Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Questions and Answers

How do you do, James?  Yes it was a house, but oh what a house!  Hello Sandy.  I am so delighted to meet you.

Thank you every one for your kind words.  The story of why I left my house belongs to my past, but Innermost House belongs to the present.

I would like to try to answer some questions today.  Please forgive me if I cannot answer them all.

Al, you ask "about the meaning and importance of ownership for an innermost house and life."  That is a very good question, though I think in the practical world it is often a very complicated one.  Since I am not good at the practical world, I'll try to say simply what it has meant and how it has felt to me. 

I don't like to own things.  Least of all have I wished to own land.  I don't believe we could ever have made our way to Innermost House without our many moves from place to place.  And the many moves we needed to make were made far simpler by not owning.  I would even say that freedom from owning made the realization of our innermost life possible.

Still as you say, that has sometimes led to complications.  Even then I would not alter events.  I never expect to dwell deeper in the innermost place than our seven years in the house.  But now the spirit of that house is free to speak.  And it could not speak so long as I believed I would always remain there.

There is something more.  It is difficult to express.  Through all those years my husband and I sought the meaning of something we called Place.  We did not seek "our" place.  We sought the ways of Place itself.  I know that in this world it is often necessary to possess our places.  But I sought to be possessed by Place.
Innermost House is the embodiment of what we sought.  I think it is an older kind of relation.  It will always be Place to me.  

I know that is not a very practical answer.  I would like to return to this question again and talk about some of the ways Michael and I have addressed the problem.
"Did ending the relationship (as you knew it) with the previous owners, presuppose the ending of Conversations with the other friends?...Perhaps I am missing some subtle nuance you are sharing."

I'm sorry for my subtle nuances, Leah. The connections are often a little obscure to me!  You wonder what I mean by saying that the property was a retreat no longer, and what it was that caused others' concern for the Conversation.

Private Conversations at the house did not wholly cease with the new owners.  But the situation unavoidably changed. 

For our first years in the house, the property was a country retreat where we lived alone.  Visitors came as guests of the Conversation.  But afterward it was we who were guests.  With our gratitude to the new owners we also felt a natural respect for the privacy of what was now their property.   They are a well known and private family.

What concerned others was the new arrangement offered us by the original owner.  People close to the Conversation felt that so intensely inward an experience required a place apart from ordinary worldly life.

Leah I see you also ask,  "I wonder if it is really the experiences you had in IH that are what you are mourning, and not the house itself."

It is both, it must be.  But it is strange.  To me the experiences I had in the house are inseparable from the house itself.  

I do not miss the house as a "possession."  I do not miss it because it was "mine."  I miss it because it conforms to a certain whole way of life.

It's hard to describe, but easy to see.  It's why desperate people who write letters to me that end in "please do not publish this" tell of finding sanctuary in photos of the house when they can find no other.


"I would really like to hear the details of the Lorences' journey to their new home; both literally and figuratively speaking. How many of us are in the same exact "inner house" that we were in a decade ago, or even a few years ago?"

Or even a few months ago, or a few days?  Sandy you ask the unanswerable question.  At least for today.  It is the "details" part that gives me pause!



  1. It seems to me that your willingness to live free from owning property must be a sign of a trusting nature, which I much admire. Personally, I fear my fellow human beings, and I fear destitution; hence it has always felt important to me to own the patch of land on which I live; it affords a security which is, for now at least, not entirely illusory.
    I understand that perfect love casts out fear, but I have also seen what human beings can and will do to each other without a second thought. While I can, I provide what I can, for those who are dear to me.
    May your rising and sleeping, your way through the world, always be blest and protected.

    1. I'm with you, Ember; I too fear my fellow humans, and destitution! I too want to own a patch of land, for a sense of security, and as my personal space, tailored to my needs, and changeable as my needs change. I have twice involuntarily lost my home, and have lived very uneasily in my current space for 13 1/2 years.

      Diana, may you always find your space, wherever you allow the winds east of the sun and west of the moon to take you.

    2. I'm mostly with Ember and Suz. Ownership gives a measure of security and freedom. I do things. I like to work on my own house or putter in my woodlot. I don't want to beg permission for every decision I make. I know what I want to do. (Unless, of course, my wife tells me what I want!)

      On the other hand, with ownership comes responsibility. It could be challenging to lead a deep inner life when there's always a mortgage to pay and a lawn to mow. I suspect the secret is in balance. We need a home where we feel secure and comfortable without becoming a slave to the house.

    3. Good points, Mojo. I would want a tiny house, completely paid for at time of purchase, and I would certainly plan my garden so that it became part of my Conversation. Being a slave to the house is not in my plans! One of the reasons I so dislike my current living space is because it is so cluttered and so hard to clean - many things are not moveable or so tightly packed that they're practically immovable. There is so much STUFF in the house, and I can't just get rid of it because it is not mine. It's also dark, and having to have lights on at midday annoys me. The house I would like to build would probably take less than half an hour, tops, to clean, from end to end.

  2. Hi Diana
    Thanks for these answers. It is funny all the different directions that house, home, Place, and Conversation can lead to. Is the current change of circumstances an end to the old way of life at the deep hearts core or a transformation that is more like taking off one set of clothes and now you are working on finding the next set?
    PS if you make it to the Berkshires of Massachussets you are welcome to our guest room. The Berkshires might fit the innermost idea being close to the home of the transcendental users but still relatively sparsely populated. There is also a growing creative econOmy here that you might find interesting.

  3. I love this photograph (as I love all your photographs). How I'd love to walk beneath those great trees with you, with friends past and present. Indeed, how I'd love to walk freely across this earth.

    "We are the real countries, not the boundaries drawn on maps of powerful men". - Michael Ondaatje

    It is such a shame that life must be so complicated, especially for people who want the very simplest of lifestyles. This modern world is full of so much noise, so much light pollution, so much speed. Our modern 'comforts' have been acquired by the hard labours of our ancestors. Wouldn't it be nice if we used the respect of their sweat to build for those that come after us an example of how to live? There are questions. Why? What? Where? How? Why am I here? What will I do with my time? Where shall I live? How should I love? We are born and come into this world full of questions.

    Innermost House, for me, was an answer to so many questions but within that house lay a single great question. The Conversation. Many an Artist has said that they do not create their work. They find it. They are just the vessel which allows their work to come into being. Their work is their question becoming flesh. Their creativity is like an answer but if received with due reverence another question/ answer springs forth and thus becomes The Conversation.

    Walking gently amongst trees, looking up into the roof of the woods which is like the ceiling of a cathedral I watch the light filter through the leaves like sunlight through stained glass. The Question I feel inside me has no words. It is a kind of reverence; a certain awe, a deep love and respect for the great Mystery.

    1. What a beautiful and thoughtful post! Thank you.

  4. "It is normal and even essential to have a conscience, I know. But there was a time in all our lives when none of us had one. In the beginning, before we knew of the difference between good and evil, there was no good and evil in us. When we bend over a cradle, I think what we worship in the eyes of an infant child is the mind before conscience."
    Diana, this beautiful statement has stayed with me, and I was wondering if I might ask you a philosophical question.
    You were able to hold on to the place before your birth and bring it into this lifetime. Do you believe that we all somehow have this ability to do what you did, but that the rest of us somewhere along the line made a conscious choice to forget about this place?


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