The Home We Live In

And finding unexpected beauty in our patio

We obtained our loft-style condo in a housing lottery 19 years ago. It was a long shot. Only 15 units were available yet 50 people showed up. Malyn, my youngest sister, happened to be visiting that weekend. If anyone had luck in real estate, she had it. So, we asked her to pick a ticket from the glass bowl that was being passed around by the housing development rep. A few minutes later, he called out our number.

The broker, tied to the housing developer, laughed at me when I inquired about a 30-year fixed mortgage. Tina did the math and found out that an adjustable mortgage was too risky for us. Interest rates were dependent on market forces. A sudden increase in monthly payments would get us into trouble. We could lose our housing if the economic landscape changed. Going for the 30-year fixed mortgage was our best option and gave us peace of mind. The gentleman did his best to sweet-talk me into a variety of creative lending options. I stood my ground. He kept going. I finally hung up and we went with another broker who was willing to do it for us. Although it wasn’t sexy at that time to opt for a prudent choice, we made the right decision. Four years later, the housing bubble burst and the economy slid into a recession. Millions lost their jobs, savings, and their homes.

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The patio on the 3rd floor is nothing to boast about. It faces a concrete wall. It gives us privacy but it isn’t pretty. A few years went by. I started to notice the changing light basking the wall at certain times of the day. While staring at it, the gray box lighting assignment from when I was at Brooks Institute came to mind. It goes like this: the main subject is a gray cube. The corner is facing the lens. The camera is positioned slightly above the box so that all 3 faces are in the picture. The goal is to learn how to control light in a studio setting. To achieve this, students are assigned to replicate a different tonal value for each face of the cube. Inspired by this idea, I framed the wall at an angle and let nature do its thing. Weather transitions tend to display the most dramatic results. Cloud formations move across the sky. The sun produces a wide range of tones as it dips in and out of the clouds. The combinations are endless and fascinating!

I’ve been sporadic with my efforts through the years but time lends itself to the project. I can pick it up anytime. The only thing that has changed since we bought our condo was the paneling on the right wall.

Paneling was added to the wall on the right.

Sometimes, when we open ourselves to see beyond the mundane, we discover something unexpected. The more we do this, we develop a sense of awe. The concrete wall gave me a reason to look out of the patio and appreciate the beauty of the present moment.

How about you, dear readers? What has recently brought you a sense of wonder?

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Sundays with Stella
Sundays with Stella
Stella Kalaw