Poetic Housekeeping: Internalized Housekeeping

Poetic Housekeeping: Internalized Housekeeping

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poetic housekeeping homemaking

Awhile back our online book club read Poetic Knowledge: The Recovery of Education by James Taylor. First, Taylor lays out the three levels of poetic knowledge: first intuitive, then intentional, and finally that grows and matures and blossoms into “connatural” or internalized. Applied to homemaking and housekeeping, the final stage of internalized knowledge is a dance; we dance the dance of our routines because it makes us happy and satisfied. We simply couldn’t leave the dishes undone at night or the bed unmade in the morning, because it would be jarring and incongruous with who we are.

So, we will use his three aspects of poetic knowledge as an outline as I attempt to weave the threads that I have seen.

 Being a Homemaker

Once you have the intuitive vision and intentionally reach toward it, you are able to reach the connatural, or internalized, phase: the point at which you gain a disposition of the will to simply act consistently with the Right and Good and Beautiful.

Sandra Felton noticed that “For her [Cleanie friend], the house is not just a location in which she does things. She feels that the house is a very personal extension of herself. […] We were designed by Him [God] to feel at peace when things are in order and to feel frustrated when they are out of control. […] She doesn’t feel she has to prove her worth by producing. The activities she does decide to tackle, she does in the same way she keeps her house — in an orderly and deliberate way.”

Cheryl Mendelson’s introduction in Home Comforts says something similar:

Unfortunately, what a traditional woman did that made her home warm and alive was not dusting and laundry. Someone can be hired to do those things (to some extent, anyway). Her real secret was in identifying herself with her home […] But it is more illuminating to think about what happened when things went right. Then **her affection was in the soft sofa cushions, clean linens, and good meals; her memory in well-stocked storeroom cabinets and pantry; her intelligence in the order and healthfulness of her home; her good humor in its light and air.** She lived her life not only through her own body, but through the house as an extension of her body. Part of her relation to those she loved was embodied in the physical medium of the home she made. […]

It is scarcely surprising, then, that so many people imagine housekeeping to be boring, frustrating, repetitive, unintelligent drudgery. I cannot agree. […] [Domesticity] is just an orientation that gives you a sixth sense about the place you live in, and helps you keep it running with **the same kind of unconscious and effortless actions that keep you from falling when you walk down stairs.**

That unconscious, seemingly effortless, action that Mendelson mentions is consistent with Taylor’s comments in Poetic Knowledge: The Recovery of Education about poetic experience & practice:

This is a poetry that already knows the deep significance of things as they are, so that all that is needed is to arrange them alongside, in vibrant sympathy, the wide range of human responses to life. […] And this power of knowledge must be the constant point of poetic experience and knowledge: it always deals with the really real.

And when we see the really real, when we act in accordance with the really real, we see that the deeper significance behind it is just as really real:

Suddenly, in the illumination of poetic light, these real objects become analogous to our deepest thoughts and emotions.

And here I made an unexpected connection to seeming unrelated reading.

Holly Pierlot in A Mother’s Rule of Life, after telling her story and leading her readers through her process and practicalities, delves into the deeper life and explains how it was only after her thoughts and actions were working in harmony with each other that she then became able to see God in the moment, in her ordinary round of duties. She experienced communion and fellowship with God on a deep level. Union. And then in One Thousand GiftsAnn Voskamp, tells of her journey to joy in the ordinary and freedom from fears through gratitude, which led her almost unsuspectingly to this deeper level. Union. And here is Taylor using the word to explain what connatural knowledge is: “the first reflex to experience knowledge as union, possession, with the essence (the form) of the thing to be known. And this is the poetic tendency of the cognitive [interior?] life, this getting within the immaterial reality of the objects of knowledge […] [the poetic impulse is] always in search of union.”

What both Pierlot and Voskamp describe is an abandoning of their analytic, self-focused strivings and an embracing of happy, trusting obedience, after which they unexpectedly began to see behind and beyond the ordinary things and duties to how those things and duties spoke of God, thus experiencing a deeper, more communicant, relationship with Him.

Housekeeping isn’t about a clean house after all. It’s about obedience and holiness and love, about seeing and praising and serving God Himself.

Poetic Housekeeping

7 Responses

  1. Brandy @ Afterthoughts
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    I have to admit that I am always baffled by these descriptions of women who identify themselves with their houses. I identify myself with my library but that is about it. It is possible I am destined to fail here. ;)

  2. Pilgrim
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    I am enjoying this series. I was raised by cleanies and I am a messy. It drives them CRAZY – when they come into town they have to clean/ order my house before they can relax. I appreciate it – but most of our struggles growing up revolved around this issue of “not seeing” what was plainly in front of me. So glad to know that neither of us are really crazy – just different. The problem is my hubby and his family are even MORE messy. Ah well.

    I too recently enjoyed Ann Voskamps’ book. Some of what you are saying reminded me of a book we listened to a while back called My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor. It was fascinating because she was a neurologist who had a stroke and then had to re-learn things like reading! She talks a lot about how learning to read and other “logical” types of work made her lose her ability to enjoy the moment. She had to make a conscious decision to leave behind the wonder of the right brain and the daily enjoyment and fun to allow her more logical brain work – which brought more stress and trouble. (I might have the sides of the brain mixed up). There are some TED videos you can watch to get the general idea.

    I think that it is more difficult than just “trying harder” – it really is a switch in brain function. Just trusting requires laying aside something that we have worked hard to learn and a way of viewing the world that our culture really values.

    I am trying to be in the moment – which means letting go of my “thinking” brain and allowing myself to just relax and celebrate. It is hard. I do appreciate your thoughts about the vision of housekeeping. I am realizing that I have lots of good intentions and need to start actually doing some of them. This area is included. Thanks for helping challenge me in a way that is really helpful.

    • Brandy @ Afterthoughts
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      I wonder if a daily dose of “seeing training” would help (I mean me, too). For instance, scheduling a time to just walk through the house and really try to see it. I notice that when I do see, I tend to clean it up. It’s just that I live inside my head so much…I have a feeling you can relate…

      • Mystie Winckler
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        That’s a great idea, Brandy! For me, out-of-order bothers me (like having books shelved incorrectly) yet messy does not.

        When I was last making progress, I spent time consciously enjoying just being in the room after I’d cleaned it. I think that did help.

        • Brandy @ Afterthoughts
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          I like your idea of enjoying the room when it is clean. I wonder if I could do that. :)

      • Pilgrim
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        Me – live in my head! NEVER! For a while we did do a “7 minute sweep” of our house before we went to bed. That was helpful because we all focused on seeing and working together you could get a lot done in a small amount of time. My mom keeps saying we need to do that again. Maybe we will start. I think my whole family needs training. I do have one friend who was a cleanie in a house of messies and it drove him nearly insane growing up.

      • Brandy @ Afterthoughts
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        My oldest is a cleanie. When we have company coming, he saves me almost every time! At least lately, with my low energy.

        Okay, so I will just be alone living in my head. That’s okay. There is plenty to do here. :)

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