Saturday, January 20, 2018

Clear Off Your Desk And Other Stuff

Source: Arnel Hasanovic | Unsplash 


I woke up the other day finally ready for the New Year. I have to admit the first couple of weeks were a wash. After days of being so busy with Christmas at our house, when it was all over we collapsed in a heap. Slept in. Read books. Watched movies. Drank tea. Put puzzles together. Napped. All the while grazing our way through treats left over from the holidays -- Purdy's chocolates, coconut marshmallow roll, fruitcake, and one partially full supersize bag of Lay's Plain Potato Chips. It's been like couch potato boot camp!

With the arrival of this new year, I did not make any resolutions (a habit now of many years), didn't make any intentions or really think about possible projects. I didn't even think about finding a new inspirational word or wrapping up any thoughts about the old year -- I sort of left its threads hanging in mid-air, much like an abandoned stitching project. I neither felt like looking forward nor backward. But, with the treats eaten and decorations put away at last, I'm getting more eager to get back to normal again.

Although one part of me doesn't want the holiday feeling to end, the other part of me looks forward to picking up my routines again. There's a sort of comfort in it, I think. Leisure and holidays wouldn't be nearly as much fun if we had them every day; it would get boring pretty quick. Most of us eventually want to sink our teeth into projects and to getting jobs done, creating new art or books or developing new inventions, dreaming up new ways to help others or eradicating things like disease and poverty. It's what we're made for.


Earlier this month, on my new daily desk calendar by illustrator/artist Sandra Boynton, she had her fun-loving cartoon bear celebrating "Clear Off Your Desk" day ... whereby he lifted one end of the desk and let it all slide off the top into a heap on the floor. Too bad we couldn't do that, clearing off the extraneous from an expired year and wipe the slate clean, all in one fell swoop. It would be an easy way to start fresh. Instead, here I am going through the accumulated bits and pieces, sorting them in case something important is mixed in with the nonsense. I'm such a paper keeper, even in this digital age.

When I was just a little girl, I remember the days when my mom would clean my bedroom, straightening out the toys, making the bed, and cleaning out the one or two drawers designated for small toys, crayons, and books. Although a little nervous about what she might consider not worth keeping (I was a little magpie for paper treasures even then), when she was finished I still remember the thrill of walking into my tidy and swept clean room. It made playing with my toys and treasures all fun again. I liked the sense of order, the cleanliness, and the now clear space in which to start new colouring projects. To this day I still experience that little throb of joy, except now I have to do the cleaning first myself.


Something else I loved as a girl was getting new books at Christmas. I don't suppose I'm the only one. As the festive season wound down and all the turkey dinners were finally eaten, then we could settle into our Christmas school holidays to play with our new toys, begin new craft projects, and spend hours like Jo March in Little Women, whiling away winter afternoons with our noses in a good book.  

Decades later, not much has changed. I still get excited about receiving books for Christmas, and gift cards from favourite book stores these days are just as thrilling. Here's what I got this year; consider it a little whetting of the appetite in case you still have gift cards to use up...

Creative Thursday
Everyday Inspiration to Grow Your Creative Practice
by Marisa Anne

"be free, be happy, be true--
be creative every day, especially Thursdays!"

"Whether you're just beginning to trust your artistic voice or you've been refining it for years, Marisa Anne is the loving guide and caring mentor you need to help you commit to moving through resistance, stepping outside of your comfort zone and making creativity a regular part of your life." from the back cover

What first caught my eye when I saw this book was the distinctive, childlike artwork of the author. It spoke to the child in me and made me want to play. The book is filled with Marisa's artwork, photography, and inspiring essays about the creative process. What started out as a way to be more creative while working a 9-to-5 job, took her on a journey that changed her life. I found the book inspiring, motivating, and just plain fun.

To Be Where You Are
by Jan Karon

This is Jan Karon's fourteenth novel in her famous Mitford series. The story "weaves together the richly comic and compelling lives of two Kavanagh families, and a cast of characters that readers around the world now love like kin." It's true, these characters really are like family to me. The first book At Home in Mitford was published in 1994. I read it for the first time in 1998 and wondered why it took me so long to find it. I was hooked and have read every book since, most of them several times. Her last book is an enjoyable read which seems to wind up a lot of loose ends, which is how I think a good book, or series, should finish.

The Remarkable Ordinary
How to Stop, Look, and Listen to Life
by Frederick Buechner

This well known inspirational author's latest book is based on a series of mostly unpublished lectures, and reveals how to stop, look, and listen to your life. It's definitely a book for pondering and mulling. Here is an excerpt from Frederick Buechner's intro...
"I am haunted now as I never was before by the sense that we all of us have the mark of God's thumb upon us. We have the image of God within us. We have a holy place within us that gets messed up in a million ways. But it's there, and more and more I find myself turning inward toward that and trying to learn how to be quiet. Someone once gave me a book called Creative Silence, and I thought, Oh, that's just what I need.

So I'm writing, I suppose, hoping to get another few steps in that direction, toward turning off the eternal chatter, the endless dialogue that goes on inside most of us ... to stop those words and just to exist somehow in the fullness ... and to let whatever is down in the holy place drift up."

The sun and her flowers
by rupi kaur

This is the author's second collection of poetry. I haven't read her first book, but now I want to find it. For I was very drawn to her poems. This volume is divided into five main chapters and is adorned with simple illustrations by Ms. Kaur. Her writing is poignant and moving. She writes of life as a journey of wilting, falling, rooting, rising, and blooming.

In my copy of the book I have pencil-lined a few spots that speak to me. Here is one: "healing is everyday work".

It's true, sometimes we think we should get healed in our bodies or minds or hearts and then all will be well, we hope, forever. But every day we can get bruised or wounded or sick, and so the author's words 'healing is everyday work' is very meaningful to me. I think of the words from the Lord's Prayer, give us this day our daily bread, and I think we ought to pray the same for our wellness, give us this day our daily portion of healing we need today. 

Here is another poem that I starred in the book... something I don't want to forget:
you have so much
but are always hungry for more
stop looking up at everything you don't have
and look around at everything you do


I recently borrowed a copy of Robert Fulghum's All I Really Need to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten from the library. You know, I don't think I ever read his book when it first came out in 1986. I heard all about it but never felt compelled to read it. Funny thing, that is. But, even though I'm late to ride on the swirl of international bestseller fever, I have to say I've thoroughly enjoyed this quarter century classic. To laugh, to ponder, to wonder as he writes his little tales. What I found most refreshing was that feeling I got as I read something that had been written before computers and the Internet. To me, there is a marked difference in mindset and outlook. I felt a little homesick for that time in our lives which seems so very far away now, maybe even lost forever. Yet, when I hear the little ping on my iPhone, I remember I'm also a 21st century girl now. And am happy about it too.

When doldrums hit in the midst of lingering winter grayness and frigid nights, when the news media is filled with dismaying stories about what some people do to other people, what do you do to revive your soul's dismay and distress?

Dear Mr. Robert Fulghum says he listens to Ludwig van Beethoven's Ninth Symphony; it reminds him about the goodness in life in spite of life's chaos and hardships. Beethoven was nearly deaf when he wrote that magnificent piece, and for Fulghum, that piece of music testifies to him that there is something that transcends the hard things in life and trumpets out hope to us and our world.

I thought I would go listen to this piece of music as these thoughts ruminate in my mind. I found a wonderful performance by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, conducted by well known Ricardo Muti on YouTube... you can find it HERE. And, in case you are wondering, the gorgeous Ode to Joy that many of us know and love comes from the Ninth.

* * * * *

And, so there's a glimpse into my life as the new year begins. We started out rather slow but the momentum is gathering, and I look forward to the weeks and months ahead with their promise of possibility. We've got books to write, people to see, places to visit. Maybe you've got kitties to pet and grandbaby cheeks to kiss, and together we can dream of new ventures unfolding as mornings bring us new days filled with mercy and grace. Some of our projects may take all year to finish. But that's okay, it gives us a very good reason to wake up in the morning.

On that note, I'm wishing you
glimpses of heaven in unexpected places
and a very Happy New Year!

With love,