Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Zen...or Something Like It

I am trying to learn how to deal with what needs to be dealt with, and to relax and enjoy life more; easier said than done.

In my effort to slow down and be more "mindful," I took some time this past weekend to venture outside and soak in the changing seasons.  Our apple tree was starting to leaf out, and our peach tree was ready to explode with pink blossoms.  Our Forsythia bush looked lovely, rather than scraggly, with its cheerful yellow flowers.  The wind was a bit brisk, though, so my meanderings were cut short so I could go inside and warm up.
Once inside, I felt the need to hunker down a bit.  While the calendar may proclaim "spring," there is still a part of me that is reluctant to release my hold on winter.  I still reach for my fuzzy afghan when I curl up on the sofa.  My throat still demands tea--hot and sweet--to soothe it.  I still pad around the house in woolly socks rather than bare feet.  And I cannot quite put away the winter recipes...

So, once I got inside and lit a few candles to ward off the cloudy gloom that had started to settle in, I headed for the kitchen and turned on the oven.  Flipping through my recipes, I paused at a certain well-worn card:  Cinnamon Rolls with Vanilla Cream Cheese Icing.
Upon hearing the clanging of mixing bowls and measuring cups, a small helper joined me in my mixing and measuring.  My Middle One watched intently as I kneaded the dough; she snatched finger-fulls of the sweet cinnamon filling when I turned my back (perhaps just a moment longer than was necessary).

Having recently heard that smell and taste are the senses most strongly associated with memory, I encouraged her to smell and taste everything...perhaps a bit of this day will linger on.

Friday, March 26, 2010

My Fortune

As I get older, I am realizing more and more just how fortunate I am. While talking to a dear friend last night, it dawned on me that I have been blessed with people in my life who care about my well-being as much as their own--perhaps more, people who feel my slighted feelings as acutely as I do, and who stay up at night offering up prayers and good intentions for my happiness.

It seems that, when life moves one friend temporarily away, another kindred spirit steps forward and completes the circle. And those who sink back into the shadows for a while nearly always resurface...stepping forward to reclaim their place...picking up the conversation exactly where we left off.

Even when I withdraw for a while, as I sometimes do, I take comfort in the fact that when I peek my head out, squint, and look around, I see their relieved faces looking back at me--still watchful, quietly waiting, eager to hear how I have been.

So, yes. I am fortunate and, better yet, I am wise enough to realize it, to hold on to it...to cherish it.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Something Worth Taking Home...

This week, some family items were passed on to my mother.  She, in turn, gave me two boxes of family photos, jewelry, papers, and assorted oddments.  This all made me start thinking about the sentimental things that we acquire along the way.

I was lucky enough to have had a great-grandmother who was more devoted to me than to any of the the "things" she had acquired in her some 92 years.  So there was always the hazard, should I admire something at her home, that she would press it into my hands when I tried to leave.

There is her jewelry--far too fancy for everyday wear--but lovely to try on and to imagine her in her youth, with an occasion to actually wear a cocktail ring, preening before a mirror.

As one who loves the written word, I am privileged to have quite a few of her letters and postcards, some from beaus long since gone, but whose terms of endearment live on in a an old wooden box tucked under my bed.

I acquired a few ceramic pieces that were commissioned for her, and one small glass vase, both with her name painted into the design.  The giver clearly smitten, but whose name has been lost to time.

A few family Bibles, a scattering of old school books and dictionaries...several pairs of eye glasses...a few incomplete manuscripts...old deeds...a few payment stubs...a ration book with a few still left in it...a large chunk of unprocessed copper...a brick from a house that was torn down but which I still recall from my youth...old photos and tin-types...an old calendar from my grandma's store...counter checks (if anyone remembers those)...property tax receipts...old phone books (with phone numbers of only four digits)...

So many things that have no practical purpose but to clutter my too small house...or so it would seem.

I run my fingers over the unfinished manuscript, and I hear a warning from across time as I glance over at my own manuscript.

I open the crumbling Bible, and the names and dates of birth of voices long unheard are painstakingly entered by an arthritic hand struggling to maintain the penmanship of which she was so proud, and the strength chiseled by 92 years of life warms me.

I open that ration book, and find solace in my well stocked pantry (and may it always remain so).

So many lessons still being learned from those who left this Earth so many years ago.  I look around and wonder what my legacy will be...what will be retained and what will be lost to time?  I only hope there will remain something of value...something worth boxing up and taking home.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Little Things

Some dear friends and I were bantering earlier in the week about the things that we would treat ourselves to if money were no object...the things we would indulge in once the initial flurry of excitement and spending gave way to the less obvious desires...the little things...the things we need to feel secure.

The first thing that I keep coming back to is full pantry, to have sacks of flour and sugar, canisters of pasta and beans, sparkling glass jars filled with ripe tomatoes...a cabinet fill of herbs, spices, and fine vanilla. A well stocked larder makes me feel safe, secure, well grounded.

With my family's hunger assuaged, my mind turns to warmth. To have a huge stone hearth with a blazing fire would be bliss. I would place a comfortable chair next to it, and a basket at my feet with a few nubby yarns from my collection, and I would knit away the rest of the winter chill and tuck away the woolen offerings until the blistering waves of summer had softened to a crisp fall breeze that tousles the leaves along the street.

But until then, I would wile away the summer in my garden. Tomatoes, potatoes, beans, squash, lettuce, cabbage...an orchard...berries...followed by weeks of slicing, blanching, canning, freezing, and jam-making... Hour upon hour spent in a sunny kitchen, capturing the warmth and vibrance of summer...talking to a few trusted souls who would join me in my task. Sharing those nearly forgotten stories that were once passed on to me, making them a part of another's soul before the story was lost forever to time, trying to harness every last detail that washes up, like a message in a bottle, from the corner of my mind that is always eight years old and sitting eagerly at my great-grandmother's knee.

As I write this, I can almost smell her house, almost taste the blackberries that grew at the base of her clothes line, but as I try to hold on the memory it dissolves like a dream not quite remembered.

Mostly I would want more time...time to chase the flickering fireflies, to pick the succulent blackberries, to share the irreplaceable book, to knit plenty of warm socks before winter settles in again, to try to grasp those fading memories...and maybe to create a few more...for those who gather around my knees when they hear me take down the mixing bowls and reach for my wooden spoon.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

A Bit of Perspective

It has been a while. The older I get, the more I realize that it is wise to take a sabbatical from time to time. I needed to work some things out, to find some perspective.

It was a winter of cold seclusion. One storm after another seemed to rock the town in which I live, and my life mirrored this. So, in response, I battened down the hatches and tried my best to weather the storm. There is nothing like ice and snow falling outside to make one snuggle inside with their thoughts.

I am not sure if I actually have any more perspective than I did before, but I find myself wanting some company on this journey, and so I return--tentatively peeking out my head, quite like the daffodils in my garden.

I am struggling to find balance, like so many others. It seems like when I get one part of my life in balance, the rest of it goes askew. Then I readjust for that imbalance, and something else is neglected. Maybe that is the point, though. If nothing needed our attention, would we ever bother giving it?