A Welcome Retreat: Home as a Haven in a Hectic World

Every spirit builds itself a house, and beyond its house a world, and beyond its world a heaven. Know then that world exists for you.

During the nineteenth century the home was viewed as "heaven on earth," a hallowed haven in an uncertain world. When man, woman, or child crossed the threshold they were safe, "not only from injury," wrote John Ruskin, "but from all terror, doubt and division." Today many of us cast a nostalgic glance backward. The Victorian era seems so calm, gentle, and gracious - so completely opposite from our own. Yet the four decades spanning the Civil War to the turn of the century were among the most politically, socially, and economically turbulent years in our history. Why, then, should a period of such profound upheaval come down to us not only as an age of innocence but as one of stability and tranquillity?

I believe, in large part, it is because of a legacy of love left to us by our great-grandmothers who reigned over their hearths as surely as Victoria did over her empire. Victorian women may not have had the vote or the trappings of power (including personal disposable income and independence) but they were the moral, spiritual, and physical center of the home, responsible for creating a welcome retreat of beauty, comfort and contentment that would protect, nurture, and sustain those they loved. To achieve this, ordinary middle-class women elevated the pursuit of domestic bliss to an extraordinary art form, from white-linen Sunday dinners to blue-checked-gingham Independence Day picnics. Women approached the domestic arts - cooking, decorating, gardening, handicrafts, and entertaining - not as burdens but as a form of personal expression and a means of persuasion. Traditions that celebrated the joys of home and family life acted as the mystical mortar that held bodies and souls together in a tumultuous society that was changing at the speed of light.

"Home is where we start from," T.S. Eliot observed. Today, a century after he was born, "home" is the place where many women are longing to return, if not literally, then figuratively. Begin believing that the time, energy and emotion you invest daily in the soulcraft of homecaring - carving out a haven for yourself and those dear to you - is a sacred endeavor. Life holds no more guarantees for us than it did for our Victorian foremothers. Yet they faced the future with full hearts, determined to create a lasting work of art: a happy, secure, and beautiful retreat of love and laughter.

We can, too.

-Sarah Ban Breathnach, Simple Abundance, A Daybook of Comfort and Joy

The above is primarily directed to the women readers of this week's message. There was no way I could adapt this to both men and women without losing the entire thrust of this passage. It does point out to the men, however, just how important the nature of our "castle" is, and what part our partners play in making it the place where we feel like a king. It is most important that we guy-type spouses acknowledge their part, and assume our own part in making that happen.

Some of my readers are single parents, and the work of making a living and supporting the family, as well as making their home a haven for themselves and their kids falls solely upon their shoulders, and is a daunting task. May you be rewarded doubly for your efforts.

Some of my readers live alone, and their home is more like the cave they hide in when the day is done. I have been there, myself. When we live alone, we need only please ourselves (and for guys like me, it sometimes means drinking milk straight out of the carton in front of the fridge in our underwear) Yet, in the process of taking care of ourselves, while living alone, we should not neglect how important it is to make our "cave" a nice place to come home and BE in. A place where it is o.k. to be alone, without the feeling of being lonely, because another part of taking care of ourselves is that we enjoy our own company.

What ever your situation, invest your energy in making your home a haven in a hectic world. The return on investment is more than ample for your needs, and the needs of those you love.

Michael

email: Michael@N-Spire.com