Sunday, 2 March 2014

H is for Huset

In “The Prophet”, Kahlil Gibran writes that huset (the house), or to be more specific, ditt hus – your house –

“shall be not an anchor but a mast. 
It shall not be a glistening film that covers a wound, but an eyelid that guards the eye.
You shall not fold your wings that you may pass through doors, not bend your heads that they strike not against a ceiling, nor fear to breathe lest walls should crack and fall down.
You shall not dwell in tombs made by the dead for the living.
And though of magnificence and splendour, your house shall not hold your secret nor shelter your longing.
For that which is boundless in you abides in the mansion of the sky, whose door is the morning mist, and whose windows are the songs and the silences of night.”

Of late, I have been thinking about what a house made with bricks and mortar means to me. The house in which we live now is large and spacious. I work in it and have my office here, eat in it, relax in it, sleep in it and share it with my husband and my dog and with other people when they come to visit or stay. We worship in the house when the Småland Worship group gathers here. We have Quaker Service Sweden committee meetings here. It is a functional space, to which I find that I have no hard and fast attachment. It is a pleasant place to be, and I like to make it look nice, but I am not emotionally and physically bound to it. When the time comes, and it gets to be beyond our capabilities, I could move from it into something that better suits our needs.

Thoughts like these surfaced after Mum went into a residential care home and I sold her house on her behalf. That house had been our family home since 1958, and memories of my childhood were sewn into its walls. Selling it was not emotionally difficult. It had to be sold so that we could pay the care home’s fees, and in that sense was a practical necessity. Mum, on the other hand, felt bereft and homeless. It had been her home for almost 56 years and for her it was a place of refuge and safety and was full of different memories.

These ruminations made me wonder about the house that is my body. Is it an anchor or a mast? Do I dare to breathe to the full, and to hold my head high? Is it a tomb, or a temple? What secrets does it shelter? What longings does it contain? Does what is boundless in me abide in the mansion of the sky? Is it open, or closed?

There is much to ponder.

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