Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Poverty of Loneliness

It's Vacation Bible School week. The Chief and two thirds of the natives go every night, either as instructors or instructees. Our Vacation Bible School is staffed by volunteers, and since we have a wedding looming large and it helps in minimizing the chaos to have one person keeping the home fires burning (bad analogy for Georgia in summer, I know) I only volunteered to take refreshments one night.

So I am home, with dishes in my sink and Becky's happy parting words ringing in my ears, "Good-bye Mom! I hope you don't get lonely!!"

Ahh. So sweet of her to care for my emotional well-being in this fashion.
But I wonder why she said that.
I wonder if she gets lonely. This the child who will go off and read for hours at a time with zero human interaction...wandering alone outside, collecting seeds from flowers, sitting in a tree, or painstakingly making "leaf cards" by pinning small interesting objects to large leaves with tiny twigs, who can just sit quietly for long lengths of time with her knees to her chin, observing her own toes. I don't see her as a person given to loneliness.

Neither am I. For I am a little like her.
Or she like me.
I can hardly remember feeling lonely, though I have been before.
I like being alone. It gives me time to think. And there is no end to the interesting thoughts there are to be thunk. And issues to ponder. And projects to plan. And dreams to dream. And memories to relive. And prayers to be prayed. And books to read.
There are so many nice things you can do when you are alone that do not work well when there are people around.
Most of my life is lived with people in close proximity. The wigwam is small and the natives numerous and getting bigger. And that is nice too. I love them all. I like them, too. And the happy noise and commotion of living is a joy of its own description. But it is a different brand of joy than aloneness joy, and I crave the latter if the former goes on for too long.

Jean Paul Sartre once said, "If you're lonely when you're alone, you're in bad company."
I think there is sometimes truth to that. But I think there is often more to it as well. But what? Why are some people lonely when they are alone and others not?

People speak of being lonely in a crowd. Clearly it in not solely an issue of solitude. My guess is it is not really an issue of solitude at all. It is feeling unknown or unloved. Those two factors, either together or separate, make us feel very lonely.
Vincent van Gogh once said, "A great fire burns within me, but no one stops to warm themselves at it, and passers-by only see a wisp of smoke.

You can hear the loneliness in his voice. The wistful wishing that somebody would notice. Would see. And stop. And enjoy his fire. Explore it. Find it fascinating. And pleasant. That someone would pull their chair to it for a long while. And then again, and again.

"The loneliness you feel with another person, the wrong person, is the loneliest of all." I don't know who made this observation, but it is so true. And the reason is, is because there is no knowing. No connecting. No loving. No liking.

But the connection you feel when you are with someone, even if it is just one or two someones, if it is pure and strong and good and real, that connection fills your heart always, whether you are with that person or not, whether you are in a crowd or whether you are alone. And you are not nearly as prone to loneliness, if you know you are both known and loved by someone somewhere.

Is that right? I think maybe it is. Maybe too simplistic?
I don't know for sure...and that is all the time I have to think right now because the dishes are still in my sink and the sound of car doors slamming will soon reach my ears.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Penance Post

I have been sorely neglecting breakfast prep of late. I am lousy at making myself get up when the guilt level for staying in bed is moderate. It shouldn't be moderate, I know. It should be off the charts. But it's summer now, here in Georgia it is. Summer vacation. And the working men pull out at 6:05AM roughly, the first shift does. The first shift consists of The Chief and two native sons, which means I have to get up at an objectionable hour in order to have breakfast ready for consumption some time before six.

But guilt, however moderate and vigorously justified, tends to have a cumulative effect. This morning the build-up was sufficient to propel me out of bed. That, and the groggy awareness that there was not enough milk for them to eat cereal.

The first shift got fried eggs and toast. I made it in my sleep, largely. The second shift emerged immediately after, and got fried eggs, toast, and bacon, because I was nearly conscious by then, having sipped the first layer of coffee from my rooster mug. (Don't tell the first shift.)

So....I have this load of breakfast guilt that I have been shouldering for a week or so and in looking for ways to assuage it I lit upon this inspired solution: I could write a blog!!

This may seem an unlikely cure to you, but if you knew how regularly The Chief has been pestering me to pen another blog entry you would recognize it for the bit of brilliance that it is...counterbalancing the breakfast guilt and nullifying the blog guilt in one brief sitting.

There is one small problem, I don't really have anything to write about.

Everyday life is just so dreadfully everyday, but it's all I have to work with so we'll have go with that, I guess, however inadvisable, like Christian, of John Bunyan fame, driven to escape his burden.
Well, maybe not quite like that.

This Spring began like most other Springs, with the world desperately attempting to wrench itself from Winter's clutches. It was a bitter and ugly battle this year, but Spring sprang, jubilant and joyful at long last.

In one way, Spring at the Wigwam was very different. The first-born native asked his lady, fair and true, to be his for always. And she said "yes".

I don't quite know how this can be. I still feel the pains of labor, and the aroma of Johnson's Baby Lotion still lingers fresh and sweet in my memory. But it is.

"What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes." James said that. And he was right...the mist is rising, rising. So beautiful, so real.... and so elusive.

In some ways Spring was very much the same. The stuff that accumulates in my greenhouse over winter had accumulated there just like it always does. The Chief eventually cleaned it out, as he is wont to do.

I cut open the little gold or white packets of seeds, mostly from Park's Seed Co, and tucked hundreds of little seeds into their little potting soil beds as ever before.
"I don't want to plant garden too early." I told the Chief. "And I don't want to plant a whole lot, because I still have pretty much in the freezer, and it's going to be crazy busy with this wedding. We won't have time to put up piles of stuff."

I would have time if I loved to do it.  But I don't. I don't like canning and freezing the fruits of our labors.
I love to plant seeds in the gentle warmth of  my greenhouse when the world outside is dead and cold. I love to watch those first little arches push their way through the earth. I love to mix the blue fertilizer with water in the old galvanized watering can and shower their thirsty little selves with nutrients.

I love to plant garden with Kent and the natives in the evening hours, him making the rows, because he can make lovely, straight rows, and the natives and I dropping in the little seeds at regular intervals, with cool soil between our toes and the air laden with the sounds and smells of spring. It's one of the best things ever.

I love to watch them thrive. I love hearing the chicka-chicka-chick of the sprinklers out the windows when the sunny days are many and the rainy days are few. I like to watch the miniature beans emerge from their blossoms and slowly lengthen to glistening clusters of green goodness. And the tomatoes turn from green to pinkish, and then at long, long last, to red. I like to search for hidden cucumbers beneath the shade of leafy vines and snip prickly okra with kitchen shears from their stalks. I love digging beneath the thick mulch and robbing the potatoes of their first fruits.  And gathering fresh herbs to add to whatever I am fixing for supper. I especially love eating all of that backyard bounty.

But I don't like setting up canning and freezing operations in a steaming summer kitchen, and putting food up for the year... Bleh. 

Triple bleh.

This is another huge source of guilt. Bigger than breakfast guilt. Bigger than blog guilt.
I can hear my mother saying sagely, "Don't consult your feelings."
Every Mennonite housewife worth her salt embraces this aspect of living with roughly the same attitude as she embraces breathing.

I haven't quite figured out how to assuage this guilt yet. I don't think I can do it with a blog. But the guilt does not dissuade me from looking for ways to get out of it. A wedding in June was the perfect excuse. So I told the Chief, "Let's plant a small garden."

He listened, I am sure. But he did not hear. We have 30 tomato plants growing in three majestic rows. And 46 pepper plants. One pepper died. There had been 47.
It's my fault, partly, since I planted the seeds. But what was I to do, when there are all these seeds in the packets and all these varieties we wished to try??

And then there are the flowers. The ones I planted. Plus the ones I bought. Plus. the ones donated by dear friends. The flowers are my department from beginning to end, generally, though the Chief will make the beds for me if I need new ones. I bit off more than I can chew this year. I still have a  long way to go planting flowers, and my parts are already protesting mightily. I have dropped into bed more than one night altogether spent. Admittedly, I am not the hardiest person, so the results of my labor are not as impressive as I wish.

My mind keeps scouting around for legitimate ways to get the Chief involved in flower planting to save me from myself. Sometimes he does. Sometimes he sees the fate of the foolish and steps in to save the day, or the night, as the case may be. But mostly, I am on my own.

Next year I will remember, and acquire a more moderate collection of plants.
And next year I will rise before dawn every morning and make lovely breakfasts.
And I will for sure put up copious amounts of produce; with a smile on my face I will do it.
Next year, I will live guilt-free.