At Home with Ourselves is an interview series in which we profile lesbian homes. From van life to the suburbs, from self-built cabins to studio apartments, from collective houses to the things that make you feel at home wherever you may find yourself. Wherever and however lesbians live, we want to know about it.
Devorah: Hi Medusa–thanks so much for inviting us in. My last visit here helped inspire the At Home With Ourselves series–so it’s very cool getting to share this with LOE readers. Will you tell us a little about your place?
Medusa: I live in the Pacific Northwest in the attic of a house built in 1895. It is a corner lot on a ¼ acre. There are windows in every direction (north, west, south, east) letting in a surprising amount of light for an attic. My landlady lives in the house below me, but our spaces are completely self-contained and we rarely have contact. I love living alone. It is one of the best things in life.
Devorah: I really hear you about that. I can relate to the idea of home needing to be a place where you don’t feel infringed upon. Have you always aspired to this?
Medusa: Even as a young girl, I went against the grain. I admired the Maiden Aunts in literature and real life that were supposed to frighten us. I thought they were gutsy and interesting. Like those fabled Spinsters, I grew up to live in my own attic and to wear a lot of black dresses. I am a lifelong lesbian, now in middle age. My space is appropriately named Spinster Heaven.
Spinster Heaven is an homage to the woman who is whole-unto-herself. In ancient times, she was Hestia (the Virgin): the keeper of the sacred hearth. Being a Spinster is not about whether a woman has lovers. It is about tending the hearth (home) as a spiritual practice and a commitment to one’s own wholeness. Women can honor the Spinster regardless of their life path.
Devorah: Tell me some of your favorite things about Spinster Heaven.
Medusa: One of the things I like most about my space is all the strange angles of an attic. So many houses feel like living in a cubicle! You won’t find many right angles here. There are triangles and other strange shapes that give my attic character.
Devorah: That’s so true–I think the angles make it live larger than what the square footage probably is. And that effect is enhanced by how you have things arranged. There always seems to be another corner to turn around, another nook to discover. You’ve also done a lot of creative things with lighting.
Medusa: Living in the Pacific Northwest, with our long, grey winters, I wanted my space to have more light—but as someone with chronic migraine, bright overhead lights hurt my eyes. My solution was to illuminate the interior with the soft brightness of fairy lights and to use white walls and translucent white curtains to capture and reflect natural light. I also wanted warmth, so I added lamp shades and drapings in reds, pinks, and oranges—which add the hues of the solar plexus and heart chakras to create a deep glow.
Library nook which doubles as a guest room
Devorah: The layered colors and textures are really good. I love how you’ve contrasted moods throughout the space. When you come up the stairs which are private to your unit, it’s a little dimly lit, there’s some art and draped fabric in the windows. It feels like a secret place. Then you enter into the kitchen through a french door, and it’s very bright and airy, spacious; there’s a sense of humor and playfulness. If you pass through the kitchen into the antechamber of the bedroom it becomes deep-feeling, warmly-lit, cozy, restful, a little mysterious. That feeling continues into the main part of the bedroom, but go around a corner and the library nook in the window well is a bright little surprise, and then there’s the bathroom, which feels very light and glamorous. Across all these different moods, you have a throughline of artwork that feels like a story when it’s all put together.
Medusa: The prints in my space are mostly botanical. I feel happiest in nature and my space reflects that. A few animal prints join in. Wildness and abundance are themes. I may be temporarily caged in the city, but my spirit is feral. She roams amidst plants and animal kin. The imagery in Spinster Heaven is lesbionic/female, witchy, eclectic, wild, and whimsical. I have a panda-shaped clock, serious books of feminist theory, new-age things, and stuffed animal pillows (a jellyfish, a cat, and a hippo, for example) that are both spirit friends and practical supports in managing chronic pain.
Devorah: I can attest, they really have personalities! Okay, what’s the most deep lez thing about your house?
Medusa: My whole house is lesbionic (“lez-bee-yonic”). Probably the deepest lez thing I own is the handmade labrys pottery bowl in my kitchen that holds garlic and ginger. It was left by a lesbian roommate years ago. Like many items in my space, it was created by a woman and came to me through the hands of other women. I don’t know the bowl’s full story, but it is clear she was lovingly made. I love that the actual fingerprints of the artist are inscribed inside the bowl’s edge. I treasure it as an artifact specific to our lesbian culture and as a useful part of my everyday kitchen life.
Devorah: Okay, yes, that’s extremely deep lez. Speaking of your kitchen, it also has a little homage to Bloodroot Restaurant–a photo and quote from Selma and Noel about levity being the opposite of gravity. It’s placed so that you can read it while you wash dishes, which feels like having company for the chore. That’s a good runner up for deepest lez thing.
Levity and gravity
Devorah: We’ve talked before about the concept of your home being like a web–I definitely see that in your space; a web of associations and memory touchstones and intentions. How do you decide what stays and goes?
Medusa: There are specific altars in my space but the entire home is really an altar. It is a living collage: elements come and go. Some elements move at a glacial pace—they have been fixtures for years; others appear briefly and blip off the horizon. The elements of the altar/collage represent homages to loved ones, goddesses, ancestors, and spirits; beings and forces I am thanking/honoring; intentions I am setting; and things I am working through. It is an intuitive process, connected to memory, dreams, and aspiration. It changes as I do. Elements move in and out of drawers.
Devorah: A living collage is absolutely the feeling–and it’s curated so that it feels like it has its own logic. There are objects that are obviously of spiritual significance and there are also some really kitschy things–but they all take on unexpected qualities because of how you’ve arranged them in relation to each other. It definitely feels like an alternate reality to me as a guest. What’s something you love about your place that you could only experience there?
Medusa: One of the best features of my space is the bathroom. It has a triangular-shaped roof over the bathtub giving it the look of a mini-cathedral. There is a built-in dresser on one side for towels. A window opens out to the lush yard below and an overgrown apple tree fills the view with a riot of white blossoms in the spring. It is a great pleasure to soak in the tub, look at the greenery, and feel the cold breeze from the open window.
Devorah: It really is such a cool bathroom. And one of many indicators that a femme lives here! How do you manage to do maximalism that doesn’t overwhelm?
Medusa: Beauty and decoration are important to me; but so is order and functionality. I like to keep things tidy. I consider waking up to a clean sink a great gift to myself. No matter how small the space, I have clear paths and blank spaces on tabletops for my eye to rest. I’m drawn to symmetry and visual balance. The brain can only handle looking at so much detail. I use something as simple as a placemat under my décor to create clean lines, a visual boundary for the eye. There is a certain effusiveness to my style, yet my little tchotchkes and spirit friends are all nestled in their places. There is always order in my chaos. My Saturn is in Virgo and I use Virgo’s fastidiousness well.
A femme lives here
Devorah: What else do you want to share about your space and what home means to you?
Medusa: Women are often told we are “selfish” when we need time or space to ourselves. We need to reclaim “selfishness” as the self-care that it is and to let go of guilt about needing our own spaces. I am an introvert, psychically sensitive, and have a busy mind. I need a lot of space, quiet, and time to myself. Many of us do.
Like many women, I grew up in a family where I did not have a lot of control over my direct environment. I lived with a constant low-level distress which compromised my health. As an adult, I lived with roommates and lovers, but it was not until I had my own space at Spinster Heaven that I was able to truly inhabit it and live.
The spider is a patron saint of Spinsters: She who weaves. She creates and destroys from her own body. Women, including those of us who did not bear human children, are generative forces—who have much to offer ourselves and one another. It is important that we find a place to weave our web that suits our temperament and capacity, that provides refuge and self-nurturance. When we find such a space, we flourish.
Like the spider, my intelligence is not localized to the brain alone. I am aware of subtle vibrations. My spiritual feet feel the energies around me.
One image of the Spider Goddess shows her with a knife. She weaves—but she also cuts loose threads that do not serve her. I try to clear items from my altar/home that tie me unnecessarily to the past or to outworn elements of my self-concept. I let go of ideas that are not mine but came from the culture.
The spider does not get caught in her own web.
Most photos by Medusa, a few by Devorah
Want to share your lesbian home with our readers? Write to us at [email protected]