Friday, November 22, 2013

photo friday: the poetics of space

The house in which we were born
is physically inscribed in us. 

It is a group of organic habits...
[However] the word habit is too worn a word
to express this passionate liaison of our bodies
which do not forget—with this unforgettable house. 

– Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space

When I was eight or perhaps nine I had a serious conversation with God about interior decorating. At church I had heard that he, God, was preparing "mansions in heaven" for the faithful, and this led to some anxiety on my part. The mansion itself was not the source of my concern, however; it was the descriptions I'd read of heaven, particularly this New Jerusalem—the place where I assumed my mansion was being built—that caused my uneasiness. The Book of Revelations had it that the city was to be a perfect gold cube, encrusted with all manner of precious jewels, crystal, and pearls. Horrible! My pre-teen aesthetics felt a headache coming on. A showy city teeming with sparkling mansions (no doubt done out with cold marble and polished gold)—ugh! Thus my pleading conversation with God that he (pretty please?) not prepare my mansion this way. Didn't he, being God, know there were people who preferred a more rustic setting? I was partial to wood, stone, calico. And I was hoping he could just hole me up some out-of-the-way heavenly farmhouse with lots of books. In my prayer I referenced photos I'd seen in my mother's Country Living magazine, just so God would get a clear picture of what I was after. A sylvan setting, a nice view, a cat or a horse or two milling about. As long as I didn't have to do chores, that would be paradise enough for me.

Some things don't change. I have remained demanding when it comes to my living quarters, despite the challenges of Manhattan housing. I expect my apartment, however small, to adhere to my particular vision of home: a certain mix of elegance and homespun, books and art, with a clear flow of energy (something alike feng shui ), high ceilings, decent light, a view that includes trees, and nothing higher then six floors above the ground. And we have this, more or less.

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I took three sets of photos for this week's theme. The first set, above, were all taken after my children had gone to bed and husband had fallen asleep on the couch. If you look carefully at the top image you can see him. (And so that you may truly appreciate the size of my kitchen, the second image gives you full view the the entirety of my kitchen counter space.) The second set of photos (directly below) were taken in the kids' room on a lazy Sunday morning. And the final set (at bottom) was taken yesterday morning after everyone had left for either work or school.

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The great function of poetry is to give us back the situations of our dreams.
The house we were born in is more than an embodiment of home,
it is also an embodiment of dreams. 
Each one of its nooks and corners was a resting-place for daydreaming. 
And often the resting-place particularized the daydream.
Our habits of a particular daydream were acquired there. 
The house, the bedroom, the garret in which we were alone,
furnished the framework for an interminable dream,
one that poetry alone, through the creation of a poetic work,
could succeed in achieving completely.

Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space

My children's favorite game for over a year now has been making nests. They build an indoor home of blankets, pillows, dolls, legos, bath toys, plastic figurines, snacks, art supplies, and anything else they can find. After which they "cozy in" and commence familial negotiations for more space or objects in high, silly-sweet voices. As much as it annoys me to open the closet and find a nest of legos and stuffed animals settled in on top of my shoes, I appreciate this innate desire to create intimate spaces of their own.

Much of my desire to orchestrate a elegant but modest home rises from a strong impulse to fashion the backdrop of my children's lives and dreams. I am aware of the ways in which the space they inhabit affects them, and I want their memories of home to both secure and propel them. The objects in our home are rarely random, but instead chosen for spiritual, aesthetic, moral, educational, or cultural reasons —and each contains a story or message. My hope is that this space we inhabit places in them fertile fodder for dreams, creativity, and a longing for God (with whom I've made some peace since my fears of bling mansions in heaven).

1 comment:

Julia said...

The backstory of your home decorating propensity is really charming and funny. I'm impressed that you had already such a highly developed sense of style at such a young age. Bling mansions indeed. I had a great post written in my head for today but I couldn't get it together because of too much going on. I think I am going to try to post it some day other than Friday because I do really like this theme.