As we pulled up gingerly in front, reading off the numbers and checking with google maps, the strong high walls that surrounded it and its raised garden, higher than all those properties nearby seemed more fortress like than welcoming. The driveway up the center was completely overgrown with bamboo, which shot up in strong demonstration to the tarmac covering. There, through a jungle of trees, grass and bamboo, stood an old but majestic beauty.
I was already two months in to a long and detailed search that had taken me to about 20 houses or so, and the real estate agent, frustrated that he was unable to pinpoint just exactly what I was looking for, pointed me to a large stack of properties tucked into a shelf. Two volumes, and I had to leaf through each page one at a time.
Al that I saw as I leafed through did not satisfy my criteria: next to a forest, old, large, in need of work but with potential, reasonable rent, on the outskirts of the city. Everything was bound with concrete- roads, suburbs, gardens an abstract thought rather than a concrete connection to the earth, which was what I was searching for.
I wanted a place that was large enough for guests, with the feeling that they were escaping the city and entering old, traditional japan; a refuge of sorts and a place where, if necessary, Buddhist teachings and other such contemplative arts and discipline seminars could occur.
An hour or so later, I turned the page to this beautiful white building, two stories with well groomed trees, white and clean. rent was $500 too expensive for my budget, but somehow the house on this page kept talking to me. 1600 square feet, four big rooms downstairs and a big loft, space for renting out a room if needs be…. I was intrigued and kept turning back to the page. The real estate agent called the company taking care of it, to see if it was still available.
Feeling something, I went over there that very day and had a look ( first paragraph above). As I walked up the fairly steep driveway, I realized that the picture I had seen must have been taken many years ago, for what was before me was a house about to be reclaimed by the woods. The garden was completely overgrown; bamboo was everywhere, spider webs lurked at every step. The trees grew so thickly and tightly to the house that it was difficult to see inside. With effort, I crawled between the trees and the front glassed in balcony , and peered inside.
As I dusted off the window pane, I beheld and old and beautiful house, dark and wooden, shoji screen doors and wooden rafters everywhere. The tatami mats were covered in a thick pile of dust, but still looked strong and firm. It was massive, dark and empty, surrounded by a calm feeling of surrender to the forces of nature very actively attacking it. It would need a massive amount of work and cleaning, but I could see the potential of what its wooden beams held.
It was as if the house spoke to me. And I knew in that very instant, that I had found my new home.