Thursday, March 1, 2007

Temporary Sky

They are back. For a short while it seemed as though I had imagined them all coming over the threshold, creeping around the house, dreaming by the kitchen window, looking out at the apple tree or lingering in the room at the top where you can look at treetops and sky, asking me questions about the chimneys and who my neighbours are. The Invasion of the House-Viewers. They come, they are charmed, then they go away and think about dimensions, stairs and the fact that you would need to go to Japan to find a smaller bathroom.

When they come, the house smells of sandalwood, geranium and lavender with a subtle background of coffee and there are poetry books on the tables and shelves. This is not a ruse. I like burning good-smelling oils, I always have fresh coffee in the morning and I read a fair bit of poetry, what with workshops and such. So it’s authentic – the house, with its original fireplaces, one wooden beam in the kitchen (never actually worked out why it’s there), its mouldings around the mantelpieces and original sash windows; and me, the real article with my books, my beads and my nag champa incense sticks. One woman came yesterday on behalf of her friend – casing the joint, as it were.
“Oh, I can picture her here,” she said. “She is artistic, are you artistic? It feels as though you are.” Well that’s me, lady, Spasticus Artisticus, only I don’t mention the illness and how it’s getting harder to crawl up and down the stairs. But she wasn’t looking at the books or the rose quartz so exquisitely placed in relation to the amethyst with its purple teeth glinting in the afternoon sun. No, she was looking at the hand-thrown pottery vase and the pictures on the wall, mostly bestowed on us by my late mother-in-law who was, god bless her, very artistic and made beautiful pottery artefacts as well as buying nice pictures for her walls. They lend me a quality that may or may not belong to me. It doesn’t matter. It’s lifestyle, supposed or actual, that people want to sense. Hence the notion of coffee and freshly-baked bread, flowers on the table. It’s all crap, you could say. Illusion.

But – everyone knows, or most people do, that you go into houses and can sense atmosphere, even when the people that live there are not present. Some have a smile you can feel in your body as you walk around the place and some make you feel as though you’d just walked onto the set of The Shining. This house smiled at me. I tried to shrug it off because of the dimensions, the stairs and etc. but it called me back to have another look. The woman who lived here before was an organic gardener. She showed my children where the blackberries were. The house was quite bare, hardly a picture, but the few things that were around – a piece of tree trunk she used as a stool and the wooden kitchen table (both of which she left us) were good and we felt the life in the house was good. She took it with her, the life she made, but left some essence of it behind too.

So I am glad people are charmed by the house. When we finally sell it we will leave something of our substance behind, but we’ll also be taking it with us. “Under purgatory’s temporary sky,” says Osip Mandelstam, “we often forget/that the happy repository of heaven/is a lifelong house that you can carry everywhere.”


nmj said...

hey signs, ever since you first mentioned your house, i have wanted to live are right, houses have their own vibe, whether the owners are present or not, people leave something of themselves that we can still sense when they are gone...i just hope a lovely artist/writer/musician buys your place, someone who will nurture it, am sure there are many who will look on a bathroom with Japanese dimensions as quirky and indeed essential and must-have!

Reading the Signs said...

nmj, the problem is that a large part of me still wants to live here too (as you must have guessed). I sort of think that when I really let go, the house will sell. Which is daft. But it gets you like that. The vibe thing, though - yes, it's real.

Liezl said...

I'm glad they're back. I was wondering what happened to them. Keep the crystals in the right place and don't forget what I said about burying a statue of Mary upside down in the front garden--except I can't remember if she's supposed to be facing the house or away from it? I think that makes a big difference so do some research before you start digging.

Reading the Signs said...

Yes, yes, I've been told to wash them under running water and leave them outside overnight at full moon. A bit of chanting too, perhaps, but might be a bit much to inflict on the neighbours.

But Liezl, for goodness sake, what can you be thinking with the statue thing? No, I've got a stone owl on the lawn, facing away from the house mostly, though sometimes flat on its face. It has done well by me all these years. Oh, the front garden? I don't have one, just a space for the bin and the bike shed.

nmj said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
nmj said...

I am confused, is the upside down buried Mary supposed to have powers that encourage viewers or scare them away? The stone owl flat on its face is hilarious by the way.

Reading the Signs said...

I am as baffled as you, nmj. Sounds like very dodgy feng shui if you ask me. The owl,well I like to think of him as my "familiar" - hence the inability to remain upright.

Anna MR said...

Strange coincidence you quoting Mandelstam - I'm just reading Nadezhda's book. Haven't visited your site before. Do you always quote people I am reading (about)?

Reading the Signs said...

It is possible that I do, anna, and have never realised. I will have to visit your site to find out.

I have read "Hope against Hope" by Nadezhda - also the one following, but I can't remember the title. I think she was as fine a writer, in her way, as her poet husband was in his. In fact you have reminded me to look at her book again.

Liezl said...

All I know about the upside down Mary is this: three different people (all of them Irish though not all living in Ireland) told me that priests recommend burying a statue of Mary in this fashion (have also heard other saints buried similarly help with various other things) and your house will sell immediately. Just can't remember if she has to be facing in towards house or away from house, but I know that's the key. Two of these sources tried this and sold the house within two or three days of Mary being there, head downwards in the front garden. Who knows!? But I do know that other advice re: Mary from Irish friends (such as the parking spell, I can't reveal this on line) works every time.

Now, having spent some time looking into this to advise dear Signs, I found that some people bury a statue of St Joseph. There was only so much information about this I could find as I'm at work and 'Non-traditional religion' sites are banned on our PCs. (that's a whole diff story). But here are some excerpts from the faithful:

"When it comes time to sell a house, some homeowners rely on St. Joseph, carpenter, earthly father of Jesus and, well, earthly real estate agent. A centuries-old tradition claims that burying a statue of St. Joseph in the yard helps homes sell faster.

Stephen J. Binz believes it works. The author of "St. Joseph, My Real Estate Agent," he became a believer when his own house had been on the market for seven long months. Upon the advice of his Presbyterian real estate agent, Binz buried a St. Joseph statue in his yard.

"I thought it was a rather ridiculous superstition," says Binz, a practicing Catholic. But a week later, he had an offer and sold the house."

**Please note--this quote is from a real estate company in the States that actually sell 'kits' containing a statue, prayer book, instruction manual etc...'


"Just as vague is how and where the statue should be buried. Some say the statue should be placed in a hole in the backyard upside down, with his feet toward heaven, facing the home. Others say he should face the new home, be in a corner or in the front yard. Most condo owners simply stick him in a flowerpot.

But one thing is certain: When the house is sold and the deal is done, St. Joseph should be dug up and placed in a spot of honor in the new home."

Reading the Signs said...

This is all fascinating and I thank you for the research undertaken on my behalf. I may need to consider drastic measures at some point - two more viewers this morning clearly put off by the stairs and Japanese bathroom. It's the business of putting the statues upside down that bothers me. You sure St. Joseph is ok with this?

Chiara said...

There is of course always the option of burying the house viewers upside down in the yard or garden. Then you wouldn't have to show them around more than once, you wouldn't have to worry about them making an offer or not, and you certainly wouldn't have to concern yourself with wondering where your next home should be. Her Majesty would look after you indefinitely.

L said...

I can't see why it would bother him really. Just a different perspective. Let me know if you need a kit. maybe I should try and go into business selling religious icons of all kinds for practical purposes. will consider this.

Reading the Signs said...

chiara - at the rate things are going I will be the one who is pushing up daisies, not the unfortunate house viewers. I quite like the idea of Her Majesty looking after me though.

l, yes a kit would be good. I like kits. Whatever.