People sometimes ask why I believe we live in the very best house in the whole DC area for our purposes, and would not want to move. This picture is one small part of why.
On the back of our house, we have two patios and one balcony/deck which extends only two meters past the sliding glass doors which open up to it. The balcony/deck does connect to a patio by stairs, but it still is much higher than the others. It has a panoramic view. It is a great place to sit and read. In all directions – 180 degrees – we see nothing but forest. This picture was taken from the balcony, in the most urbanized direction of all the directions we can see from the balcony/deck. (It is a little urbanized, because one can sometimes see a few cars in this direction, through the trees, on the road which leads to our cul-de-sac.) Looking straight back from the house, there is usually a wall of trees, but in winter one can see al the way down to Four Mile Run, the creek along which George Washington would transport trees he cut from his land in this area down to Alexandria to transport further. He frequently came to our neighbor’s house (the house two doors down, still as it was) to buy clothes, from a tailor of the Carlin family, which my mother says are cousins.
In this picture you see what I think of as our “nature made totem pole.” I was somewhat stunned a few years ago when I first saw this tree. On the lower side... the human face about 40% of the way up... was a lot stronger than it is now. (The ears seem to have eroded a bit through the years). But the very top looked less like the face of a deer than it does now. That is a fitting image, since we humans in the house and the deer which live in the back yard are the two main mammals here now – now that the coyote has died (probably in an all-out fight with our old cat, a fight which killed them both) and the raccoons are no longer living in the mouth of the human face. (Maybe someday we will post that older picture.) I suppose that the famous totem poles of the tribes of the Pacific Northwest were initially inspired when trees like this appeared at times in their places.
(A few years ago, we took a cruise to Alaska – the most expensive trip we ever took – where we found a real authentic shaman to discuss this with, as we explored on our own at one of the ports. I still remember him saying: “No, you are not an eagle, as our people see eagles; you are an octopus. Here is YOUR totem.” And on the balcony of that cruise ship, I read a book entitled Shamanism which was inspiring enough.)
We bought this house from Sohini Patel, who inherited the aryuveda practice which served the Ghandi family. We only had a few real human meetings with her, as we were buying the house and soon after, but I will remember things she said forever. I also remember meeting in the late evening, over herb tea... and as she talked about how “everything is energy,” how we could actually see crackling energy in the twilight around us. I asked where in the house she practiced meditation, and she smilled “in every room, of course. Different meditations in different room, but every room has its energy now.” She gave us a very good deal on the house (not outrageous, but really quite good), and explained that she had been waiting until a proper new family should come. In fact, that time was one of the two or three times in my life when I had really severe economic fears and problems, and this opportunity was a life-saver for me. (Luda and Chris actually found the house, as we were taking long walks in the area.) She showed me the “fu” she had placed, and explained how the feng shue also meets the highest standards. It is truly a “house between the worlds” in more ways than one; though it is all deep historic forest on the back, it also is one mile walk from “government funding alley” (where DARPA, NSF and ONR are al located for now) and the Ballston Metro station, and a ten minute drive from Congress or the White House at times of average traffic. It only has 2100 square feet (not counting basement or attic), but four bedrooms really is more than enough for a family of three people; more would be a burden.
I remember a time when we subscribed to the Financial Times for several years. It came at first to our driveway, for free, not even ordered, we are not sure how. A year or two later, we subscribed for half price, because it was extremely informative for what our friend Yeshua calls “the watch.” But as we read some sections... it was hard not to notice people with incomes much, much higher than ours. It was hard to avoid a little bit of controlled, quit envy of their wealth – even though we remembered firmly that we still agree with the value choice which led me here, and not to a possible future I once had wide open as a wealthy banker with a wife who was a wonderful good sweet person – but not my highest karma. But one day, I read the section of the Financial Times describing what those wealthy people had to choose from as places to live – for a price ten times the original cost of my house, either a big place far away from where they work (so many hours in soul-grinding commuting reducing family communication) or a town house far away from nature and light and real fresh air... suddenly my gratitude for being better off became much stronger.
I have always given a high recommendation to the book by George Valliant of the Harvard Psychology Department, reporting on who is successful and who is not, of Harvard graduates... touching on the question of what success and happiness really mean.
So I have only bought two houses in my life. The other was a relatively solid detached brick house in College Park, Maryland, back when I was an assistant professor with a salary of only $15,000 per year. That too was a bit of an adventure. I bought it from Dr, Perl, author of The Four-Front War, the true story of how he saved thousands of lives of Jewish people esacpaing from the Nazis. Dr. Perl was then head of the Jewish Defense League (JDL), a practicing psychiatrist (specializing in disturbed youth) and a VERY serious cabbalist. He showed us a very special antique writing desk he had in the dining room, with lots and lots of secret compartments which he still found useful. He showed us the room upstairs (which later became the bedroom of my daughters – one at a time), which was then a cabbala meditation room, complete with two long shelves of ancient cabbalas in many languages At that time, I was an active member of the Rosicrucian Order (AMORC) and also an initiate of the Order of Pythagoras (yes, it still exists), and we had some serious discussion of our various approaches, including issues of energy and healing, as with Sohini. He discussed how important Carl Jung was in his practice of psychiatry. (I also treasure some discussion with therapist mystics in the local Quaker Meeting – which is not so sectarian, and more elevated in my view.)
It was a bit amusing to read in the Washington Post a few weeks later that the FBI had indicted Perl on charges of encouraging someone to shoot out windows in the Russian embassy or such, and that they had delayed the indictment a few weeks to allow him to complete closing on the sale of his house. I guess we owe one to the FBI – or at least to the old FBI, before the last chapter depicted in the book A G-Man’s Journal. (After that last chapter came Cheney, beyond the scope of this blog post.) It was also amusing when he called a few weeks later to ask about a telegram form a guy named Meier (sp?), which he asked us to open and describe immediately. We were also very grateful when Dr. Perl invited us later to a magnificent dinner in his new house in Beltsville (with no stairs to climb, a growing problem for him as he aged), but... now it is my turn to bump into the annoyances of aging... at least not stairs. (Like many I know, I had terrifying problems with knees a few years ago, trying to walk down a mountain after my knees gave out... but a tight coupling of exercise and glucosamine+ seems to have solved most of that, at least for now.)
Perhaps someday I will even post our picture of a serious hawk (or eagle?) perched on our balcony/deck, only a foot from our sliding glass door. And little birds constantly try to make their nest just inside of that door, in the beautiful sun room which is only very rarely used as a dining room... but they understand when we explain the difficulties of that to them. (Chipmunks have at times walked in the lower sliding glass doors from the stone patio, but have also been good sports about not moving in.)
All for now.