'Oh, domesticity! The wonder of dinner plates and cream pitchers. You know your friends by their ornaments. You want everything. If Mrs. A. has her mama's old jelly mold, you want one, too, and everything that goes with it -- the family, the tradition, the years of having jelly molded in it. We domestic sensualists live in a state of longing, no matter how comfortable our own places are.'
--from The Lone Pilgrim by Laurie Colwin
Are you a domestic sensualist? I suspect I may be one. Or at least there is a part of me that is drawn very deeply to the realm of home and hearth and all that expressed there.
For a while I lived very simply in a religious community where I didn't have much in the way of domestic space. Just a simple but beautiful room that contained a bed and a desk. People who live in this way are traditionally called 'home leavers' because they have given up the householder life.
The room had a window that looked out on a tile roof. On winter afternoons, the sun would pour in low and thick like honey and I would raise the torn rice paper shade up as high as it would go. On a small table in a corner, I started keeping an electric tea kettle and packets of tea and cocoa. Eventually, there appeared several lovely mismatched mugs and plates and a brightly colored tim filled with chocolate and cookies. I piled a few oranges on a plate and made sure I always had a jar of almonds on hand. This led to a little stash of cheese and crackers and who could stop it from there?
While steeped in the renunciant life, I eventually discovered that in fact I was a domestic person. But rather than fight it, I instead followed it out of the temple and into my own little apartment. To this day I negotiate the sometimes confusing, often rewarding world between these two ways of being. I long ago gave up on trying to figure out if I was a monk or a domestic sensualist. I decided I was both
What I've discovered since then is that domesticity and renunciation are not so oppositional or polarizing. In truth, they inform the other in ways that are surprising and challenging, and each reveals something in the other that couldn't be seen in singularity. At the very least, my monk-self offers restraint while my domestic sensualist keeps it all lively and engaged. Life is seldom an either/or proposition.
(Images: Dana Velden)