A Hopeful Table: Home as Pilgrimage

"A roof to keep out the rain. Four walls to keep out the wind. Floors to keep out the cold. Yes, but home is more than that...(the) warmth of loving hearts, light from happy eyes, kindness, loyalty, comradeship. Home is first school...Where money is not so important as loving-kindness. Where even the teakettle sings from happiness. That is home." ~ Ernestine Schumann-Heink

Have been praying on a rather big decision recently, about where we will finally settle. I consider myself basically an Oregonian at this point, even though i was born in another state and have also been living recently in yet another state (not to mention the time previously in my twenties lived in Europe and on the east coast). And my finace lives right here in the Northwest, but at this point he still spends half the year working up in Alaska. His Mother lives in yet another state, my Mother in still yet another, with my brothers divided between even more states. Doesnt exactly lead to a naturally settled place does it? I feel pulled in so many directions here.

But in another timely co-in-see-dance today, came accross an offering that soothes something, from

"From the beginning of my little window seat's life, my daughters have enjoyed it with me:

They love window seats as much as I do. My girls have enjoyed visiting friends in Texas whose daughter has a beautiful windowseat in her bedroom. The look on my girls' faces when they saw it assured me that they believed in fairy tales and that Sleeping Beauty or Rapunzel's tower was indeed on the other side of that window.

And that's exactly where windows and books take us.

What can be more revealing than a physical window whose welcoming presence reflects the windows of our mind. Then, upon closer inspection, we realize that the transparent pane that separates reality from our ideals is but a shaft of light. A shaft of light that takes our mundane lives and turns them into something richer, sweeter and more imaginative. A shaft of light that takes the dreariness of our earthly lives and widens our thoughts to encompass more space:

"Of all the features of the house at Rocky Ridge---and it bore many marks of Almanzo's inventive mind---perhaps the most pleasing to Laura were the spacious windows, for they opened her view to the world she had loved as a child. The four great windows of the parlor framed 'landscapes of forest and meadow and hills curving against the sky.' The curtains hung straight, the glass was always uncovered.

"' I don't want curtains over my pictures,' Laura would say. 'They're never the same for two hours together, and I like to watch them changing.'

"In the kitchen was a window with a special purpose. 'She hates kneading bread,' Rose said. 'All her life she has hated it, and baked twice a week. So the window is there. She forgets the kneading in looking at the sheep pasture. She has windows everywhere,' Rose added, 'not only in her house, but in her mind.' " ---Laura by Donald Zochert

This shaft of light changes flowers into fairies, window seats into boats, little girls into princesses, books into maps, blogs into backyard fences, rooms into towers, and houses into homes. What a wonderful world a window can represent, if we look at it through the eyes of faith instead of our just our eyes."

This really calmed something inside, and i so needed that today. I can't quite explain it, why this soothed so much. But its knowing that my little kitchen window i have here in this sweet trailer, that it comes with me when i move...becuase our homes are also a part of our "pilgrimaging". Somehow, being reminded of that today has really "settled" something in the upheaval, becuase that little window has seen me through so much (see here , here, here for example) , and still is a very key part of both my home and my day. But its much much more than this....its that the INNER windows will come along as well when moving happens. Becuase i have realized lately that wood is not the only thing that builds a home. Its also the the inspiring words and images we gather (even online), the prayers we say, the daily rhythms we follow, the habits we develop, our stories, our art, our faith. This stuff is every bit a part of building our home as its solid walls, this stuff is a home's deeper "windows" so to speak. And windows are every bit as critical as a foundation. We need roots in our homes, but we also need wings there.

I've been drawn to looking at stained glass windows too lately. The great Cathedrals of old, i suspect they were designed to be like a ship in shape and feeling, to remind us that as we are in our precious earthly home here that we are also on a sacred journey, in a ship that is on pilgramage, being led by Our Father. The heart of a Cathedral is its nave, the central approach to the high altar, and even the word nave is from the Latin navis, meaning ship. And looking out through a Cathedral's stained glass windows, it brings that journeying reminder deeply home as well. A reminder of heavenly light, the even richer colors and shapes and joy that await, that we can but glimpse now. We sure do need the roots of a grounded life, but also the wings of remembering our heavenly home.

Sacred Icons are another amazing window here, they are the Eastern Orthodox equivalent of the art and windows of the Great Cathedrals and the like, both are "windows for the soul". And "to the soul" too....for a bit of the heavenly is a true part of our souls, we are created in His image....and we so deeply need the wings of that reminder sometimes...not that we are God but that we are His children...remembering that, it does something pretty substantial to a person.

I think i've spent far too much of my life making light of the gift of windows and wings. When i was young we were always moving around, so in my great longing for the roots that were missing i discounted the gift of wings that truely were there. There was the windows and wings of the faith that my Mother (and her parents and their parents, on down the line) had given me, which it sadly took me walking away from for awhile to see the treasure there and return to. There was the treasure also of a kind of inward contemplative nature which i have sometimes learned to bury as the world (including the modern Christian world) practically screams that its the "productive" things that matter most. In a post on
hands some time back for example, beautifully artistic as it was, something idealized there was rather disturbing to me:

"Ma often would spend the evenings after all her chores were done, not sitting and staring, but mending... Even in a quiet moment, when one could sit and watch the fire (heaven forbid), she used her hands to make progress on her housework or a project. "

After reading that, the next night i was listening to story hour on the radio (yay NPR), and instead of "busying my hands" during it (though sometimes that is exactly what i do, and really enjoy), this time i was simply looking out the window. And suddenly i was seeing things i'd never seen before, shapes in trees, plays of light, new plants....things i would have continued to miss if i hadn't been simply "sitting and staring" sometimes. It's just so amazing how when we are going along busily we have our eyes open but can't really see sometimes. It doesnt have to be that way, maybe we can go about our activity more contemplatively ( i know i sure long to)...but often we have tunnel vision of "how much we can get done" there instead, missing the journey . And so it really does take being more "unproductive" at times to help us actually see things. Its like how being a homemaker it takes being there daily, resting in our homes too, and just slowly doing "nothing" sometimes and looking around, for ideas to hit about improving things. I've experienced that again and again, where i will try so hard to research a solution for something, work at it, but surprisingly often its when i step back and simply "woolgather" as some might say, that the solution hits "out of the blue".

Reminds me of a favorite qoute, from Wanderlust by Rebecca Solnit:

"The multiplication of technologies in the name of efficiency is actually eradicating free time by making it possible to maximize the time and place for production and minimize the unstructured travel time in between. New timesaving technologies make most workers more productive, not more free, in a world that seems to be accelerating around them. Too, the rhetoric of efficiency around these technologies suggests that what cannot be quantified cannot be valued--that that vast array of pleasures which fall into the catagory of doing nothing in particular, of wool gatthering, cloud-gazing, window shopping, are nothing but voids to be filled by something more definite, more productive, or faster paced. ...The indeterminancy of a ramble, on which much may be discovered, is being replaced by the determinate shortest distance to be traversed with all posible speed, as well as by the electronic transmissions that make real travel less necessary. As a member of the self employed whose time saved by technologoes can be lavished on day dreams and meanders, i know these things have their uses, and use them--a truck, a computer, a modem---myself, but i fear their false urgency, their call call to speed, their insistance that travel is less important than arrival."

Truly, our being receptive is every bit as important as our being active, our rest just as important as our exertion, our stillness just as important as our busyness, our windows as important as our foundation, our wings as important as our roots.

It's funny how so often it takes being at my little kitchen window here to get reminded. Standing there as the domestic duties of the day call me to it, but also simply looking out over the horizon there too, just being at the helm of this little "ship"....well, it reminds me that windows and wings are just as much at the heart of things as their more favored sisters of rootedness and productivity. It's time the sisters smiled accross the wonderful bridge they make together isn't it? And maybe its time to realize that even as home is our place of nesting , it is also our place of pilgrimage. Funny how that works....what would a bird be without either its nest or its wings : ) ?

A phrase has been in my head today, that of being "peacefully constructive" (inspired in part by some thoughts here). I just really like that, so much nicer than the tunnel vision of that word "productive". For we construct by far more than what we produce, we construct with both our active and contemplative lives. And both of those things seem to meet so beautifully being there at that little kitchen window by the sink and stove. Maybe that's part of why it draws so much...

(Images from here, here and here)

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