Thursday, September 11, 2008

I'll Take My Motivation From Wherever it Comes...

Moved by Miss Read to do something homey and cheery, and asked by Aaron to make scones, I got busy in the kitchen!

When I was a young girl, I loved books about other girls and how they lived their lives. For some inexplicable reason, I particularly loved the descriptions of houses and rooms, especially the girls' bedrooms-- their space. I can clearly imagine the description of a room in a particular book, though I can't recall the title of the book or even much of the story. I do know that the girl, probably about 12- years-old, had been in an orphanage, and she was going to stay with a family in their home for a short time (which, as it always does in the best children's stories, had a happy ending, with the girl staying forever and becoming part of this family).

I remember the description of the tree-lined street where the house sat. I remember the girl walking in the front door and up the stairs with the small bag containing all of her worldly possessions, and, finally, her first glimpse of her supposedly temporary room. Of course it was utterly charming with its airy lightness and cheer, its bed and fresh white spread, the crisp white curtains blowing gently in the breeze from the open window, the simple, sweet-smelling bouquet of flowers sitting on the table.

When I'd read passages like this, I'd sigh. My own mom made a sweet home for us, but, still, these passages somehow affected and warmed me with their homeyness. They always made me want to clean my room. And, over the years, I've continued to love descriptions of cozy, orderly homes and rooms-- rooms that glow with warmth and care-- when I read fiction.

This might seem utterly silly to some people (others will understand), but these writings can motivate and inspire me. They make me want to be about my own business of homemaking. They can make me want to clean into the corners. They can even give me greater cheer as I go about my tasks.

Am I living in a dream world? A fantasy-driven life? Do I need false motivation to keep me going? Is it not enough to know what I am called to do and to take my joy and stimulation from the Lord?

My spiritual beliefs about homemaking are the impetus that sustain my efforts and vision for sure, but these simple, little daily motivations are helpful. So, I don't know what to say except that I'll take my motivation for doing good from wherever it comes. Sort of like Paul saying that for whatever reason the gospel is preached, well, glory be to God, at least the good news is going out!

Vermeer's and Chardin's paintings (and those of others) have inspired me toward domesticity. The reading of a quote can light a fire under and in me. Blake's "all in order, sweet and lovely" used as a caption next to a simple work of art in a book I often peruse, has more than once gotten me on my feet and moving again in a domestic way. A well-taken photo of a simple and orderly room, a pretty chair, or a door that is ajar, allowing light to fall gently indoors, can do it. Reading Brother Lawrence's The Practice of the Presence of God has sometimes moved me to work cheerfully and with renewed effort. Home magazines used to help, too, but more in the way of cleaning and decorating and buying in order to produce a look rather than an atmosphere! :-) So, I've had to do away with those.

I've been moving mostly-pleasantly through my daily tasks and chores lately, but not always with enthusiasm and not always cleaning into the corners. Today (and the past few days) my motivation waned. That's okay. I can still do what I need to do. I don't always have to feel like it. But lately, while I actually do feel cheerful enough, I have been, beneath it all, a bit weary in mind, body, and spirit.

So I decided that it was time for a break; it was time to read an old, familiar light book just for fun. A comfort book of sorts. I walked straight to the bookshelf that holds my line-up of Miss Read books. And I selected Fresh From the Country. About two lines in, I was already feeling the weight of "stuff" lifting away. It was soothing to be holding one of Miss Read's novels again. Maybe I'll read through them all!

After reading only six pages or so, I ran across the very simple passages that got me right back on my feet and moving things around and cleaning under and behind things and sprucing up the place and wanting to go right out and pick some of the last of the flowers or something from nature for fall. It made me want to clean up the woodstove and get it ready for the first cozy, warming fire, which will be built any morning now. It made me smile at my solitary daily walks and how I love them.

"...she baked and mended and ran her boisterous household with method and cheerfulness... Poetry she loved and the wild flowers and animal life of the countryside. Limp-backed editions of Browning and Tennyson lay beside her bed and in her gleaming drawing-room. Bowls of primroses scented the air in spring, and the tang of autumn was carried into the house with the great sprays of tawny leaves which she bore home from her solitary walks."

If that seems underwhelming to you, it doesn't to me. Yes, it's simple, and it's fiction, but it's written by a real person, and I think I would have liked Miss Read. She had to have lived (or is she still alive?) a simple, good, homey life to have continuously written about it so pleasantly and well.

So excuse me now, but I need to go. I have a house to make gleam and flowers to pick. And I'm looking forward to collecting "great sprays of tawny leaves" to carry "the tang of autumn" into the house.