When we bought a house, I was excited to start a garden and a permanent studio. Those were my main issues: vegetable maintenance and where to paint. I was ready to live out life on my quarter acre of land. Quietly. Keeping to my own business. I didn’t even leave the house much that winter.
Except every time I looked beyond the borders of my quarter acre I saw things I wanted to change. It started small. I wanted to reach out to my neighbors and get them to take action about the unchecked traffic on our road. I wanted to reach out to the kids walking by each day and…I don’t know. Be the weird-but-cool neighbor who treats them like adults and talks to them about real world issues in a way that changes their lives so they can go on to achieve self actualization and write life-affirming best sellers. Before I knew it, I found myself emailing my city councilman, learning about our neighborhood association meetings, and engaging in spirited debates about how Monsanto shouldn’t be able to prosecute seed saving. From there it was just a short skip over to participating in rallies and boning up on Thoreau.
Our plan to stay in this house for a while makes me much more appreciative of the fact that we’ll be living in this world for a while, too — and I have a responsibility to do my part to keep this hill on the plains habitable.
Buying a home is part of the process of settling down. It’s often treated as a sign we’ve matured and are ready to handle adult things. Unfortunately, I think my home purchase broke me. It turns out owning a home is a trigger to past activist tendencies. I’m no closer to learning to bake the perfect batch of cookies or birth a brood of offbeatlings, but I am trying to think more like a citizen of the world.
It’s like we signed a letter of commitment — not just to this neighborhood, but to the city, to the state, and even to the country. We took on a new tax and we staked a very public claim that we believe this corner, on a hill, on the plains, will be worth living on for a while. Our plan to stay in this house for a while makes me much more appreciative of the fact that we’ll be living in this world for a while, too, and I have a responsibility to do my part to keep this hill on the plains habitable.
After I signed those mortgage papers, after I entered the social contract which says this bit of land is mine, come feast or famine, I felt attached to the rest of the world by a very real tether. It’s one thing to know, cognitively, each action has a real consequence; it was a new experience to feel that knowledge gutterally. It added weight to every choice I made.
So I bought a house, but I haven’t settled down.