Friday, March 23, 2012

The therapeutic value of cleaning

Tonight I will make my third trip to Nashville in a week to assist my mother and be with my father in his time of dying.  His eleven-month battle with cancer is winding down.  Of all members of our family, my physical proximity to my parents is the closest, only three hours away, so it is relatively easy for me to zoom on down the interstate on short notice.  
I had gotten home yesterday after a few days of being there while my dad was transitioning from the hospital to being at home with hospice care.   

With a few quiet hours on my hands today, I decided to take on my kitchen.  It had been a little bit neglected due to periods of being gone and then home for only a short time.  There really is not much to my little 1950's kitchen.  It is only about 10' x 10', and everything about it is quite simple and clean-lined.  The best features are the windows that face both north and east, looking out over the farm fields, pond, and woods.  It gets wonderful light!

Cleaning is good therapy for me.  It gets me up and moving.  Scrubbing the walls, cabinets and floors can cause me to work up a good sweat.  In the process of cleaning, we throw out things that are no longer needed, wanted or useful, even though some of them may be difficult to part with--  a process in many ways akin to the letting go that comes with grief.  

We make things seem shiny and new, which allows us to see them in a different way.  Anything that clarifies one's perspective or challenges the way we look at things has therapeutic value.  

Tending a house prompts us to appreciate the beauty that is right in front of us.  The red bud tree across the yard has bloomed during my absence, and the countryside is greening right before my eyes.  There is so much new and renewed life bursting forth at this time of year, a sharp contrast to the waning of my dad's life.

 Taking a step back from our normal point-of-view changes how and what we see.  My usual view of the sink is from hovering over it, looking down into it.  By stepping back, I notice how the faucet and the old cabinet hardware glimmer in the early afternoon light.

In going through the process of losing someone we love, we develop a heightened awareness and appreciation of the ones we love who are still with us.  Pyewacket has missed me dearly this week, it seems.  She has not strayed very far from wherever I am at any given moment, including supervising as I mopped the kitchen floor.

While I have lost any ability to control what goes on with my dad's health, I do have the ability to control  what goes on in my own space.   Cleaning helps me to generate a sense of control in some small, but meaningful, ways.  I also rest assured and comforted that when I walk back in through my door, regardless of what happens, this kitchen will be a fresh and welcoming sight.

Until next time...

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Memories and desires

Memory is the greatest traveler.

~  Edward Counsel

The warm days of spring are making me think of my recent trip to Savannah, Georgia, 
with a desire to return.   I long for carefree days where the only schedule to be followed is that dictated by my empty stomach and my need for sleep.  
It is spring break for many schools in my area and the university where my honey works.  
With deadlines looming and uncertainties pressing down upon us, we opted not to travel this week.
I guess I am feeling a little bit wistful for the sweetness of our last trip, wishing we had decided to spend a little time away.   
Perhaps a little time spent outside, deep in the woods; watching movies filmed in exotic locations;
or indulging memories of previous travels will suffice to cure these
I-should-have-gotten-out-of-town blues.

Wishing you adventure, discovery, and presence of mind,
wherever you may roam, whether near or far.
Until next time...

P.S.  I wrote this post and then received word from my mother that my dad, who has a variety of cancers, is not doing well, and my presence is needed.  So, now I am headed to Nashville and am thinking of the old adage about being careful what you wish for.

Thursday, March 8, 2012


House plants are an integral part of my decorating style and philosophy.  
African violets (saintpaulia sp) are among my favorites.  

Luminescent blooms tower over velvety green, heart-shaped leaves.  They come in a multitude of colors, but of course, my preference is for white blooms.

My African violets have never looked this good.

The difference is in the pot.  I bought this pot specifically designed for African violets last fall. These planters are nothing new, but I had been skeptical of this design and not thought it worth the extra money. 
Boy I was wrong!  
This planter has a porous inner pot and a glazed outer pot.  All you do is simply keep a supply of water in the outer pot and the inner one draws in as much water as it needs.  
It could not be any more simple.

A mulch of decorative rock keeps the moisture in.  
Flowering indoor plants satisfy my gardening needs during the cold weather months.  

Until next time...

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Basking in the Sunlight

Wishing you a weekend as relaxing as this...

As the pool of sunshine moved across the bed this afternoon, 
so did Igby.

Cats are masters of the art of relaxation.
We could learn much from them.

Until next time...

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Secret Garden

via Warner Brothers

As a child, I was enamored with the book
The Secret Graden by Frances Hodgson Burnett.
It is the story of a young girl, Mary, who, after losing both of her parents, is sent to live with her reclusive uncle in a large English manor.  Mary's early years had been spent in India, where she was tended by a cadre of servants and neglected by her busy parents.  When she arrives at Misselthwaite Manor, she is essentially all alone.

via Warner Brothers

The losses Mary, experienced, as well as her loneliness and isolation, resonated with me.  Most children can relate to these emotions, even if they are only experienced for brief periods of time.  The huge backyard at my grandmother's house was my haven.  I managed to find places to set up "house" that were hidden in the low branches of monstrous pines, in the shrubbery behind the storage shed, or in the circle carved out of a thicket of blackberries.  In July, when it was berry season, this was the best spot in the whole world to be!

via Warner Brothers

There is something about secrets (at least the ones that don't hurt people) that is delicious.  We savor them, rolling them around in our minds, knowing that by possessing knowledge that others do not, we are special.  

via Warner Brothers

Mary's garden had been locked up and abandoned long ago.  When she unlocked the door and stumbled inside the ivy-covered walls, she entered another world, a world of promise and possibility.  This was a world where time stood still and losses were not permitted entry.  Neglect hadn't ruined the eden that was this incredible garden.  In a huge leap of faith, she allowed others to enter her world, and she was taught how to plant seeds and bulbs, how to weed and prune.  

via Warner Brothers
She also learned how to trust, how to allow herself to be vulnerable, and ultimately, she learned how to cry.  Letting others in on our secret can be scary.  We risk exposure of the secret and of ourselves.  We risk being teased for prizing the secret as something marvelous.  We risk betrayal and dishonesty and rejection.

via Warner Brothers

Mary and her cousin Colin both craved attention and love.  In letting Colin, and ultimately her uncle, into her life and into her heart, Mary found the connections that had been missing her entire life.  Colin, through Mary's help, made his way toward healing.  And Mary made hers toward wholeness.

Those early days of my youth spent playing outside in my own secret gardens brought me in touch with essential parts of myself.  Things that still ring true for me are the needs for light and air, as well as a space to put my mark on.  As I consider moving again, I am reminded of these necessities, as well as a need to play in the dirt on my own bit of earth, and a place nearby where I can just go out and wander about.

Wishing you peace this early spring Friday, as gardens all around are beginning to stir.
Until next time...


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