• Mike Brown

Moving In, Moving On

The following post was written by BCC member Kate Y.


For months now, I’ve watched our squat five-story condo building take shape from concrete slab, to wood framing, to actual walls, then exterior siding to something habitable-looking, with windows and balconies decked out in lime-spring green against the building’s charcoal outline.



Kate (l) and Liz (r) figuring out whose balcony is which

During all these months of driving past the construction site, I have to admit I felt anticipation but also … a little sadness.


Sadness at the prospect of leaving my charming, white 1947 bungalow nestled under a canopy of towering oaks in an old Durham neighborhood.


My writing desk is settled beneath the window looking out onto my backyard menagerie of birds swooping between the bushes, squirrels scaling the giant trees, and rabbits galore.


Out of my bedroom window facing the street, I watch children each morning pour out onto the sidewalks on their tiny bikes and trikes, as our block gang of one- to five-year-olds and their parents gather to chat.


To the kids I am their older, friendly, kindly neighbor who occasionally stops to smile and chat. Having lived on this block for 20 years, I’ve watched kids grow up and leave for college campuses and dormitories.


Now it’s time for me to leave, downsize, and adjust my living to my present needs as a retired 70-something living on Social Security.


So I’ve thrown in my lot with Bull City Commons – a cohousing group – one of 10 in the Triangle area, and the second urban cohousing group in Durham. Living with a group of people, sharing resources, making decisions together, being our own mutual-aid society. It all sounds reasonable — in theory. I wonder how will it work in practice?


So far, anyway, it seems to work really well. Over the last 3 years, we’ve worked together to build this sleek, slip-of-a building. Though everyone owns their condo unit, there’s plenty of common spaces inside where we can gather, share meals occasionally, do laundry, play music, have classes, exercise, etc. There’s a circle (our word for committee or team) for everything from grounds and building maintenance to community well-being.


I can stand on the sidewalk, look over the construction fence, and see into my new home on the second floor, the third green balcony from the street.


Until the past few weeks, I have resisted thinking about THE MOVE now imminent in February. My space is a one-room studio – 500 square feet. How will I manage to squeeze down from my already cozy bungalow into a 500 square foot box? Throw out most everything? It feels like moving into a tiny bird’s nest.


Actually, no, not a bird’s nest. A beehive is more like it — a hive of 23 condos with 30 people above, below, all around me.


The beehive is very busy in these last weeks of construction in the dead of winter. Workmen are on site every day working into the night under the watchful eye of our project manager and co-founder, Christine Westfall. Bless them and our brave, persistent, down-to-the last detail taskmaster.


I can now start to imagine opening the door and stepping into my condo — a great room flooded with southwesterly sunlight streaming through the wall of windows, the balcony facing me.


On Christmas Eve, I stood on the street watching the pink-gold sunset settling on the horizon, so tangible, close just beyond the trees.


Kate's sunset

On the fourth-floor terrace, we can savor the panoramic sunsets and the cityscape we are now a part of — “taking our place in the scheme of things”*.


Waiting to move into my condo with me are my bed, table and chairs, some pots and pans, a smudge stick, a seagull feather I picked up on the beach at New Year’s Eve. I’m ready for this new year, this brave new world.


* Mary Oliver, Wild Geese