Housing in a new era


It was a fruit tree that kicked off the internal housing debate this year. Fall is probably my favorite time of the year, as I’ve mentioned before, and Hachiya persimmons are a symbol of it’s onset. There’s something very poetic about the fruit(technically berries) turning from green to orange as the leaves of the tree go from green to brown and eventually drop. I’m not referring to Fuyu persimmons, that you can slice up like an apple, but the ones that have to be really mushy, like a sack of jelly before you eat them or your gums feel dried out and nasty for a few hours. There is something about the forced wait to enjoy those that mirrors the idea of waiting for fall and for all that comes. Those are the ones I was taught to love by my mom when we lived in Davis.

Recently we were up in the Berkeley Hills at an acquaintance’s house and besides a great view of the bay, they had an enormous Hachiya persimmon tree abutting the two levels of deck at the back of the house. I suddenly missed having fruit trees like we did at the two houses I lived in with my parents throughout my life. The idea of being able to have fruit trees triggered this ongoing debate I’ve had in my head for years. On one hand is the notion of having a place that is “ours”, where we could arrange as we wanted inside and out, and plant fruit trees or whatever in the yard. On top of that the notion of having some sort of security in housing is appealing. On the other hand is the knowledge that it’s incredibly expensive to own a home, with the insurance, taxes, upkeep, etc. Furthermore, in a fictional scenario where we could actually afford to buy a home in the bay area, all of our savings would be tied up in the house! I’d be much more stressed than I am now about keeping my job, and probably wouldn’t have as much wiggle room to look for other careers.
After some reflection and discussion with my coach, I’ve to understand that the core desire was for a feeling of comfort or cozyness, perhaps wanting to feel safe. Growing up, home always felt safe, and I associate a home with a sense of comfort and safety. Since we can’t afford a house in the bay area, my task for these weeks has been to figure out how to make my current living situation feel more cozy and comfortable.

I had some ideas on where to start(the living room), but then the election of 2016 happened and kind of derailed all that. Now it seems harder to find much comfort anywhere. I’ve been preoccupied worrying about the increase in hate crimes, the threats to reproductive rights, the environment, social safety net programs and maybe even the survival of the US as we know it. I ran across a terrifying article: “ Autocracy:Rules for Survival“, which raised the realm of possibilities for the incoming administration. I’ve discussed the implications of all of this with a friend from graduate school and he, thank goodness, has acted as a calm reassuring voice. He’s optimistic that the democratic institutions of this country will be enough to survive and repel an attempted establishment of an autocracy. I want to be as confident as him and listen to the voices saying that it was only campaign rhetoric but he, like most of the polls and media, was convinced what happened couldn’t. Still, I hope. I put on a good face to keep the kids feeling okay, but I’m really scared inside.

Coming back to the persimmons, it turns out my sister’s co-worker brought a bunch to work, which she in turn brought to me, and there are more should I want them. I’ve pureed most of them and ate a few out of hand, luckily most my wife and kids are a bit leery of the texture so I get them all to myself! Basically, it turns out I don’t actually need the tree.

I’m beginning to come out of shell shock from the election and for “comfort” have started wearing a robe around the house in the morning. I’ve also started thinking about ways of making the living room more comfortable again. No obvious answers yet, but the desire is there. As far as owning a house, I know it’s impossible right now. I’m actually a bit more comfortable having our money more “liquid” vs having it tied up in a house. As my friend wrapped up our discussion, if an autocracy were actually established here there wouldn’t be much to depend on but “passports and money”. Hopefully we as a country make it through okay, but if things go from bad to worse I may be looking for persimmons in another country.