Kristin Armstrong on Appreciating Home
“I regularly get notes in my mailbox asking me if I want to sell … where on earth would I go?”
Home has never meant more than it does after this past year.
I am more grateful than ever for our actual house, the structure that contains us. It amuses me that I was thinking of downsizing when my kids went to college, restructuring my nest. Little did I know that it would rarely be empty and would need to expand to include my kids, various friends, girlfriends, boyfriends and dogs. At one point my daughter Grace brought seven friends from Boulder here, and they all did online classes from various places in the house or on the back porch. Then they would swim, cook dinner and watch movies. I had this rare and beautiful chance to actually get to know my daughter’s friends from freshman year. When would I get that opportunity otherwise? A week at my house is not the same as a random dinner in Boulder. Now when we FaceTime, I know her people and her people know me.
I am also grateful for the home that the structure represents—the sanctuary, the respite, the comfort, the ease. I love that we are hidden, our courtyard is a moat for our front door and our backyard is fenced and entirely private. A dog door grants freedom to our fur family and includes stone steps for little Stella, so there is no size discrimination. The deer that have overtaken the neighborhood cannot snack on our roses or our side yard field of bluebonnets. The post-SNOVID landscape, which for many weeks was a sea of dead brown-orange and resembled a bad bikini wax, is finally starting to regreen, palm fronds and fern sprouts unfolding with hopeful tenacity. A hammock swings lazily between two perfectly apportioned trees and is my favorite spot to meditate.
I regularly get notes in my mailbox asking me if I want to sell. Californians and New Yorkers are flocking here, and I don’t blame them—pandemic, taxes, opportunities, gas prices, schools, politics, you name it. Austin is a pretty magnetic destination these days. Real estate prices are so high it might be tempting, except where on earth would I go? There is nothing for sale and absolutely nowhere like home.
For the past year my home has also been my office. I see my clients over Zoom all day long, my people peering into my home office as I peer into their homes, cars, pantries and closets. I see clients covered in children, dogs and demands, a real-life diorama actualized before me. Therapy has never been more personal. I light a candle on my desk every morning to invite and invoke a Higher Presence into my space, and at the end of my day I blow out my candle, giving thanks for a day of passionate purpose and asking the Divine to take whatever is not mine to carry. This is essential because my commute is a short hallway into my living room, where the rest of my life awaits. I am vaccinated and looking for new office space, but it needs to be right. I am spoiled in my own oasis. I am in no hurry, liking the idea that summer awaits, expansive and inviting. I can see clients online just as easily from my Santa Barbara nest, and it’s even better with the two-hour time change. I am a morning person and can be on the beach by late afternoon.
“As life returns to whatever normal means, we must hold onto all we were, all we learned and all we want to become.”
Perhaps we all have a deeper appreciation now for our neighborhoods, our homes, our work, our schedule, our family, our friends, our clients and our community. As people migrate to our beloved city, we can value even more the jewel that was already our treasure. At the same time, as more arrive we must maintain the things that made us so desirable in the first place. Our friendliness, inclusion, openness, intellect, artistic eye, kindness, honesty and humor. When I moved here after college, I remember telling people why I loved Austin: You cannot pass by someone without eye contact and a smile. People hold the door for you. Texans will tell you the truth. (New Yorkers will too, but it sounds harsher without the “y’all.”) People here wave to you in traffic. People don’t care how much money you have. Flip-flops are welcome anywhere. Nature is queen. Trees are people too. Dogs are welcome. Music is sacred. Margaritas and queso constitute a meal. A breakfast taco cures everything. Bluebonnets are a reminder that everything will be OK.
As life returns to whatever normal means, we must hold onto all we were, all we learned and all we want to become. Just as contentment is the awareness of what we already have, home is the reminder of who we always wanted to be.
As my dad always says, the porch light is on.