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HOME <br> IN THESE TROUBLED TIMES, WE'RE SEEKING PHYSICAL AND EMOTIONAL COMFORT IN THE PLACES WHERE WE LIVE

"Being at home feels safe; you have a sense of relief whenever you come home and close the door behind you, reduced fear of social and emotional dangers as well as of physical ones." - Cheryl Mendelson, in "Home Comforts" (Scribner)

For many people, home - and all it stands for - has become extremely important the last few weeks.

Coming home. Being home. Creating some sense of order during these chaotic times.

For some people, that means stocking up on groceries and getting the paperwork in order. For others, tending the garden or straightening the garage.

Sandy Starks, of Snyder, started cooking in the days following the terrorist tragedy.

"I began making soup and giving it away to people in the neighborhood - an elderly woman and another friend who is sick. It was a creative outlet, and the nurturing gave me a feeling of comfort," said Starks, who teaches cooking classes at the Roycroft Campus.

"Even the day this whole thing happened, I wanted to watch television, but I also felt the need to do something else. I couldn't focus on my work, so I started going through things around the house - doing things like sorting through the papers in a basket," she said.

"The whole sense of "home' has really hit home with me. I have a whole new appreciation of my surroundings," Starks added.

For Starks and other people, this time of crisis has meant reorganizing priorities at home.

"We as a nation faced our mortality that day in a way we have never before experienced. From that moment on, we had to decide what really counts in our lives," said local artist Manya Fabiniak.

Establishing routine and seeking order at home is a natural reaction, she said.

"Creating order, peace and beauty in our environment establishes the foundation from which we can go on. It isn't trite," she said.

When the attacks occurred, Fabiniak was hand-painting a floor cloth for her own home.

"That carpet was the very thing that kept me focused between all the weeping and all the anguish. I would walk into my living room, with all my paints around, and look at this piece of joy I had been working on prior to the attacks," she said.

"To me, as an artist, it's important to continue to focus on bringing beauty into other people's home, and into my own," she added.

In the aftermath of this tragedy, your personal environment - your home - is the one thing you feel you can control, said local interior designer Tia Greno.

"More than ever, I want to get rid of the clutter - to concentrate on the things around me that give me a sense of order and peacefulness," she said.

When House & Garden Editor Dominique Browning, who works in New York, was asked by the Washington Post how the recent tragic events will affect her world, she responded this way:

"I'm sitting here trying to tap into the emotional reasons that we decorate. I've been trying to think beyond the simple level of materialism. At first, I thought, "Oh God, how can you care about this now?'" she began.

"Then I realized that all our lives have changed because of this. But home remains the most important thing. Those mundane activities that hold you together - making dinner, working in a garden, setting a table, making your bed - every single person who has lost somebody wishes they could have yesterday back with all those little mundane activities," Browning continued.

Our focus on what is important has definitely shifted," said Ellen M. Plante, a Youngstown author who has written a number of decorating books.

"Family is the big thing - not the couch or the draperies but the family. People want to scale back; that new lamp that someone wanted suddenly isn't important anymore. The old one is fine," she said.

"I think a lot of the interior design books in recent years have been portraying home as a peaceful haven. I think now we will see that shift to a "safe' haven," she added.

Indeed, the idea of home as refuge that has been such a common theme in style and design books and magazines is taking on new importance these days.

Or, as Browning put it: "Chintz is not what we are thinking about today or tomorrow. But we are thinking about home and the deeper meaning of home."

E-mail: smartin@buffnews.com

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