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quotidian pleasures

April 8, 2012

When I need a pick me up, here are some things I do. They are all available to me either at home, or close by. None of them cost any money. And all are easy to get started.

When I have a lot of energy, I tend to do something creative with it:

I put together ephemeral art forms that I call ‘ensembles’. Mainly they are disparate elements juxtaposed. Often particular color combinations catch my eye, so I grab my camera to record them (See Flickr set here). The laundry pile is very good. My rock garden on the balcony, as wind and rain move things around. A large crispy brown sycamore leaf showed up recently — a mystery since I have not found any sycamore trees nearby. Arranging art supplies, which I often do into color wheels. Putting yarns or fabrics together. Rearranging parts of my studio, or the entire thing. Arranging things outside — like bringing a pretty leaf or rock to a cluster of flowers and photographing all of them. I’ve been collecting pieces of metal I find on my walks. I originally intended to use them as mordants for my natural dyeing experiments. But I also just like pieces of metal, especially if they’re rusted. I keep some in a bowl, along with fruits and nuts I’ve also found on walks. I keep others on a plate, with a pine cone, just because. I have a tumbler where I’m collecting old rusted batteries I found on walks, mostly to keep them out of the storm water drains. I have a small box of feathers I’ve found. I have a large basket for the larger rocks in my collection; a small box for smaller polished rocks. I have a small basket of seashells, most of which I picked up on trips. I have a basket that I keep ribbons in, as well as fabric scraps, and other odds and ends. I’ve taken photographs of two peaches on a plate; two glasses of juice, each a different shade of red. An empty glass carafe, casting transparent shadows on the balcony; reflections in rainwater in a bowl, or teapot. Basically anything that I have had a hand in is eligible. But it’s not just deliberate arrangements; happenstance has lots of good ideas too.

Deciding what to wear.

(I have not yet managed to make cooking a part of my regular routine. I’m afraid of it, and from outside of it, it seems like it will take energy I don’t have to create uncertain outcomes, that may not be worth it.) But I like experimenting with food. It’s easy and quick, and if it doesn’t work, I haven’t invested much. So I’ve gone from drinking just cows’ milk in my coffee, to either drinking cows’ milk plus honey, or just almond milk. Spouse and I occasionally make our own pizza (with pre-made dough). Surprisingly, we like the whole wheat version better than the original. Last time, my mushrooms had gone bad, but I still wanted some texture to chew on. So I tried apple slices and blueberries. They were quite tasty, and I will do that again. Spouse and I eat dinner at the café at Wegman’s (our supermarket) at least once a week, and I’ll try almost anything that looks good to me. I have developed a solid roster of favorites, but I keep trying new things. I love their spinach and potato flan. Tabbouleh. Organic Asian chicken dumplings. Minted peas. Mixed greens and raw spinach. I’ve tried salads with yams; cucumbers; fennel (all good); salads with apples and jicama (not so good). I love their New England clam chowder (although I pick out the pancetta); same thing with the meatballs in the Italian wedding soup. I want to like the Caribbean Black Bean, but it’s too spicy for me. I like the broccoli and white cheddar soup, even though I don’t like broccoli or cheddar. You gotta try stuff. It’s always good to find new favorites, and you never know when old favorites might disappear, or stop agreeing with you.

I’m often lying awake at night, while Spouse sleeps soundly. Instead of worrying, I like to create designs for garments in my head. Sometimes I start with something I already own that I want to re-fashion. Other times I think of something I need that I don’t already own. I get some idea, and I try to think of as many variations as I can, including outlandish ones. (There is an aptitude called ‘ideaphoria’, which means a facility for generating ideas. I have it. I have already come up with more ideas than I could ever use, but I never run out.) Sometimes I get up to write notes so I don’t forget. Very often my ideas don’t turn out like I imagined, but they still get me started. And parts of them are often useful. I value what the material itself wants or prefers, and that usually improves my idea(s) immensely. So actually creating a garment, to me, is a separate process from designing or imagining it. Because I couldn’t possibly use all the designs I’ve thought of. A different but related process is looking to my fabric stash for inspiration. Which fabrics might combine in a pleasing way? How large or small a thing might I make? What purpose could it serve? Do I know how to make the thing I am imagining? If not, do I have enough to at least start?

There are lots of other days that either my energy overall is low, I’m in pain, and/or I just want something soothing to do.

Going for a walk in my neighborhood, assuming the weather cooperates, is almost always a good idea. I always see interesting things. I enjoy noting and photographing whoever is leafing out, blooming, or fruiting. All of our crab apple trees are blooming right now – for Easter! Also, redbuds. Forsythia are still growing strong, with leaves coming out. Maples have samara, beech blooms have come and gone too, but both have few leaves yet. The world is starting to green over.

While walking, but also from our balcony, I watch clouds a lot. And I take a ton of pictures of them. Cloud formations in Maryland are somehow a lot more diverse and interesting than they were in Illinois or Indiana. I don’t know why.

We have a comfy chair near the balcony, and a lawn chair on the balcony. On any given day, I might sit on either, birdwatching and squirrel watching. We have a row of maple trees between our buildings at the top of a slope and the buildings near the bottom. There is a wooded area just beyond the edge of our building. Rarely during the day, more often at twilight or at night, I see deer passing through the maple corridor. Sometimes I hear foxes very late at night. A couple times I’ve seen one, but mostly I suspect they are deep in the woods. Spring peepers are going day and night.

Some days I’m in my studio a lot, since that’s where I usually keep my laptop. I do a lot of writing, although most of it is never seen by anyone else. And I can always talk to my plants. I currently have 7: 4 are mostly inside year-round, and 3 are from last year’s potager, waiting for the weather to get warm enough that I can put them back on the balcony. I got Drugelis as a high school graduation present, so we’ve been together for 28 years now. Figgy was a housewarming present when I moved into my first apartment 21 years ago — that’s when I started thinking of us as a household. Fiddle came into my life 15 years ago, and Estrella, around 4 years ago. I still miss Hoss and Ferny, both of whom died years ago.

Sometimes I really want a hug. I gather up an armful of my softest, prettiest, comfiest yarns, and cuddle with them on the bed.

Many years ago, I inherited a set of Limoges china from a dear friend. I believe it had been her grandmother’s china. I kept them boxed up and in storage for a long time because I thought they were too pretty and fragile to be used every day; they should wait for a special occasion. But you know, we never have anyone over. I hate entertaining. And yet, I think of my friend often, and I wanted to use those dishes. So a few months ago, I unpacked some of them, put them into our regular cabinet, underneath the everyday dishes. And I’ve started using them to make my day a little brighter. They have to be washed by hand, but I find that kind of meditative.

When I started making a list of things I do to cheer myself up, I was kind of surprised at how long it got. But that’s good! Now I think I need to figure out how to change the proportions and durations of moods I have, since feeling down is easier, probably because it’s more familiar and thereby takes less energy. I need more experimenting.

[[Post title is a nod to Sheri Tepper’s phrase, “secret pleasures to make up for quotidian tribulations”, from her book, The Visitor.]]

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