Home Isn't Where the House Is

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When I was in college I found a painting of a small house up on a hill at dusk with a candle shining in the window. I put that picture up on my dorm wall; it was the place I wanted someday.

Many years later as a new father and stressed naturalist trying to cobble a living together, I struggled with my worth as a man in our society. I felt like a failure as a provider because I could not afford to buy a house for my family. Many in my peer group were thriving financially in the burgeoning world of Silicon Valley but here I was following my passion trying to create a business leading nature trips. To say this was tough is an understatement. But in 1992 we were finally able to buy a piece of property in Sebastopol and it was that Little House on the Hill. Sweet. The dream had finally come true.

Now, I thought, I will be happy and at ease. I finally succeeded. I now own a house in the San Francisco Bay Area. But surprisingly, within a short time, my satisfaction and contentment began to fade.

I read once that the Australian aboriginals do not consider objects to be of value but it is knowledge, wisdom, friends, family and ancestors which are the central things. But this was the first time I realized that objects -- even as large as three acres and a house -- did not guarantee my happiness. I assumed that once I had bought a house everything would then be perfect, forever. How naive I was.

Of course it is our personal relationships that really matter and endure. I had much self-work to be done, which had nothing to do with the external successes. It was internal effort that was vital.


Recently, I bought my third house -- another dream home -- perfect for me. But I know now that this is just a house. I have learned that.

This is Michael Ellis, with a Perspective

Michael Ellis is a naturalist who leads trips throughout the world. His dream house is in Santa Rosa.