Awhile back our online book club read Poetic Knowledge: The Recovery of Education by James Taylor. First, Taylor lays out the three levels of poetic knowledge: first intuitive, then intentional, and finally that grows and matures and blossoms into “connatural” or internalized. Applied to homemaking and housekeeping, the final stage of internalized knowledge is a dance; we dance the dance of our routines because it makes us happy and satisfied. We simply couldn’t leave the dishes undone at night or the bed unmade in the morning, because it would be jarring and incongruous with who we are.
So, we will use his three aspects of poetic knowledge as an outline as I attempt to weave the threads that I have seen.
Being a Homemaker
Once you have the intuitive vision and intentionally reach toward it, you are able to reach the connatural, or internalized, phase: the point at which you gain a disposition of the will to simply act consistently with the Right and Good and Beautiful.
Sandra Felton noticed that “For her [Cleanie friend], the house is not just a location in which she does things. She feels that the house is a very personal extension of herself. […] We were designed by Him [God] to feel at peace when things are in order and to feel frustrated when they are out of control. […] She doesn’t feel she has to prove her worth by producing. The activities she does decide to tackle, she does in the same way she keeps her house — in an orderly and deliberate way.”
Cheryl Mendelson’s introduction in Home Comforts says something similar:
Unfortunately, what a traditional woman did that made her home warm and alive was not dusting and laundry. Someone can be hired to do those things (to some extent, anyway). Her real secret was in identifying herself with her home […] But it is more illuminating to think about what happened when things went right. Then **her affection was in the soft sofa cushions, clean linens, and good meals; her memory in well-stocked storeroom cabinets and pantry; her intelligence in the order and healthfulness of her home; her good humor in its light and air.** She lived her life not only through her own body, but through the house as an extension of her body. Part of her relation to those she loved was embodied in the physical medium of the home she made. […]
It is scarcely surprising, then, that so many people imagine housekeeping to be boring, frustrating, repetitive, unintelligent drudgery. I cannot agree. […] [Domesticity] is just an orientation that gives you a sixth sense about the place you live in, and helps you keep it running with **the same kind of unconscious and effortless actions that keep you from falling when you walk down stairs.**
That unconscious, seemingly effortless, action that Mendelson mentions is consistent with Taylor’s comments in Poetic Knowledge: The Recovery of Education about poetic experience & practice:
This is a poetry that already knows the deep significance of things as they are, so that all that is needed is to arrange them alongside, in vibrant sympathy, the wide range of human responses to life. […] And this power of knowledge must be the constant point of poetic experience and knowledge: it always deals with the really real.
And when we see the really real, when we act in accordance with the really real, we see that the deeper significance behind it is just as really real:
Suddenly, in the illumination of poetic light, these real objects become analogous to our deepest thoughts and emotions.
And here I made an unexpected connection to seeming unrelated reading.
Holly Pierlot in A Mother’s Rule of Life, after telling her story and leading her readers through her process and practicalities, delves into the deeper life and explains how it was only after her thoughts and actions were working in harmony with each other that she then became able to see God in the moment, in her ordinary round of duties. She experienced communion and fellowship with God on a deep level. Union. And then in One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp, tells of her journey to joy in the ordinary and freedom from fears through gratitude, which led her almost unsuspectingly to this deeper level. Union. And here is Taylor using the word to explain what connatural knowledge is: “the first reflex to experience knowledge as union, possession, with the essence (the form) of the thing to be known. And this is the poetic tendency of the cognitive [interior?] life, this getting within the immaterial reality of the objects of knowledge […] [the poetic impulse is] always in search of union.”
What both Pierlot and Voskamp describe is an abandoning of their analytic, self-focused strivings and an embracing of happy, trusting obedience, after which they unexpectedly began to see behind and beyond the ordinary things and duties to how those things and duties spoke of God, thus experiencing a deeper, more communicant, relationship with Him.
Housekeeping isn’t about a clean house after all. It’s about obedience and holiness and love, about seeing and praising and serving God Himself.