So one can be so quiet, so quiet, so still and peaceful in the midst of domesticity!
That the hands work is no excuse for the mind not to think.
You can almost hear the silence. The milkmaid serenely fills her earthenware bowl. “The Young Woman with a Jug” pauses to dream out of the window. The lacemaker is lost in her work.
I gaze at Vermeer’s women. I trust most things that help me lose track of time–reading, writing, gardening, hiking, the sea, art galleries, prayer, sex, good movies, good conversation.
Vermeer’s women lose themselves is: housework. It glows! Is this domesticity? Can it be? That’s the way I want to live my life, like “Woman Holding a Balance,” slowly, tranquilly, not fighting the irrelevant relevant, the distracting, trivial and necessary tasks of my days, but embracing them as an oasis of contemplation in which desert flowers may bloom.
Vermeer’s paintings, poems one might say, on the radiance of domesticity are more moving when we learn of the hurly-burly of his household–a wife, eleven children, and a feisty mother-in-law. Those paintings that could have been called “Shanti, shanti, shanti” or “Tranquility” instead of “Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window” are probably sighs of yearning, images of an elusive Eden. They hint how manual work–if used as time for contemplation–might be redeemed,