Thursday, March 10, 2011


Homestead Near Keld, U.K., Taken During My Coast to Coast Walk Last June

Where thou art—that—is Home.

Emily Dickinson

With the exception of a few sporadic comments here and there, I have been largely absent from the blogging community for about a month.  This all began rather innocently as my wife and I embarked upon a house search, thinking that we would like to relocate from Maryland to South Carolina later this year.  In a matter of days, however, I fell into a rabbit hole and descended into the chaos and confusion of today's real estate world.  

After considerable hand-wringing, debate, and prolonged negotiations with the owners of a particular house, we signed a contract to purchase the property, subject to several contingencies.  As soon as the ink was dry, however, we were visited by a plague of problems, some of which were legal in nature (e.g., perceived violations of setback requirements) and some of which were structural in nature (e.g., a malfunctioning septic system).  While we attempted to work toward the resolution of these issues, the sellers eventually decided that they preferred to have the contract cancelled, rather than provide the additional time necessary to address these matters.  In the end, it was much ado about nothing, except, of course, the wear and tear on the soul, which is what I want to talk about in this posting.

Lest there be any doubt, my purpose here is not to whine about losing this particular house.  Indeed, I am somewhat relieved that this affair has finally come to an end. What I do regret, however, is the loss of the time and energy wasted on, of all things, a material possession!  It wasn't just the money spent on experts, surveys, and inspections; it was the forfeited time that would have otherwise been spent in solitude and gratitude, time for listening rather than talking, time for watching herons and egrets meditate upon the edges of these coastal marshlands.  Take these hours from a person and you have essentially shortened a life.

One of the great ironies of modern life is that we must function in a world that is undeniably competitive, capitalistic, and ego-driven, while, simultaneously, we are called upon by virtually all spiritual wisdom to transcend that world.  It may be, as F. Scott Fitzgerald stated in The Crack-Up," that "the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function."  I, for one, however, find this extremely difficult when it comes to remaining transcendent through the day to day challenges of living in a materialistic world.  Transcendence works best for me when I am immersed in art, nature, solitude, or some form of meditation.  Place me in the center of commercial negotiations, however, and I become a hopeless recidivist, trying to nail down my security in an insecure world and attaching myself to desirable outcomes.  It is only later — after diagnosing my dis-ease — that I return to the centering wisdom of my teachers, those who have repeatedly warned me that control of one's fate is an illusion and that attachment to desirable outcomes is a set-up for suffering.

Almost two thousand years ago, Pliny the Elder cautioned us that "home is where the heart is."  If that is true — and I believe it is — my home is in a place that has no measurable metes and bounds.  It is a place where art and creativity flourish, where ideas are more valuable than money or property, where kindred spirits become fellow pilgrims in the quest for better selves and a better world.  It is, among other things, here in this blogging community where I have returned to find inspiring poetry, spiritual insights, and heartfelt commentary on matters of ultimate importance.  When I see the tracks of my fellow pilgrims, I know that I am out of the rabbit hole, back to reality, and on my way home.


  1. First, what a beautiful photograph. Second, Welcome back. I have missed your illuminating and uplifting posts. I love this blogging community we have established. It enriches my life more than I can say, our sharing of ideas that we are exploring.

    Real estate can be engulfing. It's good that you stepped back and let Life move forward in another direction. Home is within us, like the kingdom of heaven.

    Onward and Upward.

  2. Welcome "home" George! The time you spent was surely not wasted. It has certainly made you wiser and more centered. I spent part of my day looking at fabulous modern furniture (which I covet) costing thousands of $$. In the end, I bought a lovely candle, brought it home, and placed it somewhere pleasing my senses. Then, I sat outside on my tiny, secluded city patio and read for awhile in utter contentment. Your house hunt is a bigger deal, of course, but it all comes down to what is meant to be. The photo of the house made me think that the owner surely has an artistic aesthetic because of the way the wash is color-coordinated on the line!

  3. PS I just got your comment when I finished writing to you - we must have been visiting each other (virtually) at the same time!

  4. To Teresa,

    Thanks for the nice comments, Teresa. It's nice to be back and I agree with you entirely; home is, indeed, within us.

  5. To Barb,

    Thanks for your lovely comments, Barb. At a deeper level, I know that no experience is ever wasted. It's processed and, hopefully, makes us wiser in the future. Glad you liked the photo of the house in Keld. It's one of my favorites.

  6. Sorry to hear about your ordeal, George. Home truly is where the heart is. Welcome back to your home in the bloggyhood. You've been missed!

  7. Nice to see you back and in good spirits (I trust), George. How thin our philosophical principles can be stretched by the worries, nuisances and petty harassments of many of the affairs we must tend to daily. It is so easy to lose our bearings, at least momentarily. Like you, I have always found that art, music, nature, solitude and some quiet time to just "sits and thinks" are the antidote. Happily, we can also find much of that in this blog community we are developing.

  8. To Tess,

    Thanks, Tess. Nice to be back in the bloggyhood!

  9. To Lorenzo,

    Thanks, my friend, for the comments. I am, indeed, in better spirits. As you recognize, it was just a temporary loss of bearings caused by too much stress. Art, music, nature, and solitude — these are the the eternal places for refuge and restoration.

  10. Ah, blessed awareness. What a comfort to know that though we may stray, we can always come back to our 'senses' (literally) and our core values. But how easy it is to be momentarily diverted - with the best of intentions. The route back to the heart is, however, like muscle memory - once acquired never truly lost.

    So good your authentic voice back in this blogosphere, George!

  11. You have been missed, but I completely understand.

    and my favourite part of the Ash Wednesday poem refers to listening to what is important no?

    peace be with you

  12. I was up near Keld not so long ago. I used to teach guitar in the school in nearby Gunnerside.

    If it's any comfort, it strikes me that if the world wasn't the way it is -and the way it was- then the wisdom and philosophy that can keep us grounded would never have come about. Centering wisdom always was about holding the conflicted, ego-driven world in check. What I'm trying to say is that if there wasn't a place to leave behind and a place to travel to, there would be no need for anyone to be a pilgrim.

    Sounds to me from what you say like things probably turned out for the best.

  13. Now there is a home to sink into ... The top photo I mean. You walked across this beautiful land. - did you post about it? I would love to read it if you did. I adore your use of dis-ease. I think I will hijack the way you used that word into my vocabulary. I hope you have a number of days left to walk the beach, watch the birds, read, and relax.

  14. It's good to have you back to posting, George. I think, with practice, it is possible to engage usefully and skillfully in ordinary realities like business negotiations—without undue attachment to the outcome. It's something to aim for.

    Your post reminds me of a bumper sticker you see around Sebastopol:

    If you lived in your heart, you'd be home now.

  15. To Bonnie,

    Thanks, my friend. Your words are soothing and I like this notion of coming back to one's "senses," literally. We do have momentary lapses on our spiritual journeys, but, hopefully, those lapses become fewer and fewer with the passage of time.

  16. To Deb,

    Thanks, Deb, for you thoughtful comments. Yes, we must listen only to what is important, but remembering what is important is sometimes the challenge.

  17. To Dominic,

    Thanks so much, Dominic! That's a brilliant insight, one that should be readily apparent but is often overlooked. You are absolutely right. It is the ego-driven, materialistic world that drives us to centering wisdom in the first instance, and, indeed, there would be no need for pilgrimage if there were no place to leave and no destination. That thought starts my day off on the right foot.

  18. HI Margaret,

    Yes, I love this house as well. When I was on my coast to coast walk and saw it for the first time, I immediately thought, "Yes! That is where I want to live, there in that rich and historic tapestry of a homestead, far away from the madding crowd."

    My entire coast to coast walk in documented in photos posted in three or four separate postings last June and July. Check out my archives and you will find them.

    Yes, the essence of "disease" is dis-ease. It's a through worth remembering the next time you get stressed out over something. And oftentimes, the cure to any disease is simply a return to ease.

  19. To Dan,

    Thanks for your lovely comments, Dan. I think you're right that, in time, we can deal with difficult worldly transactions without being attached to the outcome. I've certainly become better at it through the years. In this case, however, I think the sheer immensity of the changes involved, combined with some accumulated fatigue, simply threw me off my game. In the final analysis, however, we must always remember the old adage about chopping wood and carrying water before enlightenment and chopping wood and carrying water after enlightenment.

  20. It's wonderful to "see and hear" you again, George. Thank you for putting to words your depth and perspective. You're a gift to us all.

  21. Yes, that UK home looks serene and lovely, but we humans can stress out wherever we settle down. I think it is a state of mind more than a place. Now, that isn't to say it would be easier to be stessfree there! :) But you already know this. Have a nice weekend.

  22. “Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world.”

    John Milton
    9 December 1608 – 8 November 1674

  23. It's all been said already.

    Let me add my voice to the welcome home chorus, George. I am glad you found your way back.

    Moving house is always a nightmare, if anything can throw you off-balance, that can. Perhaps you can still make your wish come true in the future without losing yourself down the rabbit hole and without losing sight of the true essentials that make life bearable.

    I wish you well.

  24. To Margaret,

    Thanks, Margaret, and have a nice weekend yourself!

  25. To Nance Marie,

    Thanks so much for your generosity. I love the Milton quote.

  26. To Friko,

    Thanks for the support, Friko. It's good to be back. I'm sure that we will find a suitable house for our future, but I am determined to stay above the fray next time. Big, complex changes are always minefields in which the slightest thing can disturb one's sense of wellbeing.

  27. Oh so true, what you say. Buying and selling a house is usually one headache after another and can be quite emotionally charged if one still clings to the increasingly old fashioned idea that a house is also a "home." I for one think our place is very important, our homes, where we live - I think we undervalue our immediate environments at our detriment. We are a part of our surroundings and our surroundings are part of us and it is worth seeking out places that are harmonious with our inner being.

    That photo is superb. So vivid! I can just smell the green grass warming in the sun and feel the summer breeze.

  28. To Anonymous,

    Thanks for your kind and thoughtful comments. I'm delighted that you found something of value in this posting.

  29. To Fireweed,

    Thanks, Fireweed. I really like your observations here, especially about the need to live and breathe in harmonious surroundings. Perhaps that is why buying a home and moving is such an emotionally charged process.

  30. Sorry to hear about your troubles about the house. I completely agree with you with all the time wasted, but I am sure that next deal will be much easier. Good luck. Anna :)

  31. Thanks, Anna. Onward and upward, hopefully, with more wisdom.

  32. 'I think we undervalue our immediate environments to our detriment.' (Fireweed)

    This comment really struck me, George, and I think it's important.

    To be frank, moving 'home' - specially when it involves buyers/sellers/contracts etc - is usually fraught, time-consuming and stressful. We've done it ourselves many times. Now, as you know, we've eventually decided to 'stay put', and invest the time and cash into our present house and garden.

    I don't think your frustrating period was necessarily time 'wasted' (isn't all time, in a sense, time 'wasted'?) - could that not have been also a time for learning?

    Oh, God, I sound so sanctimonious. Do forgive me.

    Welcome back, George!

  33. I'm just back from a couple of days away with Inge, and you've posted! Sorry to be late reading and responding.

    This is the most memorable photo of your C2C trek, in my opinion. The stone house, fence, barn and lush hills would be gorgeous enough, but the clothes on the line, blowing in the wind, almost as if they were carefully chosen to enhance the beauty of your web page, knock my socks off. They render the scene real. Someone really lives there, does laundry even! Maybe the clothes on the line are the transient, flexible part of that scene that is so grounded and stable in its stone and earth. Part of you was blown about a bit on the wind of this experience (hung out to dry?). It pains me that you went through it. But you remained intact, indeed as solid as you ever were, and I believe that one day (even now maybe) what is added to you is and will come to be a great enhancement to your already solid character.

  34. To Robert,

    Thanks, my friend, and you never sound sanctimonious. I always treasure your comments. Yes, I hope that I have learned something from this experience, but the toll has been a little too high this time. My goal now is to return to that center point, that still point in the turning world. Thanks again. I'm glad to be back.

  35. To Ruth,

    Thanks for your kind and generous comments, my friend. I'm glad, of course, that you like the photo. I chose to show it again because, to be quite honest, this is the image that always comes to mind when I visualize where I would most like to live. That vision, however, is of a perfect world, not the one we all inhabit. For the moment, I am just glad to be back to posting. Now that I have gotten the house thing off my chest, perhaps I can move on to loftier thoughts. Have a nice weekend!

  36. Something drew me to check on Transit Notes and wouldn't you know it, here you are writing about the anguish of metes and bounds, easements, and other dry legalities. I spent yesterday afternoon in our city's planning department learning about a 20 foot easement on the front of a property we were interested in buying. Fortunately I uncovered this prior to making an offer, so the anguish should be minimal. Thank you for reminding us what is truly important in life.

    This photo is spectacular! What a great jigsaw puzzle it would make. I would find the precious pieces of laundry first and fan out from there.

    My verification word: restsy. Sounds like great advice.

  37. To Dutchbaby,

    Thanks for your comments, Dutchbaby. You are blessed, indeed, if you avoided some of the turmoil that I went through. I'm delighted that you like this photos; it's one of my favorites, too!

  38. Welcome back, George. It is a pleasure to see you again. I'm sorry you lost the house, especially after spending so much time and energy. I can only imagine the hassle, and it is heartbreaking that the deal fell through. Place shapes us, so I do understand that longing very much.

    I also understand what you say about being caught in two worlds (I love the Fizgerald quote, too). It is a tough balancing act some days, but you are well centered and know the true meaning of peace. That is a good thing. I wish you all the best in your next journey, regardless of what you decide to do. And I'm so glad you're here!

  39. To Julie,

    Thanks, Julie. Yes, we do get caught on the tightrope between alternate worlds sometimes. Hopefully, I will continue to learn from the process. The key, of course, is to avoid losing one's center, which is sometimes easier said than done.

  40. Good to catch up with you again, George. Although in many ways we may have very different lives, I feel very close to what you are saying here.
    It is so easy to be pulled down by overdoing the side of our lives "in a world that is undeniably competitive, capitalistic, and ego-driven". There are times when I have to be there, but you have reminded me of all the ways I have always tried to transcend this side of the world we live in. Time out whenever possible; trying to inject positive thoughts and smiles into everyday situations; trying to ignore egoism and jealousy, the poisonous fuels of so much of life. Oh yes, and reading and learning from a few blogs (and comments) of those also trying to do the same. It's no coincidence that I meet up with you on those other blogs as well.

  41. To Tramp,

    Great to hear from you, Tramp, and I really appreciate your thoughtful comments. I trust that you and Lady are doing well. Yes, it is extremely difficult to stay centered in this increasingly mad world that thrives more on competition than cooperation. As you say, however, we always have a choice in terms of how we respond to circumstances. As the Buddhist monk Thich Nach Hanh reminds us, we can always "choose peace."

  42. The idea of home is such a powerful motivator, George. I've lived in the same one for over thirty years. It's as if I have become root bound. The thought of leaving sends shudders up my spine, but one day I will, one day I must and hopefully before I'm too old to enjoy it. Perhaps you'll stay settled a while longer too before the next move works out.

  43. To Elizabeth,

    Thanks for your thoughtful comments, Elizabeth. You are lucky, indeed, to have lived in the same home for over thirty years. That, I'm sure, is a bond that will be difficult to break. As always, however, we must accept what comes with the unfolding of days. To leave a home that one loves, however, can shake the roots of one's foundation.