"She loved beauty and she was creative, but her creativeness found its joy in the shaping of everyday life to a form of comeliness, so that it became not just something that one put up with, but something that was enjoyable and lovely in itself."
The Heart of the Family by Elizabeth Goudge
I'm continuing my ponderings about houses and homes this week. That is always the case when I have been reading any of Elizabeth Goudge's Eliot Family Trilogy (see below). They are among my favorite Goudge books and speak so often about how our homes can be places of healing and nurture.
When I was in my late teens, I took the D. James Kennedy Evangelism class at the Presbyterian church I attended. In that class, one learns that to better know a person you should always try to meet with them in their own home... for our homes tell far more about the person we are than we think.
For instance, the books we have on our shelves, the artwork, the accessories, the clutter or lack of it... all come together to tell a Story. That being the Story of who we are.
I've thought of that "truth" so often since taking the class and I've written about it for all of these years. If one were to walk through my front door for the first time, they would know the family who lives here would be considered the "bookish" kind.
The Professional Kitchen-Aid mixer would be a clue that someone is a serious cook. Artwork and books and Post-It notes and newsletters waiting to be read could come together to be used by a prosecutor if being a Christian were illegal in our land.
A detective would not take long to know someone lives here who may need a serious intervention for her passion for beautiful china. Especially all things having to do with the delights of "taking tea".
They, of course, could get a wrong impression that the person who is the primary decorator of the home likes to spend money... rather than the person who decorates seems to have an inner sense of where to find bargains for pennies on the dollar.
That was a wrong impression given of the woman who decorated Pilgrim's Inn at one time for she was very talented in decorating with little money. So we also must remember not to make sweeping assumptions when we walk into someone's home.
For instance, a great deal of clutter may indicate a person who is lazy. But it also can be an indicator of someone who is not lazy but suffers from chronic illness. They do need to get rid of a lot of stuff around them but that is more of an emotional issue than being lazy. It took me years to realize I could not keep a clutter free home and clean all I once owned.
Of course, there is what I call the creative clutter of living. These homes may have a stack of fabric and a basket of a crochet work in progress and a pattern cut out on the dining table or perhaps an old tablecloth covering the kitchen table with children's artwork drying before going to their home on the front of the refrigerator.
One may walk into the house to find a dozen or so decorating magazines being perused or the latest issue of Mollie Makes bookmarked at a knitting pattern that looks interesting. Perhaps there would be the essentials for putting together a scrapbook of photos with stickers and washi tape and pretty colored pens and cut out pages of favorite magazines... all on the table or desk awaiting a free hour or so to create.
A violin or guitar or dulcimer or a stack of CDs sitting on the table would all indicate a music loving family lives here. Should there be a piano against the wall in the family room of the home, the visitor may notice a variety of sheet music awaiting the family coming together after dinner for the making of music.
Of course, a completely sterile home tells a lot about its owners, too. The home looks lovely but no living takes place there. No real living. Nothing so creative that it would cause a mess. No teenage boys with their friends over who prop their feet on the coffee table or preschoolers helping to make cookies in the kitchen. Messes are now allowed.
I must admit, I love playing Sherlock when I visit a home for a first time and it all began with the training received in my late teens. But I also view the homes of other families to find what it is that make me feel warm and cozy when I enter their little domains. I have written before that I realized I had a love of a few larger pieces of artwork here and there.
I had once decorated mostly with small pieces but when income permitted, my husband and I chose reasonably priced larger framed artwork from time to time and they made such a difference in the feel of the rooms. All because I visited one very humble but lovely home where the family room was so cozy I still feel at peace thinking of it... and the quite large print of a scene from the West with cowboys and horses making their way through mountains hung over the sofa.
Something else I have been thinking about this week was inspired by waiting for my doctor in his office for a very long time. (Just my regular three months diabetes checkup.) Instead of reading the book I had brought with me, I found myself looking around the room. I noticed how it was "decorated" for the one purpose in which it was used... a checkup of one's physical health. No artwork... no reading materials... no place to set a cup of coffee or tea... just the essentials needed for a physician to do their job.
As I was sitting there (you can tell my thinking was on how rooms affect us), I thought how that is what my need to re-do the Study was all about. I had not set up the room for the purposes I wanted! It looked lovely and warm and cozy but it had been too dark to enjoy sitting at the desk and creating. So the purchase of the inexpensive tea table and the repositioning of lamps solved that.
It is not perfect for until the large bookshelf is removed, I have no place to put the materials needed for my creativity out in the open. But nothing is perfect and it never will be. If waiting for all to be perfect to create... I would not make any sort of Art until it is accomplished amongst the angels.
I should have realized this long ago. I am certain the reason I enjoy working in my kitchen is that it is set up for the purpose of cooking and baking and the doing of dishes. A CD player was purchased with Amazon credit from the Holidays (I tend to receive very little credit in the summer but a nice amount when some of you lovely people do your Christmas shopping at Amazon by clicking on my widget first).
Having a CD player in the kitchen helps me keep my goal of turning off the background noise of the TV and surrounding myself with good music or a favorite radio teacher while the chicken is being cut up or the salad prepared.
So you can tell where my ponderings have been as I have thought through how my home is a reflection of the people who live here. And the realization that how I have set up my space makes all the difference in the enjoyment of making Art... and dinner.
My home and I are both works in progress and will be until I finish this journey. For instance, I have realized the need to stock my freezer with main dishes and baked goods to make it easier to show hospitality on days I am quite weary but I still want to have someone to dinner or just to sit down for a good cup of coffee and a scone.
I realized already that I must get rid of even stuff I like if I want a clutter free house. More bags of good stuff were sent to charity a couple weeks ago. Instead of missing it, I thought how someone would love finding such items at a price they can afford... just as I do when I am at Goodwill or a thrift shop.
So then it is a win-win situation. My home is more clutter free and ready for the making of Art or the reading of a good novel or the ability to set the table without worrying about dishes tumbling and breaking off the shelves. And someone else will find just the two-tiered silver serving tray they have been wanting for years, the one I never used even once.
If you love reading about houses and homes and the way they affect the people who live in them, you will love The Bird in the Tree, Pilgrim's Inn, and The Heart of the Family.* (I have found some readers are not as fond of The Heart of the Family as the other two but I adore it. I think it particularly speaks to those who are older or who have suffered deeply.)
It is quite wonderful that these books are now available in paperback and on the Kindle. When I first read them, they were more difficult to find and much more expensive if not found at a library sale. Years ago, I was able to locate a rather beat up copy of Pilgrim's Inn at a book sale and my library had to request The Bird in the Tree. I finally read The Heart of the Family when it became available as an inexpensive Kindle download.
If you only read one of the trilogy, choose the first Goudge book I ever read... Pilgrim's Inn*.
If you have not had a chance to read all the comments from last week's Sunday Afternoon Tea, do go back and read them... here. Readers shared about what makes a house a cozy sanctuary for their family.
Now it is time to sit at the desk in the Study and begin making a pretty card for my son-in-law's parents. I want to not only write about Art but make it.
*Amazon Associate's Link
Image: Interior With the Artist's Daughter by Duncan Grant