Finding Our Way Home

I am acutely aware right now of the parallel journeys I am walking these days. The central purpose of this blog, and of the book I am hoping to publish, is to articulate the spiritual journey into earth community, finding our way home to connection with earth, with each other, and with the Mystery within and between all. And now, Margy and I are trying to “find our way home” in a literal way, to a house that can function more in tune with our ecological desires. Experiencing the ups and downs of that process–the search for greener housing–teaches me so much about the spiritual journey of finding our way home to earth and spirit and each other.

I realize that it is a journey of grief as much as of beauty.  It is a journey of letting go of the things we thought we needed, some of our accumulations of material property, to make room for a simplicity of heart. It is a journey of following the deep desires of our hearts, and sometimes only learning what those desires are when we feel the pain of losing something we didn’t know we desired. It is a journey of many searches, many turn arounds, many disappointments, and yet some surprises that delight.

It is a journey in which we get to know kindred spirits along the path. It is a journey of learning what kinds of systems actually help a house to function more gently on the earth, and what kind of systems help us as human beings to live more beneficially with our planet. It requires great initiative and stamina, but also demands that we cultivate patience, and that we wait in darkness as we experience the contradictions between what is, and what is not yet–what we dream about.

Today I voiced to myself the realization that the spiritual journey into earth community will likely not be completed in my own lifetime. It is a collective journey.  I can give it my voice and my love and my energy, but it will require so many more voices and so much energy from so many people. But most likely I will live in this liminal zone–this space between the world as it is, and the world that is not yet–most likely I will live here all of my days.

So I appreciate more deeply all that I am learning in our search for greener housing. Because experiencing this smaller liminal zone is bringing to me what I need for the larger liminal zone.  Most particularly today, I appreciate that it cultivates in me an open heart to all of the emotions it brings–the anxiety, the excitement, the hope, the disappointment, the grief, the emptiness, the beauty. So when I write of such emotions in this blog, there is a kind of equanimity in me, like a river flowing through my heart. I am glad to be on both of these journeys of finding our way home.
Path in Woods

Lunar Eclipse

Full MoonIn just a short while, the full moon will move into the shadow of the earth, and we’ll get to watch the lunar eclipse. I am at Rowe Camp with others who are doing the Work That Reconnects, but part of me is back home with Margy, pondering over the house she went to look at today, still on the journey of our search for greener housing. There were so many cosmic alignments for this house–the moon, the eclipse, the name of the street being Four Winds, and to top it off, I just met someone here at Rowe who lives literally down the street from this house. It is in a neighborhood near the cemetery that we would love to live in. But Margy’s instinct with the house was that while there were many great features we are looking for, the yard is too tiny, and there is no real outdoor privacy.

We are going to try to arrange for me to see it when I return on Tuesday, so she doesn’t have to carry the burden of decision alone. But tonight we are each feeling sad and empty. For me, it raises the question–do we hold true to all the elements of the home we are looking for? Or do we bend and release certain aspects of that dream for new dreams in a new place? Or perhaps more to the point, which parts of the dream are negotiable, and which are utterly necessary?

I remember years ago, when I was looking for a home to rent in Jamaica Plain, there were so many near misses, and almost magical leads that nevertheless ended in no results for four months. Is that what is happening again? The universe conspiring to send us places to look at, knowing we’ll have to break our hearts open again and again, until finally we can find our way.

Being in this workshop space, I am in a good place to hold a broken heart with equanimity. The Work that Reconnects invites us to welcome all of the feelings that pour through our hearts. Joanna Macy read this poem by Rainer Maria Rilke during a beautiful weekend workshop linking the poems of Rilke to the Work That Reconnects. It speaks to me tonight in these meetings of darkness and light on our journey. Tonight I feel full of gratitude to the moon.

God speaks to each of us as he makes us,

then walks with us silently out of the night.

These are the words we dimly hear:

You, sent out beyond your recall,

go to the limits of your longing.

Embody me.

Flare up like a flame

and make big shadows I can move in.

Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.

Just keep going. No feeling is final.

Don’t let yourself lose me.

Nearby is the country they call life.

You will know it by its seriousness.

Give me your hand.

Book of Hours, I 59  [Translated by Joanna Macy and Anita Barrows]


Today at 4:21 a.m. marked the transition from Summer to Fall called the Autumn Equinox. Today the night is equal in time to the day. It is a festival of balance.

Photo by Margy Dowzer

Photo by Margy Dowzer

I feel a bit out of balance, staying up too late, waking with a headache, feeling like I have too much to do, and a bit rattled by all of it. But I took a walk in the beautiful cold crisp morning, and felt the warm sun on my face. I took time to journal, and listen to what the Mystery within might offer to me.

Here is what I heard from my old old grandmother: “You can always choose to step into balance at any moment. Do so now, on this day of balance between light and dark.”

And then I felt a sense of joy and peace in my heart. May you also find the way to step into balance today!

The House Revisited

All right. I’ve just had one of the funniest moments in our search for greener housing. We went to see a house today, some things were good, but the layout seemed all wrong. And then we checked out the back yard, which was nice.  And then we looked in the small garage, and it was set up as a man-cave, with two big chairs and a television set and a refrigerator, and lots of junk laying around and an overpowering smell of cigarette smoke. Suddenly it seemed very familiar. Wasn’t there another house with a man-cave garage just like this one?

When I got home I checked my file with listing sheets of houses we had visited, and there it was; dated August 25th. We had already seen that very house. Yesterday it showed up as a new listing with the catch phrase, “back on the market,” and I never recognized it until the man-cave. Even our realtor didn’t recognize it at first. My only excuse is that I think we may have looked at it the same day as we saw the house with the beautiful window–so maybe we didn’t pay it much attention.

What is the moral of this story? Even the universe likes a good joke?

Turkey DSC00335

the not so big house

One of my friends (thanks, Deb!) pointed me in the direction of a great book to add my search for beauty to our search for greener housing. Sarah Susanka’s the not so big house: A Blueprint for the Way We Really Live is not a new book, but it is new to me. (By the way, I bought the book with credits from turning in used books to my local independent bookstore, Longfellow Books. Isn’t that great!)

Susanka also has a website–the book and the website are both on the theme of how to reimagine our homes so that they feel like home–with comfort and usefulness and beauty–without being as big as we might think they need to be. (Her website also has resources and links to green housing as well. The two ideas share a lot of resonance.)

She is responding to the tendency in American culture to expand the sizes of our houses so that they have turned into almost mansions. Now, her not so big house is a little bigger than the one we are looking for–in fact our current house would fit her definition, too. But what I liked most is that she talks about particular strategies that can contribute to a feeling of homeyness.

Simple things, like creating a sense of containment around certain spaces by lowering a ceiling, or putting in some sort of molding around an area that gives it a focus.  She also suggests most of us would do well with a more open living plan, where our public spaces are joined together–in a living, cooking and eating area. We then also can create private spaces. Something I had never thought about was the importance of the entryway for making a home feel hospitable and a joy to enter. It all makes sense to me.

It is the details that make a home beautiful. I find I like the details I have seen in Craftsman Style homes, like in this picture below–the simple wood molding around the upper part of the wall ties the room together. Poring over Susanka’s photos and ideas, gives me a better sense of how to imagine renovating houses that we might see that don’t seem to be what we are looking for, but have the potential to be turned into what we want. My imagination has been lit up!

Craftsman Style Interior Photo by Emack2020JPEG Via Creative Commons.

Craftsman Style Interior
Photo by Emack2020JPEG Via Creative Commons.

The Yearning for Beauty

Window DSC00652 - Version 2My heart keeps getting pulled back to the beautiful window house, and finally one morning, I was able to articulate why. We didn’t put this into our wish list, but seeing that beautiful window awakened in me a deep yearning for beauty itself, for something unique and creative in a home.

Perhaps it keeps calling back to me because our search for greener housing is moving at less than a snail’s pace. We looked at two more houses, but were unimpressed. There is nothing out there right now that is anywhere near adequate.

Or perhaps watching “renovation” shows on television are making it seem simpler than it actually would be to make changes in a house to fix its problems. But I notice I am not attracted to all the high-end fashionable features that the contractors put into these houses on television. Rather, I like the quirky and unique, like a wall made of cedar planks, or a screen door with a metal bird design. I think there was a time when beauty was an important part of the craft of creating houses. We see it in old geometric designs in wood floors, and stained glass windows tucked into the turn of a stairway.

So I ask myself, can we add that to our wish list? Might it be possible to find a house that has an art to it, as well as the practical features that would make it work for us and for the environment?  Might it be possible, even in a small and inexpensive house, to find something that makes our hearts light up?

At first this yearning feels almost painful, like grief or a hopeless obsession. But at some point I realize how ancient is this human desire for beauty, how utterly vital to our spirit and survival.  I am able to embrace it, and let it reach out into the morning light.

I Wish There Was a TV Show Called “Downsizing”

Lately, we’ve been watching house buying and selling shows on Netflix. We’ve picked up a few good tips on de-cluttering as an important step in selling a house. But it is unbelievable to watch these reality show folks looking for new houses. It seems everyone is looking for bigger and better and more “in style.” No one likes houses with decor from the 90’s or 80’s or 70’s. They all want granite countertops in the kitchen, huge walk-in closets, several bathrooms, cathedral ceilings, and thousands of square feet.

Our house’s kitchen has not been updated. We have lovely custom maple cabinets, and the original built in two ovens and stove top. But our reality show hosts would likely have a field day–they’d pull out all the counters and flooring and appliances and upgrade to granite and new tile and probably paint the cabinets, and put in stainless steel appliances.  I’m not sure what they would do with the brick wall–we’ve learned from these shows that exposed brick is so “seventies.”Brick DSC00849

I wish there was a show we could watch in which every episode follows people who are downsizing from a big house to a small efficient home. Even better, the people would be adding insulation, and putting solar panels on the roof, and exploring renewable sources for heating and cooling. They wouldn’t care about the latest in style, but would look for classic and ecological features. They’d have the latest ideas in how to make the most of small space.

Are you listening HGTV?