Lifestyle as art

In a giddy post-Euchre conversation I recently heard the words resonate in a cognitive echo from my own mouth: lifetyle art.

Even as my friend asked me to elaborate, I was already considering what in fact I did intend by such a hifalutin phrase.

Chris and I had spent the first half of the day driving through the November rain-grey boots of Michigan, swooping a pass across the shoulder of Ohio, traversing the rural clavicle of Indiana to our heartland destination.

In all the flurry of holiday feasting and travel to see family we’d neglected to bring a bottle of wine. Remembering belatedly my horror of arriving emptyhanded, we stopped in the last neighboring town to our friends’ farm to try to pick up something— unlikely as the venue may have looked.

Unfortunately we’d forgotten about Indiana’s Sunday Blue law ban on alcohol sales, and Chris garnered the actual comment from smoky bar patrons, “You’re not from around here, are you?”

Meanwhile I sat in the car deciphering road warrior bumper stickers on the motorcycle parked out front.

Happily for us, our hosts were of the most congenial and forgiving sort, toasting our collective wellbeing in generous style with bright and delicate cider and beer home brews, all the while sharing absorbing and poetic how-to insights about the brewing process, even contributing a fortuitously-named bottle of wine to accompany the lovely meal of fresh-picked garden greens, ruby beets and fragrant garlic.

I’ll admit to being a bit in awe of these two, visual artists both, who’ve seemed to manage gracefully and seemingly effortlessly the sorts of homesteading compensations that fill gaps of ready availability that come with rural living.

Present in each element of their existence is a foundational intentionality toward creative living which extends from the handmade art on the walls to the ingeniously engineered fixtures casting light to the homemade laundry soap Janet instructed me how to whip up for mere pennies*.

Eliot refers only partly in jest to his wife as The Laundry Soap Evangelist. In point of fact she nurtures a bright vision of sharing homearts secrets with a wider audience and is in fact positioned well to spread the word, characteristically interwoven as she is, nexus and tax-preparer to a wide circle of creative folks.

The art of lifestyle here seems to me both indelible and resonant where every gesture of existence becomes infused with a spirit of ingenuity and downhome resourcefulness shaped by an intuitive eye for gracious elegance.

Seated at their table, immersed to the ears and eyes in this ethos, I found it a little difficult to point out one factor distinct from another to articulate my point to those who exuded it– but for all that knew myself to be partaking with each inhalation in the gift of my friends’ lifestyle art.

* Homemade Laundry Soap recipe:

Grate 1/2 bar Fels Naptha soap into 6 cups water. Heat until dissolved, then add 1/2 cup Washing Soda and 1/2 cup Borax. Stir until dissolved. Pour into 5 gallon bucket and add 6 cups hot water, then 1 gallon cold water. Add 20 drops of essential oil of choice for scent. Stir and let stand for 24 hours. Soap will gel. Ladle into leftover plastic pint dairy bottles. Use 1/2 to 1 cup per load of laundry (about 4 loads per bottle).

(Not for front loading washers)

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