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Framed in Space

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“It is only framed in space that beauty blooms. Only in space are events and objects and people unique and significant – and therefore beautiful. A tree has significance if one sees it against the empty face of sky. A note in music gains significance from the silence on either side. A candle flowers in the space of night. Even small and casual things take on significance if they are washed in space, like a few autumn grasses in one corner of an Oriental painting, the rest of the page bare.” ~Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea

*This is the beginning of a series on “Framed in Space,” examining both what it means to be “framed in space” in a physical sense: for our objects to not clutter our lives, and in a mental and emotional sense: for each of us to have space in order to pursue our highest calling and be at our best.

Our culture of “more” lacks the capacity to declare “enoughness.” America’s extreme levels of consumption and waste attest to our general inability to decide that we have “enough” and do not need more: more objects, more technology, more distraction, more followers, you name it. The exponentially rising developments in the field of artificial intelligence are a frightening example of our discomfort with accepting that “enough is enough.” The human mind is not smart enough. We have to manufacture even smarter minds that go do things even faster. While there are potential benefits to some uses of artificial intelligence, this particular manifestation of our greed for more may very well be our undoing. All of this moreness leads to surplus, clutter, waste. We have clutter in our homes, on our desktops, in our trash cans, and in our minds and hearts. We have excess burdens both in the physical sense: too much stuff burdening us with the need for stuff management, and we have too many commitments, too much sensory input, too much of so many things, we hardly have space for what nourishes and matters.

My family can serve as a cautionary example in the owning-too-much-stuff department. A look in our barn will attest that we possess far more than we need. When we moved house recently after living in our old house for thirteen years (thirteen years of accumulation), I was mortified by the fact that the entire first load lifted into the large moving truck was entirely from our barn! And this was after we had rented a dumpster and filled it to the brim. That amount of excess stuff had been a source of stress and contention for years. Now, our barn is bigger, and our objects within appear less excessive, but the new barn’s gargantuan size only lulls us into a false sense of security. The same amount of stuff is there that was in that over-sized moving truck. We have work to do to release things we do not use, do not need, and do not like.

The reality is, as minimalists will attest, we enjoy the objects we have so much more when they are “framed in space.” Better to have a few well-made, beautiful objects of meaning than a barn, or a house, full of objects either poorly made, in bad repair, or simply not needed or particularly wanted. For instance, tight now, rather than display all of the whimsical spring decorations I’ve accumulated over the years, it is better that I choose a few favorites that I consider lovely and even better, that have meaning: sentimental threads that imbue them with value. The rest I should let go.

If you haven’t ever read Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s slip of a book A Gift from the Sea, the source of this week’s opening quotation, I urge you to read it if you ever feel crowded out by stuff or unable to get to your art, if you sometimes hemmed in by life’s demands or encumbrances, or if you simply love the sea and its wild solitude. There will be more in reference to this book next week.


I want to make a conscious decision to do more prizing of quality over quantity. If I need something, I want to be choosy, to shop around, as I see my minimalist friends do, investing in fewer well-made items over more, less expensive, throwaway items. As I’ve written about previously, I have taken to asking myself, “Why do you feel the need to buy that? Just because you love the look of it, or it brings back memories, or you’re thrilled to see such a thing exists does not mean that you must own it, that you must consume it, possess it.” Often, just noting its existence and admiring it brings pleasure, and I can let go of that urge to make it my own. What would look or feel better in your life if framed by space? What items can you part with in order to allow the beauty and joy brought by one meaningful or beautiful object, framed in space, to be seen and felt?

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