I have this funny thought many days now before I leave the house … if I die today while I’m out there and someone or someones come and walk through my home … what story will they piece together about me and my life here?
I actually think about those kinds of things.
I have always loved the idea that one could walk through someone’s living space and read their life and I think it would make a terrific TV show. This could be because, as a pastor and in the work I have done as a hospice chaplain, I’ve gone into a lot of houses. And as a photographer and a writer who chronicles the minutiae of our lives, I kind of have a trained eye. Things, objects, the ways people place things, the tools they use, their organizational methods (or lack thereof) tell me the stories of who they are. My fascination with this is bottomless. If you were to allow me to wander through your home (without you) for an hour or so, I could probably tell you a lot about you.
I mean, no duh, right?
And so I think about my own space, my own life, and what people might glean … she was very tidy, but she clearly didn’t like doing dishes… she spent too much money on bedding, she was into vintage dresses … she burned candles, used tarot cards, ate pretty healthy, except for the Coke and ice cream situation. She had a little Patagonia problem. There’s something weird going on here with all the sharpened pencils …
What I hope a person doing this kind of important research might notice is that I loved my kids like crazy and I didn’t have a lot of stuff. I used to have a lot of stuff until I started giving it away and selling it. What I want is a life in which everything, or most everything I lay my eyes on has meaning and purpose: Ben made the bowls, the candlesticks were a wedding present, Bea gave me the silver ladle, the juicer belongs to Julianne. The Polish Dirty Dancing movie poster was from our trip to Santa Fe, Robin painted the picture of the woods, the urn belongs to Tommy, the basket was Helen’s, the couch was Anton’s, the pillows were made by Zaza. Judy made almost all of the lampshades.
You get the picture.
I am sensitive to the energy of this world. To the energy people bring, to the energies of our stuff, which is probably why I think of things this way, probably why I am a pastor, probably why I take care of the things I have, probably also why I am able to let a lot of things pass through my life and on to someone else’s.
We are caretakers here, of these things, of these living spaces and of this land. Make no mistake and please don’t forget that. None of this stuff is really “mine” and this life of mine is a blip and a funny one at that. I hope that it will have been entertaining for some of you to have known me, if today is the day I leave here.
I hope for a couple of other things, too.
I hope that, in these days of extreme Instagram and Facebookization of every move we make, every sight we see, every meal we eat, that we can all find that place that remains within ourselves, that one small oasis of sanity in which we recall that we are humans and that we are meant to live in community and to communicate with our voices, our eyes and our hearts. I hope for that.
I also hope that that everyone, at some point in their existence, starts to get it. Like, I mean, Get It. That’s kind of a longer story, though; I won’t get started on that here this morning.
It is absolutely true that your whole life can be a work of art and it should be, but not in the ways we have created with the many social media platforms we are all using. The very best works of art kind of sneak up on you, right? They’re quiet, unassuming. They are not shouting Like Me! Look at me and LIKE ME! at the top of their lungs, they are simply going about the business of being interesting and sturdy and enduring.
Let your life be a true work of art.
For me, I would take it one step further.
My hope, and you probably won’t glean this from looking at the silverware (mismatched) or the outdoor furniture (mismatched) or the footwear (way too many pairs of boots), but you might feel it if you were to spend some time here in my little red river cottage. I think, I hope, that if you were to sit here for a while you might feel it, that I have, indeed, attempted to fashion my life into a kind of art project. I think that a whole life, lived well, can be and should be art. But what I really hope is that the story I leave is that this was a prayer. This life, my prayer. Not for me, though God knows I need them, but for all of you, all of us, all of this.