Monday, November 13, 2006

Painting a Picture: Images of Home

Everyone has an image in their mind of what a home should look like. Madeleine L'Engle says about her home in Connecticut:
"There is mystery to all love. Why does this one man so move me? Why does this a small corner of our planet make me feel that I am home? We live in an uprooted society. During the long years of my father's dying my mother was uprooted. When he died she returened to her roots, to a Southern town where almost everybody was kin, where her childhood friends still lived. I used to love to read Louisa May Alcott's Eight Cousins, her story of a wonderfully warm and variegated New England family, and Mother told me that her Southern family was very much like that. Almost all of her friends and playmates were cousins. One of the best things about this present, difficult summer is that I have felt rooted. I am in the house that Hugh and I have loved for forty years. During the brief times that Hugh has been home, rather than in the hospital, I have dug in the garden; sometimes he has been up to sitting in a garden chair watching as I have planted, weeded, plunging my hands into the rich earth. Amazingly, the vegetables have flourished, despite the inevitable neglect. The forty years of our marriage are deeply rooted in Crosswicks.
In a chest of drawers in the attic are children's clothes which are still passed
around as needed, especially the beautiful little smocked dresses my mother gave
to my daughters. Even the pots and pans are part of the rootedness. This double boiler was given me early in our marriage by my beloved Mrs. O, who loved me without qualification until she died in her midnineties, and whose love I believe is still with me. This old-fashioned rice cooker came from my grandmother's kitchen in the South. This rebound Bible belonged to my great-grandmother Madeleine L'Engle, after whom I am named; her hands turned and marked the pages I read; her tears spotted them. When I walk the dogs at night I walk on land that has been familiar under my feet for forty years. It may be because I was a city child, born and raised on the asphalt island of Manhattan, that the actual feel of grass, of earth, is something of which I am acutely, joyfully aware. Above me the stars are part of the rootedness, stars which are patterned in the sky in a particular way in this corner of the planet. I am blessed in being rooted with my family, with Bio and Laurie making their own roots in this house which is well over two hundred years old... Food is part of the rootedness, food and water. Our water comes from our own artesian well. We know, as much as can ben known nowadays, what we are drinking. Much of what we eat comes fromt he garden and the evening meal is a special part of the rootedness, when we linger at the table, lighting candles or oil lamps as the sky darkens. We have consciously eaten well this summer, knowing that this quiet time of relaxation and pleasure is important, for we are weary, the body/spirit worn by all that has been happening. We eat the first young corn, which Hugh planted and now cnanot eat. Fix a platter of sliced tomatoes and green peppers, sprinkled with basil and chives. At night I go upstairs to a bed that is generations older than my marriage, a high four-poster bed in which Hugh and I have made love, and in which others before us have made love for more than two centuries. There is a good feeling to the bed, as there is to the house. Life has been lived in it fully. There are no residual auras of anger or frustration, but a sense of the ordinary problems of living worked out with love and laughter... A friend came by this afternoon to visit with Hugh and remarked that his unhappiness with the world of the yuppies is that their rootedness is only in money--money not as that whcih makes it possible for us to buy bread and milk and a roof over the head, but as a symbol of transitory vanities. Was he being too harsh? I'm not sure. But it reminded me that my own rootedness must be expressed in and through symbol and sacrament or it not rootedness at all. When I dig in the garden it is God's earth, given us to care for and noursih. It is all undergirded by the understanding of what "a goodly heritage" I have, and this gift is one I must honor in all that I do and all that I am."

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