Monday, August 27, 2012

Too Good to be True

When it comes to warm, classy images of home in IKEA's catalog, apparently they are often even less real than the showrooms I wrote about a few days ago.

This article shows how this is too good to be true.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Summer, what it is.

As usual, it is mostly music. Like Bob Dylan Chronicles. On decks, on stages, in clubs, in basements, in the vinyl grooves, from the fingers and throats of those we love, stuck in our heads and lodged in our souls. But also... 

Cabins at the end of a dirt road. This is not Walden, we seek the people. And their sticky marshmallow faces, guttural laughs. We weave meals together from fresh and glad yield of the land, Bringing it to the Table with dear old friends.  

Live for days in swimsuit & sundress. Tip a sailboat, get it to skate and skip the wind and wave. Like An American Childhood. What's my story? Wrangle words into something that's been begging to be said. Like that lost baby sparrow in the hollow of a hand. Or the dirt stubborn under the fingernails.

You gotta pull with sweaty neck and all might to get the weeds out by the root.The city folk get a wicked farmer's tan. There are days on end, suspended in the hot, humid impossible, like brassy southern summers in The Help. That's when you lavish indiscriminate amounts of time on books and couch.  Or bike around to create slight wind relief. Stock the freezer with five kinds of ice cream. Slip away for a dip in the lake, oily blues and yellows in the latter part of the day.

Dance without shoes along the river to stars, fireworks, and the sounds of his band. Another time, buy one hundred LPs in one afternoon and discover the magic of a record player. Later, it's smoky wine and sweet cigars twirled 'round  backyard candlelit conversation with friends. Keep it rolling, Till We Have Faces.

Drive miles of sunseted strips for good bluegrass and country music. On the Road, we share red cowboy boots and a tall hat. Weather the storm and rainbow both. Trade faded photos, family stories. Meet my forebears I never knew through their faces and dusty traces left behind.

Back in the bright city, grill a trout to succulent perfection. Giddy jazz trip in a basement club. Old movies in a twilight park. New art in a bright museum. Stark and dark, like Mother Night. These are bits and pieces, just Notes from a Small Island called summer.

Sunday, August 12, 2012


Last April, when we were all still wondering over the fact that we in Minnesota hadn't got one good, satisfying snow all winter and everywhere you went, seasoned gardeners who know were pinpointing the flora at about four weeks ahead of schedule, I got a little spring fever. I was hankering for a change in our living space, something to spruce things up and perk me up out of my apartment-rental blues. Changing buses at the Mall of America, I squinted through the rain, across long stretches of pavement and glimpsed...the promised land.


So yellow, so blue, so friendly. I sent a string of suggestions on my phone to the effect that my husband should meet me in the cozy cafeteria for dinner and afterward we could walk through the pretend rooms and...pretend for a while. It just sounded so fun. I could feel the warm coffee mug between my hands already, my eyes alighting over charming arrangements of homes. My phone lit up with an obliging response, though not nearly as excited as I was, which I didn't understand (at the time). I was giddy with the anticipation of how great this whole adventure was going to feel, like going on a trip somewhere else for a while.

By the time we got home, I broke down completely.

The food had been...well, fine. Like IKEA food. The rooms had been...well, fine. Some ideas. Like IKEA usually is. Our trip was...fine. It was IKEA. It was not a trip to another country, or life-changing, or any of those other things. How had I somehow convinced myself that these imitation "homes" were somehow more comforting than our own real home, where "dish of vegetables and love is"?

Well, for one, their marketing is really good and I fall for it - er, fairly often. The main reason for my disappointment, though - I think - is that there is something deep inside of us that knows that yearns for beauty, and for permanence. Home is a perfect marriage of these two things, and stores like this provide movie-set facades. They look the part, but the true elements of home (family, love, sacrifice, privacy, pleasure, others) are all subtracted from the equation.

That night, I ended up sobbing on Karl's shoulder, blubbering out something about how I really want to live in a house and...and....I keep looking at MLS listings on the sly even though I know we can't afford it...and  I thought I would find satisfaction in going to IKEA but that's ridiculous. It was an incoherent mess at the time, but that was the gist. My ever-patient husband calmly rubbed my back, wondered silently at the strange inner workings of this female creature to whom he attached, and (to his credit) just listened and kept rubbing my back.

After that, I had a long talk with the Lord about it, which also straightened out some things. This desire for beauty and permanence was built into us by Him. He means to satisfy it. However, strange things can happen when we take things into our own hands, which we tend to do as humans. Think of Eve reaching for the apple, Abram trying to forge a heir to the promise with his servant Hagar, the disciples suggesting they build habitations on the Mount of Transfiguration, Peter cutting off the ear of the soldier. There are countless examples in the Scriptures and life of the misunderstandings or (in some cases) serious consequences that result when we try to fulfill promises by our own means and on our own schedule.

Of course, it is good to dream. The Queen explains to a skeptical Alice that believing takes practice:

"Alice laughed: "There's no use trying," she said; "one can't believe impossible things."
"I daresay you haven't had much practice," said the Queen. "When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."

And IKEA is a fun place to believe things - both possible and impossible. But I know how sometimes I can sicken my heart with desires before their time. In this case, I was attributing too much of a true home's beauty and permanence to the manmade phantasms that exist only to make me spend money in their store. No one lives there. Their doors close every night, lights off on sad scenes empty of all persons. True home is an eternal matter, and like St. Augustine says, it will be a lifelong quest:

We need not fear to find no home again
because we have fallen away from it;
while we are absent our home falls not to ruins,
for our home is your eternity.