Yesterday I watched an episode of MacGyver, and it convinced me that I simply have to become more practical if I am to survive, much less thrive, on this planet. I have to become a female MacGyver, or at the very least, work my way out of the “special needs” category. This isn’t the first time I’ve had this notion, but I always get so overwhelmed by the vast number of skills you need to be even a person of average practicality, that I quickly give up in despair, and decide that, if something ever happens to James I will just have to be content living out my days in a mental institution. Until today, when it occurred to me that I could simply divide all practical skills up into a number of categories and try to tackle one category at a time. So, for this month, I am attempting to become better at housekeeping.
One thing I was admiring about MacGyver, was how- after climbing a mountain and knocking an Asian soldier unconscious- he immediately picked up the soldier’s coffee cup and finished off its contents. Later in the show, he found some Hershey’s chocolate bars on the floor of a recently exploded building that was filling with poisonous gas, and picked one up and started eating it. It made me realize that you just can’t be squeamish if you want to play at MacGyver’s level. But in my case, excessive squeamishness has definitely been a practicality inhibitor. So, I am going to make sure that in housekeeping, I especially embrace the tasks I would normally hand off to someone else, such as cleaning the toilets, taking out the trash, and cleaning the vacuum filter. (Maybe I should even have a sandwich afterwards without washing my hands!) I have long speculated that there may be a correlation between personal power and how willing a person is to get their hands dirty.
So, this housekeeping focus has got me thinking about all the things that turn a house into a home. I tend to think of homes as being very large people, and just like us, their lives depend on a wide variety of organs, systems, and substances in order to live. Without the necessary components, they are simply large bodies that neither live nor breathe. I think many houses nowadays never quite make it all the way to becoming homes, because a mobile, career-centered lifestyle focused on sophistication and refinement tends to lack many of the earthly elements that bring a house to life. In fact, I had been planning to let my current apartment remain an empty-ish white box, to decrease the hassle of moving when we eventually relocate. But I’m not sure it is even safe for humans to live in white boxes, at least not over the long run. People think a lot about the nutrition that comes from food, but I think an equal amount of our nutrition comes from our environment and the things that surround us.
And here are some of the things it seems to me that houses need in order to come to life:
1. Plantly things, like potted plants, unvarnished wood, natural wicker, or even some branches or wildflowers in a mason jar. Plants are the lungs of a room and enable it to breathe.
2. Pictures. Despite (or perhaps because of) having hundreds of drawings and paintings piled up in my home, I haven’t hung pictures on my walls in the longest time, but this is a big mistake! If windows are the eyes of a home, then pictures are a home’s imagination and it’s ability to dream.
3. Soft things, like blankets, pillows, towels, rugs, curtains, or even stuffed animals. These are a home’s soft arms that give you a much needed squeeze at the end of the day.
4. Hard, natural textures, like stone, brick, terra cotta, tile, and even porcelain and glass. These are the bones of a home. Have you ever noticed how bony people make it easily through the lean times and don’t lose their integrity during the fast times? Well, it is the same with homes.
5. Memories, if you are lucky enough to have any good ones. These can be any objects that connect you to happy times in the past, or meaningful relationships you have known. These are, of course, a home’s memory, and help to keep it warm and stable.
6. Gold. Touches of gold, perhaps unvarnished brass or gold leaf, are like a home’s halo. They connect a home to God the Father and remind us that good will eventually triumph.
7. Handmade items and crafts of all sorts are the hands of a home. They remind the home to engage in life fully and not be weighed down by perfectionism and inhibitions..
8. Food. Probably the most important facet of all, cooking and eating are truly the heart and life blood of a home. The fire, the bubbles, the clinks, the smells and the vapors. The forks and plates and crumbs. These are the things which, above all else, seem to bring a home to life.