Sunday, February 9, 2014

In Defense of the Niche

I love niches, those quiet hollows in deep walls (adobe walls in Santa Fe, in California missions, or built into Cretan whitewashed rooms).  Love that they’re simple and somehow sacred by their nature, meant for statues or urns or something being set off, made special by being given space to be itself, in all its glory—whether household saint or candle, vase of purple ranunculus or brass bird.

I wrote this once before, and keep taking pictures.

V.S. Naipaul wrote “Most people are not really free. They are confined by the niche in the world that they carve out for themselves. They limit themselves to fewer possibilities by the narrowness of their vision.”

I have to disagree with that narrow (yes!) and somehow masculine vision.  Niches aren’t limiting, per se; they are instead a space of intense concentration, a continuing moment of truth.  They help focus on what’s important, vital, like a close-up or a telephoto lens (bringing the far near).  They allow those of us who are quiet by nature to keep what’s essential at heart.  Keep us from scattering our energy and attention on the big bad confusing world.  They’re inward-looking, certainly—but what visions don’t start there?  All possibility is in a niche, speaking to us.

I think that Robert Louis Stevenson has summed it up better:

“The man is a success who has lived well, laughed often, and loved much; who has gained the respect of intelligent men and the love of children; who has filled his niche and accomplished his task; who leaves the world better than he found it, whether by an improved poppy, a perfect poem, or a rescued soul; who never lacked appreciation of earth's beauty or failed to express it; who looked for the best in others and gave the best he had.” 

images:  Christie B. Cochrell, Mission Dolores niche, and Adobe on Green niche


  1. oh christie.
    that's all.
    oh christie!
    sometimes you just really hit home.
    what YOU have said here... and what dearest RLS said... well. my heart quietly sings.
    thank you.
    i love simple niches too.
    and i look at my life as a little niche. it makes me happy to do so.

  2. Funny, I know, that I'm embracing simplicity and singularity, when I'm typically such a nonminimalist! But I always yearn for that ability...