Wednesday, November 19, 2008

When we were younger, my brother dreamt of taking one room of the house and spray painting it gold.

In the past two weeks, I have spray painted gold the following things:
  • a dozen IKEA picture frames
  • the rim of a $2 IKEA clock
  • the faceplate & screw of an electrical outlet
  • the interior walls & wire lattice work of the giant dark wood china cabinet I bought on Craigslist (before I decided it was a no go)
  • a light switch (though unsuccessfully--anyone know how to make spray paint stick on a light switch?)
  • various parts of my body.
Spray painting things gold is by far my newest favorite pasttime.

This is part of my efforts to make the space around me more beautiful. After two years at Melville (my own domestic heaven), I have learned the value of being around beautiful things. My new standard is this: I want to be around things beautiful enough they make me want to be a better person.

At first my current roommates didn't understand this, and then they laughed at it, and now they use it as a guide to understand how I'm feeling about the things in our housescape.

Roommate: Sarah, how do you like this toaster? Is it ugly?
Sarah: It's not too bad. It's okay.
Roommate: Hm. You mean, it's just not beautiful enough that you want to be a better person?
Sarah: Yeah. Well--yeah.

(I hope they're not worried that I'm sizing them up similarly. They needn't--once again, I have found myself living with really, truly beautiful roommates.) (Wait--that was sizing them up. Well, okay, I did it. But they came out victorious! Hooray for beautiful roommates!)

To this end--the house improvement end--my roommate Erika and I have done a variety of things: bought all new, beautiful dishes; painted the kitchen white and "starry sky"; bought a fat and high red couch and armchair for recently unfurnitured living room; bought a china cabinet on Craigslist, borrowed a truck to move it, negotiated it from the District to my house in Virginia, unloaded it almost (almost!) before it started to rain, moved it around a million times, spray painted gold on the inside and the lattice work (and my airways, no doubt), and then decided the china cabinet was a no go; bought another much better china cabinet online; and spent a Friday night shopping for and thinking strategically about what on earth to do about the 12 accent tiles in our kitchen back splash that are limpid and bleh prints of flowers in vases. No resolution. Yet.

The no-go cabinet.

I worry, of course, that this is a superficial way to use my money. That I should be devoting this money to paying off my law school loans/supporting African refugees/donating money to fast offerings/saving/traveling to see my family, etc. But Melville--it meant something. Its loveliness made us calmer. It made us glad to see each other. It helped us love the world more and treat it more tenderly and feel more satisfied from day to day, from red bowl of cereal to polka-dotted cup of hot chocolate. It's a remedy for the world's elite, I know. Who but a small fraction of earth has the luxury to buy $8 dessert plates? And who on earth actually has the gall to say it's because it will help them lead a better life?

But I believe in transforming my spaces, and I want to be better at doing it. There's value in this. There's got to be--it has made such a difference to my last two years. There's got to be a scriptural analog to this, more even than just a house of order.

Maybe (and I'm thinking aloud here), maybe this is part of what God was saying during the creation. Maybe not only "It is good," as in, it's a good idea, let's keep it, that will work, I am pleased. But maybe more, or too, "It is good--it makes life good." Creations so beautiful, they make life good.

God on Day Three: "Yup, those fish definitely make me want to be a better person. Let's keep 'em. Good work, team."

Good work, team.


rachel said...

I love it! Making wherever you live a more beautiful place is always a good thing. I've always found that when I dress in flattering attire, I feel better about myself. I see no reason why that should not be true of an abode as well.
Bravo. Keep up the good work. Good luck with the tiles, I have faith in you.

Laura said...

This highlights a catch-22 in my life. Right now I am really excited about decorating for Christmas (surrounding myself with some beautiful things). Unfortunately, the house is in a kind of disarray due to sickness, allergies, preschool fund raisers and other such events. In order to surround myself with these beautiful things, I first need to care for my home and keep it neat. But in order to be inspired to keep it neat, the things inside of it should be beautiful. Thus my dilemma.

Well, I have surrounded myself with beautiful people - Nick, the boys, you, Eden...

I'm partway there.

kt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
kt said...

From President Uchtdorf in the October 2008 RS Broadcast:

The Work of Creation

The desire to create is one of the deepest yearnings of the human soul. No matter our talents, education, backgrounds, or abilities, we each have an inherent wish to create something that did not exist before.

Everyone can create. You don’t need money, position, or influence in order to create something of substance or beauty.

Creation brings deep satisfaction and fulfillment. We develop ourselves and others when we take unorganized matter into our hands and mold it into something of beauty—and I am not talking about the process of cleaning the rooms of your teenage children.

You might say, “I’m not the creative type. When I sing, I’m always half a tone above or below the note. I cannot draw a line without a ruler. And the only practical use for my homemade bread is as a paperweight or as a doorstop.”

If that is how you feel, think again, and remember that you are spirit daughters of the most creative Being in the universe. Isn’t it remarkable to think that your very spirits are fashioned by an endlessly creative and eternally compassionate God? Think about it—your spirit body is a masterpiece, created with a beauty, function, and capacity beyond imagination.

But to what end were we created? We were created with the express purpose and potential of experiencing a fulness of joy. Our birthright—and the purpose of our great voyage on this earth—is to seek and experience eternal happiness. One of the ways we find this is by creating things.

If you are a mother, you participate with God in His work of creation—not only by providing physical bodies for your children but also by teaching and nurturing them. If you are not a mother now, the creative talents you develop will prepare you for that day, in this life or the next.

You may think you don’t have talents, but that is a false assumption, for we all have talents and gifts, every one of us. The bounds of creativity extend far beyond the limits of a canvas or a sheet of paper and do not require a brush, a pen, or the keys of a piano. Creation means bringing into existence something that did not exist before—colorful gardens, harmonious homes, family memories, flowing laughter.

What you create doesn’t have to be perfect. So what if the eggs are greasy or the toast is burned? Don’t let fear of failure discourage you. Don’t let the voice of critics paralyze you—whether that voice comes from the outside or the inside.

If you still feel incapable of creating, start small. Try to see how many smiles you can create, write a letter of appreciation, learn a new skill, identify a space and beautify it.

Nearly a century and a half ago, President Brigham Young spoke to the Saints of his day. “There is a great work for the Saints to do,” he said. “Progress, and improve upon and make beautiful everything around you. Cultivate the earth, and cultivate your minds. Build cities, adorn your habitations, make gardens, orchards, and vineyards, and render the earth so pleasant that when you look upon your labors you may do so with pleasure, and that angels may delight to come and visit your beautiful locations. In the mean time continually seek to adorn your minds with all the graces of the Spirit of Christ.”

The more you trust and rely upon the Spirit, the greater your capacity to create. That is your opportunity in this life and your destiny in the life to come. Sisters, trust and rely on the Spirit. As you take the normal opportunities of your daily life and create something of beauty and helpfulness, you improve not only the world around you but also the world within you.

amy said...

wow. i had no idea that "stop at ace hardware for gold spray paint" would make it onto my to-do list today. but i'm delighted. how fortunate you have a beautiful blue wall as an accent for that electrical plate.

my solution for creating a more beautiful space is simply going to ikea. it works every time. (if you know something bad about the company that would prevent my shopping there in good conscience, which you likely do because with prices that low they have got to be screwing somebody, don't tell me. i dont wanna know.)

MommaMcCarthy said...

i find myself in an odd state. wanting, nay, needing to comment, but having no ability to accurately describe my feelings, so a meager attempt is this:

i am inspired. truly.

thanks :)

Raelene said...

Sarah - I think you've always been about beautiful things. Always.

About the tile backsplash - is the whole tile the drab flower pattern or is it just one small vase-ish image in the middle? If the latter, then how about covering it with a lovely vinyl design?

Not that I mean to insert a shameless plug, but I do have some neat things at you can see. Or if you have a design you'd like me to make, I can. All in the name of beautiful things.

Keep at it, eh? And keep us posted.
mwah. R.

Stephanie said...

I am one of the beneficiaries of your efforts to create beauty. My talent in life is surrounding myself with the right types of people (you). And I am typing this as I'm sitting across from you, watching you pound screws from the elusive zip lock package number 6 into a piece of wood that will eventually be a lovely foot stool for our front room. Nice work, Miss O, and well said. Per usual.

Anna said...

Thanks for the tip about the paint not sticking to electrical outlets.

I think I am going to paint Soapy's dresser blue and gold now.

ken said...

Fantastic. Amen.