I had an epiphany a couple days ago about what something that is enduringly amiss in my present environment. It has always niggled since I first came to this particular version of of my writerly retreat (which is not my own household). Lately it has become more pronounced, and I have felt more and more displaced. Finally the light bulb turned on.
There is no hearth in this home. It is just a house, with waystop areas in it where people do their various things.
Let me explain what I mean by that.
This is not a household that is "gathering"-centric. There is no heart of the home, no center to the house, where people come together, periodically or ritually as we so commonly do even for (or especially for) sharing meals. That hole at the heart of the house works outward from there, damaging the fabric of what could be a warm and comforting weave and creating instead a place where people operate in their separate bubbles.
I don't like this. It is not my nature. Oh, the separateness, certainly: I do quite well in hermit mode. But I also like to emerge from the cave, have festive times with others, even just close and warm communal times, do some bonding with my pack, before going back to the cave-zone. That is all desperately LACKING here where I live.
There is a beautiful fireplace in this house. It is boarded over "to avoid drafts." Why isn't it used? "Because it doesn'[t draw right." Well, that's something that can be fixed, but one has to want to fix it, first. And the people here do not. Instead--they wall the hearth off (literally). I didn't see the metaphor and meaning of that until just now, but once seen, it shouts loudly.
There is no dining table in this house. (That says reams all by itself.) The room that could be a dining room is a storage room-cum-guest bedroom--but not out of any pressing need for same. There are other rooms and places that could serve those functions. Rather, that could-be-dining room has become something else because the notion of making a meal a central part of family life is so far off the radar here that rooms and spaces associated with that notion have no existence here either.
"Family" dinners are "help yourself in the kitchen," then go eat in the living room where you're in a chair watching tv. Or, well, *I'm* not. I leave with my food to my room. I prefer whatever I'm doing at my own desktop and table, which I sometimes turn into my own little proper dining area, including music, candles and wine glass, instead of eating off a plate in my lap in a noise-chaotic environment with no conversation. Good god.
Food purchases, once provided by the main breadwinner in the household, have devolved into an every-man-for-himself, buy-yer-own-stuff-fix-it-yourself effectively scattered "room-mate"-ish arrangement. The fridge and pantry and food storage situations have become similarly balkanized.
Their version of "nice meal" is a mess of bacon and eggs at 10pm. That is just so wrong on so many levels I'm not even going there.
A proper dinner a nice well-rounded, interesting (even gourmet) meal prepared by me (I'm the real cook around here)--often goes ignored. It is never eaten when hot. It's catch as catch can. There is essentially no social event, sharing, community or communal or familial anything that follows on the heels of preparing something special. My scope of cooking has narrowed down to what I like, for me, because half the time it will be ignored by others anyway, or gobbled cold at 10p with the same gusto applied to bacon and eggs.
This place lacks a center, a hearth, if you will, for family life and (more importantly) the connecting that occurs around family time spent together. The food and dining situation is symptomatic as well as a cause of this disjuncture. It is a black hole at the heart of the household that works out subtly in many other ways domestically.
We almost never have guests over. When someone does come, they sit in the living room and if they eat, they eat there too (although the general notion of hospitality and what Germans call Gastfreundlichkeit--"guest friendliness"--is just as lacking as the hearth-center itself. Or visitors will eat a bite outside on the picnic table under the tree. How pleasant at certain times of year ---yet how stop-gap, and done in lieu of an interior center for entertaining or even just comfortably chatting with a friend.
At holidays there is no center for festivities. In tight money times recently, holidays slip past nearly unremarked--including Christmas, without so much as a tree put up or a single light strung.
I could go on but the scattered discombobulation of this place (which bears an eerie resemblance to a situation I was in briefly in a household with 5 roommates) speaks for itself. At first I didn't notice any of this--I was glad just to have my cave to write in, and things like no dining table seemed like a temporary situation. But if anything this disconnect has gotten worse over time.
And my epiphany? It's that I NEED a hearth to my home
I am very hearth-centric. I entertain. I have guests over. I cook nice meals and share them convivially with others. I am (or was) known for the Gemuetlichkeit of my space. Now I look around and my cave resembles in appearance the same scattered energy that exists in this household at large.
Chaotic. Disconnected. No center.
So I've decided to create the change I cannot create in the household at large (since it's not my place): I am going to create a hearth-centered home right here in my cave. I have room for a small fridge--I'll save my money to buy one, where I can keep specialty cheeses and dinners I've made and cold bottles of wine and beer, which have no room downstairs in this tee-totalling household. And I need to unpack and set up my altar, and turn my Zuni Indian pot (brazier) into a miniature hearth, where I can focus and evoke that grounding energy I need. I need to re-pot my peace lilies that are growing in overabundance and start some lettuce in a pot for my mice, and get my speakers wired up so I can have the right sound ambiance here (especially to counter the constant drone of Faux News and other toxicity from the living room beneath my feet)...
I need to change my space. And that will change my energy, and hopefully get me both more grounded and more lifted up at the same time. I have slipped into being influenced by the environment I'm in, instead of creating my OWN environment to set the tone of "me" how I want it to be.
I don't fathom how people can live in this inhospitable, un-warm, unfocused hearth-less manner. My Roman and Japanese hearth gods and goddesses are pitching fits about it. I'm glad I finally heard, and I hope they will help me revise this out-of-whack part of my current setting.
If I can't fix Them (in the household), at least I can fix ME. Man, am I overdue.