Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Gentle January

“Where has the time flown?” I wonder as I gaze out on the blustery day. Predictions for power outages and flooded creeks fill the headlines of our local paper, and yet I sit beside my fire in blessed coziness. It is good to be quiet in the midst of a storm. So it is with life these days . . .

January as a child signaled CHANGE in my home. My mother would pack away Christmas before the New Year arrived and set about remaking our life in the first month of the dawning annum. Often times that entailed a big move to a “fresh start” or at the very least we would evacuate our present life with a whirlwind cleaning frenzy complete with fresh curtains in the kitchen, fresh spreads on the beds. To a point I enjoyed the “carnival” atmosphere, but once I began my own life with my own address I abandoned that family tradition in favor of a very quiet entry into January.

Our tree stands tall and tinkling past January sixth, and then we celebrate with cocoa and treats as the ornaments come down to loving wrappers and snuggled-away safety until next Christmas. Once the last jot of holiday dust has been dispatched we arrange the furniture right back where it always goes . . . tradition. Books tumble from bedsides and closets (hastily hidden before the series of celebrations with guests) as we move back into our same-old daily routine. I love the same and the old . . .

The excessive feasts of the Nativity fade into hearty soups and crusty bread products; frothy cocoa mugs step aside as clear fragrant (calorie-free) teas take center stage in the slimmer days of January. Red and gold candles scented with spice burn low and sputter, only to be replaced with rich creamy vanilla pillars that burn brightly in the darkened eves. January seems to cry out for simple and quiet. We oblige with pleasure.

’Tis the season for beginning that series of books sitting in community upon the shelf. So Elizabeth has entered Jan Karon’s world of Mitford, while Lydia crosses the pond to Peter Mayle’s Provence; Rachel takes flight with C. S. Lewis into the wonders of Narnia and wins the prize for fastest devourer of a collection – two days per book with the final book just begun this morning. Hmmmmm . . . what will come next? Wizard of Oz? Peter Pan? The Five Children and It? The choices cheer from the bookcase, “Pick me!

I have fallen back to my beloved old routine of multiple reads on multiple topics all at the same time, though I struggle to finish Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver – for me, something just lacks in the prose sprinkled with dullish essays of conservation and lack-luster recipes for garden wealth. I can’t get a visual of Barbara’s home or gardens or surrounding lands. Her family and friends remain sketches and their lives empty of color. I just want to cry out, “Barbara! I know full well what a ripe tomato looks like, now show me your life and loves in bloom and fruition.” But alas, the chapters drag on and I sputter along in my resolve to finish this book (my third attempt due to a friend’s gushing praise of it being “cute” – I find it bland). So, while my fingers linger on these required pages, my eye roves to the latest arrival from my mail-order treasure hunting of used books: another gem by Elizabeth Goudge. I am slowly filling my shelves with her gentle, picturesque novels sharing lively lives and colorful descriptions of the simplest of pleasures found in a day’s measure. I crave color and fragrance and windy wisps of prose that catch me up and carry me aloft into the writer’s magical world. A peek in through the windows to Miss Goudge’s world offers so much. Thus, I begin to cave to the temptation to set the Kingsolver book aside once again, trading plain cake for fancy flavor.

As for my most interesting read these days, The Music of Silence fills that spot. Benedictine Monk David Steindl-Rast opens wide the doors of his heart and shares the sweetness of a day punctuated by praise. His simple text, coupled with the famous recording Chant, unlocks the mysteries of a Catholic tradition I have never taken part in. My religion-lite upbringing followed by Protestant teachings beginning in the later teen years and then later-in-life reading about monks and nuns in novels and then biographies never fully explained the rich tapestry of prayer woven throughout the monastic daily life. Brother David has invited me in and I am savoring the experience. When I happened upon this fifty-cent book at the library booksale last month, I figured the cd made it worth the price alone – I failed to notice the treasure of experience that lay between the simple dark cover. The music of silence fits perfectly with my January’s pace.

Thus it goes in Gentle January around Wisteria Cottage. I haven’t posted much of late because I keep waiting for an “event” or inspiring photo shoot to replenish my blog trove of thoughts. The gardens slumber and I have taken this opportunity to rest my still-recovering elbow so that it returns to “normal.” To date I feel nearly 100% with no lingering arthritis or such, but I must admit that I relish the idea of taking just a bit more time away from stresses and strains at the elbow and the heart in this quiet, restful month. And so I rest . . . and read . . . and simmer . . . and smile.

Truthfully, the best tale to be told around here can be found in the cozy, snuggly pace of a family in hibernation. Well-fed, well-read, and very well by all accounts summarizes my time away. My camera lies fallow (a fact my children have noted with pleasure) while my journal fills up: So much germinating while hibernating. Spring-time plans for gardens and summer-time thoughts of dining from the bounty keep us from completely walling off tomorrow as we glide through another stormy, windy day of thanking the Lord for providing such peace and calm in the midst of a world tossed to and fro.

With prayers for all of you and prayers for those precious ones in Haiti, and prayers spoken from the heart of all matters, I have been hauling a bushel-basket of prayers to the feet of the Almighty these days as I pace my day with prayer times that my monk friend has inspired. He hears . . . He knows . . . He listens . . . all ways.

My computer also lies fallow much of the time these days, but I plan to step in to say “Hi” at each one of your lovely blogs in the coming days. The writing of letters, answering of emails, returning of phone calls, and commenting on blogs seem like the perfect activity for a Gentle January day.

Oh my! The power just flickered, so I must leave off the wandering chatter and post or I shall surely lose it all and spoil my “gentle” day. ; D


Tricia said...

I envy your January as much as I am enjoying mine. Thank you for taking time from the gentleness to pour refreshment into our lives.

Kat said...

I usually dread January, with it's dull, dreary, cold, short, days. They depress me. But this year, after hectic year we had just had, I am reveling in it. We have slowed down and hunkered into our new nest, snuggling by the fire. Oh delight!

So glad you are enjoying your January and reading your mulitiple books at once. :)


Judith said...

It's so good to read you always. It's storming outside and I need venture forth this evening, but now I can sit and enjoy.

gail said...

Good morning Debbie,

It;s so nice to read about cold blustery days over there. I have just closed my doors and windows to keep the Australian heat of summer from entering my home. It's not too hot today but warm enough to try to keep the inside cool. I enjoyed reading your post today and can feel the peaceful days through your writing. So nice and so calming. Thankyou for taking the time to put pen to paper so to speak and I'll be watching for more over the next little while.
Blessings Gail

FancyHorse said...

Quiet and simple, there is joy in that. I'm reading an early Kingsolver book, Animal Dreams. So far, I'm enjoying it.

I loved the Mitford books!

Cherie said...

Hello dear one Debbie,

Thank you for the tea!

I am so thankful that I found your blog. I hardly 'read' anymore, let alone read books, and this is just one of those blogs that I am so grateful to have come across! I love reading your words, you write so beautifully and I love your photos and quotes...this is a joy!

The first thing I did was to 'pop out' your music player, awesome music! I've saved it to my desktop and listen to it often. What a great list of music you have chosen.

I'm glad you wrote back to me, it is very nice to meet you and your family too!

Enjoy the rest of renewal January, soft January, snuggle in and appreciation January...and so the new year begins!