Friday, April 4, 2008

Growing tranquility at home

Yesterday I saw this picture (which I’ve stolen) at Does Not Wisdom Call, which I visit almost daily. Ellie, I think that just looking at the picture did exactly what you intended – the tension just drained out of me. I like bare wooden floors, and rocking chairs, and bare white walls – calming. I like patches of intense colour against the white bareness, soft cushions and warm blankets against wooden floors and stone walls.

I really like rocking chairs. I live in small quarters right now, and I own three chairs. Two are rockers. One was my great-grandfather’s. It’s at least 100 years old – the veneer is quarter-sawn white oak, and it’s been stained – the man who repaired the seat for me told me to try mixing two-thirds walnut stain and one-third cherry to start trying to match the colour. The other is more of a glider – it’s a modern, mass-produced piece of furniture, wooden frame with seat and back cushions in a light-green, nubby fabric, and it has a footstool to match.

This past Christmas was very difficult for me. It’s even hard for me, still, to write this down. In November 2006, my mother died, seven weeks after she was diagnosed with cancer. In the following eleven months, both my stepparents and my aunt died, and I moved out of our marriage. We were married in June 1981, started dating in December 1978. By this past Christmas I was exhausted. I couldn’t manage Christmas very well. People would take me places, concerts and things, and I’d spend a lot of time in the Ladies’ Room, trying to fix my make-up. I haven’t found a really tear-proof mascara yet.

I had two weeks off work at Christmas, and eventually, I developed the common sense to start telling people, “No, thanks,” when they asked me out to happy Christmas events. I needed more than rest – I needed some tranquility. Little by little, over the course of the two weeks, I found what worked for me.

Early in December, I’d helped a friend at her annual pottery show, and I’d taken payment in pottery – cups and saucers for coffee. One, I gave away. And coffee – decaf seemed like the best idea, since revving up was the last thing I’d wanted. I have a friend who’d lived in Turkey for a while. He said a drop or two of cardamom oil in Turkish coffee was wonderful. I didn’t have any of the oil, but I’d crush a couple of pods, take out the seeds and crush them a little more, then drop them in the carafe of the coffee pot, with the cream already in, before I turned the machine on. (If you put the cream in first, it doesn’t make the coffee cold when you pour it.)

I knit. In November I’d bought some wool to make socks to send to a cousin in Saskatoon (it’s very cold there). There was this gorgeous-coloured stuff across the room in the store, first thing I saw when I walked in, and I resolutely refused to spend money on it. On checking out, I asked the owner what a sample pair of mittens had been made of, and she said, “Oh, that’s a kit. There’s only two left.” She went to show me – there was only one left, and it was that gorgeous-coloured stuff. The mittens were so soft – one strand of wool from blue Leicester sheep, and one of mohair, both skeins hand-dyed in four different vats. I bought it. The mittens were mostly plain knitting, around and around in circles. I can do that in my sleep.

Finally, I have a double-CD set of Yo-Yo Ma playing the Bach Unaccompanied Cello Suites, from the film series, “Inspired by Bach”. These things altogether became my path to tranquility. I’d make the coffee with scent of cardamom in it, pour it into one of my beautiful cups, sit in my aunt’s glider with an afghan I’d made over my lap to keep warm. Knit the gorgeous-coloured very soft wool. Listen to Bach. When I’d gone through all six Cello Suites, sometimes I’d play a Sufi Bismillah chant – “Blessed be Allah, the merciful, the compassionate”, that my friend with the cardamom oil had sent. Sometimes, I’d chant along with them.

I called it “sensory drowning”. I’ve got some deep purple mohair now, and I’m making a shawl for myself. It’s at a stage where I have to pay some attention – starting the lace edging. Once I’ve got the first two rows of lace done, my fingers will work it on automatic pilot again. I’ll post a picture. In the meantime, here’s a sample of the music.


Kate Morningstar said...

This would have had three small pictures in it, but I couldn't make them go where I wanted. Small ones, of the pottery, the mittens and the CD cover -- I wanted them beside the text on same. I even tried inserting the pictures where I wanted into the HTML code -- they all stacked up at the top of the page, as if they were paper photos I'd dropped in a pile.

Anyone's got any advice, I'd love to have it.

FranIAm said...

Kate- I have you (and all other blogs I try to read frequently) in a google reader, so if you post and pull back, I still have it.

Anyway, you did post one with the photos you mention and the photos looked lovely in the reader post.

Blogger is strange and it is hard to know what it looks like to others with the photo layouts.

Sadly I have no advice as it is all hit or miss for me.

Anyway, I loved seeing them and I loved reading this.

Kate you have such spirit and such evocative thoughts and feelings, I hope that you are planning on writing a book.

I feel like your life is slowly opening up in the most beautiful fashion. It is a gift to be a part of it, even from afar.

Kate Morningstar said...

Fran -- thank you so much. I've felt so blessed with the community I've found out here. There have been things I didn't share in my parish communities, because I've been an employee and Div Student. Things I'm still not sharing with one set of relatives, because it would upset others. Here there's a caring community, where I can tell the truth -- and when the time comes I live in another place, you'll all go with me.

And you, in particular, have been so welcoming -- thank you.

I tried to edit the whole post again, and re-insert the pictures. Opened it up in a new tab -- and I still had the same results as before. I could see, in the HTML code, where the pictures had moved -- I wasn't quite sure where to cut and paste. Where the code started and stopped for each image. Like Katie Scarlett O'Hara, "I'll think about it tomorrow."

Doorman-Priest said...

I like sensory drowning too. Its a rare treat to get all the factors together and really treat yourself though, I find.

Kate Morningstar said...

D-P -- The first one or two times, I think it was serendipity. I lucked into it. After that, I pursued it very deliberately, and made sure I had the pieces in place. It has the same calming effect as meditation. The trick is the same as it is (for me) for meditation -- saying, "I am important enough to set aside time to do this," and then doing it.

Roland said...

Saw your insightful comments on DP's site, and thought I'd stop by.
Nice place.
And what an interesting life you've led.

Did you know that the youtube link isn't working?

Kate Morningstar said...

Thank you, Roland. I thought the YouTube link DID work the other day -- I'll have a go at it this afternoon and see if I can get it making sound again.

Kate Morningstar said...

The link to the video worked from my home computer, which is running Windows, and not from my brand-new one at the office, running Vista. I don't know if that's a clue or not.

Roland said...

I have XP and it didn't work earlier, but it does now.
Just you thinking about fixing it must have done it. ;)

Kate Morningstar said...

Oooh, that's dangerous thinking!

Kate said, "Let there be Bach"; and there was Bach. Kate saw that the Bach was good and Kate separated the Bach from cyberspace.

I think it would be a very good thing if I went and finished washing the dishes now ... Thanks for the fun, Roland -- I sent your video to two friends and three relatives this afternoon.

gartenfische said...

What a beautiful story. Thank you for sharing.

I'll have to try the cardamom in the coffee sometime, except that I'm completely off coffee right now (even decaf) because I'm taking a homeopathic remedy. Someday. . . .

I, too, have the Cello Suites with Yo-Yo Ma and I love them.

Thank you for the lovely comments you leave on my blog. :)