Gratitude in the greenhouse window

My kitchen may not have granite countertops, but it does have a nice greenhouse window.   It looks out on the palm tree (the tree of squirrel fame) and over the years, I’ve filled it with various tchotchkes.

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This is all well and good until you look in the corners and notice the cobwebs lurking behind the pitchers and bowls and you realize that cleaning the window is not going to be a quick process with all that bric-a-brac in the way.  This is why the cobwebs tend to stay put until something like summer vacation arrives and I have  time to do things like, say, clean house.

A week or so ago, on a quiet Sunday evening when the boys were playing with Scott, I decided to tackle the cobwebs.  And I thought: Maybe if I do this mindfully, really reflecting on each little knicknack and what it means, the whole experience might end up feeling something like a prayer.

So that’s what I did … starting with the Mary statue.

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I’m a bit of a Mary fan (she’s the mother of Jesus; what’s not to love?), and this particular statue has been in my window for about a year.  She reminds me to be calm, and to breathe, and I often tuck a handwritten list of prayer intentions under her base, just so I remember to pray for them.  Even better, she came from a secondhand shop where my grandmother used to volunteer years ago; with her in my window, Grandma’s spirit feels closer.

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This is the Gurgling Cod I got from my friend Trish at my wedding shower back in 2002.  Trish’s wedding was about six weeks before mine; at her California  shower, her family back in Boston sent her a Gurgling Cod pitcher (apparently it’s a pretty famous thing back there).  She demonstrated how it does really gurgle when you pour water out of it, and I was so enthralled with it that Trish surprised me with one at my shower a few weeks later.  So this pitcher reminds me of Trish, and what a great friend she is, and how I tend to forget to schedule time with friends into my insanely busy life, and how much I miss that.

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The clock on the left was a present from my mom years ago.  I adore it; it has that cute retro look and it is a perfect fit in my 194os kitchen.  The little angel on the right was a Christmas gift from my mother-in-law last year, and it is a reminder of our visit to beautiful  snowy upstate New York.  Both of these remind me of how fortunate I am, both in my mother and in my mother-in-law.  Both are gracious, sweet,  generous women; both are the kind of women I hope to be like someday.

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This little whisk was a gift (Easter?) from my mom ages ago.  I love the expression; goodness knows there are plenty of times when I’m in the kitchen thinking,  How the heck did I go to the store and manage to forget Ziploc bags?  when I look much like this.  Happily, I don’t have a wire whisk protruding from my skull, which makes a difference.  But this little guy always makes me smile.

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Ah, roses.   Few things in life instantly jack up my spirits like having roses in the house.   (The vase, by the way, belonged to my grandparents — it’s from the forties? Fifties?).

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In the summer of 2006, hugely pregnant with Matthew, my dear friend Mary snapped some pregnancy photos of me.   We stood on a hot grassy hillside at a Buddhist meditation center in Marin, me wearing far less than I usually do and with my huge pregnant stomach out on display.   It was ever-so-slightly awkward, especially as we were technically trespassing, but in the pursuit of art Mary was fearless.  And luckily, if you are shooting Mama-Earth style photos on a hillside, you aren’t going to catch much flak from the Buddhist meditation crowd.  Afterwards I put on a few more clothes and we went out for lunch in downtown San Anselmo, where I found this adorable bowl in a gift shop.  It reminds me of that fun and crazy day, and of Mary, who brought so much to my life.

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And here we have Lukey’s bean plant.  Is there anything sweeter than a four-year-old planting a bean at preschool?  I do believe my younger son has a green thumb.

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Here’ s a cute vintage plate of my home state.  As I dusted it, I thought about how much I love and have been shaped by northern California.  If I hadn’t been born and raised here, would I have some of my defining characteristics, like a mad love for Peet’s Coffee and a predilection for foggy windswept beaches?   It’s hard to say.   Regardless, it was a moment to think fondly of my home and to appreciate its beauty and diversity.

So did the task of cleaning the window feel like a prayer?  It actually did.  And though there is something to be said for a minimalist lifestyle and for downsizing, I realized just how much each one of these little knicknacks reminds me of the blessings in my life and encourages me to find  God in all things.

I couldn’t find a blessing in the cobwebs, though.   Maybe that comes with practice.

5 responses to “Gratitude in the greenhouse window

  1. Margaret Mead has a great word on what it means to be “home” in the opening chapters of her autobiography Blackberry Winter. Her family moved a lot, but when she was older and reflected with others who also moved a lot, there was a common element that crtain treasured objects made a new house “home.” I’m only sorry my life is profoundly in transition and I don’t have the passage to quote directly.

  2. Seems to me like the cobwebs were the catalyst for the prayer – and a beautiful blog post.

  3. Such a packet of sweet, meaningful stories! Reminds me of my mom, who used to pull out certain special items and tell us something about them, which brought memories, meaning, and a certain holiness to the household stuff. There is a lovely kids book I read once in which a grandmother does something similar, weaving an intricate story out of whatever item a child chooses to pick up. Thank you for sharing!

  4. I’m often thinking I need to de clutter. Make room. Make space. Yet, you reminded me to think about my things as treasures and memories. I received a Beleek bowl as a wedding gift seven years ago from an old friend. It had been given to her as a wedding gift back in 1939. So special to me. I hope to meet a special person that I will pass it on to with love and prayers for a long and fruitful marriage too…..

  5. Val: Thank you for the Margaret Mead reference and for the kind words. Blessings on your transition!

    Therese: I have a feeling I’d love that kids’ book. If the name comes back to you, will you let me know?

    Anne: What a lovely wedding gift! No wonder you treasure it. (And I love Beleek).