What I am thinking about all started with a question/observation by a friend looking at the new profile photo I posted on Facebook when I re-activated my account there. She said – asked the question, really – “I see you are covering again”. She meant my hat.
I felt unsure how to answer – “Yes-but-no-but-yes-but-no . . .”
I’ve written on this blog a number of times about the question of headcovering – here is a good example, or here or here – and others also write helpfully and plainly on this subject – Francis Clare Fischer’s writings on the subject here and here and here put it very well.
But though I have felt a call – an impulse – a compulsion – a drawing – a leading – oh, I don’t know what to call it – towards headcovering, I don’t have any kind of systematic theological back-up as to why. I wrote about it here, struggling with reservations over legalism and religiosity. I wrote about it here, faffing about with this or that sort of covering.
I tried dressing Plain . . . and then not . . . and then Plain again . . . and then not. And then my thinkery crashed and all my thoughts plummeted and muddled and lost their identity out at sea. So I left it.
But it keeps re-forming. Like a Caddis Fly larva fossicking about on the river bed for just the right tiny pieces of grit to make up its outer coating, I find myself feeling seriously undressed without a full skirt, a modest top, a covered head – not for a reason, just because I do. That’s the way my pig is headed and there’s nothing I can do about it. I've always been that way, since I was old enough to earn the money to buy my own clothes - and before that I used to scavenge my mother's cast-off full-skirted 1950s dresses, and my great-grandmother's long wrap-round 1940s dresses,and cloaks from the school costume department throw-outs. It's the way I am.
So I’ve just let it happen. No theology. No statement. No Pauline explanation. This is just me. It’s what I wear, that’s all. The headcovering isn’t a crusade. If anyone asks, no I haven’t had chemotherapy and yes I do have a full head of hair; no reason, no explanation - maybe these are just Thinking Caps.
But considering this reminds me of an occasion when three of my then teenage daughters were to be in a concert but didn’t own a white blouse (black skirt and white top dress code required). The music teacher offered to lend them blouses of her own, but though they had the presence of mind to express polite gratitude, they were horrified! They couldn’t BEAR the idea of putting on the music mistress’s clothing. Aaaaaargh! Nooooooo!!! We bought blouses.
The woman was clean, she was pleasant, her clothes were normal – it wasn’t that. It was something to do with one’s clothing being not distinct from one’s actual self – the outer integument of one’s inner being, an expression of the soul as much a part of oneself as one’s skin – clothes are.
In similar wise, one’s house is the next stage of integument. At the Innermost House Facebook page and in the Innermost House blog comment threads, talk turns often to whether the form of one’s house matters or not – isn’t the Innermost life a state of mind, a philosophy, an orientation of the soul? What does it matter what kind of house you live in, just so long as you live the life?
And those of us to whom it does matter, very much, never really have an answer for this. “Yes, I know . . . but . . .”
Diana Lorence says of her Innermost House (here), “With its skin it clothes us.” For her, Innermost House is not just a dwelling, a “place to hang your hat”; it’s a putting-forth of the soul, an intimate marriage of Place and Heart, a song of the spirit that finds itself robed in flesh and forming by its fingers a shelter for its vulnerability.
So, for me, clothing and housing are outer integuments of inner reality, not separate but part of a continuum of being expressing the story, the marks in the sand, without which I have no identity.
I once worked in a place where they wanted me to wear a uniform – a nursing home. Being at that time in my life not desperate for money (I was working night shifts as a care assistant in a down-at-heel nursing home, researching for my book The Long Fall, 3rd volume in The Hawk & the Dove trilogy), I said either you let me wear my own clothes or you can find another care assistant. It was one of the more empowering moments of my life when my employers capitulated, and taught me how much can be achieved by not clinging, not needing, being willing to walk away.
I think that’s all I wanted to say really. That it’s not “just” clothes, “just” a house – these are the outer integuments of the soul; and this is still true even if you are one of those people who couldn’t care less what you wear or where you live – that still says something about you.
Ooh – how odd and interesting! I had just posted this, when I saw my friend Marshall Massey on Facebook had posted the following at about the same time:
“Friends, keep out of the worldly wise part, for that will never let people join and unite together (in truth) which enters into the earth...; but let innocency be the garment, and truth and simplicity the covering. Then in the innocency ye will have unity, where there is no evil thought, but love that thinks no evil.”
— George Fox, letter 109, “Concerning judging” (1655)
(if you don’t know what I’m talking about, see here)
A beautiful clay cooking pot. This was mine. Hebe and Alice had one too. We also have a blue cast-iron pot and some saucepans. When we merged our households we recognised that though we were all very attached to our cooking pots – a good stew-pot is an expensive treasure – we couldn’t really justify keeping them all. So we gave this one away.
A can opener. We had two.