Wednesday, September 20, 2006

La Vie Boheme

One of my favorite songs in the play/movie Rent is La Vie Boheme. I assume it translates into something like "The Life Bohemian" or "Hurrah for Bohemians!" or something like that.

A while back I went down to the local library, wandered through the inter-library loan catalog for a half hour or so, and ordered a half dozen decorating books just for the fun of it. They've been trickling in the last few weeks - mosaic tile design, haunting your house for Halloween, how to make your house look like a Parisian apartment on the cheap, flea market decorating. My favorite is one I stumbled upon called Bohemian Style by Elizabeth Wilhide.

At first I just skimmed through the book, enjoying all the photos full of color, art, patterns, combinations. But yesterday I sat down with it over lunch and started to read the text - who knew decorating books or magazines even had text! It's fascinating to read about the lives of those that first lived in such a way that we now have a term for it - a Bohemian Lifestyle.

I was particularly struck by this paragraph in the introduction:

"Bohemian style means going your own way. It's self-expression and creative energy; it's caring less about what other people think, and more about what you really feel. It is something made from nothing, magic conjurred from the everyday, the ultimate antidote to what is safe and predictable. With a relaxed attitude to dust and disorder, it's a tolerant way of life. The inspired effect, no matter how quick or instant, will always be preferred over the perfect finish."

That really struck home for me. When I had a house full of kids I always thought that a house should be thought of more as a workspace then a showcase. It should be set up in such a way that allowed messes to be made, forts created, dancing allowed, creations to be build. A workspace, unlike a showcase, doesn't require one to be always ready for company or inspection. It's there for you to live and work in, not to be a slave to it's upkeep. True, even a workspace needs some dusting and organizing from time to time, but my point here is that I tried to keep the purpose of our home in mind. It occurs to me that I have forgotten that purpose in recent years.

Occasionally I go into someone else's home and on first glance think "What a lovely home." I might be envious of how organized or clean it is compared to my own home. Or how new the furniture is. But after spending more time there, sometimes a house starts to feel unwelcoming to me, superficial, without stories or lives in it. I'm not saying that all tidy houses feel unwelcoming, just that some houses do. But when a house feels like that, looking more closely, I usually find there are no books. No art. Nothing personal beyond a nicely framed photo or two in matching frames, sitting dusted and displayed at matching angles. Everything might match but nothing stands out. I would probably be afraid to put my feet up or drink a cup of coffee anywhere in this sort of house. (An intriguing aside, it's rather sobering how often in my experience I've seen a "perfect" house, even one that feels welcoming, disappear in the aftermath of a divorce.)

Now there is not, nor has there ever been a time, when my house could be accused of coming anywhere near close to being too sterile or uninviting (unless you're allergic to cats), yet that particular paragraph still made a light bulb go on for me, perhaps back on. It made me see my house from a fresh perspective again. Without realizing it, I had slid back into being caught up in the idea that my house should look a certain way or include certain things or be able to pass some test of acceptable style.

Uhm, this from a woman who never took down her garden arch with the black stakes and the grinning metal pumpkin on it? Who owns 13 cats? Who painted her kitchen School Bus Orange (it's supposed to be "Curry") or her bathroom Shrek Green (old fashioned "Poison Green"). Who owns as many bookshelves as many small libraries?

Yes. It's amazing how much we are "hooked" by the norms of our culture without even being aware of it, isn't it?

This is not to say that I have given up on my decluttering and organizing projects. Not at all. There's still too much stuff in too little space for my personal comfort level. It only means I am feeling happier and more inspired to allow my inner artist more freedom with less worry about "shoulds". I've had my muse boxed up inside my head, afraid to let her out except an occasional walk on a leash. I've been working so hard trying to make time and space in my life for more creativity that I have overlooked the most obvious solution - to simply live a more creative life.


Blogger Janet said...

I totally agree with this concept. I have a plaque hanging on the wall that reads: "Dull women have immaculate houses" I tell my hubby that I must be the most exciting woman ever!!

I'm going to look for that book. It sounds like one I'd enjoy.

7:23 AM  
Blogger catsmum said...

La Vie Boheme as you so correctly guessed is french for the bohemian [ or gypsy ] life... I love the fact that Rent is based closely on Puccini's opera La Boheme. My DD even borrowed my Boheme libretto to check out just HOW close it is [ answer: very very very ! Would you light my candle? ]The best thing for me is sitting with DD and her friends [ the first time I met some of them ] and singing along to Rent. They were astounded that I knew the words... wow a bunch of 20 somethings think I'm kewl

4:12 PM  

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