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May 24, 2011
I heard on the radio this morning that bee colonies have real estate agents, just as we do. Well, not just as we do: when the hive gets too crowded, they send out experienced older bees to find a larger tree more suitable to their needs. When one of these scouts finds one, she hurries back to the hive and makes a presentation by doing a special dance, which seems to communicate the size and location of the proposed new home. If she really likes it, she performs the dance dozens of times, a major sales pitch. If it's only so-so, she does only a few rounds. Other bees then fly out to inspect the place, and after a time they all return and hang together in a large cluster to arrive at a consensus. So intent are they on their deliberations that you can put your hand right into the middle of it and nobody will sting you. They don't care about you. They have other things on their minds.

Buying or selling real estate is absorbing like that for us, too. You think you can just blend it into your busy life, but it quickly acquires its own blood supply and just takes over. On television, I understand, there are shows in which experts descend upon a house and redo it. Now that everyone watches these shows, home buyers arrive at your house with an expectation of homogenized perfection like what they see on TV. Even if your house is 120 years old.

It turns out that you shouldn't have any furniture in your house, really. Just a few sticks of it, so that the beauty of your place, by which I believe they mean its unadorned walls, shines through and entices the buyer to make it her own. There are two couches in our living room in front of the fireplace -- we are told we should get rid of one of them. Doesn't the buyer want to imagine herself sitting on the couches playing silly word games with her friends after her New Year's Day dinner? It seems she does not. Neither does she wish to see the photos of our children and grandchildren in our bedroom; she doesn't care about our children and grandchildren. They are all packed away now.

And your colors need to be neutral. I mean, really neutral. Our dining room, which used to be a rich Christmas-ready red, is now a subtle pearl grey. The center hall is now cream colored. So is the upstairs hall. So is the bathroom. So is the guest room. I believe I am becoming somewhat cream colored myself. It could be worse, of course. I could be becoming pearl grey.

So we at the Farm are in the midst of a great spasm of change. Books and papers from a sixty year teaching career must be corralled into boxes and -- at least some of them -- into the recycling. Paintings must be judged: is this one more beloved than that one? Will either of them fit on any of the walls? Will the oriental carpets fit into the living room and dining room and, if they do, will they not overwhelm those tiny spaces? The china cupboard must go -- it won't fit into the dining room. I cannot help but wonder where I will keep my china.

Well, it's not like you'll be having those large dinners any more, my daughter said. A chill went through my heart. I won't? And then another thought, a steelier one: Oh, no? Just watch me!

I am not sure how energetic the real estate lady is at her sales dance, although it's probably just as well -- I wouldn't want anyone to see this place so filled with boxes of books that its cream colored walls could not... um, entice. On the other hand, the exterior of the house is five shades of purple, so there's a limit to the number of bland fans it could attract. All I need is one.

Moving house: bees do it. Snails do it, and hermit crabs. I guess we can do it, too.

Let's Do It

When the little bluebird
Who has never said a word
Starts to sing Spring! Spring!
When the little bluebell
At the bottom of the dell
Starts to ring Ding dong Ding
When the little blue clerk
In the middle of his work
Starts a tune to the moon up above
It is nature that is all
Simply telling us to fall in love

And that's why birds do it, bees do it
Even educated fleas do it
Let's do it, let's fall in love

Some Argentines, without means do it
I hear even Boston beans do it
Let's do it, let's fall in love

I've heard that lizards and frogs do it
Layin' on a rock
They say that roosters do it
With a doodle and cock

Cold Cape Cod clams, 'gainst their wish, do it
Even lazy jellyfish do it
Let's do it, let's fall in love

The most refined lady bugs do it
When a gentleman calls
Moths in your rugs they do it
What's the use of moth balls

The dragonflies in the reeds do it
Sentimental centipedes do it
Let's do it, let's fall in love.

Electric eels I might add do it
'Though it shocks them I know
Why ask if shad do it?
Waiter, bring me shad roe.

The chimpanzees in the zoos do it,
Some courageous kangaroos do it
Let's do it, let's fall in love

I'm sure giraffes on the sly do it
Even hippopotomi do it
Let's do it, let's fall in love.

--Cole Porter, 1928

Want to buy our house? It's not very bland, though we've tried our best.

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