"This being human is a guest house. Every morning a new arrival." Thank you Lydia and David for that lovely poem today. So it has always seemed to me.
I awoke this morning still thinking about guesthouses. I am so grateful for our life as guests in the world. It has taught me things and freed me to live in friendship in a way I could never have enjoyed as the mistress of a house in any ordinary householding way.
I don't have friends the way most people have. When a person remains close to me for long I become more aware of their independent existence, which is uncomfortable and confusing to me. At a little distance—with acquaintances or strangers—I experience people as continuous with myself, or myself as continuous with them.
But it is different in a guesthouse. When people come to share the Conversation with us, then even though I see them far more closely than I would elsewhere, I experience no separateness between us. We are all only souls then. It is the same with those I know through the books we choose to have in our guesthouses. In a way they too are here for the Conversation.
Probably the most famous guesthouse I know is Henry Thoreau's house at Walden Pond. It is strange that I never enjoyed Walden until we moved into Innermost House, but then it came to life for me.
Before then it was Thoreau's great friend Ralph Waldo Emerson whom we read, and through my husband I have known Emerson around the fire for thirty years. He is almost the only person with whose outward history I am inwardly familiar.
Emerson was established in the world by the the time he befriended the young Henry David Thoreau. It was on Emerson's wooded land at Walden that Thoreau built his famous guesthouse. My husband once read to me a very touching account of the two men's long and fruitful friendship, taken mostly from their writings, simply and appropriately entitled, My Friend, My Friend.
I don't think Thoreau ever expected to stay long at Walden—he was a guest after all—and the house was quickly built for the pleasure of it. Still I understand that many people who see Thoreau's reconstructed house for the first time find it much less rustic than the pioneer cabin they expected. It is not a pioneer cabin of course. It is a guesthouse.
The Walden house was finished very much to the standard of many much larger New England houses of the time—shingle sided, sanded floor, brick fireplace, lath and plaster walls, great large windows. It was a house for thinking and feeling, for reading and writing, for sitting by the fire and opening to the outdoors. It was a guesthouse for solitude and friendship.
It is a lovely word when you think of it. Guesthouse. We who dwell in guesthouses know we are only guests of our friends in the world. But when they call on us in our solitude for Conversation, then it is they who are our guests. We are guests entertaining guests. It is a circle of hospitality.
The people with whom we have shared our life are responsible householders by nature, and I have always appreciated the natural kinship we enjoy together. I could no more wish to live in their houses than they could in mine, but we have always found ways to give something of what we have to each other.
Most of all we have found ways to share a friendship of souls. I have been fortunate to live a life of Conversation. This being human is a guesthouse. Every morning a new arrival.