published Sunday, April 15th, 2012

Shavin: House shopping is a never-ending fantasy

Dana Shavin

It’s that time of year again, when a young man’s attention turns to girls — and a middle-aged couple’s attention turns to houses.

I’m talking of course about my husband and me and the kind of pining we do for a new address. It’s not a constant pining by any means. There are long spans of time when we are perfectly happy where we are, curled in front of the gas fireplace, lost in our Kindles, reading and eating soup for what feels like decades.

Then suddenly, without warning, some sort of invisible bough breaks, and we find ourselves desperate for everything we perceive we’re missing out on. In a flash we are in the car, driving neighborhood after neighborhood in search of some fantasy life we have decided is available only to those whose dwellings bask in full sun, are in walking distance to restaurants with wine by the glass and in proximity to every yoga class, organic grocery store and pop-up porch supper as can be visited in a week.

The thing is, we love our current, if somewhat isolated, house. Not just “love,” but (in the words of Woody Allen), “louerve.”

Our house was a tiny box we overlaid with a mid-size farmhouse exterior that sits on 10 pastoral acres. We have eight raised garden beds and an additional 200-square-foot plowed area on which we raise enough tomatoes, basil, greens, peppers and squash to make “vegetables” a dirty word by the end of canning season. We have horses beside us that have figured into my essays and horses behind us that figure into my artwork. We have a barn. We have neighbors we love, peach trees that drop fruit by the bucketful, a view of mountains on three sides and a fenced backyard that, over the past 20 years, has kept six dogs of all sizes contained and happy.

Because we love our house, we talk off and on about building art studios on the property.

“Just imagine,” we croon to each other, dreamy-eyed as adolescents. “We’d have storage space for our show tents and artwork when we’re not on the road! A covered garage for the van! We could leave our house at 9 in the morning and be at work by 9:01!”

The fantasy goes on and on. This life-changing studio would have a loft area for overnight guests; plenty of space and privacy for me to paint, write and do my life coaching; and the same for my husband to work on photographs, listen to podcasts and sing along with Kings of Leon.

In my favorite part of the fantasy, I am putting the finishing touches on a book of incredible import, six well-fed goats are skipping happily around the pasture and all three dogs are asleep on the studio’s cozy, wraparound porch. The pop-up dinner parties and the yoga classes and the wine-by-the-glass restaurant are irrelevant, because here, 20 miles and an emotional ocean away from everything social and entertaining that supposedly matters, we are profoundly fulfilled.

If fulfillment were as easy as fantasy, we’d just dream on. We’d never be awakened from our deep, Kindle/soup sleep by the allure of a world beyond our farmstead, never be romanced by the promise of activities more gratifying than pursuing creative oblivion at home while watching happy goats romp and sleeping dogs twitch.

As it is, however, there is a question mark in our heads that follows a sentence about our relative flexibility — whether we can stay where we are and love what we have and don’t have and also love whatever awaits us.

In the meantime, we drive and look. We walk around our pasture and point. Somewhere, either on the road we know or one we’ve yet to see, we will find our answer. And it will be, of course, where it’s always been: tucked away in the bedroom of our hearts.

Email Dana Shavin at Danalise@juno.com.

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