Thursday, March 23, 2017

Clutter

My biggest enemy is clutter.

I keep my house fairly clean. I make sure surfaces are wiped down in the kitchen and bathrooms regularly, I vacuum weekly, I dust - all the things we're taught to do when we're growing up. But I don't enjoy it because its thankless work with no real reward. No one walks into a house and says "Oh your house looks so clean!"

So I keep it clean so its healthy and livable, but my real nemesis is clutter. I have a hard time keeping up with the clutter. It just seems as though things multiply around the house on tables and counter tops. There's the mail I still need to sort, the bills I still need to pay, the files for the various committees I'm working on, and things I need to take to the dump....just clutter.

I worked in my home office this week trying to clear up the clutter that was all over my desk. I filed papers, payed bills, put things away in drawers and cabinets, and it looks much better today than it did a few days ago. Its not as neat and empty as I'd like it to be, but it is a working desk and some things I don't even have a space for. I could use a few more drawers, but space is limited and it is what it is. So I cope. And right now it looks pretty good. This space tends to be my "open closet", the place I toss things when I need to clear the counters or empty living spaces and I just don't quite know what to do with the stuff yet. It tends to end up in my office, out of sight for most of the day and only annoying when I need to go out there. Since its not a "pass through" space I don't do it everyday so its the perfect place to hide clutter.

I need to continually de-clutter my house. I guess I need to do the same with my mind. I'm working on that right now too! 

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Magic

Yesterday I had a fun little job - continuing today actually - and maybe tomorrow - helping out at a local museum. 

Every few years its important to take textiles out of their storage boxes and open them up, refolding along different areas to keep the deterioration to a minimum. Textiles are incredibly fragile and, unlike wood, metal, or bone for instance, they can end up in crumbles and dust if not properly cared for - and even then. They are stored in acid free boxes, with acid free paper around them, carefully folded as little as possible, or rolled onto special rollers. As boxes were opened it was clear that dyes had been absorbed onto the paper as discoloration was evident. Some paper was yellowed, some pink, and replacing the paper was also part of the project.

There's something very moving about handling objects that are so old. And textiles are markedly different from furniture or other objects. There's something very personal about touching someone's wedding dress, or christening gown for instance. Even shoes belonging to a small child, or a fancy bonnet, becomes a symbol or someone's life. Because clothing is worn. It's placed on a person's body and it reflects their taste, their sense of style, their personality. Opening these pieces up and laying them out on a table feels a bit like sharing a cup of tea with the owner. You can almost hear their voice saying "Could you please use that beautiful blue taffeta?" to the dressmaker, or "I wonder if I can wear this brown silk gown of sister's to the dance Saturday night without shortening it?" Even shoes, worn black leather with satin ribbon laces, seem to hold their owners souls within them. Its magic, really. 

I like to imagine the woman who owned the beautiful blue and white striped dress walking down Main Street in her finery, heading to church in her dress and bonnet. Or maybe taking her child out for a walk wearing the small white dress and petticoat that she'd just finished for her. Even the man's navy blue wool two-piece bathing suit brings speculation as the bottom was more faded than the top. Did that mean he only waded to his waist? Probably so considering the c.1850 tag that hung from the corner.

I love treating each textile with the respect it deserves, from the hand woven bed coverlets that adorned private bed chambers to the tiny undershirts used by an infant but lovingly embroidered despite never being seen by anyone other than the child's parents. Each piece represents a life, a family, an era, and most importantly... love. Its a sacred duty.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Changes

I notice seasonal changes, subtle and light-handed, as I drive or walk from place to place these days. Yesterday's morning walk revealed a long row of green shoots coming up along a fence on Main Street - daffodils I assume.  I'm also noticing the sun coming up a few minutes earlier every day and of course now the evenings are nice and light. I can leave my window coverings open until well after 6, using the natural light to read of knit by.

These changes will become more and more evident as the days and weeks go by and spring will have a strong hold on us by mid-April. Even an occasional cold day will not discourage us because we know we're moving forward and that's we're not looking back.

Today I volunteer at the local hospital for a couple hours and the change in season is evident there as well. The ambulatory area is busier than it has been as folks are willing to schedule tests and surgeries when they aren't quite as worried about blizzards interfering. Yes, change is in the wind and its easy to feel. We are all ready for it.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Spring

Well today is officially Spring but I can't say it feels like it outside. At least not yet. I understand we'll have a few cool days this week but then are in for a warming trend. I welcome that, as I do every new season as it comes.

It seems as though the seasons have been echoing my emotional life this past nine months. I went from summer, which was hot and uncomfortable, into the autumn which was a time of real death and destruction. My life had taken a terrible turn and I was dealing with huge changes, which led me into the dark days of winter, where I was bereft and incapable of seeing the sunshine for weeks at a time. It was a long, cold winter for me, but I do feel the warmth of the new season and know that sunnier, easier days are approaching. Life really does mimic nature at times and for me, this year has been one of those times. I feel as though I'm climbing out of the depths of despair and beginning to see hope and sanity ahead. Its a good feeling.

Spring is full of promise. We look forward to longer days of brighter, warmer sunshine, green grass and beautiful flora everywhere, and more time outside where new adventures await. I'm very much looking forward to the Spring this year, both in nature and in my soul. We both need it.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Unknowns

I'm a complete control freak. I know this about myself. I think from a very early age, control was an issue for me. 

I had a difficult relationship with my father and never had a sense of safety or confidence in my youth, often feeling lost and alone despite coming from a big family. I wasn't a loner necessarily, but just never felt as though I belonged anywhere and never felt the comfort or self-worth that comes from having a strong parent-child bond with both one's parents. I'm sure it wasn't unlike the feelings some children grow up with when they've been abandoned, or their parents divorce - thinking they aren't in a secure, loving place if it were. There's something to be said for growing up with two parents who remind you that you are loved and treasured and will always be safe with them. I didn't have that and I think my control issues are a result of that history.

Anyway, I didn't start out to talk about my childhood but rather the problems I'm dealing with now that have to do with control and value in my life. Being through a trauma like I've been through tends to make one question both those things, and being that they were tenuous at best to begin with means they are in tiny little pieces now. I'm sure a counselor would say that the reason I've lost so much weight, and am continuing to lose it, has everything to do with the fact that what I put in my mouth is just about the only thing I can control right now in my life. And no doubt those ugly issues of worthiness continue to arise from my psyche simply because if I never really felt "good enough" before, why would I now? If anything the opposite is true. So - there you have it. I should have a degree in psychology for all the books I've read on it! And I do "get" the concepts.

I'm sure the "unknowns" in life are difficult for everyone to deal with, and surprise sits around every corner whatever road you're on, but for me, who has spent my entire life trying to work toward the goal of financial and emotional security for my old age, always combating my demons as best I knew how, this issue of the unknowns ahead is especially frightening. Some you expect, like illness or even death, and know they are inevitable. Some are impossible to foresee. And when they come, as they did for me, its easy to get panicky. I have moments when my heart palpitates so fast I think its jumping right out of my body and I can break out in a cold sweat just sitting with the check book trying to pay my bills.


Perhaps if I'd had a crystal ball when I was younger I would be in a whole different place today than I am now. Or perhaps I would have made the same mistakes and followed the exact same road but with new insight and maybe the ability to change directions at certain times. 

Of course, that's not the way life works is it? So I'll just have to face the unknowns and keep walking forward, into the fray, prepared for battle and bravely taking on the dragons as they appear.

So much easier said than done. But I'm working on it.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Writing

The East Hampton Star is the local newspaper here in East Hampton and it boasts some extraordinary writers both on its present staff and from years past. I always enjoy reading the various columns and opinion pieces - I don't always agree with them of course, but that's what opinion pieces are all about! Especially editorials! 

Occasionally though, one stands out above the rest, and this week I want to share one of those exceptions with you. It was written about the simple pleasures of a sense of place, which is very much what I write about here in this space. However this writer does a more excellent job that I ever could of describing that wonderful feeling of "home" and its worth sending along to my readers who may not have seen it in this week's paper. Hopefully I'm not breaking any copyright rules by cutting and pasting but I'm adding The Star's logo just to make sure credit is given where its due! Here it is - enjoy:


Relay: A Lexicon Of Place

The groove of the seasons keeps shaping my experience of time and my memories
What is it about staying in one place or, for that matter, moving around? I moved around a fair bit in younger days and still think of myself as that kind of footloose spirit, but the truth is I’ve been living in one place, here on the East End, for upwards of three decades, and in my little house on an old field lot in Springs for more than a quarter century.
The knowledge of this place, deepened year after year as the groove of the seasons keeps shaping my experience of time and my memories, is a force so central to my life I can no longer separate it from who I am.
I love knowing the world this way: as the time of the yellow flag irises around Town Pond or the days of lacy flowering trees or cherry blossom time or the time of year when that one curve along Accabonac Harbor with a certain mix of trees pops with color and tells me it’s fall, or when the overhanging bower along Old Stone Highway is a doorway into a magical snowy world. 
There’s the evening of the first spring peepers in the wetland behind my house — disconcertingly early, on Feb. 28 this year — the night of the first fireflies that send me to a quiet evening session in the hammock outside, the return of the osprey, whose piercing calls, flying over my yard, make me look up, the annual dragonfly swarm. The freezing nights of coal black that make the stars pop. 
I’m uncertain this is a thing I should admit, but if you asked me to outline my life’s highlights, they would be many of these things: another time sitting in the kitchen doorway listening to a thunderstorm roll in, another cozy day in the house both lulled and enlivened by the motion through my windows of the falling snow outside, a summer dusk sitting out in the garden dirt weeding, a glass of rosé at hand, when the year’s first screech owl starts its eerie song. The always startling discovery of the long-lived garter snake that comes out of the stone basement wall to sun itself on my doorstep each year.
The things that happen again and again, and the special ones: turning back home after leaving only a moment ago, to find a tall egret stalking up my walk (as if it was waiting for my departure to call for a party at the house, I always said); the night I sat in the yard with a little dog on my lap and realized two screech owls were overlooking us in the tree, and then watched another two, and another two, fly in. The moment, waking after a sweet nap in the hammock, me and a deer only a foot or so away locked eyes and, in unison, both let out a shriek of surprise. 
And there was the surprise of finally knowing about the massive tree in the woods out back — a giant Ent-spirit, I’m certain — only after it was felled in a storm, its root system upended, its massive structure calling my attention to that impressive thing I’d been living near, unknowingly, all this time. Somehow I’m proud of that, and all these things. I feel, despite other myriad, abiding questions about life, that I’ve landed in the right place — or one right place. 
I love the things that endure: knowing the treetop shapes that surround my little world, feeling the arc of the year through the changes and benchmarks of nature. 
Recognizing the different cheeps of the woodpecker hatchlings either fussing for attention or excited by a parent returning with food. Seeing what changes and what lasts — will the barn swallows be back this year, the orioles? Will the phlox on the old cottage site come back, the tiger lilies, the iris patch? Where will the tall comfrey stalks pop up, or the milkweed?
I’m blessed to have neighbors who also care about these things, who mark time this way, who share their observations. It bonds us in this little enclave as we swap those moments, helping each other define our place in the year, in this world. 
We know our trees — my stalwart linden, catalpa, and centurion cedar, the massive pines and maples across the street. We trade tidbits like currency, sharing the little gifts and gratitude for our lives on this patch of land.
Once upon a time I walked into this empty house a young woman who’d just, astonishingly, signed mortgage papers, who’d just signed on to I knew not what. I poured champagne into a paper cup and sat down on a milk crate in a cold and empty shell that lacked heat and had most recently housed a squirrel or two. And embarked.
I believed a home base, a home place, would not bind me, but set me free. So many things have turned out differently than expected — for just about everyone, I’d guess. 
There’s so much to be said for a deep knowledge of a place, for decades of sunsets over the same view. It gets deep, not old. Sometimes, though, you only know the shape of those deep roots when the wind exposes them and shakes things up a bit. 
So what is it about moving around and learning a new lexicon of place? That’s the other half of the balance, maybe the thing that keeps things grounded — and a subject for an essay all its own. 

Friday, March 17, 2017

March days

Its been very cold outside this week but the sun has been bright and the roads are clear and I was even able to get out and walk yesterday morning so I'm not complaining. All the sun means clear roads and sidewalks and ease getting around, so I'll take that.

The sun makes such a difference. Even on the coldest days as long as the sun is shining people seem to be upbeat and happy. Its those miserable gray winter that depress us! Bring us sunshine and we can cope with just about anything, right?

We're only days away from the official start of spring right now and as always in March, its a welcome addition. The crocuses began poking up through the ground weeks ago and will take no time at all to respond to warmer days as soon as they arrive, which should be very soon. These next few weeks are busy ones for me, which I welcome, and before I know it April will be with us. The days move quickly and life moves on. We may be cold now but in a few short months the air conditioners will be cranking and we'll be sitting at the pool. And that's the joy of the seasons.

Today is a good day. And so is tomorrow. Because life is what we make of it and I'm going to make it really, really good.