Friday, February 27, 2009

Jackie Mascarella's Reflections on Poetics of Space: Chapter Five

Taken as a whole, with both its hard covering and its sentient organism, the shell, for the Ancients, was the symbol of the human being in its entirety, body and soul.  (Bachelard, page 116)  To paraphrase, the shell is symbolic of the human body, which is a protective envelope for the soul (the mollusk).  A shell grows from within.  Some shells form chambers as they grow and produce walls that conceal through the imitation of surfaces. (Bachelard, page 130)  The shell, which comes in so many shapes and sizes, can be a house, a cave, a fortress city, and a place of withdrawal or concealment.  Therefore, the imagination can produce all sorts of fantastical imagery about these mysterious forms because we are curious about what the interior looks like and what creature lives inside.

Bachelard says, on page 120, nests and shells are refuges in which life is concentrated, prepared, and transformed.  Like shells, homes can take a variety of forms and purposes.  In an ideal first home, a child is nurtured, loved, educated and protected with the purpose of forming a well-rounded individual.  Therefore, a shell, for a person with an ideal childhood, will evoke warm and happy memories – a place they want to go back to.  On the contrary, someone who did not have an ideal childhood will not wish to evoke those memories.

A shell is formed from within.  To me, this means that we define our own interior spaces based on our personal history and experiences, our personalities, needs and idea of comfort and safety.  Over the stages of our lives, these can be different things.  For example, a child might mold the living room into an imaginary fortress by tying sheets between two chairs and enjoy dramatic play beneath it for days.  They are shaping home to their scale.  On the other hand, a teenager or young couple will form their interior spaces in completely different ways than an “empty nester.”Home means different things to different people depending on their early experiences.  Were they loved and nurtured?  Was their home comfortable, safe and warm?  What does home need to be to them?


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