Today I have been 61 years on this earth. A little morning sunlight brought in from the garden to celebrate
We had such an enjoyable day yesterday welcoming folk to our garden for the first time. I kept a rough five bar gate record of the day and counted 254 folk who came and chatted and wandered about. It was such a pleasure to see them all.
Here's how it looked at the end of the day as the pond fell quiet
as the flowers caught the light
and this morning the rain washed it all and made it shine
This coming Saturday we are opening our garden in aid of a local hospice which is dear to my heart. It is the first time we have done so, and I keep looking round hoping to manage another area of weeding before the day. Because of physical frailties I tend to pace myself in the garden, so can never achieve as much as I would like. An hour's session will exhaust me but I work slowly and thoroughly and hope to make a difference. My dear heart has similar problems due to age and old sporting injuries, so we do as much as we can and accept that this is not a show place. But is is our space, and we love it, and find it a very restorative and restful environment. We share it with a variety of folk as you know, wild and tame.
The vixen, who is keeping a close eye on us,
while her babies are a little bemused to find these human folk down in their Dell
Over on Kindred of the Quiet Way Pen is spending this year reducing the number of things in her home. She has done this before, and is deeply committed to the idea of walking lightly on the earth and leaving as little behind as she can when she leaves it. She is a person who lives her beliefs and her faith with deep sincerity. I have known her since I was a teenager; she is a dear soul and I respect her ideas, finding them both thought provoking and sometime quite challenging. The theme of minimalism is one she has returned to again and again; it is something that allows her to lead a frugal life and be at peace with herself. Many years ago she recommended a book called Nothing Left Over by Toinette Lippe, which I have read, and will re read as it contains much wisdom. There is a huge appeal in reducing ones things to the bare minimum, and I have considered it often. However, this is not quite how my life has evolved.
My great grandmother Nanya had three girls but I am the last person (not counting beloved daughter) in that line of our family. As such, my domestic space contains the distillation of multiple homes refined by multiple house moves. As I walk through the rooms my glance falls on all sorts of things which speak to me and to each other.
Little treasures from Mum's childhood, kept so carefully by her.
This quizzical cow with his broken ear, guarded by a rather fine dachshund, which came from Cecil; dachshunds were her speciality, though hers were always long haired.
A glass bowl, given to Cecil on her retirement by her National Trust employers. It has an image of both the house she lived in when she worked for them at Grey's Court and, on the far side, Felix Lodge, her home until I had to move her to be in care near me. I stayed in both places often, and remember the kitchen in that octagonal tower and the delicious cakes she baked in the range for the tearooms there.
There are these two lovely bits of pottery; the bowl made by my mother's Californian cousin Ellen, descendent of Nanya's brother; the little mug made by Ellen's dear friend Inez. They sit on Ganna's desk recalling two holidays taken there when I was a teenager.
This delightful image which, I believe, was painted by Howard. A moment's canine mayhem triggered by a frisky cat.
And books, books, books. What would one expect from someone who worked in the library for forty years, and whose family wrote and treasured books above many other things. Some here are mentioned by Mum in her diaries - it feels rather special to read of her being given them, and then find them still on my shelves.
I could show you more, but this post might never end. All these things live in my study - there are other rooms (she said darkly)!
So, what of minimalism?
When I read about it, as I say, it has a huge appeal. It carries with it connotations of liberation, non consumerism, lightness of being. And yes, I think all those things are possible, even likely when you relinquish things. But then I think about the conversations my family things have with each other. Those two pieces of pottery, still happily together, though the folk who made them have gone. The little gathering of Mum's treasures which enchanted me in my childhood. I think of the way that, in nature, when things accumulate, there is always growth of some sort, even if that growth is simply the rotting down of waste (in the compost heap for example) to provide food for something else. I see in the garden how, if I don't clear the leaves and dust, the weeds spring up with delight, or the way emerald moss cushions the cracks in the pavement. I notice how the leaves gather at the foot of the trees, feeding them and the forest creatures as they blend back into the soil. I watch the blanket weed in the pond and know that its growth is absorbing nitrates that would otherwise create an imbalance; the pebbles on the beach which allow sea kale and mallow to colonise. There is a richness and potential in abundance, a raft of possibilities and opportunities.
So, perhaps for me, the way of minimalism, while appealing, is not one I will take. I recognise that, for some folk, the act of relinquishing is a path to clarity and peace. But I enjoy the memories that all these objects bring me; the way they enrich my life. I know that those loved folk are always here in my heart, but specific thoughts are triggered by each object, rather than a general sense of what was past. And, on a more philosophical note, I wonder if the eight year old little girl who lost her Daddy, her home and the whole context of her life, is not still nestled in my soul somewhere, reassured by the knowledge that at least not everything is gone.