The House of my Soul

One day I was roaming in my neighborhood. I need to walk for my exercise. To make my walking more attractive as a routine, I seek to find
something interesting each time. It is exciting to discover new things: inconspicuous lanes, deserted homes, strangely shaped trees, anything and
everything that delights my imagination.

I have been strangely restless lately. Not quite happy, almost lonely, strongly wanting something and not knowing what. Around me homes, behind
their curtained windows life is going on and I am not part of it. I am not part of life at all, I felt. Nothing is happening to me.

Next to my home is a home with several apartments. That home always attracted me. I even wanted to live there, but there were no empty
apartments when I checked.  A huge tree is growing there bent toward my building, shading my balcony (I am on the second floor). Sometimes,
during the night, when I cannot sleep, I look through the sliding door toward that tree, my tree, and see that the apartment behind it almost never
turns off lights in the living room. I see their TV set showing some program, I see someone sitting on the sofa reading; sometimes it is a woman, other
times a man. Do they ever sleep during the night? I am a single woman and it is clear why I cannot sleep, but a couple? I know it is none of my
business, but it is strange to spend the whole night with lights and a TV set on. During the day I do not see them. They must be at work.

By now I am interested and check them regularly. In our yard, we have a huge old pepper tree. It is full of lacey charm, almost pulls you into a
different reality, that of a dream.  It is next to our car-port. When I take my car out, every morning, I look at the next door neighbors' garden and
wonder how never, never do I see anyone out there. Why not? That garden shows neglect. Nature has a different look when it is cared for, nurtured.
I spend time gardening in our condominium's garden. No one else does, so it is only mine. Ours has no privacy like the neighbors', no fence, no
table and chairs, yet no one is using any of it out there. I never see anyone in that yard. Strange. The greenery is watered automatically. I always
hear the hissing of the water early in the morning or late in the night. Some of it sprays our driveway and that special smell of humidity lingers up to
my balcony and enters my apartment. I like it: it brings the memory of spring rains in my youth. What kind of people live next to me that are not
interested in plants, in their own garden?

I remember my neighbors from a 20 floor skyscraper in Europe. We knew each other well, drank coffee together daily, inviting each other when we
had fresh cake, cookies, or any other specialty as an excuse for a chat. We knew each other's secrets: when the couples fought, had a car accident
or bought a new piece of furniture.

Walking through my street, today, I feel it looks different. Maybe I see it with different eyes, like for the first time, although I have been there for
years. The big building with many apartments, on the corner, seems tot have students as renters, for there are bikes on the small balconies, walking
shoes, flower pots with dead  plants, scratched and battered surfing boards and clutter of all kinds. In the thick bushes, I notice empty beer cans and
a hollow place shaped by a human body spending nights there. A fine, safe, and sheltered spot, I think, partially covered by the terrace, completely
screened by thick bushes. From there the homeless can see the street without being seen. Across the street is a food store with a large parking lot
lit all night. Probably, with a security guard. That is good too. I go on, satisfied that the homeless people can find solutions in their life-style (if one
can call it that).

I cross the street with a small, romantic, fairy-tale looking home, with a white picket fence, right on the corner. After that follows a line of more
expensive homes with manicured gardens, doors with beveled glass, welcome wreaths at the entrance.
Then there is a huge garden that looks wild and lush as Rousseau's jungle painting. The garden is closed to the view by very tall, thick bushes and
trees. The home, if there is one, must be deep at the back of the plot. I t may be abandoned and waiting to be sold. There is no sign of any life
(except of a botanical nature). It is strange. There has to be an entrance to this plot, but I don't see it.

I go around to the other street. There is nothing there either. The whole plot is fenced with an old, small fence that does not seriously bar access.
The bushes and overgrowth do. It is just a garden, more like a park. Yet, no obvious entrance. That is strange.

How does one get into the property? Hopefully not parachuting from the air.

Now I am challenged. I walk slowly, and very carefully look at the bushes and trees to find even the most disguised entrance. Sure enough, it is a
decrepit small wooden gate that looks exactly like the rest of the fence with no lock of any kind. It does not invite you to enter. But there is no usual
sign "Private property. No loitering". It looks like it may fall apart at a bare touch. Like it has not been touched for ages. It is a deserted property
waiting to be sold and renovated, I conclude.

Without thinking, I push the gate. It opens. Hm. I find myself surrounded by a wall of  tall thick bushes, like guards, all around me. I go on. The path
must lead somewhere. I do feel some unknown trepidation ,but it tempts me to go on more than to stop and return. I do not, like usually, think about
the snakes, We are in a city, after all. This is a rather desolate place in the midst of otherwise busy streets.

Suddenly, the sun light washes over me. No more trees, just shorter bushes, not wild but  shapely cut. Colorful small flours in clusters look natural
yet they are obviously cared for. A wooden bench under a magnolia tree is a perfect spot for someone who wants to read, or even write, as I would if
this were mine. The bushes of rosemary plant, fresh and luscious,  invite me to rub my palm against them and smell the familiar its Mediterranean
fragrance. I go back in time and space to the Adriatic  rosemary and lavender fields.

The next thing I notice is how quiet it is here. The constant  humming and swishing of the traffic to which our ears have got used already, now is  
distant and unnoticeable.. The tall trees and bushes are helping in absorbing, I conclude with a smile. But the aroma of the whole area plays a
powerful if harmonious rhapsody. I sit down and breathe deeply, closing my eyes. This is Garden of Eden. Then I hear the birds. Oh, this seems to
be their kingdom!

I need this. After I have rested enough, I feel my usual explorer's spirit. Want to know more! I get up and proceed through now nicely kept garden
that leads me to a large open veranda and adjoining house. Not big but very inviting. Just what I  like. I do not like oversized buildings. They never
feel like home. This one does. Strangely, it feels like MY HOME, my home I knew existed even if not knowing where. It is the house of my soul. There
is nothing strange about it. I always believed the unknown worlds much larger and more magnificent than the known one. We just have to believe in it

The glass door is open, leading into a large room, splashed with light, with Oriental rugs lusciously colored in an imaginative design. Hardwood floor
spotlessly clean, invites bare feet. I take off my sandals.  Sofas are in  corners next to the shelves with books: "The Little Prince" – my old friend!
Books of art, French  Impressionists, plenty of Picassos and Dalis, treasures of Ermitage and much more. Books of poetry…so many, so varied. This
is  my own library. The one I had to abandon with everything else in Europe. It hurt more than any other incision and amputation of that period in my
life. Hara-kiri.

The music, CDs and some old records, like mine back in Belgrade, with the full collection of Tchaikovsky that I had to leave behind but carry in my
heart. This is a dream. A gift to me for all the previous suffering and pain. I do not want to wake up.

Even the art on the walls is my choice. I know it all. I have loved it all my life. It whispers a song of harmony pleasing to my whole  being. On the
coffee table, next to the sofa I am sitting on, is a flute vase with just one yellow rose bud! This cannot be. This is my favorite. My mother had them,
then later on I,  in my own home. Yellow or pink rosebuds have always been my favorite. Who lives here? Who knows me that well?

I belong here. I will stay.

by Mira Mataric
page created 7/27/09
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