last night i watched a dvd called 'when the moors ruled europe.' the info was good, nothing i haven't already read in 'ornament of the world' or other sources, but the IMAGERY was SPECTACULAR! The film treats you to a visual stream that is simply indescribable, while at the same time you learn more about 'real' islam - for example it's phenomenal emphasis on education - and certain secrets about europe. as i've been researching this area myself, i've become aware that many of the things i love best about christian culture - libraries, prayer gardens, contemplative poetry, the healing arts - were all done first and best by the andalusians (western/european muslims) and were, in fact, copied and emulated by christian european cultures during the late middle ages and beyond.
anyway, you all know i have written fairly extensively on my ancestors who were called 'moors' at least as late as the early twentieth century and who lived in delaware, south jersey and southeastern pennsylvania. there is such a lot of controversy over what this term might really have meant, but i know that my line believed it had to do with a connection with morocco, and we had various 'atmospheric' elements around the house i grew up in which cultivated that awareness. I wish I still had some of those things, which were left behind when we moved the household to california. but here is synchronicity for you - there are elements about this house where we are living that are atmospherically reminiscent of my childhood home. Not the same, but similar enough.
for example, this house has a wonderful play of light and darkness going on, similar to the effects of screens in islamic decor, and to the effects of blinds, curtains, textured glass and translucent glass which we used in my childhood home. also, our little house here is loaded with texture, so the play of light and darkness and the various swirling textures combine to intensify this effect. A friend of mine once said she found the light in our house a little dim - she prefers bright sunshine streaming in as many windows as possible, because of course that's always limited - but that sense of being shaded, as in a forest, as in a garden, is indeed a moorish ideal. the house should offer a sense of protection and shelter from the brightness of the sun.
the house is supposed to be 'spanish' in conception. The style is usually called 'mediterranean bungalow' or 'berkeley bungalow.' Ours has highly textured plaster walls. This was a style popular in California in the 1920's and coincidentally enough my father was here at that time doing this kind of plastering, in which some, usually neutral, color was mixed with the plaster and then, while the plaster was being applied and textured, powdered paints of various colors were tossed in patches on the wall and then swirled over by the trowel, creating a wonderfully mottled effect. I don't think my photos really do the textures of these walls justice, but I present what I have been able to muster. Inadequate though these photos may be, i offer them to share some idea of the textured interior we live in, which feels so familiar and homey to me.
I've been thinking a lot lately about how easy it is to create 'wonders' when you have a lot of money. at this time when money is less than it has been, i am reflecting that it is more interesting to me when someone can create something beautiful or interesting using minimal money but more creativity, innovation or originality. or when something 'just happens' to come together, like our moving into this particular house - (which i initially did not really like!) - keeping the mottled walls, adding lace, getting used to the smaller size of the rooms - and then finding, over the years, that it has been perfect. as the hindu prayer states, 'everything is perfect, and even when you take away a part of the perfect, perfection remains.'