"This is not meant to offend or convert anyone.
First published February 7, 1999
First published February 7, 1999
by byrd tetzlaff
A few years ago, I saw a picture in a magazine of a very strange home.
Now this house was rather small (at least so it seemed on the outside), and looked nothing like normal houses. It had a door shaded by two unmatching columns, which may have been holding up a small porch roof. There was a highly decorative bit of gingerbread trimming on one column and a different bit of trim on the other. The two front windows didn't even come close to matching and you couldn't see what color the house was, becasue of all the vines and flowers growing in the way. The back of the house may have been dug into the side of a hill, or it may have simply been obscured by all the bushes and trees.
I remember reading the article about this house. It had been built and was currently inhabited by an artist (I'll call him Bill) who was quite proud of the fact that he used nothing new in his house.
Everything was recycled or jerry-rigged. One window was from an old victorian home, another from a fifties office building, and third from a factory being torn down. The roof had prairies grass and flowers growing on it ( Bill used a goat to trim the roof). It had solar-power and a fireplace for heating and cooling. One wall was constructed out of glass bottles and cement, another wall was protected on the outside by split-open tires arranged in a pleasing fashion, intertwined with vines of various ivy. Even the framing timbers had been re-cycled from other places.
Bill had begun by thinking that he would build an ordinary, straight-lines type of house, all planned and controlled. But then a friend gave him a kitchen sink that just didn't fit in with the plans. Then he saw a railing that someone else was throwing out, then a tin ceiling and so it grew until nothing was as he had planned it. Instead, it became something that reflected who Bill was, because Bill's peculiar gift was that he could see the beauty in things that others had discarded and thrown away.
In the end, he created a work of art that was his home.
I was very impressed with that home. It was perhaps the most personal and unique place I had ever seen. Nothing matched, everything was made to work, and it fitted Bill's exact needs, rather than the needs of the masses. I showed it to a friend and she thought it was the ugliest place she had ever seen. I still thought it was beautiful.
It occurs to me that my life, and the lives of most of the people that I know, are very much like that house.
We start out thinking that our lives will follow straight lines, predictable paths. We will marry, have a career, children, write the Great American Novel or win a Nobel Prize or an Oscar.
But then, life happens.
We marry the wrong person, or someone gets sick. Parents grow old. Unexpected children or accidents or social unheavals happen. We don't get the scholarship we were counting on. We never win the lottery. Cars break down at unbelievably inconvenient times. Jobs are lost. We move to someplace new and unfamilier, or we never move at all. Taxes are higher than we thought and we are making less money than we anticipated.
Things change in ways we could never have anticipated. So we cope.
Instead of 'the great plan' (which was different for each of us) we jerry-rig our lives together. we take things that don't match and don't fit, and we make them work. We take a bit of philosophy from one person, some advice from another. We see what we can do with the jobs we can find. We find a place to live that is less-than-ideal. We discover that our 'significant other' snores, our children have their own agendas and our bodies are not always going to be twenty-two. We face real problems, with no preparation for them. We are surprized by loss, stunned by defeat.
We put all these things together to make the work of art that is our lives.
But it is all too easy to dwell on our failures, to see the paths we didn't take, the futures we didn't have. We can ignor the good things, our unexplained joys and unexpected happiness.
We might forget to celebrate our victories and to rejoice in the small things.
Personally, I overlook sunsets, all the time. I ignor the breathless beauty of moss, growing on rocks. I don't even see the flight of the sparrows as they rejoice in a new day.
But it is there, nonetheless. It is there to be included in my life, if I will only let in the moment, allow the beauty to live with me.
The other day on a chat board, I asked someone what I should write about in my next sermon. She replied that she needed to hear about how you can keep on going, when you don't think you can.
I wish I had such words of wisdom. I don't know how some folks do it. I don't know how they cope. But if I look very hard, I think I see a glimmer of a secret that might help.
The folks I know that have most successfully weathered the bad times have a couple of interesting traits.
A) They do not isolate themselves. Even if their natal families are rotten to the core, these folks find good people to care about, and to care about them. Internet friends definitely count.
Celebrations strengthen us. Celebrations make the hard times seem more possible to get through. Ways to celebrate include, but are not limited to:
Whatever your ways (and I hope some of you will share your ways), remember that it is with these joys that shore up your life.
Just as Bill created the artwork of his home by appriciating beauty in all the forms he found it in, so we are creating the very artwork of our lives by our joys and celebrations.
May we each find much to celebrate.
So Be It.