mulberryshoots

"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" ~ Mary Oliver

Tag: thanks

“the big house” . . .

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Although I’ve had this book, “The Big House” (written by George Howe Colt) on my shelves since it was published a decade ago, I’ve just recently found and read it again. It is a poignant memoir about a huge weathered house on the Cape that has been in his family for almost a century.The first few times through, I was put off by the somewhat lengthy digressions that he makes about the “white WASP” Brahmin society from which he derives. Everyone goes to Harvard. Everyone, it seems, has money that they don’t have to earn. There is a degree of genteel snobbery towards others as well. And there’s plenty of marital discord, infidelity and alcoholism, not to mention mental illness to go around.

This sounds rather harsh, but perhaps it’s because I am one of those immigrants who drive by these majestic homes along the North Shore or on the Cape, where the “big house” is located on Wings Neck looking over Buzzard’s Bay and wonder to myself “who are these people” who live in these homes? Now we know, at least for this particular huge house near Woods Hole on the Cape.

DSCN1692Truth be told, my own home lies within a “big house” too. It’s a Queen Anne Victorian house built in 1899, at the turn of the century a few years earlier than the Wings Neck House, built in 1901. Colt’s family is one of those lucky ones where real estate overlooking the ocean is built by an ancestor, then handed down for almost a century for future generations to live in, rent out or to wait until such time that it is sold, the proceeds divided among the survivors.

Reading Colt’s description of what their “big house” meant to him, his wife, children and his large family of fifteen cousins over the years gives an insider’s look at their family. He describes times when an S.S. Pierce truck would pull up to the house, unloading staples like Keiller’s orange marmalade in grey pottery jars; Jones’ breakfast sausage and enough bacon to serve the hordes for breakfast every morning. Also beautifully described, because the author is a writer by profession, is his love of books, particularly his descriptions by title, depth and variety of books shelved in every room of the 13 bedroom house. When it’s his turn to pick something to keep from the house, it is the turn-of-the-century volumes of Dickens he read as a child while lolling on the chaise longue in one of the sitting rooms of the house.

There are estrangements between husbands and wives and financial constraints that hinder the family’s wish to keep the big house in the family even though taxes and repairs are a yearly burden. Yet, this large family holds itself together with a pervasively gracious consideration for each other that permeates the ending of this great house. The last quarter of the book is worth re-reading just to witness how the family interacts with each other as bids come in from developers who want to raze it to the ground and name a subdivision after their family, “Colt’s Pointe.”

I will let you read the book yourself to see what happens to the house, letting you know that it is not unlike the outcome of “Howard’s End,” that beautiful novel where a house becomes a living character in a story that has its own destiny, out of reach of what people want or don’t want to happen, no matter how fiercely they struggle with each other as tragedy unfolds.

As for living in our big house, I look around me to appreciate again the hard work and resources that have been poured into renewing this place, the quality of the woodworking and materials and most of all, that we have the good fortune to live in the spacious vaulted space with skylights that it provides us with. And on a smaller scale, books shelved everywhere.

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Reading about a big house on the Cape has re-ignited my appreciation of our own house: the cherry floorboards up the original staircase with cherry bannisters, the wide board pine floors on the upper floor where we live, the cedar shake siding that clads the house, handcrafted copper gutters and downspouts, the stained glass windows on the first floor that abut the wisteria bower where a family of cardinals live.

Life is long, I am wont to say. Rather than cramming as much as we can into our day because we are fearful that “life is short,” and could be cut off at anytime, I am impressed over and over again by observing how life unfolds when we seem to have virtually nothing to do with the outcome. I don’t know why I landed here in a second marriage after a long, unhappy first one that had left me high and dry. Nor did it seem possible for G. and me to make such a fitting home for ourselves relatively late in life.

All I know is that our glass is more than half full and when we partake from it, it’s helpful to remember the effort that has gone into making it so. And to be thankful.

magical thinking . . .

DSC_5591_2Magical thinking may lead people to believe that their thoughts by themselves can bring about effects in the world or that thinking something corresponds with doing it.[1] It is a type of causal reasoning or causal fallacy that looks for meaningful relationships of grouped phenomena (coincidence) between acts and events.

I don’t know about you but magical thinking permeates my life, at least lately. So many coincidental things have happened. It reminds me again of what people call “New Age” frame of mind: that there are Helpers in the Universe and all you have to do is to acknowledge you need help, ask for it even if it’s not out loud so anyone can hear you doing it, and somehow, help arrives in unseen ways.

From last Sunday to today, serendipitous things have happened too numerous to count: a repair was done on my laptop under a warranty I didn’t know I had; something of value that was thought to be lost suddenly reappeared. And greatly needed help surfaced in a situation that was permeated with bad energy and felt like a dead end.

I don’t know what magical thinking may have had to do with all of these situations, but it feels to me like there is a script somewhere that we can’t read ahead of time. In our American culture, it’s easy to think that if only we (fill in the blanks) that things will change for the better in time. Sometimes it takes a very long time. And sometimes, something happens that decimates all the things that you think you can’t solve or change.

That’s what has happened with my ankle injury in February. Suddenly, my priorities were a) how to get a good night’s sleep with a heavy cast on my leg; b)getting to the bathroom when I needed it; and c)making sure that I did everything for my ankle to heal, noticing how touching the caring ministrations of my husband, daughters and friends have been through it all.

Gratitude has a lot to do with the amount of magical dust that sprinkles itself into one’s life I think. Hardship is another factor too. I believe (and maybe this is my own brand of magical thinking,) that no matter how dark it appears to be before the dawn, that it’s important to apply oneself, to be honest with oneself and to do one’s best to get through hard times no matter how bad, sad or bereft one becomes at the seeming hopelessness of it all. Is that what is known as faith?

Help sometimes arrives years later than we wished for it. Timing is not up to us, God knows. In hindsight when looking back on my own life, events took their time coming together before the jigsaw puzzle pieces fell in place and then readjusted themselves.

Being in the moment is all we have. Most of what we berate ourselves about is small stuff in the grand scheme of things. If it has taken weeks of being bedridden to learn this lesson, it has certainly been worth it.

Thanks to all my helpers, seen and unseen!

 

silver linings . . .

Loon & orchid 1Being laid up (translate immobilized) in order to allow my injured ankle to heal, the pace of our days in the past weeks has been transformed. Our priorities shifted in favor of settling into a new routine. Appreciation for each other and our lives has emerged in ways we might not have experienced so poignantly without the injury. We are thankful.

In the mornings, there are brief stints of activity that I carry out each day: cleaning off the kitchen counter of yesterday’s cooking ingredients and used dishes; wiping off the stove top and cleaning off detritus unseen before but now so newly visible at eye level from a wheelchair; straightening off the large curly maple table we use for our meals, emptying crumbs and spills from the braided hemp placemats; watering the plants, replacing spent flowers with a just-in-bloom orchid plant from those flowering in the other room.

There are moments of quiet joy, watching the morning sun move across the large kitchen/great room from the skylights illuminating the wide board pine floors. Today, I noticed those moments that probably would not have come to the fore of my consciousness without the imposed quiet of staying still:

1.  Listening to Peter Serkin’s recording of Bach Inventions Part I & II, the simplicity of these compositions more fitting (than the preludes/fuges, partitas, suites) to the reduced tempo of the day.

2.  After two fruitless tries (each day taking apart the day’s knitting) to make something that finally pleases me from leavings of Noro “Mossa” yarn, casting aside (80%) of the yarn’s over-fluffy white and purple bits, finally knitting a scarf of the most beautiful lichen, moss, gentian and twig brown colors. A glorious little (emphasize small) piece that justifies having spent the money to buy the yarn in the first place that didn’t quite measure up but has at last yielded some beautiful textures (like nuggets of gold after sieving lots of washed dirt.)knitting swatch

3. Learning that my granddaughter has been accepted to, visited and is overjoyed with her college of choice, Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md. where she may pursue her interests in applied math, biology and all sorts of arenas such as international affairs.

4. Looking forward to my daughter, C.’s visit tomorrow. She teaches high school French and tells me she’s at the end of the quarter with grades due but will have some time to spend with us this weekend.

She’ll be doing some shopping at an organic farmstand on the way between her house and mine and arrive in time for a late lunch. I’ve been waiting for a pizza stone to arrive and if it does, I’ll make up some homemade pizza dough and we’ll try our hand at making a Margherita pizza tomorrow with San Marzano tomato sauce, cheeses and fresh basil leaves on top after it comes out of the oven.

We have also saved up so that we can watch “Frozen,” the Walt Disney animated movie together. My granddaughter, Josie, (who is four)  has taken to swaying and singing “Let It Go” on Skype this past week. I sent the Disney Golden Book versions of “Frozen” to her and I’m told she sings along while being read to and looking at the many illustrations from the movie.

5. Catching up with my daughter M. on Skype along with Josie (above) I heard about an  effort to communicate becoming a positive catalyst for change and improvement all-around in her nursing school classes. A busy Mom and student, M. somehow manages to be centered while making healthy juices from organic vegetables and fruits to take care of her own needs.

Tomorrow night, I’m planning to roast a small (under 3 lbs.) organic chicken with fresh rosemary and thyme for our dinner tomorrow night along with carrots, onion and yukon potatoes to cook alongside the bird. For dessert, we’ll have some chocolate cream pie that we devoured the last time she came out to visit G. and me.

yellow roseThis is a long list of things that gladden my heart. Plus, during my idle time last week, I won an eBay auction for a song and a wonderful loon decoy arrived yesterday. Then, G. came home last night with a single yellow rose at suppertime along with the fresh cilantro and lime I asked him to pick up to go with the Pad Thai I was making.

There are so many blessings for which I am thankful. It has been raining good fortune ever since I took that fateful fall and broke my ankle. Who would have known?