People all me often why we open up our lives and our farm twice a year by having Open Houses, one in the Spring, one in October. After all, they say, it is a lot of work and planning, and it is not something that makes money. I understand it is not something most writers and artists do.
It isn't a simple question to answer, because the Open House really stems from something quite personal: two broken lives that are being patched back together, one piece at a time. Maria wrote a powerful piece on her blog this morning – she called it Atomic Waste – about how her love of the Open House stems in part from the part of her life that was wasted.
Maria, like so many women, spent many years deferring to other people – men, most especially – and nearly wasted her life. She did what others wanted her to do, not what she wished to do. Her art was long submerged, something that was corroding her soul and spirit.
She has fought hard and bled hard to get her life back. I also lost the purpose of my life, and fell into the dark spaces. But that is past.
Maria is determined, as I am, to encourage other people to not do the same thing, and to encourage them as much as possible to live the life they were meant to live. The Open House gives people an opportunity to live their lives and fulfill their dreams and to unleash the often powerful but suppressed creative instincts inside of them.
She and I share this history and this passion. Maria and I understand one another as few people can do.
I was living what Joseph Campbell would call a "substitute life", what T.S. Eliot would call the life of the "hollow man."
I like to see the Open House as planting my tree in the world. In the Kabbalah, God calls upon all of us to plant our own trees:
"I am the one who planted this tree for all the world to delight us. Alone I was when I made it. When I spread out my earth, in which I planted and rooted this tree – giving them joy in one another, rejoicing along with them – who was with me To whom could I reveal this secret of mine?"
The Open House is my tree.
I was a shell in many ways, smart enough to write books and get good jobs, but too broken to love, respect myself or have perspective about my life. I lived in anger and terror, one exchanging places with the other. I was not available to other people.
I was coming apart, like a meteor entering the atmosphere of the earth. My biological family was shattered, and the family I helped create in its awful wake came apart as well. You cannot live in a healthy or meaningful way if you are broken, if your center is smoldering or in pieces.
As had to happen, I came apart, and like Maria, began the long and arduous take of giving rebirth to myself, of putting the pieces back together.
For me, the Open House is about redemption, a celebration of life. I open up my heart and my home to say to the world, "look, I have found myself, found my life, it is always possible, at any age, if there is the will and the strength. I swore to a therapist that I would not end my life in a loveless way, without true friends, a true love, work that I was passionate about doing. I wanted to be a source of encouragement to those who wanted to be encouraged.
The Open Houses are like that, they draw people who are drawn to the flame. And they have not been without pain and confusion. In recent years, I sometimes felt invaded, I felt used, by people who used the Open Houses for their own reasons, and for their own agendas.
I am letting go of that, returning to our passion, our dream, our purpose.
Maria can speak for herself, but my reasons for offering the Open Houses are quite selfish. They are, in the final analysis, for me, about repairing the broken parts of my life, about helping others to escape my nearly tragic fate. If you cannot help yourself, if you cannot find your way, follow your heart and zeal, pursue your passion, you cannot help others.
My wish for the Open Houses is that they become a beacon, a light unto the world. The people who come here are so often pilgrims, drawn to the light. They are our brothers and sisters, and we offer them hope and support, as they have offered hope and support to us, as we have offered hope and support to one another.
Why do I believe so much in the Open Houses, why do I persist in them with Maria?
The greater I wish to be, the more I need to search for myself. My deep soul hides itself from consciousness. Then I seek to gather everything, without hatred, jealousy, or rivalry. The light of peace and a fierce boldness manifests itself in me. The splendor of compassion and the glory of love shines in me. The desire to act and work, the passion to create and to restore myself, the yearning for silence and for the inner shout of joy – these all are bound together in the spirit of the Open House. They can, at times, become holy.