Like so many people in this economy, I live on the Boulevard of Broken Dreams. I’m fortunate that the broken dreams aren’t mine, they’re our neighbors’ but it’s sad to have the constant reminders everyday of misfortune.
Last year, I wrote about the house next door to us: the woman lost her home and moved to an apartment. One of her dogs was too big to live there so she went to the Humane Society, fate unknown. A couple of months later, an investor bought the house and proceeded to completely renovate it and the guest house in the back. The job took over 3 months and the investor himself, Tom, was there everyday working alongside those he hired. He was a nice, funny, friendly guy that I talked to often. He did a beautiful job and, in July, he put the house up for sale finally, starting the price a little steep, intending to gradually lower it but sure it would sell fairly soon. A couple of weeks after it was completed, he had a massive heart attack in the middle of the night and died. He was 51 but looked 10 years younger. It was a terrible shock to his loved ones and friends and to me, as well.
Two months since his death, the house still has not sold. It gets a lot of traffic; everyone I talk to who has seen it loves it. The price keeps dropping but there is no buyer. All of Tom’s hard work making this a beautiful home will never benefit him nor will anyone who buys the house appreciate how much work he put into it. Every time I look at this house, which is obviously everyday, I think of him and how he will never reap the rewards of his effort.
Now, last week, our neighbors on the other side, another Tom and his wife, moved out of their foreclosed home. Their home was already beautiful because they have worked on it constantly since moving in 7 or so years ago. His house was his hobby. They did make some poor decisions and borrowed against it to finance another home in Mexico, where his wife is from and where they plan to retire someday but it is still a tragic situation. They now live in a smaller rental house a few blocks away. Since the house on the other side has been empty for 10 months so far, who knows how long this one will sit empty with its swimming pool becoming a stagnant breeding ground for West Nile-infected mosquitoes. All the plants he lovingly planted are already dying off since they quit watering a couple months ago when they knew they’d be leaving.
Our outdoor cats are enjoying all the yards they can quietly sleep and play in now but I find it isolated and sad, not to mention uncertain.
The top photo is from the little shed in the backyard of the first house and the bottom photo is a cactus that once was watered and cared for regularly at the second house. Each symbolizes the broken dreams that fill those houses now. And sprinkled throughout the neighborhood are many more For Sale signs and sad stories. Some others are probably struggling to stay afloat and hoping they will be able to keep their houses. I’m sure you have similar stories in your neighborhoods, too.
So as not to make this an entirely depressing post, here are a few more photos I took walking around my neighborhood. I’m taking a fascinating 6 week class called Eyes of the Heart: Photography as a Contemplative Practice through Abbey of the Arts. The first week’s assignment was to take a contemplative walk through your neighborhood and see what you feel drawn to photograph, choose 5 that speak to you, and examine why. Here are a few of my photos from that walk (not all made the top 5).
Another house for sale around the corner. I assume it has a sad story, too, but I don’t know it.
Openings in the freeway sound wall at the end of my street. Someone, I think, placed the pine cones this way.
A natural garage, I think the hood needs to be covered, too.
Bougainvillea glowing in the sunlight…