Friday, March 11, 2005

inanimate objects that inspire affection

Robert Farrar Capon describes the universe being about as necessary to God as "the orange peel in God's closet-- He keeps it because he likes it." Somehow the picture in my mind is a long twisting orange peel, all in one piece, which is, of course, the way I peel an orange when I am paying attention and the peel is just right. I imagine the nail in the closet, the peel dangling right next to an extra key for something, emitting an aroma sweet as orange but bitter to the taste. With that image in mind, God's great affection for small, dear things, I love to consider the small things so endearing in everyday life. I write this list with Cat Stevens' "Oh, Very Young" playing in my mind also, such a lovely ode to a pair of favorite jeans. And is it Zephaniah or Zechariah who says that even the cowbells and the pots and pans will be inscribed with "sacred to the Lord" in that good time when the leaves of the trees will be for the healing of the nations?

It is the long and winding end to winter, and inspiration is low. How good to think of life's small sweetnesses, little graces that keep us going. Here is my odd and on-going list of things I like:

1. my 1996 Jetta

Imagine a ten-year-old car with working accessories and 35 miles per gallon. I haven't loved any automobile so much since my first 1986 Sentra, and this car is much peppier and more comfortable, while still being the size of tuna can. In the past two weeks, it has taken my family on a major road trip and has endured coffee and orange juice spills in areas completely impossible to clean. Still, I will try, as it's the nicest car I've ever owned.

2. my Blunnies

Blundstone Australian workboots in "stout brown," which is almost black, and round toes (neither square nor pointy), AND waterproof. Blunnies have these ribbon tab pulls to tug on and off, and they manage in snow, mud, rain, shorts. Got mine on eBay for $80, shipped from Tasmania with a toy koala...

3. hand-knitted earflap hats

"The Acorn Heads," my childrens' friends call them in winter, with their nut-brown hats dangling braids of yarn.

4. my bay window

This window turns my tiny condo into a sunny treehouse with a view of the harbor.

5. block crayons

I love crayon rubbings, and I love bright colors. I need to color more with my children, but when I do, my pictures go right onto the refrigerator, with magnets.

6. Pampered Chef garlic press

Pay the $20 for it. It's worth its weight in gold.

7. sandalwood oil

In various periodicals, I have seen sandalwood described as a) a mosquito repellant, b) an anti-depressant, and c) an aphrodisiac. What more can a gal ask for in a scent? Practical and gorgeous-- my friend Elizabeth says I smell like a hippie. "But that's good," she adds.

8. girl stuff-- a beautiful red bag, a burgundy scarf, my favorite earrings

The bright red Slovakian bag is lined with suede and trimmed with leather, a gift from my husband that I felt I did not deserve. The black and burgundy batik scarf is from my brothers, long ago, the first article of clothing anyone chose for me that I liked. Neither the bag nor the scarf match each other nor the favorite earrings, so of course I insist on wearing them together. It works.

9. microfleece long skirt

Looks like formalwear, wears like pajamas. I like that in a clothing item.

10. digital camera

When the children look lovely but the parents look exhausted, why not cut out the parents and look at the photo of the children? Scott and I should keep files of joke photos titled, "Foreheads" and "Chins," "Bad Hair" and "Bad Angle." But we don't-- we have a delete key.

Perhaps you will think of some inanimate objects you like. Let me know. And survive winter.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005


In September, my son Brendan began half-day kindergarten, and my daughter Madeleine is in first grade, affording me a dozen or so hours per week for the first time in my years as a parent. Last summer, I envisioned these school hours as a window to "weep endlessly, waste time frivolously, and write like there's no tomorrow." Excessive, yes, but I need to make a break from what was "before," to serve the ideas brewing in my head all those years when I could not find a moment of quiet and a working pen at the same time.

So this is how it goes: each morning I can, which is to say each morning without great quantities of undone chores and errands, I make myself a breakfast of over-easy eggs, sprouted raisin toast with butter, and hot coffee (which I will drink while it is hot, thank you very much), and then I sit down with my pen and journal, or move to the computer to toodle with words. Most mornings I am hard-pressed to pick up kids on time, I am so excited about what yarn I am spinning along...

I began by filling a journal per month, and by writing to a long-lost friend-- a friend who traded letters with me for nine years, but with whom I had lost touch. This friend asked me a simple, "so what do you want to write?" on a day when I needed to drive a startling number of hours, and by the end of the car rides, a plan became clear! I want, mostly, to write personal stories in a way that helps me "knit it all together," to see my life as one piece and not so many fragments. I need to start small-- I'm still adapting to this sort of self-exposure, and I will need a thick skin if I ever decide to publish anything. I began to write a few other friends, as well, and with each story comes more stories.

I have not written for an "audience" of more than one person since my high school newspaper days, but in November I submitted reminiscences of my college ministry days to my illustrious first employer, for its alumni website. Each month a new story is posted, and if you email me, I will put you on my "alert list" when a new column comes out, or send you the archive link.

Gratitude is the center point of my "campus ministry days" writing, and with the rest of my writing I am thinking of "cairns"-- cairns are small stacks of stones, serving as markers for a path, sometimes a path above treeline, where there are few landmarks for a return trip. The first cairn I laid eyes on (Colorado, 1981, hiking with my roommate Anne) also reminded me of stone altars in the wilderness-- a sign that something important happened, some event worth honoring.

So. Blogging. Seems a little crazy, like the sound of one mouth talking or better, the sound of one pen scratching. "A commitment to writing," of sorts. But now you'll know where to find my writing, if you wish. More stories will be posted shortly-- I am just getting started.