In the afternoon on the last day of 2011, I cleared out a corner of our foyer that was a little tired. I vacuumed the herd of dust bunnies that had collected around the bins where we keep our scarves and gloves, barely touched this mild winter. I took down most of what hung on the walls, on their freshness placed Christmas gifts: the quilt square our niece made from fabrics she collected or wore in her autumn in India, and a painting by one of our art room friends at Triune, given to me by John and the boys. I put back up the photograph of the quilter I took at Hagood Mill. She’s no relation but her bent head and careful stitches feel like a page torn from my history. I re-framed my first Etsy purchase, from 2007, that profile that still pauses me, when I really look.
That is the way of January, isn’t it, though I’m late to add my voice? Holly and ivy are swept away and the sweeping feels right, making clear cool open spaces on which to project the months to come. I love the wide swath of the living room floor and the silvery winter windows, but what’s tugging at my sleeves in these weeks are the corners, the forgotten spaces in the house, in my life and heart and mind. How they can be dusty and shabby, cluttered with cast-offs or unexpected, curated spaces of care and beauty.
In my days I’m trying to find the pockets of time that slip away unheeded, but added together can be powerful, for making wholesome food from scratch, for caring for my body, for the sort of home management that doesn’t trumpet itself, but rather makes the relationships within the focus. In those corners of found time, there is space for hospitality, creativity, better self-care and care for my loved ones.
In my heart I’ve emerged from the crucible of the holiday season, and from the very emotional and difficult year our family experienced in 2011. I’m trying to shine a light into the areas where I’ve reacted as opposed to responding. My unfortunate reactions often come out of the shadows of past hurts and resentments, stored and forgotten until they come snarling out of hiding when provoked. I’d like to open the windows and air out those spaces, and remind myself that deep breaths and time are great helpers to giving a loving response.
In my mind, the corners often feel overstuffed, boxes and bags spilling their contents everywhere. And yet I know that to ponder, to learn something fully, to reflect and then to write or make out of that reflection takes margin. I need more white space, more elbow room. MIT Professor Sherry Turkle said it this way:
“There really are important things you cannot think about unless it’s still and you’re only thinking about one thing at a time. There are just some things that are not amenable to being thought about in conjunction with 15 other things.”
In 2012, I want to think deeply about many of the seeds God planted in 2011. I want to read well, and consider well what I read. When I engage with an issue, I want to engage it with my whole self. And of course, when I listen to my children and my husband and my friends, I want to listen with my full presence. There is no way around it, that this has to mean less and more careful media consumption. Just as too much “inspiration” equals less actual making, too many ideas for me results in a jumbled muddle, with no clear conclusions or convictions. This is a step beyond only doing well one thing at a time. This is an admission that I need spaces in my mind to synthesize, to percolate, to delight, and to weave together.
Standing in my new corner, fingers on glass and paint and cloth, I know I want to feel more awe and wonder in 2012. I want to embrace the shape of the words “I don’t know” and “I’m not sure yet.” I want to love the pause more than the need to blurt out a hurried word. I want to make peace with the fact that as I pour less in, many words and images will pass me by, but I want to trust that the ones I need will find me in the wide river of ideas and art.
This new year means a little more elbow room, and always the sifting of good and good and great and best. How is 2012 looking, from your corner?