We are beloved companions on a mystic journey, sharing our solitude and holding the world in the divine prayer of love.

"Place your mind before the mirror of eternity! Place your soul in the brilliance of glory. Place your heart in the figure of the divine substance. And transform your whole being into the image of the Godhead Itself through contemplation."
- from St. Clare's third letter to Blessed Agnes of Prague.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

House as Body

Casa Chiara House in 2004
When workers found rot in the siding they began by tearing off the skin. We could feel the shuttering of the house from inside. We agreed to trash the yellow. Wasn't the sunshine on the hill enough? When the house stood naked they ripped deeper. We could hear the power saws and drills. The house became a tooth under the dentist's drill. The house became a body in an operating room. I opened Pandora's box to empty music through the tunnels of my ears. Outside now the pounding reverberated through skin and bone to heart and mind. Our skin picked up vibrations like drums.

A day arrived in three weeks of this that I didn't recognize the house in its new skin awaiting paint. I couldn't choose. It wouldn't have mattered what color the paint might be. The color wheel spectrum gives us options now that only Dante imagined before while giving words to Paradiso. For some reason I still don't understand, the house no longer could be yellow. Green, perhaps? Like leaves, like moss, like grass before it turns. A swatch of green on new siding--but no. It appeared artificial on what had always been a living thing: this hermitage.

We turned the color wheel and both chose brown. We chose earth, the lightness of it, the dark. We chose brown, and still I woke in the middle of the night wondering, worrying--where would the sunshine be if the house were brown? Not brown, the swatches say: Briar. Khaki, Smokehouse. Virtual Taupe, Cobble. Sable. Down Home. Angora. Poised Taupe. Otter. Van Dyke.

Years ago when my dear friend and soul-sister, Alla Bozarth, asked me about my favorite color, I told her brown. "BROWN????" The decorations in her home were Russian Red and gold and black, intense blues, silver in some paintings on the wall, purple, mauve, a feast of color. Over the years I worked to make my imagination more colorful.

But we will paint Casa Chiara Hermitage two shades of brown with white trim, and it will be as though wearing the simple, earthy garb of Francis and Clare. When I think that the house might disappear from view up on this hilltop, no longer the yellow landmark it once was, I remember that fifteen years ago I was not so comfortable with the yellow until it came to have a meaning beyond itself. Brown tones have that meaning for me already.

For all this, I realize I sound as though I'm making my "apologia." You're right. I'm not comfortable with any of this at all. All my life I've been in awe of people who build their own houses, choose the shape and size and form and colors they most like. I'll never do that! I proclaimed with (now I see) a rather arrogant and simplistic certainty. Be careful of such certainty. I've seen too often how certainty is toppled and crushed under the earthquake of reality. We fall back then into the all-inclusive brown, the humus of earth, the shadowland of self we call humility.

Under Construction


  1. This is lovely. I've always dreamed of a yellow house but it rarely works. A paint specialist explained why once;'something about shadows. Love you, Christin. Whatever color, it's a holy place.

  2. Dearest of Dears, you forgot that the original Wisdom House at the time when we lived just across the Mississippi River from each other was BROWN BROWN BROWN! Its trim was a sun-suffused ivory, like ancient bone. But the house was brown. And the Mt. Hood, Oregon Wisdom House where you and your Beloved John were married is the color of Oregon overcast sky~ white, with the exact shade of red-BROWN on its everywhere-trim. Brown is the color of earth on Earth, and as sacred as sprouted green or sunshining yellow~ it is the place where death flows into life again and again and again, to feed us in body and soul. It is the Source of the Living Colors that burst into bloom in our gardens and forests and wild fields, and where they all return as compost to transform into holy ground, receptive to the surprise of What Comes as before. Brown is GOOD! As servers in restaurants say, "An excellent choice!" Blessings all over your beautiful brown house! May the green forests and colorful flowers around Casa Chiara adorn it with other colors of Divine Love through all your days together.

  3. . . . And besides applied paint on the Wisdom Houses, brown is the original high-pigment color of your and my hair and eyes. It's the combination of ALL colors on the palette, before too much of everything manifests as black as the night sky under which we can't see anything, except the starfires that dot it like jewels. I remember when I asked you the question about your favorite color, but at the time I remembered that you answered "orange." You had a lot of brown and orange inside your house, as I did in my family room which was also my consulting room with soulcare clients, and the reception room after Holy Eucharist liturgies in the Upper Room Wisdom House Chapel. Orange is the chakra of coming to one's senses . . . a perfect alliance with rich shades of brown, and often the sky colors of transition times out of day into night and out of night into morning. And brown is the traditional color of both Franciscan and Carmelite habits ~ for our beloved contemplative mystic matrons and patrons~~ Chiara/Clare and Francesco/Francis, our good pope's namesake, and visionary Teresa of Avila and Thérèse of Lisieux) and poet Juan de la Cruz/John of the Cross. Your choice is a most appropriate tribute to all of them.

    1. Oops~ reply to myself, apology to you. I hadn't read ALL of your entry about house as body when I wrote the two comments, hence my redundant remarks about Clare and Francis (though I added the Teresas and John). Now that I've read everything you wrote, I want to add that I don't like brown either, unless it's got red in it rather than yellow and is very dark~ like dark chocolate. I once bought a car the color of cherry hot fudge because it didn't show the dust that blew up onto it in the driveway from the unpaved road, and I made emotional peace with it by that yummy association. When we bought the Minneapolis house it was already brown, and when we had new siding put on, we chose more intense shades of brown and ivory to draw out the beauty and nutrient-high richness from those colors. The less public parts of the house were where my love of purple and Phil's love of red combined ~ the so-called jewel colors, which come from what's inside earth's crystallized rocks. But the places most congregated were earth colors. While I don't wear brown unless its fabric and design are especially beautiful, I've learned to like it where it blends in with Earth herself. In your case, years of sunshine so enriched the earth-growth around you that now you celebrate that richness with iconic brown! Context is everything!

  4. Final thought: the new brown coat worn by your house goes with the bark of all the blessed trees on the holy ground around you, beautiful guardians of Casa Chiara!

  5. Brown: Gaia's deepest skin, Demeter, Pele - powerful forces to hold and support you in the future.

    hugs CAT