Monday, April 7, 2008

Little joys, ordinary things, simple ways...

My oldest daughter, Aimee, has a private blog. She doesn't post there often, but the place has a nice feeling, and I enjoyed reading there this morning. Aimee gave me permission to quote from one of her posts, written last November when she was finishing her final college term, working in the university archives department, and planning for her December wedding. I like this narrative and the spirit of Aimee that comes through:

I have been extra cerebral lately, mostly because of schoolwork and the challenge of managing my life. I find myself pondering how to get everything done that needs doing, and no matter how much I think about it, it still feels like some kind of puzzle I just can't solve. The pieces never seem to fit right (they are as awkward as this metaphor!). Anyway, in the midst of all of this thinking and analyzing, I find myself yearning for a quiet life and a quiet mind. I would be so amazingly wonderful just to be able to be, to exist in a comfortable daily routine, with plenty of time left over for the people I love and for creativity. This is my ultimate goal: to live a carefree life.

And in addition to that, I am trying to pay even more attention to things that I enjoy.

I found myself a bit cranky today because the weather is so wet and sloppy and horribly windy. My hair was being slapped across my face viciously as I was walking extra rapidly to work, my face angled away from the wind. Once I arrived in the university archives, I ended up scowling at the computer, typing away on a new biography, unable to enjoy even a minute of it. And this was all because of my cold, unhappy walk to school. But I don't want to spend days in this sort of "winter weary" mood. I want to focus on the things that make me happy and reinforce the small things that make each day worth living by doing so. This all sounds so sappy, sentimental, and trite but I mean every word. Life is not made up of grand moments (for most of us), but simple, ordinary, everyday ones. I find real enjoyment in my morning coffee, black inked pens that write with beautifully thin script, licking the backs of envelopes (no matter how many times I've been warned not to), drawing small designs and pictures in the margins of my class notes, lying in bed each night and feeling the cold sheets against my bare legs. I am, admittedly, a very simple person. At least, I like for my life to be that way.

And in keeping with this spirit, I love the quote by Albert Camus:"In the midst of winter, I discovered that there was in me an eternal summer."

I know just how you feel, Aimee. As you know, I have my own routines and little things that matter to me.

For years I kept the same early morning routine. I'd build a fire in the wood stove. Make myself some French press coffee and pour it in a favorite mug. Park myself at the table near the fire with my journal (and there's a particular kind of paper and lines I like my journals to have, and, yes, a certain type of pen for writing), Bible, and morning reading. I'd sit there, sipping, reading, writing, and praying while the sun streamed in the windows, warming my back and filling the room with lovely light. Often I'd play quiet selections of Bach in the morning because the music strikes me as gentle, worshipful, and soothing. And, after this daily routine, I'd be more than ready to greet my children as they began emerging from their bedrooms to start their own day.

Learning to delight in little things makes life very rich. This strengthens us. As we enjoy these things, we begin to develop a self. And this unique self is a gift to others. It's always lovely to be around someone who has developed this gift in the quiet of their daily lives. There is an atmosphere around them, and that atmosphere is them. They are the way God meant them to be.

I think this is true of Aimee (and of my other three kids). When she was younger, Aimee was a counselor at a church camp for two or three summers. The first time I visited her at camp, she took me into her cabin-- it was built to look exactly like a pioneer covered wagon, with a cloth cover and all-- and I was immediately pleased to see that even her bunk spot in the cabin was full of happy "Aimee" atmosphere. She had created her own cozy spot out of a few simple things that she loves, the things that make her her. Her cute alarm clock. Little pictures of family tacked to the wall. A pretty pillowcase. A stack of books and her journal, with her nice pen on top. Her bunk had definite atmosphere, and it was inviting. Aimee said that the little girls in her cabin would often ask if they could sit on her bunk. Maybe they felt a warm sense of home, comfort, and love there.

Aimee's living spaces have always felt real, like they are truly her space, and now that she's married, her apartment with Josiah feels like them: Lots of books. Guitars on stands. Interesting photos and artwork around. Quirky things. Pretty things. Art projects in progress. Tea cups in use. Tidy, but not uptight. A relaxed feeling in the air. Welcome coziness. Smiles and kindness. Nice conversation. It feels authentic, and it was nice to walk in there. I think that's always true when people don't try to be someone else. They don't copy. They don't aim to impress. They like who they are, and they create their surroundings so that they feel at home in them. This makes a place appealing, and, inevitably, visitors feel that special environment that is created by people being themselves. By people who have interests and clearly pursue them. By people who surround themselves with what they appreciate and love.

I'm singling out Aimee today because of her blog post, but all of my kids are like this. They each not only create a nice atmosphere, but they are a nice atmosphere. It's so nice to find kindred spirits in your grown children, and I'm very blessed to say that this is how I feel about my own. Each one of my kids pays attention to little things. They know who they are, and they not only find great delight in ordinary things, but by their joyful approach to them, they make them extraordinary. And my children are my favorite people in all the world to be around.