It has been a fun Easter week here in this old house. Now that Holy Week and Easter Day is behind us and we are into the seven-week season of Easter, I have been able to enjoy the spring flowers on the mesa behind us more. It was hard to get my daily 3 1/4 miles in when there was so much going on at church. Also, one daughter was with us for Triduum and the first part of Easter week, which is always a fun time. When the kids come to visit, we stop and play more easily than when we are into our daily routine.
Regular readers of this blog know that this old house is pretty small: 1000 sq’ and that is because we added on a sleeping porch about 12 years ago. When the girls were small, we only had one bathroom; now we have two since converting a large closet. When they come to visit as adults, the house feels even smaller! We have always been close as a family, partly because the house didn’t let us get too far away from each other. There were no remote bedrooms to hide in. We all shared one bathroom and we didn’t have a TV until the oldest was 13 and then only for watching movies. (Being in the foothills, if you don’t have cable, you don’t pick up any TV signals.) After dinner, the girls would be playing some imaginative game or doing homework within earshot because the whole house is within earshot! The joke has always been that there is no privacy for anything in this old house. Now that they are adults, it isn’t so much of a joke any more. When they bring friends home, it is a challenge to make a bit of privacy for the guest. Guests who aren’t used to close living often struggle staying with us.
Our living spaces form us, for good or for ill. For example, when my oldest went to college, sharing a dorm room was no problem as she was used to living in a small space with little extra storage as well as sharing a bathroom with three others. Some of her fellow students who came from large houses where everyone had their own bedroom and bathroom found the college dorm experience a real challenge! Dare I suggest, a necessary challenge?
The living spaces of our childhood are formative. An interesting meditation exercise is to reflect on the living spaces from your childhood. What did you like? What didn’t you like? What traits from childhood dwellings are present in your current living space? When choosing a place to live, what are key elements you look for? Are there rooms where you live now that don’t “feel comfortable”? Is there anything you can do to make the space more inviting to you? Does your living space draw you outside or “cocoon you”? What is your dream dwelling? Where is it located? Answering these questions may help you craft a living space that nurtures you more. As physical beings, we are impacted by our surroundings and beauty will always strengthen the soul.
I find it interesting that there is a “small house” movement afoot in this nation. Some are choosing it as a way to afford their own home. Some of them are built to be portable though more stable than a camping trailer. Some municipalities are experimenting with these kinds of spaces to deal with homelessness. When we think of housing people in need, we will be more effective with limited resources if we scale back the amount of space we think people need to live. Clean water, plumbing and electricity, and a solid roof over a temperature-controlled space, even at only 400 sq’, is a gift to someone sleeping in their car or under a bridge. The opportunity to brighten and personalize a place of their own will also help restore dignity and self-worth to many in need. Compared to some of these dwellings, this old house is a mansion!
Looking at your living space, what is being formed in you physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually? Or to put it another way, what you call home is not neutral space.