12.12.2011

Sacred Time and Making Space

A blogalectic with Masha and Mr. Pond.

This past week, we covered the quest for silence. Masha spoke of going to the wilderness, and Mr. Pond of saying yes.

The making of sacred time involves other steps beside silence, of course, and one of those is creating a place—somewhere set apart, a space where things like silence and ritual can flourish, however idealized that may sound.

I admit I haven't put a lot of time and thought into creating my own space as sacred—not as set apart from the rest of my life, anyway. If anything, our home itself is that place. Lou and I live very quietly, and nearly everywhere you turn in our house, you can spot a crucifix, an icon, a statue, a piece of art. Here in the living room, Mary looks out from the shelf, St. Michael from the wall, Christ from the coffee table beside the Bible and breviary and, at the moment, the Advent wreath. It would all drive some people crazy, I suppose, but for me, it's easier to hold onto faith when I can touch some physical evidence of its enduring nature.

As for a place for art, I am surrounded by the evidence that others have believed and lived as I do, in the sense of being writers: many books. Shelves full. It's an inspiration like no other, if sometimes also a distraction. The Kindle has its strengths and weaknesses and on the whole I'm very glad it exists, but it will never replace that.

To my personality, both clutter and clean-freakery are obstacles to art. I'm comfortable in neither; neat and cozy and lived-in, however, set me at ease. But perhaps I'm just making excuses for the fact that while I truly can't bear chaos for long, I do tend to forget to dust.

There's at least one more crucial ingredient to home decor that serves as a place set apart for both devotion and writing, and that is lighting. Which is hard to come by in the Pacific Northwest, especially in winter—some gray days, when the clouds hang thick and low, it never gets beyond twilight. Sheer golden curtains, generous windows, old-fashioned light fixtures that diffuse the glow of incandescent bulbs, and lamps all get marshaled against the dark and the dingy. Candles, too. When it comes time for prayer, nothing will do but candles; a lamp simply couldn't substitute, not fully. Maybe it's the elemental nature of fire—a dangerous, almost a living thing.

Writing all this makes me want to pull out my notebook and write longhand, by candlelight. That would be an interesting experiment (I wonder if I'd come up with better first drafts, or whether I'd ever come up with first drafts at all). So says the blogger, typing by lamplight directly into the Internet, with the glow of a backlit screen reflecting off face and fingers. I can't deny that modern convenience has its place, not when I love and use it so much.

As with silence, the manner of making sacred space may differ from one person to the next. This is something of mine.

6 comments:

  1. I almost always write longhand (I buy stacks of composition books at Staples during the back-to-school sales!), but writing by candlelight is harder and I don't do it often. In my book, though, I really want to include this scene of one character using an e-reader by candlelight. I just think it's a beautiful, if strange, image.

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  2. I just created a sacred space for "my pedagogical journey," as I'm calling it. Today marks the launch of my Teaching-Reflection Journal, which I was inspired to do as a result of learning about a colleague's meaningful habit of keeping one. After seventeen years of teaching, better late than never!

    It's a lovely hardbound notebook, and on the cover is a painting of a woman sitting in a forest clearing underneath blooming cherry blossom trees. I wrote the first entry this morning and plan to keep it on my office desk, so that as those intense gotta-write-it-down moments after class hit me, it's on hand to capture those fleeting yet eternal ideas.

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  3. I'm sure there'll be an app on the Kindle for the breviary & the rosary. ;) Probably even for the Advent wreath, which I'm surprised you can have with a cat in the house.

    And yes, the printed book is not going to go away because of eBooks. I kind of like having both available, though.

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  4. I like that image, David--beautiful, strange, a little ironic. Sounds like fun. :)

    Carrie-Ann, a well-designed and attractive notebook is a very important part of creating good writing space! Best of luck with your new one.

    George, I love the Kindle, but I plan to keep my breviary and rosary in hard copy. :D As for the Advent wreath, ours has no greenery... it's just fake (plastic) metal with Celtic designs on it. Maia is terribly fascinated by lit candles, however, and we have to watch her closely because she's been known to bat at them.

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  5. The making of sacred time involves other steps beside silence, of course, and one of those is creating a place—somewhere set apart, a space where things like silence and ritual can flourish, however idealized that may sound.

    ...it's easier to hold onto faith when I can touch some physical evidence of its enduring nature.

    Good points. It all reinforces in me the idea that we shouldn't turn our worship & sacred spaces into something just like everything else in this world. That is say, we live in the secular world at least 166 hours out of the week & only spend at minimal two hours engaging with the sacred & holy whether in worship or private devotions.

    The last thing we need to do is turn our sacred spaces into profane (and I mean that in the old sense of the word) spaces.

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  6. George, mega props for using the word profane in its old sense. :D Also, I totally--and very strongly--agree with you!

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