Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Normal to Me

My life has always been a mystery to me. I am accustomed to the world in which I find myself again, but somehow it continues to take me completely by surprise.

Your words took me by surprise today. I confess, sometime I am a little mystified by all this learnedness! I have read and reread your comments, and even followed Dewey's link to the book about mysticism. The title intrigues me—Practical Mysticism: A Little Book for Normal People.

If there were ever to be a book about Innermost House, I would like it to introduce people to how practical mystery can be when walled around with a little house for normal people.

Everything about Innermost House is made to be practical, though it may not appear so from the outside. We built and furnished it out of so many years of trial and error that it was bound to be practical at last. And you would be amazed at how practical it can make you to live in the woods in the winter cold in an unelectrified twelve-foot square house!

For simple practicality I can think of almost nothing I would change in the next Innermost House. Perhaps I would build a little bath house beside it with wood-fired hot water. I don't think I would add anything else. I wouldn't remove anything. I wouldn't make the house any larger.

Even the beauty of the house—for it is beautiful to me—is practical in an everyday way. In many ways that is the most practical element of all. Perhaps nothing changed my life so much in our move to Innermost House as being surrounded all day and night by what I find beautiful.

Still, for all our experience in preparing for it, we didn't know it was Innermost House we were preparing for. So when it finally did take shape it took us by surprise. The surprise deepened over time into mystery.

Perhaps the greatest mystery is how Innermost House grew out of the seed of the Conversation. I still feel that strongly, but I cannot explain it. I cannot perhaps because the Conversation is too near within me, and the house too near around me. That relation remains as strange and indescribable as a dream.

I love dictionaries and encyclopaedias. They are so solid and useful. We had reference books of all kinds at Innermost House, and I was forever looking things up. Our books are in storage now, but I looked up the word mystery on the internet.
mystery (1)
early 14c., in a theological sense, "religious truth via divine revelation, hidden spiritual significance, mystical truth," from Anglo-Fr. *misterie, O.Fr. mistere "secret, mystery, hidden meaning" (Mod.Fr. mystère), from L. mysterium "secret rite, secret worship;

I do not think of the mystery of Innermost House in a theological sense, though perhaps some of our more learned guests did. It was certainly secret in the sense of being hidden. But it did not conceal any secret rites or worship. All it concealed were two chairs, a fire, some books, some food and drink, a man and a woman and their married conversation.

a secret thing," from Gk. mysterion (usually in pl. mysteria) "secret rite or doctrine," from mystes "one who has been initiated," from myein "to close, shut" (see mute (adj.)); perhaps referring to the lips (in secrecy) or to the eyes (only initiates were allowed to see the sacred rites). 

To close the eyes. To close the lips. Yes. Darkness and silence are inseparable from the experience of life in the woods, and at Innermost House that woodland presence is intensified. But our guests are not held to any kind of secrecy. There isn't anything about the Conversation they can remember to repeat anyway!

I sometimes think that the uniqueness of Innermost House is distracting. We searched over half the world looking for it, so I know it is an exception to the prevailing way of life. Still, what I found at last in the woods was only the normal-ness I went looking for, a way of life that feels simply and wholly normal to me.

normal (adj.) 
c.1500, "typical, common;" 1640s, "standing at a right angle," from L.L. normalis "in conformity with rule, normal," from L. normalis "made according to a carpenter's square," from norma "rule, pattern," lit. "carpenter's square" (see norm). Meaning "conforming to common standards, usual" is from 1828, but probably older than the record.

That definition satisfies me. Innermost House shares a common nature with other houses where individuals have sought an inward life. Rooms and houses of its essential confirmation are found east and west, from ancient and medieval to renaissance and near-modern times.

It is so true to its type that those who are meant for it seem to fall into the most perfect familiarity with its size and shape in the course of their first visit. It gathers all things into a living order; it is reasonable and square in a proper carpenter's kind of way. It is the pattern of a foursquare house.  

Perhaps what is normal to me is more a matter of what is normal over whole epochs of human time. Dark and light, night and day, cold and warmth, love and loss, life and death. Innermost House is where the ordinary rules of the inward life really do apply.

I don't know if I am a mystic. Perhaps we all are inside. I don't know if the Conversation is a mystic experience. If it is, then I have shared it with a world of visiting mystics! To me it is all blessedly normal.  

Innermost House is a Practical Mystery: a Little House for Normal People. 


  1. Oh, yes,Diana! I feel the same as I did when you first posted! Back to simplicity. Through all of your painful searching throughout the years you have given us the most wonderful gift. Originally it was the gift of the wonderful tiny house with all of it's practicality and just plain sweetness and then opening yourself for scrutiny. I don't know how you have been able to do that part, really, but maybe it has been thereputic for you as you wait for your new IH. It will come, too. Because what you think about the most will materialize whether physical or spiritual. We love you and care about what happens in your life.

  2. I had a friend who was just beginning to notice synchronicity and how life changes when thought patterns change. He was constantly saying "It's so amazing, it's so unusual." I told him in my life, all of these things are perfectly normal. He then began to say "Oh, how usual" and we would laugh!

  3. Common, practical, simple, normal, mystical, elegant. Little can be added without doing away with these. I agree that this has been true through whole epochs of human time. The normalcy we are confronted with in the wide world is not normal at all.

    Here is my favorite part, Diana: "To close the eyes. To close the lips. Yes. Darkness and silence are inseparable from the experience of life in the woods, and at Innermost House that woodland presence is intensified." ...for I am a great sitter-in-the-dark. I will never use so many candles as you do, Dear. The dark of the evening is my time to pray, whether indoors or out. A practical Mystery for normal people. Thank you for this wonderful post.

    1. In the darkness you can see the most beautiful things. This morning the stars were so bright that I felt like they surrrounded me. In the quiet you can hear the most beautiful sounds. The old owl across the way, the cyotes chiming in. The leaves are so deep around my house that I can hardly find my little doggy in the dark, but I can certainly hear him! It all make me feel alive.

    2. That's the kind of thing I really enjoy. How usual!

    3. How different life is in the country vs. the city, Sherry! I don't have a reason to go outside in the wee hours of the morning and on the rare occasions that I have, often the stars are obscured by ambient city light. Certainly there are no owls or coyotes where I live! But, I can certainly appreciate those moments of stillness in the night hours when hearing becomes more acute and sight is dimmed. It is in those moments that it almost feels like the senses are concentrated in the heart and our entire body becomes like an extra sensitive tuning fork. My favorite times to be outside at night are during a snowfall that quietly blankets the earth in its embrace or during a torrential downpouring of rain when I literally have to 'go with the flow'!

    4. And standing on a footbridge under a full moon all bundled up on a winter's night...

  4. Diana, I particularly liked your comment about being surrounded day and night by what you feel to be beautiful. I don't feel comfortable in a space unless it is beautiful and clean so that each item of beauty is honored and cherished and treated with utmost respect. When I look at a person's home (including my own) the first thing I notice is whether there is balance in the placement of things, or an interesting juxtaposition of disparate items that still seem to fit together in an unusual way or a display of something meaningful to the person living there which speaks to their values and interests and that is arranged with care befitting its importance to the individual. I also look to see if a home is clean and well-kept even if it is a very modest home or has few decorative items because to me cleanliness really IS next to Godliness and cleanliness always lends an added luster of a high vibration to an environment. I look to see if there is anything in the environment that resonates with my own interests--books, plants, statues, pottery, wood carved bowls or wall art. I look to see if there is a balance among colors, textures and elements (wood, metal, organic, etc.) To me, the discriminate care with which we adorn and maintain our homes is a outer reflection of the inner state of our minds and hearts.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.