the spirit of home

Once there was a girl who lived on a hill. Her house was tiny, and her life was quiet, and her dreams threaded beauty through her old, wooded view. One of these days, she thought as she carried home groceries or sat on her kitchen bench looking out at the distant mountains where she grew up ...

She didn't have much furniture, so she sat on the floor with her heavy old typewriter to write the novel which had begun in a city far over the water and would finish in a valley in another year's time, only to be put under her bed and inexplicably vanish, except in her heart, where it lived on forever - her first young, wish-wrought words.




And the girl had one black cat. And she hung sheets for her curtains. And in her tiny house she became big inside herself, filling up with soul-knowledge. This happened mainly because of the house. It wasn't really her home, it was too empty and cold for that. But it mattered, and it helped her. Because, although I don't know why, people seem to need houses. Or caves, caravans, yurts, lofts. Something wrapped around them, holding them in the wild space of this world.

For a very long time, we've understood this. Men have built homes from earthbones and riverstone, rising up a sanctuary. Women have made homes from warmth and food and certainty. There's something about a house that goes beyond shelter. Perhaps it hides the vastness from us so we can ease into the vulnerability of sleep. Perhaps it makes a belongingness around a bit of space.




These days, it seems like we're losing that understanding a little. A house has become a luxury for so many people; even an impossibility for some. I wonder - when a person can not afford to buy their home, and so must rely on whatever they can get, what other people will lease them, and what those landlords will allow them to do within their walls - what effect does that have on the human spirit? Perhaps none. Perhaps all that's needed are walls, windows. I hear from many women who dream of white painted floorboards that would fulfill something within them, or lace curtains, or renovations that they can not do because they live in a rental. But perhaps it's not really important. I don't know.

Nor do I know what might be lost when a person's house is broken down and they must leave it, leave their homeland, and go into the unsheltered and unwelcoming world far beyond. But more than a house is lost, I'm sure.

And what about the children growing up in buildings that are overcrowded, or unwarmed, or unoccupied for too many hours to develop a comfortable ambience? What feeling of home do those children grow up with? What is lost for them?

(Of course, people too can be homes for us, in their smiles and their loving quiet words.)




That hill-girl went on to have dozens of homes and plenty of furniture. She got her one of these days dreams, and still she wrought more. She looked out her window at woods or ocean or just all the sky, and felt the strange, beautiful yearning that had no reason, but reminded her of how she has a home beyond those horizons, at the place where her dreams are made to come true.


Art by Carl Larsson.


16 comments:

  1. Beautiful Sarah! I guess the idea of home is different for everyone. I moved several times when I was young, so I got used to the idea of carrying 'home' with me in my heart and making the best of where I've ended up. In adulthood, I've done what I could to work with spaces I've lived in and to turn them into homes that nurture me (within the limits of reason as renting tenant). Becoming a home owner has been a massive shift for me. It's brought the freedom to be creative and to settle in in a way that wasn't possible before, something I wasn't fully aware was missing until now. I often feel for parents and children who have to live in confined city spaces, often without gardens. I can't be easy, especially in crowded places.

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    1. Thank you :-) There's such a difference between "making the best of it" and "the freedom to be creative and settle", isn't there?

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  2. Oh I dream of beautiful things, of lace curtains and windows that let the sun through. And a garden. I love my little place here in nature, but it's not my own, and yet I'm not sure I see myself owning a house in the future. I'm not sure where I'd go to truly belong, for years at a time.

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    1. Yes of course because a house stands within nature, and so to belong truly we must find not only the right house but the right place for it. Eliminate one and the other feels lacking.

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    1. That is so nice of you, thank you :-)

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  4. I felt completely sheltered and warmed in the home of words you shared.

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    1. Thank you, what a lovely thing to say :-)

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  5. I've lived in many, many houses - some I owned - some were rented - some were borrowed. Each and every one of them became home to me. I'm a nester, and what I've discovered for myself is that my home is the space - not the walls. I have my things - pared down and smaller now, and these things that come with me wherever I go seem to put a stamp on my space as much as my very presence in it. The walls have been big, small and in any manner of arrangement, but that space within them soon became "me". Even if it was fleeting, I was there. Do you think the walls remember?

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    1. Yes I am sure the walls remember, because in my houses they always seem to remember those who have lived there before, and they tell me about them in different ways.

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  6. I love this. Such a beautiful story, Sarah.

    Home, and so much related to this concept (and reality) are great preoccupations of mine, (spiritual, emotional, physical, and certainly political). Access to adequate housing is a human right, and it pains me to see it increasingly seen as a profit-making commodity. It's getting more and more difficult for people (esp younger generations) to access liveable housing in locations they actually want to live. Here in Australia, it's particularly extreme due to the disproportionate cost of housing. And I wish there was more freedom here for people to paint, and hang pictures when they are renting. I think many other countries treat renters a bit better than here. We don't have a culture of renting - it's not seen as a choice, but as a sign of socio-economic weakness.

    Then there's a whole other layer - the making of a home. When the fundamentals are squeezed, the spiritual and emotional aspects suffer. To me, a home is a place to dream and love and build a life and identity from. But, having said that, a home is also wherever love is. The plight of refugees, and how my country treats them breaks my heart. They want to be safe and at home.

    And yes! I too believe the walls remember, and hold the memories of emotions. Houses are storytellers, if we lean in and listen.

    My word. That was a long comment. xx

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    1. A long but wonderful comment - I agree with everything you write here.

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  7. I just love the way you write, Sarah. This is beautiful.

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  8. yes, all lovely and interesting to consider.
    i think of the wild birds who eat at my winter feeder (can not have a spring summer and autumn feeder due to bears), they stop feeding an hour or two before dark. Where do they go, tucked in the trees perhaps near the trunk, a home safe for the night.

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    1. I watch the birds from my window, and see them tuck themselves into whatever few trees are left around here. Or into the gutters of houses, and under eaves. In my local township there is a tree-lined street where hundreds of birds descend every evening, making the most incredible racket, and then disappearing into leaf-shadow, night-dark, as if they have become part of the trees.

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