A search for home

Sometimes it becomes necessary to contemplate a new home. At first it’s scary. Then you start looking beyond the bricks and mortar, numbers of bathrooms and square footage, and reach back into your dreams.

We all realize, deep inside, that trust in today’s real estate market has been shattered. Will what we buy now as a good enough investment potentially to pay for not only itself, over time, but also to provide, through the glory of our own good judgment, a little bit more down the pike? Or should we say the hell with it and simply go off the grid?

I was talking with a few young people recently. They loved their home, these kids told me. They were familiar with its views and various floors. They enjoyed knowing where every picture was. It had every element of comfort and was the scene for the adventure that’s been their lives to date. Just as they had dealt with the idea of impermanence via pets’ or grandparents’ deaths, they were more than ready to talk about what they’d do differently in terms of living arrangements if they had to.

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At first the kids talked about the varied experiences of friends and things they’d seen in the movies. One kid is living, for the time being, in a massive showcase home that the elementary-school set refers to as a palace. Another is in an upstairs apartment which everyone’s finding cool because it’s so like city living. Half the kids I know yearn for the number of playgrounds, toy stores and Chinese noodle shops they associate with urban life.

Then I get this assignment. I’m to write about people who live in yurts, treehouses and other alternative forms of housing. And so we’re off to the races, dream-wise.

I visit with an artist family whose house is an old farm dwelling inherited from family, and rebuilt to their liking. The property includes a magical two-room treehouse built over a stream, complete with wood stove, spiral staircase and access via rope bridge.

I can easily imagine life here. How about living in a treehouse, I ask my kid and his friends on a subsequent afternoon. They confess that they don’t really like heights all that much, and ask where you’d plug in the television.

The place feels like a cocoon to me, except that its many windows make it a warm treetop refuge. When it’s closed off properly, one can observe the subtle ways of the outside world as it chugs along, day by day. Much as I like the place, I realize that it’s not for family, at least not my family.

We visited a bunch of treehouses once as a family, when our kid was just learning to walk. An alternative resort, the place involved redwoods, ziplines and lots of high-up walkways that scared the willies out of me and my wife, so much so that we didn’t even feel safe to take our kid up there. Instead, we opted to teach him how to walk and run on a deserted northern California beach.

Yes, I’ve noticed treehouse-like homes have been built all around this neck of the woods over the years. They’re beautiful, but designed for older kids or young couples or singles.

I’ve increasingly noticed a growing number of yurts in the woods and fields around Woodstock, New Paltz and other modestly New-Age-like communities. Most that I’ve visited are used as studios. They have clean, blonde wood floors and a sunny warmth about them. Occasionally there are signs of occasional habitation inside. But as I heard a kid say once when I was interviewing a musician and dancer in one for another story, “Where should I do time out?”

At which point I started thinking. Where were the closets?

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