there were fifteen patents for powered machines fitted with
a rotary agitator. 76 Percent of the washing machines listed
in the 1930 Electrical Merchandising Index employ the agitation
Patents for industrial machines, steam engines, and tools, even
when radical, retain an aura of discipline, of professionalism,
of seriousness. It may be poetry, but in Hexameter. When we reach
Home, the everyday life, everyone's a poet. Blank verse reigns supreme.
This is true democracy. No experts, just good ideas. Some successful,
some less so, but above all, a jolly free-for-all.
Men and women of all ages and colors affirm their intuitions, insights,
and practical wisdom in handling their environment: how to best
store eggs to ship to market, store the garbage till the next pickup,
build a folding ironing table, collapse a clothes dryer in the most
compact or convenient shape, design a clothes pounder that really
pounds the clothes well, a washing machine that doesn't rip all
your buttons, etc., etc.
Here imagination takes its flight. Arcane geometry, mechanics'
secrets, painstaking experimentation have little say now, except
perhaps for the sewing machine, which was not destined for the Home
in the first place. Here more than anywhere else, we see at work
that spirit of which de Tocqueville said:
The American [is] above all, an innovator. That spirit is
to be found, in fact, in all his works... He carries it everywhere,
to the deep of the woods as to the bosom of cities.
In the ninenteenth century, home was the true frontier for the
inventor. But, if some invent "things," others have to
invent new routines, reinvent their lives around the novelties at
home, at work, and in between. Here we have to carry the spirit
of invention to the very bosom of our being. We have to reinvent
ourselves to fit our own inventions: a spiralling feedback of continuous
Images of model clothes pounders from the exhibition.
In this universal and relative shift of everything with respect
to everything else, to make sense of it all we have no choice but
find the still layer of our very substance that knows no change.
For beneath and around the restless mind that creates inventions,
lies a deeper mind yet, calmer and more serene, that does not seek
to improve the human condition, but accept it–inventions and
all–and in its daily round around the new gadgets, oozes imperceptibly,
giving life and meaning to all it touches, unobtrusively, matter-of-factly:
The trash bin is overflowing under the sink. It's time to
feed the big outdoor garbage can again. How quickly it happens
... how astonishing that every week my bins are full to the brim
with the wastes of my daily existence.
with stillness it may turn to prayer:
Keep me mindful of what I take into my home, the items brought
to substitute for real living–the food and drink I consume
instead of examining my feelings. Help me slowly to surrender
*These verses are not patented, just copyrighted = 1991 by Gunilla
Norris. From Being Home: A 1/4 book of Meditations. Reprinted by
permission of Bell Tower, an imprint of Harmony Books.