One topic of conversation that’s come up often in the last few weeks at Chez Min Woman is taking the time to enjoy family and simple things like, well, summer.
Greens and Purples in the Garden
Seven months of winter will do that (or even one month, if you’re just not a winter person), and certainly a grandchild will do it, too. Those little ones are not little for very long, and Steve and I have been in full grandparent mode, entranced by the baby that has evolved from the infant, and watching the baby (now four months old) make those physical and verbal steps toward toddlerhood. She has us wrapped around her exquisitely chubby little finger.
The garden has also has us under its spell. It was overhauled last year and this is the first full spring and summer for many of the plants and transplants. The clematis that just sat there all last summer has boomed into a lush green vine top-heavy with the darkest possible purple flowers atop the arbor. The honeysuckle seems to grow another foot each time it rains–and it’s been raining a lot. The fragrance is heavenly. The shrubs are flourishing, the trees seem to have doubled in size–weren’t they just twigs five years ago, and now over fifteen feet high and ten in diameter?
Two of the roses seemed to be dead after the harsh winter, but one of them stubbornly refused to be dug up–it’s sprouted new growth, and looks healthier than ever. The other rose has been replaced by another clematis–which, like it’s sister plant did last year, is just sitting there. Overall, however, the garden is lush and we love to sit out there under the umbrellas for coffee breaks between bouts of work.
The work is demanding, mostly because it has to be. Time is of the essence. But no matter how important it is to work, whether for a living or for its own sake, there are other things that are even more time-sensitive: an elderly mother; a son and his wife in their prime; a baby; a spouse. A warm day in a peaceful garden. A bike ride around the neighborhood. Just life.
It’s as simple as that.
Next summer, the view from the garden might well be one of a condo under construction, dusty and noisy and we’ll no longer have a backdrop of open green space. We plan to enjoy the show, if at all possible–very little we can do about it, anyway. Or maybe we won’t be here at all. There are a lot of rather vague possibilities, some attractive, and some decidedly unattractive.
No point in worrying about it, in distracting ourselves from either the work at hand, or from the pleasures to be had.
How’s your summer going?
If there’s one thing most of us know about the human experience, it’s this: the difficulty of delivering on one state of being while in the throes of a very different state of being. A common example would be when one is sick, but a paper or other project is due and no extensions on the deadline are allowed. Or you have allergies or cramps but must put on your game face and uncomfortable shoes and be the very model of professional comportment All. Day. Long. Perhaps the worst is when your heart is broken, but you need to keep on keeping on, often without anyone else knowing what you’re going through.
A Certain Amount of Denial
It’s a minimalism, of sorts, when you think about it. You find a way to shrink the amount of space your personal reality takes up in your head in order to attend to something larger than yourself, or at least more important in the larger scheme of things than your pain.
Part of being properly socialized is learning to take the focus off ourselves and hopefully place it on our role in the world. However, even to this day, the expectation of acceptable behavior is all too often matched by the expectation of acceptable thought; people feel coerced to deny to themselves that they are unhappy, frustrated, in pain, or even hungry. Even after social changes made “finding oneself” in its various forms acceptable, far too many people still can’t maintain a comfortable balance between their public and private selves: mindlessly doing what we’re expected to do is not the same as choosing to act differently than we feel with a desirable end goal in mind. Self-denial in this sense contradicts the pursuit of happiness.
Denying the expression of our personal pain can turn into denying that there might be a larger problem. This is how oppression gains a foothold, whether in a relationship, in a workplace, or in a nation. Then expressing our pain itself becomes part Read more »
Reading and writing about minimalism naturally triggers a bit of online research. One day my search turned up the terms “Diderot effect,” and “Diderot unities.” I only knew of one Diderot, the 18th-century French philosopher–sure enough, the terms referred to him, and in particular to an essay he wrote on the problems with consumerism, “Regrets on Parting with My Old Dressing Gown.”
When the new spoils us for the old
Diderot describes the gift of a new red robe, so beautiful and luxurious that it makes everything else in his wardrobe and home look unacceptably shabby by comparison. So he replaces his utilitarian straw chair with a leather one, his simple fir bookshelf with an inlaid armoire, etc. This process of upgrading continues with purchase after purchase, including expensive art from auction houses, until he is in debt and his lifestyle no longer reflects his original values:
I was the absolute master of my old robe. I have become the slave of the new one.
The “Diderot effect” is the phenomenon of a new possession causing a chain reaction of acquiring more new possessions to go with it. Things that “go with” one another are referred to as “Diderot unities.” These terms were coined back in the 1980′s by anthropologist Grant McCracken in his book, “Culture and Consumption,” and expanded on by sociologist Juliet Schor in her essay, “Learning Diderot’s Lesson: Stopping the Upward Creep of Desire;” they have since become part of the language of analyzing consumer and marketing trends. Do a search for those terms, and you’ll find lots of articles and posts that pretty much say the same thing.
What I find particularly interesting is that Diderot is one of the foremost philosophers of the Enlightenment, also known Read more »
It’s really real!
It was always my intention to have a print version of An Uncollected Death. In fact, I wanted a print version more than just about anything else in the world after good health, etc. It took a while to get the manuscript re-edited and for Steve to lay out in Create Space, then re-lay out (twice, in fact, because I was obsessed), and then we waited for the proof copy to come, which was supposed to take about ten days.
It arrived in five. I was sitting here at my desk, working on the next book, when Steve came in with something behind his back and saying something along the lines of, “I think you’re gonna like what came in the mail just now.” I grabbed the package and actually started whimpering and hyperventilating as I opened it, and was almost overcome when I laid eyes on the cover, the pages, the feel, the thickness, the whole really real-ness of my first book in print.
Are you like me? Have you done something that you used to dream about as a little kid, back in the days when you’d imagine what you’d like to be when you “grew up?” Was it everything–or more–than you thought it would be?
Look, I know that there’s a difference between going ahead and publishing your work yourself and having it published by the Big Five, particularly in the cachet, the tradition, the validation. It’s a path I was on for the first ten years out of college. Back then, I wrote and produced three plays, wrote hundreds of poems and published a handful, wrote and published several short stories, a couple of essays, and even the sundry academic paper, along with three drafts of a mystery novel.
It was a path I had to leave, however, when divorce meant having to do something that actually earned an income, and earned it now. I still wrote, couldn’t stop, but it was in fits and starts, lots of journals, lots of NaNoWriMo, and various newsletters and blogs. Knowing all too well the no-pay, time-consuming drag of query letters and contributor’s copies, I didn’t even bother to try to get anything published.
Then came digital publishing, right about the time I ran out of income-producing options, and I went back to doing what I had intended to do all along, at least in a modest way. Like myself, more and more writers are questioning the necessity of going through the traditional publishing route. It can take years to shop around a book and get it published–if it happens at all, making the process a huge gamble for older writers or any writer with a limited amount of time and funds set aside for the purpose of establishing a writing career.
I have no idea, of course, if my novel series will ever do well enough to keep me in tea and sweaters. This new world of publishing and marketing options is evolving rapidly, and I’m learning more and more about it every day. Just as in traditional publishing, a great deal of luck is involved. But there’s one thing I’m convinced of: the self-published book doesn’t preclude traditional publishing; rather, I think it serves as proof of a writer’s ability to come up with a finished, edited product. Seems to me this is a win-win for everyone: the writer, the prospective publisher, and especially the reader.
What better luck, though, than to have lived long enough to be a writer in this new world of publishing–I actually have a book I can hold, that can go on the shelf in the local library, that can be read in book clubs, that can be purchased in the world’s biggest bookstore, that can be wrapped up and placed in someone’s hand, a book that can leave a bruise if I threw it at you (as if), a book that needs my old bunny rabbit bookmark, a book just like the ones I like to curl up with and read. It’s really real.
Buttoned up on the front…
It’s been a crazy few weeks around here, and I’ve been meaning to share this bit of knitting, a baby bunting loosely based on the one in Sally Melville’s The Knitting Experience. I started it when I learned the baby shower theme colors were orange and aqua, and found those colors in the DK weight of my current-favorite yarn, Berocco’s Comfort. It’s a very soft yarn that is also machine wash and dry.
The sonogram indicated a long-legged baby, so I added a few inches, but had no idea if it was the right size or not. One thing that’s changed about bunting over the years is the addition of a slot for the car seat buckle. It’s at the bottom of the row of buttons. (The buttons were actually leftovers from sewing rompers for my son 32 years ago. How un-minimalist!) Anyway, I noticed that the slot in the back would make the bunting a bit drafty when baby wasn’t in the car seat, so I added a little buttoned flap:
…and buttoned up on the back, too.
Cheerful-looking thing, isn’t it? Aren’t you glad I’m not showing you the first version, which was a total screwup? I’ve salvaged enough of it to make a baby sweater. There’s also enough yarn to make a small blanket in the “tumbling blocks” pattern. But the proof of its worthiness came from this:
It fit! It actually fit! How cool is that?