The warmth of home

“By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches.”

Proverbs 24: 3-4

Home is where the heart is, as the famous saying goes. But, what do we mean by heart – is it the self expression allowed by the fabric of the interior we have created, or the objects we have collected and the memories they possess? There is always the question of what we might save first in the case of a natural disaster, but what if the heart of the home rests somewhere more fundamental, not simply in the people we hold dear and the objects we treasure.

In Poetics of Space, Gaston Bachelard explores the home as the opportunity to find one’s soul. The home provides the rooms and spaces for this important discovery, that allow us to daydream. “Now more than ever we have a need for intimacy, secrets, sites of interiority and contemplation where we can practise ‘fertile laziness’ (1). Without such nooks and crannies to muse and mope, to linger and loiter, there is nowhere to begin anew. No place for rapt attention.”

The boundaries of home though seem to be changing, in line with a shift of lifestyle patterns beyond our own four walls. Since Covid 19, we have seen a change to our work patterns, with more of us working at least part of the week from home. There has been an increased interest in how we use our outdoor spaces, with clear trends such as developing our gardens into an extension of the kitchen, or ‘the room under the stars’. This change of working pattern also results in a wider use of local cafes and other shared community spaces, to tap into human contact beyond the solitary time many of us spend tied to our screens. Then, on a more community wide level, we are seeing the issues of migration compound how we view different people making up our community. There are so many layers to how we perceive ‘home’ as we are living through such change on both a local and global scale. As a society, we respond to this in different ways. Some open their literal doors to house people fleeing conflict, and others fear what this means for their own future. We are beginning to be forced to consider thinking beyond an individualistic view of the world, to one that garners collective action to solve the issues we face. With so many questions, where might we look for answers for this unprecedented uncertainty? Perhaps the answer is just outside our window?

If we look to the natural world, to animals like leaf cutter ants or the honey bee, we can see a symbiosis and collective working, where the individual is always subordinate to the species as a whole. A recent survey by Ikea shows we are leaning towards nature even within urban environments. 44% of the respondents to the survey see home as a network of spaces and a link to community. Maria Jonsson, Ikea Group Macro Insights Leader says, ‘We believe that this expanded notion of life at home gives people more opportunities to create the feeling of home no matter where they live.’

So how do we, wherever or however we live, bring this sense of home to ourselves and others we love and live amongst? Perhaps it might begin through small gestures, such as shared time around an outdoor dinner table, providing a less formal way of sharing food, or time by a fire just sitting with the flickering flame, taking that ‘lazy time’ Baudelaire speaks of. It does seem though that in a climate where time has become a luxury to most of us, the need to take time is more important than ever. This time to do nothing could in part, be a respite to the anxiety that seems to be a pervasive force in modern life, as examined in the latest issues of The New Scientist. Perhaps time to find a restoration to our imaginations through an ‘allowed time’ to be still. A time where ‘we learn to abide within ourselves’. (2)

If we explore the idea of our soul, an understanding of what makes our very being feel a sense of home, it might rest in having the time to reflect on finding our own joy. In Michel Gondry’s short ‘Interior Design’ he charts the romantic journey of a couple, with the female protagonist having no understanding really of her own purpose. She grapples with the transition from an innocent view of the world to claiming ‘adult responsibilities.’ This struggle leads to her turning into a physical chair. Could it be that if we don’t find this time to understand our own innate sense of home, that we too may not become literal objects but might feel an emptiness that cannot be fulfilled simply through material objects? Rather we might make a commitment to time reflecting on that deeper feeling for where a meditation on our heart’s wishes does lead us to home.

1  Baudelaire
2  Gaston Bachelard

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