Friday, April 30, 2010

The Spiritual Practice of Household Composition - 1

Just for fun: Jot down five places you've lived in your life. Anyplace, including a dorm room, counts. Do it quickly. Now write down your favorite thing about each place. See any commonalities? Any reflections in what they mean?

Observation: I did this the other night and included my childhood home, a college dorm room, and three apartments. What jumped out? That my favorite thing about four of the five was windows: big, wall-spanning windows. Some looked out onto hills and woods and water, and some onto city streets, but all of them were big and let sunlight pour into the indoors.

Reality: I have never paid the slightest attention to "window treatments." Actually, we have almost none. When we moved into this house, we had curtain panels on rods that covered the bottom halves of most of the windows, courtesy of the prior owners. Three children in three years ~ meaning that at one point their ages were five, five, and two ~ meant that said rods and curtains were quickly dismantled. And never replaced with anything. Some of the bedrooms have curtains, but not all.

Reflection: There are big windows across the front of our house, which faces sort of north. The best light in the house is the mellow yellow afternoon light that streams into the living and dining rooms from those windows. But there are big double-hung windows, lots of them, on all sides of the house. The views aren't much, but the light is wonderful.

The spiritual part: The windows and the light they offer are much more significant than I've been conscious of. What can I do, I wonder, to enhance and draw attention to the windows themselves, and to take better advantage of the light in terms of displaying artwork around the house? What might draw the windows and the light into the design of our interiors, so that the windows become integral aspects of the rooms rather then mere slots through which light is transferred?


Why I Wake Early

by Mary Oliver

Hello, sun in my face.

Hello, you who made the morning

and spread it over the fields

and into the faces of the tulips
\and the nodding morning glories,

and into the windows of, even,
miserable and the crotchety
best preacher that ever was,
dear star, that just happens to be
where you are in the universe

to keep us from ever-darkness,

to ease us with warm touching,

to hold us in the great hands of light
good morning, good morning, good morning.
Watch, now, how I start the day

in happiness, in kindness.


That is not why I wake early. I wake early because I can't sleep more than a few hours at a stretch. But when I wake up, there is light. Or there will be, in another hour or two. And so: windows. I want to become aware of windows.


  1. Sounds like another great sermon in there to me...

  2. loving the imagery -and realizing how important windows are to me as well. Thank you for the poem. I am thinking I need to read some more Mary Oliver.

  3. The house I live in now has curtains only in the guest room upstairs. I finally put blinds on my bedroom window instead of sheers. The house I lived in in Cleveland had only shades upstairs.

    An elderly parishioner asked if I had gotten drapes on my windows. She worried about me alone in the house with no drapes.

    The blinds in the sanctuary were all closed when I started. I'd raise them when I left the church during the week and on Sunday morning they'd be back down and so I'd raise them again. And again. Finally, they are open all the time.

  4. Enough window covering for privacy--otherwise, open and clean and wide for light to pour in. We need light.

  5. I often have dreams with windows in them ... they have a powerful archetypal resonance. My ability to see, my safety inside looking out and also looking into a window. I love looking in the windows of houses (The Netherlands is a wonderful country for this!) and my house is FULL of windows.

    I'm going to do your exercise. It sounds fruitful!

    Today is "World Labyrinth Day" and I walked in mine this morning - holding you and your son in my thoughts through many turns. Hugs.

  6. I have very few window treatments. Living on the downwind side of a Great Lake means that lake effect clouds inhibit sunshine all too often here. I want all the light that is out there to be inside!

  7. I'm fascinated that people are commenting on MY favorite thing.

    What about yours?

  8. I have lived in 20+ places in my I did this exercise I realized that what most appeals to me are either spaces in houses that feel like a womb to me or a view that speaks to me. I used to think I wanted a house with cathedral ceilings but now I realize I want a house that hugs me. I want to feel envelopped. We are hoping to build a house in the next few years. If we do I know I want nooks and crannies.

    And while I do like windows - it's the view out the window that appeals to me. It doesn't have to be a big window but the comfort of the view in changing seasons is what comforts me.

  9. I have that poem hanging on my classroom wall, as for our windows... I seem to be filling ours with stained glass. I now have three of my pieces at work too.

  10. Yes, Wayne, there is a stained glass post coming!

  11. I did this and linked to your post. Thanks for this thought provoking writing...

  12. when I think of where I lived, I think of spaces used to make art and the places my feet could take me when I walked out the door.