“The Art of Seeing” by Michael Milton
“God is at home; it is we who have gone out for a walk.” ~ Meister Eckhart
“There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort.” ~ Jane Austen
I have lived in the same apartment since 1983 and that fact alone represents a sort of minor miracle; the national average for the number of times an American will move in their life is 11.4 times.
Our home is tremendously important to me. It is a repository of memories, a sort of 4-walled palimpsest; fancy sounding language, I know–and this from a guy who had, quite literally, a futon and a bar of soap in his first Park Slope studio. Now, walking from room to room and simply looking calms, reassures and cheers me.
I am sometimes teased by friends for being a trifle fussy. Where exactly I fall on the Fussy Scale, I can’t say. That I derive a kind of guilty pleasure out of swirling and re-swirling the various cashmere and wool throws draped on furniture throughout the apartment or from re-arranging bric-a-brac from table to ledge and back again ought to be some sort of clue to evaluators of such data.
Curiously, I have not always given particular credence to my living space. The apartment building I live in is an historic brick and limestone edifice built in the lively Beaux-Arts- Meets-Wedding-Cake style popular at the turn of the last century. When I inherited this apartment, I was living on a strict actor/writer/waiter/student budget and not particularly focused on reviving this space in any meaningful way–other than adding books to my concrete block and wood plank shelving.
Things change, of course. Of that, we are always certain. “My” space became “our” space; un-certain freelancing became a 25 year long career with a theatrical production company. And with a very little bit more discretionary income, the look of the apartment began to evolve. That doesn’t mean I’m above the occasional Ikea purchase. And I still can’t resist a sale at Home Goods (or is that a redundancy?) Plus, we still sometimes troll the neighborhood streets on trash day with an eye out for appealing rejects from other peoples’ renovations.
I am willing to admit that I can become a bit controlling once something has captured my imagination, a conclusion many I know would enthusiastically agree with. And, as more effort has been poured into these 1100 square feet–efforts addressing water stained 12 foot high ceilings, crumbling walls, neglected moldings, the sun warped wainscoting lining the curved tower dining area and time worn oak floors (who the hell knew a floor sander had such a strong will of its own???) the more controlling of the space I have become.
I don’t, for example, simply “make” the bed each morning; I create it, with sharp sheet corners, bi-weekly changed linens, seasonally switched out comforters and artfully arranged decorative pillows and a perfectly swirled cashmere and wool throw.
(Yes, I hear myself!)
I am convinced I am from a different era altogether and the fact that my building was constructed in 1904 allows me to sink even further into that delusion. I am bothered by many things which serve as reminders of the era I really DO inhabit. My dear friend Laurie felt misplaced in time, as well, and sought to obscure reminders of the present day—items like the plastic dish soap dispenser on her sink—by knitting woolen cozies to cover them.
Honestly, I haven’t done that…yet.
But I am a stickler on many things; lighting, for instance. Sotero and our friends are of the “It can’t be bright enough” school of modernistic thinking and wattage output. I prefer being reminded of a time illuminated by flickering candles and quivering gas jets. All switches here are on dimmers and I am always perplexed by my guests’ refusal to squint the way I do when reading in albeit dim though evocative sort of incandescence I adore.
And exposed wires! Our fairly elaborate entertainment center came, necessarily, with a goodly number of wires and cords. Were it up to Sotero, we would be forced to look at that messy tangle while watching the latest episode of THE GOOD WIFE. Actually, only I would be staring at the wires. Hence, an elaborate organization of books, pottery and tchotchkes to disguise the unfortunate truth that electricity is needed to power our 65 inch television.
I am linked to the past by way of our elaborate brass door knobs and plates, once covered with a century’s worth of paint, now stripped down to their original glory; and by the stained glass formerly housed in an 18th century Philadelphian church; by the carved wooden cornice supports—once part of a mantel in a townhouse on the Upper West Side of Manhattan—now sit atop a bookshelf. And in the fireplace sits a stone gargoyle, part of a frieze from a long gone office building downtown.
I recently read, ‘A house is a home when it shelters the body and comforts the soul.’
I believe those words with all my heart. Embrace and enliven your home; but maybe try to avoid the whole “swirling of the throws” thing. It’s harder than it seems.