Cleaning up your act

You know that moment you walk into the door after being away. For me it’s like a snapshot of your own life. How does the house look (house being a reality of its own but also a metaphor for how you live life, what you think about your own life.) For this reason I like to clean up the house and have it looking kind of pleasant and ordered when I step inside the house after being away.

This goes into a strange area, which is how inanimate things can seem quite animate: they become enfused with your own wairua, or life spirit. This ebbs and flows in intensity: at times objects can become very full of spirit and actually seem to represent another person fully. This is most obvious when someone you love dies and the things they touched, or the objects closest to them, become full of their fragrance. You keep them, touch them, look at them. In this way you connect with someone who isn’t there.

Houses become full of these (unseen) fragrances: quite unwittingly rooms and houses become the scene settings for our lives. We ‘read’ the story into the setting. This is what makes breaking up a family home so cathartic. You are literally breaking apart the shell of an identity. This is also why people cart away an object from a family home: like a shard, reminding the person of the whole.

This has taken me a long way from the snapshot you take when you enter your own house or flat or bedroom after being away. It goes beyond: does it look tidy? It’s more like: am I happy where I live? Am I happy where I am in my own life?

A pleasantly ordered environment is key to my own stability. I like to think, no matter how effectless I might be in the larger questions of life, to do with how the world is ordered (or more correctly disordered) I can have a small space which is coherent and pleasing. It has to do with order, peace, coherence for me.

So before I go away I get out the hoover and duster. I clean the surfaces. Then I sort of edge out of the scene setting until that moment the key turns in the lock.

And then the house is left to that magical sway of time in which it lives on its own momentum – the house becomes silent, or rather the only sounds are the scraping of bird’s feet as they land on the tin roof, or the creaks of boards as they expand and contract in heat– the house seems enthralled – awaiting that sound of a key rattling in a lock, and then a stranger enters the house again, animating everything – Hello house!’ I call out gladly, as I walk in the door -’ I’m home!’


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