Joanna Tebbs Young
CIRCLES OF COMMUNITY
When we moved into our home ten years ago, the kitchen was the one room we hoped to change as soon as possible. It wasn’t an awful kitchen as kitchens go — it wasn’t avocado green, at least — but it wasn’t ideal either. It was inefficiently set up for both workspace and storage needs.
But the biggest issue was the lack of light. Despite being situated on the southern side of the house, the kitchen was the darkest room. In order to accommodate the u-shaped fitted kitchen, previous owners had allowed space in the southern wall for only one tiny window. The neighbor’s house blocked most light coming in from another small window.
To bring natural light into the kitchen, that southern wall needed to be opened up, preferably by way of a door leading onto the deck. However, other than the cabinetry, there was another not-so-small problem: the sink was situated exactly where a door needed to be.
Over the years, my husband and I have gone round and round trying to figure out how we might reconfigure this kitchen, a central gathering space in any home. But our ideas always fell flat for two reasons: 1) no arrangement seemed to work logistically, and 2) a professional design and reconstruction of such magnitude was beyond our means. The cost of new cabinets alone was enough to make us run out of Home Depot in sticker shock.
Well, to cut a long story short, we now have a door leading from our kitchen into what is now a sunroom.
Somewhere along the way, we realized we didn’t need to make this a huge deconstruction-reconstruction project. We did it in stages over a year’s time. (I say “we,” but in reality I took photos while my husband unscrewed and crow-barred and manhandled.)
Devising a plan that wouldn’t create complete chaos, financial ruin, or the need to eat Chinese for a month or wash dishes in the bath tub, just one wall of cabinets was removed first. Later the plumbing, and, re-using the existing countertop and cupboards, the sink was moved to the other side of the kitchen, creating a roomier space. Finally, the doorway through to the other room was created. Our tiny corner of the world was expanded and the light shone in.
Light. This is the time of year when we look to the return of the light. The holy days (holidays) of many different traditions and New Year celebrations are either symbolically or literally about moving from the dark into the light, and looking away from what has gone before to start anew.
And so, traditionally, it is the time for making New Year’s resolutions. This practice has its roots in the religions of various cultures: the Babylonians promised to return borrowed objects to their gods, the Romans made promises to the god Janus (as in, January), and Medieval knights re-dedicated themselves to their code of chivalric morality after the twelfth day of Christmas, January 6. But as we know, in our modern world, making a resolution on January 1 is the absolutely best way to fail — usually by January 2.
My theory about this is that the idea of resolutions is based in the negative. We tend to think of New Year resolutions in terms of what we won’t have (sugar), what we won’t do (spend too much time on Facebook), or as a time to beat ourselves up for the things we may have not done quite so well (kept walking two miles a day). So, I prefer to think of this turn of the planet as a time to look forward, to (re)turn to the light of new beginnings and fresh opportunities.
And so, back to my kitchen. We had thought everything about the kitchen was wrong and needed a complete overhaul. Consequently, the project was overwhelming. It was too big — unmanageable and unattainable. So we stayed in darkness.
Eventually we realized there were actually some perfectly acceptable elements to the kitchen, we just needed to move a few things around. We did it slowly in a way that didn’t completely disrupt our life, and over time the space opened up — a new doorway was revealed and the light came in.
In this season which many regard as a time of re-starts, renewal and return, contemplating what is good and what is enough, may be a good first step. Then shift things slightly, over time and in moderation. This might just be the best way to find new doorways and new places in which to stretch out and see things in a new light.
I wish you all a happy new year, full of positive change and growth towards the light.