After finishing the morning routine yesterday, despite my sense of overwhelm, I came away refreshed and with two resolutions: 1. Buy Gaston Bachelard, Poetics of Space. 2. Send a card and check to niece, Kelsey Julia, on birth of her baby Jeanette. Look forward to getting to know the little girl and watching her grow up!
Both of these ideas were stirred up by feelings of affection. Affection for Bachelard (1884-1962), who was a post-master in a small town in France before becoming a celebrated philosopher of space. I discovered him and his body of work as a graduate student in French literature. In retrospect, he is one of the most important thinkers I enjoyed reading. With the accent on enjoyed!
I want to reread his famous book and, knowing that I’m leaving behind a nice research library at Notre Dame, I want to build up my personal collection and own it. It may seem stupid to buy books right before you move. It probably is, to some people. But for me, these are moving preparations for the spirit.
Bachelard will help me capture the feelings I have for this house and the new one too. His abstract and companionable voice will be a constant, if I want it to be, during this time of uncertainty. I love his way of describing what one might call the “spirit lives” of rooms, drawers, cupboards, and tiny spaces. This old house on Riverside has many, many places like that to explore and contemplate. It has been a kindly place to live during a tumultuous decade.
(Editorial aside: When we first moved in here, I was in the midst of my exhausting career in the Notre Dame upper administration. I was drawn to the darkest, most protected space in this house. I still remember how relieved I felt when I discovered it: a large dark, window-less closet with a secret hiding place in it for valuables. Hmmm… I wonder what deep need that met!?! And what space will feel most protective in the new house? or will that thought even cross the mind? I suspect going home after 34 years away is going to be emotionally interesting…)
If a brief dip into The Poetics of Space is enough, then I will pack it away and rediscover it some rainy afternoon. I certainly won’t regret having it.
The other affection is for my niece and her daughter, my family, closer to whom I’m moving in 34 days. Need I say more?!
That’s what happens when you do T’ai chi–you start to feel a really happy energy, deep within, and then that good feeling opens onto the world as a whole.
(It sounds crazy, but it’s true.)
Photo of Gaston Bachelard,  Dutch National Archives, The Hague, Fotocollectie Algemeen Nederlands Persbureau (ANEFO), 1945-1989 bekijk toegang 2.24.01.04 Bestanddeelnummer 917-9599