rolls around in the summer, there is an itch for the magical that is too strong to ignore.

So, we gave in. Going in to the long week-end, I took a long resolute sigh to not work over the weekend, and what was more, I kept my word. I only worried about the deadlines, and the nagging problems  a few times. For instance, I firmly pushed away worries about work when I was trying to be an otter, when I was gazing marvelously at the anchovies swimming beautifully in the forests of kelp, and while taking a long deep sigh at the deer grazing by a pod of pelicans in a lake nearby. 

We started the week-end to a marvelous romp to the library in which I picked out books like a hungry child at the candy store. I sat that evening looking contented and happy after a long-ish bath and read one children’s book after another. I admired Maya Lin’s Vietnam War Memorial, I sat up and had a couple of mind-blowing life’s lessons from Seussisms by Dr Seuss, while admiring the grit and tenacity of Helen Keller and her marvelous life with her teacher, Anne Sullivan. 

Helen Keller’s writings about absorbing the life around her was truly fascinating.

The next day, we set off to peek into another dimension altogether. It has been almost 2 years since we visited the Monterey Bay Aquarium thanks to the pandemic. But this week-end, in our resolve to make it magical, we went over there. You do have to get an appointment slot now, but once inside, all of the old magic stirs in your heart, and you feel lost without fins and scales.

I remember harking back to the book, Flatland by Edwin Abbott. Technically, watching the sea creatures in an aquarium setting does not constitute traveling to another dimension, but it feels like it. Every time. The tentacles of the octopus, the slow mesmerizing motion of the jellyfish, the all-encompassing tales of the ocean whisper and roar with every peek.

One instant, I remember looking at the manta-rays and the hammer-head sharks scattering the schools of fish as they lazed around their huge tank, and wondering where the turtles were, when a large one swept past me. Turtles aren’t particularly fast, but the wonder and excitement of seeing one swimming that close is enough to get your adventurous heart all a-swishing. 

Reading the assorted jumble of books this week-end, combined with the therapeutic effect of a peek into oceanic life, constitutes a dip into another dimension in my book, and I wish it with all my heart for all of you.

For as Helen Keller says:

The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart.

Helen Keller


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