We make our homes of what we find, of what we bring with us, of what we hope to be. Mostly, we hope to be excellent, our best selves, and this in a family whose extension might be a neighborhood, a country, or even all of history, all of time, as I hope to be excellent through history in time … as you hope to be, more or less, I expect. We bring many things with us, traditions through the family, traditions through DNA—as we are coming to admit—traditions of house style and home making, of the ways of our parents and their parents before. We find in these united states many ways to make a house, all in the growing tradition of making a home for family in the community of families. Making Home.
This month, The Beautiful Home considers the Spanish styles, Florida through Texas to California and north, each Spanish a different Spanish, various in tradition, various in influence, various in use. The Spanish-style house might be in the city, in the desert, along a watercourse or holding tight a cliff upon the broad Pacific. The Spanish house might be a homey humble bungalow, a suburban comfy upon a tree shaded street; might be a grand estate breathtaking to behold; it might be some little Spanish house of other little Spanish houses snuggled around a courtyard, as you will find in Spain, old Al-Andalus. Making Home.
For the Spanish-style house you might look to California, the island of gold, a mythical place five hundred years ago recorded on maps, populated by Amazons and fantastically composed into books.* See in California the civilizing Spanish missions and commercial ranches, Spain as it was after throwing off the Muslim yoke, expansive, confident, devout.
Look to Texas, to the few surviving Spanish slaves of the Indians, to conquistadors’, early conquest and Franch control. See a Roman Catholic Mexico extending through families of man until faith was tested by revolution, until the Spanish state was annexed to Napoleon. See New Spain becoming American, becoming Texas, a land of liberty, a land sparsely inhabited by a tough people hardened by necessity, lovers of stark beauty.
Look to Florida, Pascua Florida, to Easter, to the season of flowering, to isolated sub-tropic villages, to hot war and cold wounds. See Henry Flagler’s railroad along the Atlantic coast where a native people, Americans, created a tradition from an imagined past: Spanish, Moroccan, Italian; Catholic, Muslim, Byzantine.
We Americans share in liberty more traditions than any other people of the world. We welcome the sharing of tradition, the Best of the Best. Even my native Michigan, land of wolverines, tall pines, and great lakes shares a Spanish past it never knew. We are Americans after all, inheritors of the world’s traditions. Recently I enjoyed a visit to Florida, to Palm Springs and The Breakers, a Spanish-style hotel owned by Thomas Kenan, ascendent of Henry Flagler. A few years back, Tom asked me to recreate for The Breakers’ entrance hall Verrocchio’s Medici portraits, a project that has not materialized. Just south of The Breakers is President Trump’s house, Mar-a-Lago, a grand house by the architect Marion Sims Wyeth who also designed what was once my own little home up the Florida shore. While at the Breakers, I attended a gala of The Common Sense Society, a society that cultivates a future of traditions from the past, a future that is free, flourishing, thoughtful, filled with enduring meaning. All of us twine roots in the rich lifegiving soil of the traditional American ideal. Making Home.
Just now, our nation of families is choosing its future. What this future might be, no one can say. Seems to me there are but two possible futures: one that recalls its past, passes into the future by remembering, by honoring our parents; one that parentless dishonors its past, forgets its present, and remembers its future. You will see these two possible futures in our houses: one, an unadorned box of indifferent walls and broad glass that blankly stares at a world-of-things unframed by choice or meaning…inside, a machine where many-atomed humans breathe until they die; the other, a box fashioned from history’s treasures and walls shaped by memory in tradition, by windows that frame Nature…inside, a home where the ascendents of Adam & Eve live in fullness, branching and leafing along the family tree. Making Home.
Which future we might enjoy, I cannot say, though I hope in these pages to help guide our parents into a future where our children might more fully live. This month, our parents are Spanish, eclectic, makers of the faith-filled Mission, the cozy Adobe, the aspiring Villa, the homey Bungalow, et cetera, but not the vacant Glass Box, that house to pass into some future, brief edition of The Beautiful Home. Here, towers, columns, flowered courtyards, and red-tile, and family crests, and colored glass, a richness of the American, Spanish tradition. Making Home.
* Soon after Columbus’ expedition, novelist Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo composed Las Sergas de Esplandián, circa 1510, (“The Adventures of Esplandián”, a daring, sword-wielding hero raised by a lion and a hermit) a novel situated in the mythical, fantastical land of “California” where Greekish Amazons labored with gold tools and battled with gold swords. Soon after, in 1542, Spanish explorers found what seemed to be an island and named it “California”, a name attached to maps, a name just now synonymous with failed political experiment. For context, recall other literary adventures of heroism and political experiment: Shakespeare’s Tempest and Cervantes Don Quixote, both composed some 100 years after Esplandian, and later Moore’s Utopia and Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, and even Plato’s myth of Atlantis that tells of his Political Regime (“Republic”) and Laws. You might say, “We Americans made our homes of what we found, of what we brought with us, of what we hoped to be.” Making Home.
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Featured image: the author’s former Florida house, Marion Sims Wyeth, architect.
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