Urban Designer - Vernacular Architect - Maritime Planner - Owner-Builder - Servant of Piglet - Educator - Author - Revolutionary - Peacenik - Tour Guide 

Tony Watkins

 ~ Vernacular Design 

The Human House - Like a letter to a friend Print E-mail

Image Frank has passed on, and yet Frank will always be present. The sculpture which Frank carved from a piece of old oak now hangs on the wall, breathing life into the house.

The face of Christ was not carved to make money and Frank did not want it to belong to someone for whom it had no meaning. He wanted to share his creativity with someone who would be gentle with the things he loved. He wanted to find life through enriching the lives of others.

So he gave away the carving he loved so much, and now it hangs on the wall of the house.

Writing is like carving. If you write to sell, then you will write what will sell. If you write only what others want to hear, you will not write the things which need to be said. If you write only to convince others then you may end up doing little more than reinforcing your own prejudices. Sincerity cannot compete with expediency.

It is better when everything you write, for any publication, is like a letter to a friend.

Those who find you have nothing to say should quietly put the text down again, recognising that it was never meant for them.

When you write for friendship’s sake you share the things which matter to you, and you must rely on your friends to keep what is worth keeping and, with a breath of kindness, blow the rest away.

Frank’s carving is like a letter to a friend. Frank never made a living out of carving. He was a sculptor through and through, but in a society arrogant enough to feel no need for the sculptor’s hand or the sculptor’s eye he had to work at other things.

Thus all Frank’s sculpture became like letters to friends. Those who had no chance to meet him while he was alive can still touch his soul, because he offered his carving for friendship’s sake.

A letter, or a carving, makes another person present. The carving is not a memento. Frank is always present in the house because the things in which Frank believed did not die with Frank. He loved and he wanted others to share his love.

Sharing is a risk because often you do not realise how lonely you are until you try to share. It takes a great act of faith to give away something of yourself, because when your dreams are dashed to pieces by someone else who does not care something of yourself is destroyed too.

The problem with loneliness is that reaching out often only makes the loneliness more intense.

It is easy to crowd our walls with objects to hide our own loneliness. It is easy to fill our lives with images from which we can be remote and thus secure.

If everyone thinks that we are friends of Rembrant or Picasso they may feel too shy to offer us a glimpse of their own nothingness. It is easy to close out the possibility of real friendship.

If a wall in a house is empty because there is nothing to share, then perhaps it is better to leave it empty. Then some friend will come along and share something which is important to them.

It might be the rice paper print which Roger carried in his pack all the way from Thailand. It might be the photographs of the olive trees which meant so much to Mabel, or perhaps the inscription awarding the degree of “Bachelor of Incompetence”, so lovingly forged by Mac. These are not objects, but rather people crowding into the house to make it a place of warmth and fellowship.

The objects themselves seem to become richer as the years go by. Removing the cobwebs, or cleaning the flyspots off the glass, is rather like taking out old letters from friends. People do not grow old. They remain as young as the things you shared together.

If you sit quietly, all alone, in someone else’s house and just listen, the silence will begin to speak. The cold embers in the grate will begin to glow and the carving on the wall will tell you about Frank, but you must be gentle, because a house is like a letter to a friend.

At least that is what they ought to be. If our houses have nothing to say then what is the use of good grammar or accurate spelling?

Where a house does have something to say, do not miss the message because you are too busy checking the grammar or correcting the spelling. If you are like that then people will not write to you any more for friendship’s sake.

What a rich life it would be if all our buildings were like letters to friends.

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