I have spent so much time in the past year in the same four walls; working, eating, family life, any precious few minutes for leisure. Its plenty of time to notice all the parts that need work, the niggles I can’t seem to get fixed. Plenty of time to take comfort in all the material aspects that make it ‘home’.
And then we moved house. But I found that the four walls I lived within moved with me – the four walls that bound how I think, feel and act. Sometimes they can feel as intractible as solid walls – but more often they are like an infra red web of relationships between everyone in my household, and us all together, connected to the world outside through an even more complex web of family and friends, school and work.
It’s not that the new house doesn’t make a difference. It does – there is more space, a bigger garden, and being more rural we enjoy a beautiful outlook and woods on the doorstep. We are incredibly fortunate. I think the space to breathe and the view enables more ‘give’ in the walls of our inner lives. It changes how the children play, how we will relate to others, and a closer connection to nature. I would never say physical location doesn’t matter. The birdfeeders never cease to calm my soul. And yet, in essence, I remain comforted and reassured by the same kindnesses, habits of affection, or gestures of friendship. I am hemmed in by the same frustrations – at myself and at others: additional space has no meaning to young children wanting constant close physical companionship.
There is work to do in the new house – some of it routine, like tending the garden. Some is more drastic – changing internal walls. And there is work of all kinds to do on my inner four walls; my connections with family, with God, with the natural world, and my sense of self. They are not only in my house; the relationships I am part of affect the walls that others live within.
As I was weeding near the fence recently, trying to distract myself from aspects of the house and garden I don’t enjoy, I had in mind some verses from Psalm 16 – “The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places. Surely I have a delightful inheritance.” And it reminded me that however I change or work on my physical house, and whatever happens in the inner web of my life, I can take comfort from knowing they remain held within the unbreakable cords of love that is the foundation and sustenance of all life.
“Underneath are the everlasting arms”. (from Deuteronomy 33 v.27)