Imagine Martha Stewart, comfortably sitting in the real-leather, reclining seat of a time machine. She has agreed to an impromptu journey to a destination of your choice and awaits departure, magazine and martini in hand. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1… Launch!
The capsule disappears from your laboratory. You and Martha remain in contact throughout the experiment thanks to a simple little device we take for granted in our daily lives: a cell phone (don’t ask me how that works. I am not the scientist, you are). You can also witness the experiment on your phone and it is the device you will use to initiate the return sequence.
After a successful “landing”, you instruct Martha to step out of the capsule. She understands, immediately, why you insisted on the period garb. The time capsule has taken on the appearance of a wagon, complete with two majestic horses at the front end. It was imperative that she blend in.
The great American Frontier. Yup! This is precisely where Martha has landed. Her mission: To report on her first impressions of interior design. She is speechless; perhaps even discouraged.
At a time when people lived with the bear minimum, they also spent a lot more time at home and on their land than we do today. Home was where they made and repaired tools, raised and educated the children, made and mended clothes, mended wounds and broken bones, gave birth and died. They did all this within the “comforts” of rudimentary chairs, tables and beds, most of which were built on the spot, as needed, with the materials provided by the land or by some traveling peddler of bear essentials.
Today, comfort is achieved by way of a suitable décor, a room for every member of the family and for every possible activity of daily life, including entertainment and private quarters for modern-day carriages. We achieve comfort in details; color, ornamentation, architecture, lighting fixtures, air quality controls, storage systems and so on. Yet we spend less time at home than ever.
This is not because we do not want to be home, but because we have created an environment where roaming about is safe. We are no longer travelers in search of shelter and nourishment; we are travelers in search of experience and connection. We go into the world to study, to experience a career, to teach and explore and to share life with a community whose frontier reaches far beyond the city limits. We bring back a sense of the world, new ideas and expanded vision. No wonder we feel the urge to expand our immediate surroundings. Our homes tell a story. As the child who relates the details of his day at school upon stepping through the front door, our properties are the narratives that tell the story of all that we are.
We return home at the end of the day as we might fold the body onto itself and return to silence after experiencing the sounds and sensations of the world. It is our assigned compartment, so to speak; the place where we reconnect with the other parts of us, our spouse, children and things.
Home is the place where we begin each day in the midst of what resembles us the most; perhaps it is a bookmark, keeping us mindful of our place in the history of our lives so that we may begin every new day with a clear idea of how we might continue the story.
As for Martha… sometime, somewhere in the history of the Great American Frontier, a tired settler leaned his rifle against the table and paused for a moment. As though inspired by some invisible presence, he saw his home with fresh eyes, walked out and returned with a bouquet of wild flowers in an old teapot. It transformed the room. It transformed him as well.