Tuesday, September 9, 2008

What are you clinging to?

A poet friend gave me a copy of The Poetics of Space by French philosopher Gaston Bachelard. It's subtitle "The Classic Look at How We Experience Intimate Spaces" made me add it to my reading list. Far from Martha Stewart's Living, it can be a dense read at times, but worth it all the same. Although Bachelard does not address homes in a regional setting, through exploration of space, he creates a model for understanding the role of homes in our lives. You need this foundation to de-construct Southern spaces.

Bachelard asserts that "...[T]he house we were born in has engraved within us the hierarchy of various functions of inhabiting. We are the diagram of the functions of inhabiting that particular house, and all the other houses are but variations on a fundamental theme."

Exhibit A: Pierce Avenue, Home #10

My childhood room was mauve. I chose it mostly because I liked the way the word pressed through my lips. G.I. Joes formed my coterie of playmates, not Barbies.

Later, in my teen years, I went to the dark side and painted my room mid-night blue. The house at Pierce Avenue is the first place since then where I applied paint (in a color other than white) to the walls. Is painting the interior of my house pink a return to my youth -- a time I especially would have considered my Innocence?

Bachelard would say yes. He would also say that if we look at the artifacts in our homes, we will find vestiges of the past. In my own home there are several startling examples evoking the past. A chandelier above my dining table (a modern, and inexpensive, Ikea version) recalls the one that hung defunct in the dusty corner of my parents bedroom, vintage cameras speak of my father who dabbled as an amateur photographer, Japanese tschochkies and a tea service mimic the ones I played with that my father brought home from Asia; and there are other more subtle things, such as the way I prefer the lighting in my home: from corner lamps, not overhead.

In the same way Southern homes, oftentimes considered "traditional" with their contents that allude to another period of time, are reclaiming -- or perhaps clinging -- to the past. What are you clinging to?

1 comment:

Alysson said...

mary, i love the color. more pictures, please! also -- don't paint my virgin mary just yet. i may reclaim it soon :)