Come spring, let’s drag up some wood for a real cabin. . . . Cora, in Quigley Down Under.
My friend Shannon at Nourishing Days regularly posts honest self-appraisals of her journey to a simple and separated life that touch my heart. Most recently she wrote about her sometimes inner struggle with What Makes A House A Home.
I always flinch a little (sometimes a lot) when people counter the way we and many others like us choose to prioritize our lives with “the real world.” Shannon’s post is a prime example. She reveals that people, some of them probably well-meaning in a misdirected way and some of them just rude in a patronizing way, often ask her when she will be building a “real” home. Now, I know Shannon and believe me if she lived in a hole in a ground it would be a real home full of warmth and love, not to mention lots of good food.
So I ask the inquisitive, what exactly are the requirements for a real home and who says it’s so: walls, a prescribed square footage per person, indoor toilets? We live in a world where everything hinges on being politically or socially correct. We don’t dare question or judge those who make any number of life choices that in times past would have considered aberrant at best. That is, we don’t dare unless those people are making choices that reject a modern notion of necessity and/or comfort. That’s one choice that’s considered just plain weird.
I love Shannon’s analogy about space:
“If my attitude is crap at 300 square feet, could it not be three times as crappy at 900 square feet?”
She doesn’t realize it, but she is correct. I know.
David is currently doing some day work helping his cousin who builds custom $500,000 homes. He took me to see one they were constructing. My first thought was, “My word, how would you clean it?” and my second “People could get lost in here.” Both thoughts point to my perception of the advantages of living in a smaller space. More space means more stuff. To the modern mind one must have lots of space for lots of stuff so one can get lots of happy. Living in a small space taught me just how little stuff I really require. It fosters both discipline and a special kind of creativity.
If you study the modern home critically you’ll find two things that were lacking in homes in more “primitive” times – walls and floor space. The argument is that people need privacy and room to spread out. When I was growing up children that felt the need to spread out went outside and didn’t come in till suppertime. Next in the progression of modern needs came the requirement for personal entertainment via a television then a computer in everyone’s separate space. Do you see where I’m going? The modern home actively encourages separation of family members from each other. When we first moved to our land and lived in about 400 square feet I began to notice that when we visited family the three of us would often congregate in the same, usually small, room. We had grown to feel secure and comfortable in close proximity to each other. Is that so bad?
Finally, Shannon wraps it all up by observing that in her calling to live a separated life perhaps her family’s daily lives themselves are as much a haven of rest as any homemaking routine she could follow. Last year we dried in the addition to our 216 square foot cabin. The new addition is a spacious 600 square feet with no walls. There is still insulation visible. The windows need to be trimmed out. The floor needs to be sanded and oiled and the kitchen cabinets need curtains sewn. But it’s warm and we eat well. Sometimes I even get the floor swept in a timely manner. David and I often sit in the kitchen side and look to the other 300 square feet with a loft over half. We talk of growing families like Shannon’s, both those 150 years ago when spaces this size weren’t unusual and those families today, and how a young family could certainly live well in such a space. We end up concurring that there were and are abundant blessings in choosing this different way to live if that’s what you dream of and are called to. And we always agree that if people don’t like our home they can go jump in Big Turtle Creek.