When I travel (because someone else is always doing the driving), I treat myself to shelter magazines:
This Old House if I’m feeling DIY handy and sort of toolbelt butch (ok, in my case, more “lesbian ready to fix up her nest”).
House Beautiful if I want to pretend I have a different life altogether (i.e. I’m not on a bus).
Dwell if I want to be “at home in the modern world.”
Elle Decor if I’m not feeling at all self-conscious about being gay.
Architectural Digest because someone might mistake me for an architect.
Better Homes and Gardens if the bus station’s news stand offers nothing else, and I’d rather read recipes made with condensed soup a la my grandma than stare out the window the whole trip.
My interest in designing a house comes, I believe, from my own struggles to feel deeply rooted or at home.
In Elle Decor, there is this featured column “Shortlist,” better described by its subtitle “Twelve Things S/He Can’t Live Without.” One might expect, or at least hope for profundity with such a list– “that which makes life really living” — “my children” or “opportunities to serve the poor” or “beauty and justice.” But the Mother Theresa types don’t usually get interviewed.
Instead, they feature dandy aesthetes: big-name decorators, high-end designers, globetrotting architects. And the list heads away from the ethereal and towards the material. Usually included is some beautiful gem of human creation, often an architectural masterpiece I’ve never heard of– e.g., the Villa Necchi Campiglio near Milan. And maybe a favorite novel.
After that the list usually moves quickly to luxury goods equally unknown to me… Buccellati flatware or Baccarat’s Dionysos Decanter. There’s usually a housewares’ item of comfort (pink sheets?), and some clothing that is either uber-stylish or everyday common and often both. And the subject’s favorite piece of furniture. Or a favorite boutique or shop.
I like to imagine these star-quality folks stranded on a desert island, comforted by all these fabulous accoutrements (and without the cosmopolitan lives and services to support them!)
Perhaps, my interest is nothing more than detailed voyeurism, what I console myself is the erudite version of Lives of the Rich and Famous. But I like that others find comfort in a few items they keep around. Yes, of course, the “12 things I can’t live without” should be a top 10 list of what really matters most. Or at least “signposts for the difference between a wasted and a meaningful life.” I wish mine would include “The Parable of the Laborers and the Hours” and Romans 8:31-38.
Truth be told, my list is also mostly more everyday, albeit non-luxury, items that I like having around. Some of them are important to me for emotional attachments they signify. Others are momentos of the time or relationships during which they came into my life. Some I don’t understand, but like having around nonetheless.
I think it’s ok to appreciate our material world. God made us incarnate. Created the world around us to enjoy. We’re creatures of habit, and of comfort. It’s fine, as long as we don’t care for things more than people, or get too comfortable…
12 Things I Can’t Live Without
Tom’s of Maine Fennel Toothpaste
Virginia Woolf’s “Mrs. Dalloway” & Alan Peyton’s “Cry the Beloved Country” (ok, I’m sneaking in 2 on my novel line)
The $5 Vietnamese barber underneath the Huntingdon train stop in Kensington
My framed poster of Winslow Homer’s “The Veteran and A New Field”
V-neck, short-sleeved t-shirts from Old Navy
Mussorgsky’s ‘Boris Godunov’ & Bernstein’s ‘Simple Song’
All my recycled furniture– gifts & cast offs from other’s attics, garages, garbage and dumpsters.
The palestinian needlepoint pillows I brought back from Bethlehem
R & B Singers
The now beat up copper mixing bowls Cindy gave us as a wedding present.
Clogs in the winter & sandals in the summer.
Add the Parthenon and Grand Central Station and you’ve really got my 17 favorite things. What would your list be?
See you in church,
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