When I think of that line from Elizabeth Barrett Browning - “Earth’s crammed with heaven” - I think of Rosie’s room, the way it is anything but orderly, even after being cleaned. It overflows with the bits of heaven she’s collected: a pail full of long, dark goose feathers; a sparkly black stone; various plastic beads, mostly pink; lengths of silky ribbon; lacy fabric stolen from the sewing corner. There is a four-foot line of Barbie and princess stickers marching like ants along the middle of one wall, a group of sloppy watercolors casually taped next to them, and a dead butterfly pinned above her bed.
Nothing is in good taste.
The girl has too many things - we all do - and lately I’ve been wanting to throw them all out, to create some clean orderly space. But I can’t, and this is why: the truth is that what is crammed into the corners of her cluttered room is heaven. Her collection of beauty is evidence of a kind of devotional practice she has that I want to emulate.
In being attentive to beauty, Rosie is being attentive to God, author and source of all loveliness to be found in the world.
In saving the evidence of beauty she has found in the world, pinning it on her walls and storing it in baskets and boxes on her shelves, Rosie is erecting her own memorials of God’s existence and even of God’s love.
I want to call it tasteless clutter, but the truth is it’s the beginning of a practice that, if encouraged, will be a kind of spiritual formation thoughout her life, shaping her into a person who is attentive to God’s presence in the world and nurtured by the beauty God has created.
There’s a natural lurch of her heart toward beauty. My five year old hasn’t yet lost the art of attentiveness to joy, the discipline of loving the world. I’m hoping she can help me learn it again.