After living the question for a year, I made the decision to put my house on the market. I love this home, yard and surrounding landscape, but I need out. I had explored a number of creative income generating projects to make ends meet, none of which were enough and all of which left me with less time to write. I had to be straight with myself about where I wanted to invest my energy. All signs pointed towards selling.
Three years earlier, my ex-partner and I were wowed by the house and land. We bought it together and split up just prior to the possession date. I moved in anyway, not knowing where else to go and trusting that a home in the forest was a good place to contemplate next steps. I have lived here with housemates, run a bed and breakfast out of the studio cottage, and lived with my ex for one of the three years during a last attempt at romantic togetherness.
Our cedar bungalow is nested on one of the prettiest acres of land in the Gatineau Hills of western Quebec. On one side of the property, a creek runs year round; on the other, mature spruce and cedar trees grow. There is an inner circle of meadow, a stunning Spartan apple tree I call Inanna, a fire pit, a large garden, and an open stretch of grass which my two cats, Hazel and Lou, love to tear across at their highest speeds. Black bear, deer, foxes and dozens of varieties of birds also find habitat here, or visit along their migratory routes. The house is comprised mostly of windows, so even when indoors, the connection with nature is unbroken. Hundreds of kilometres of hiking and cross-country ski trails can be accessed by foot. Ottawa, the nation’s capital city, is only a 15-minute car ride away. There’s even a sauna in the basement.
We decided to go the for-sale-by-owner route to save money, and because the practice is well regarded in this neck of the woods. It also made sense to me to be involved in the selling process, given my connection to the house and land. I feel a responsibility to ensure that this place is in good hands. Our last house sold in a day, so I figured, how much work could it be? I expected people to be lining up to make us offers, wowed as we were, at first sight.
Instead of resenting the time the selling process took from my creative writing practice, I chose to integrate creative elements into the house preparations for each viewing. I made fresh flower bouquets from the wild flowers in the yard, re-arranged furniture and art, and greeted each guest as the potential buyer.
As I prepare for each viewing, I grow in affection for the property; but my efforts have yet to generate an offer.
I still live here part time, but I also live 15 minutes north of here, at my partner Roger’s house. I will move there someday. I am happy visiting Roger’s, but when I imagine living there, I feel suffocated by clutter. Roger has everything he needs and duplicates of most things. There are objects hanging from all of the walls and rafters, piles in every corner and upon every surface, and relative to the home where I’ve been living for three years, a lack of natural light. It’s hard to imagine a space there for Hazel, Lou, and me, and our relatively few possessions. Between the staged house that my house has become and Roger’s, I sometimes feel like I have no home.
The house has now been on the market for over six months. We’ve received many nibbles, but so far, no bites. We show the house four times a week on average. Unless there are back-to-back viewings, I spend three hours cleaning, tidying, and maintaining the yard before each visit. A month into the selling process, I was exhausted.
I decided to take a new approach. I’m a yogini. I follow the teachings of Swami Radha and my spiritual home, Yasodhara Ashram. We are a karma yoga ashram, meaning that work is our central practice. It is the spirit with which we approach our work that transforms our actions into the practice of karma yoga. Karma yoga is marked by willingness, care, consideration, and cooperation. According to the teachings, by spiritualizing our work, we can lift any task from the menial to the meaningful.
From practicing this yoga for 14 years, I know that down-to-earth spirituality isn’t all happiness and beauty and ease. It doesn’t necessarily look the way I want it to or act according to my timelines. It asks me to be open to what is, no matter how chaotic or messy or long the process.
After years of financial constraint, I’ve been looking forward to the release of dollars into my bank account that would come with a house sale. I wish to move before snowfall. I wish for buyers who love the house as I have, and who would be a good fit in our neighborhood community. My ideal would be for Roger and his kids to part with what they don’t need before I move in. But what is my life asking of me?
On a Sunday evening, we lowered our asking price. There is a slump in the market, and buyers have the upper hand. As gold, pumpkin-colored and red leaves release from the canopies and evening temperatures dip near freezing, I adjust to the possibility of spending another winter here. I begin splitting and stacking the nine cords of wood I will need to see me through, and putting the garden to bed.
My life asks me to accept what is, as it is. A new trail has just opened up that allows me to walk into the nearest village without having to travel by road. It crosses over a beautiful stretch of creek and opens to a cathedral of forest I had never encountered before. It’s a trail I’ve been wishing and advocating for since I moved here. I decide to soak it up while I can. I loosen up my relationship with the selling process, and let myself live here while I’m here. I offer to host a Thanksgiving meal, and continue to welcome others to share in the beauty of this place. I walk the yard everyday, in love. And I ask for help.
My friend Erna tells me about Saint Joseph, the patron saint of real estate matters and home sales. She says that he assists in the swift sale of homes, if I bury him upside down in my yard and speak a certain prayer. She said it worked for her. I bury the statue headfirst and pray, as instructed, and leave him there to toil on my behalf in the dark soil.
Three days later, my ex-partner calls. He offers to move back here in two months if the house hasn’t sold. He says that I’ve been managing this process and home for long enough. I’m surprised and grateful not only for the offer, but for the spirit of generosity behind it. While this won’t release my money, it will give me more financial ease, time to write, and the ability to move on in other ways. It’s enough.