Nest-Building at the Spirit Level

I love solving design puzzles and enjoy all the creative challenges that go into arranging and decorating a space to make it both comfortable and unique. Home-making, nest-building, dream-tending: for me, it’s all part of accepting that everywhere is a sacred space. It helps that Phillip can build anything I can imagine, and can also out-imagine me. Full Moon Cottage was a disaster when we bought it, but the stunning land and thin-place energy captured our hearts within moments of stepping on the ground. We knew we could do the work that would make it a home where family and friends could gather and celebrate. 

And so walls came down; windows went in; floors were replaced; trim was added; paint was applied. (And reapplied. And again.) The bathroom was stripped down and replaced. Phillip built cabinets and an island for the kitchen, and then a pantry, a hutch, and a buffet. He made stained glass windows for transoms. He changed out the lights and, eventually the plumbing fixtures. We took advantage of a government-assisted energy efficiency program, and installed geo-thermal heating.

All of this took years and was done on the proverbial dime (or as my South Milwaukee friend used to say, “A buck two-eighty”). We did all the work, often with the help of friends, and called it “better than it was” remodeling. We went to auctions, rummage sales, and St. Vinnie’s, and invented what we couldn’t find or afford. For years, I’ve been dragging home abandoned nests, dogwood, rose hips, grapevine, feathers and other treasures from the trail to create seasonal decorations. Full Moon Cottage has been our refuge for almost 16 years, and the ongoing creation has been a grand adventure. The fun has been in the creating as much as the finished work. The joy has been in welcoming others to join us for gatherings, visits, and celebrations.

I was reflecting on all of this after I read a recent feature in a decorating magazine that shall remain nameless, but that is ostensibly focused on country living. The homeowners spoke of their grueling remodeling experience and all the trials they had to endure during the year their upscale “1930’s colonial” was completely and richly remodeled, by highly-paid professionals, in a wealthy suburb of a large city.

The homeowners are quoted as saying that they so desired to live on this street that, “We would have lived in a cardboard box, if necessary…There was dust everywhere, and we had no kitchen or bathtub. We’d walk into the village to eat meals and take showers at the country club down the street.”

Showers at the country club; meals at restaurants: would the suffering never end? How very arduous life must have been for these people as they slummed through a year of renovation that gave them everything they wanted. For now.

Are these people aware that increasing numbers of our world’s population do live in cardboard boxes and spend hours searching for the next one to call home?

I begrudge no one their success or the rewards earned from their professional contributions to the greater good, but these quotes were striking in their revelation of smug indifference to the true poverty and need that are the daily round for many in our society, and were the very quotes the magazine editors had excerpted from the article, enlarged, and splashed across the expensive furnishings and the huge expanse of rooms now further confining and protecting the happy family from reality.

American society is changing, and not pleasantly or creatively. Disparate and immorally-earned wealth is isolating and stratifying our people, even as advertising feeds and stimulates the materialistic greed of those who cannot afford what they’re enticed to consider as their due. 

We have become a people who are ill-equipped and unprepared to recognize the hold of desires endlessly suckled from the glass teats of televisions, computers, and now our must-have pads, pods, and smart phones–desires that are ultimately destructive to the spirit.

Thanksgiving, a day once set aside to acknowledge and celebrate gratitude for the blessings of family, friends, and home, has become a day to be endured until eager shoppers can set out to spend money they don’t have on things they don’t need. We are bombarded with messages that tell us we are unacceptable, at every level, without these things. And too many of us believe it.

It is an addiction to filling a bottomless hole. Like all addictions, acquisition imprisons us in a drugged illusion that denies reality. Buying things we don’t need thrills and assures us we’re visible, better, worthy, accomplished, safe, “there.” Until the next product that confers superiority is dangled before our desires, labeling us deficient till we own it.

And it will never end, unless we withdraw from the drug and awaken, because life isn’t about things at all; it’s about the challenge of loving and accepting ourselves, and then others, into wholeness. The ego can never be, finally, satisfied at the expense of the spirit, and an empty and disregarded spirit will never be made whole through the acquisition of possessions.

Entreated to live only at the surface level and to equate our self-worth with the amount, brand, and price of our possessions, we deny the voice of our spirit and its requirements for stillness, space, connection, reflection, and community. We forget that we are worthy, just for being here, just as we are. We no longer participate joyfully in the co-creation of our world, lives, careers, homes, or relationships. We surrender our power to create our lives instead of having them mass-produced and sold to us. We consider ourselves lesser beings than those who have greater wealth, and render those with less invisible. We close our hearts and starve our spirits.

And so I am thankful for friends who make their livings as artists, and all those who are the artists of their lives, and who encourage me to design my life imaginatively, too. I’m grateful for a partner like Phillip, who celebrates creativity and honors the time it takes to make a home that reflects and feeds our spirits. I’m thankful for those who have taught me to live with eyes, heart, spirit and doors wide-open to the blessings that come freely and uniquely into our lives.

Full Moon Cottage is humble and comfortable. We try to care for the things we’ve collected and been given, but in the end it isn’t about these things. Home is not “where the stuff is;” it is the place where we live, and love, and rest; where we feed our spirits; and–most importantly–where we welcome others to share what we have.

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