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In one of my all-time favorite books, “A Patchwork Planet,” by Anne Tyler, the main character reminisces about his days as a juvenile delinquent. Barnaby describes the times when he and his friends would break into people’s houses and steal things.
But what was unusual, Barnaby says, was while his friends went straight to the liquor cabinet or snatched up valuable possessions, he picked up the unique knick-knacks, pored over photos and read through the mail.
He may have thought that was odd but I did not. I pretty much love to do the same thing.
Well, breaking and entering into homes and shifting through strangers’ personal belongings is not a good pastime but I can understand his intentions.
These personal items are not just random, meaningless pieces of junk; they are clues to how individuals live their lives. Everyone knows how their own life is going, but what about other people’s lives? How do they interpret the time they have on this earth?
A person’s home can reveal the answers to these questions.
As a result, I usually never pass up a person’s invitation to explore their home. Years ago, while living in a suburban Tennessee community, my mother and I would jump at the chance to participate in an open house.
It did not matter that my parents had already bought and moved into their home, if we saw an open house sign in the neighborhood, it was a welcome opportunity to explore another person’s world.
Even if there was no open house sign, we still found a way to sneak inside new construction houses that hadn’t been locked up tight.
Moving to Los Alamos, I happily went along with my parents when they were house hunting even though I was no longer living with them.
I loved looking at the scenic mural painting on the side of one of the houses and walking into an office that had quite the collection of computers.
It was even better when a friend of mine invited me to take a quick tour of her art studio. I had seen her work displayed at the library and the Art Center at Fuller Lodge, but to see where it is created was an opportunity to view a whole different side to her art.
The concrete floor dabbled with droplets of paint, the shabby-chic pastel couch, the bookshelves choked with books – it all showed the personal side of her work.
I loved the rainbows of colors in her neat stacks of fabric and the rows of jars that held her tools. The entire space was just bursting with the means for creative productivity.
Armed with this new knowledge, the next time I see one of her pieces in an exhibit, it will have more significance and portray a whole new meaning.
Sometimes being nosy has its benefits.