How to keep the holidays simple? Today I’m thinking about gift giving, particularly about buying since I’m off to the outlets in a bit. What just came to mind is that I will give one simply wonderful gift to each person on my list. This will take more thought than if I were to go out and purchase, purchase, purchase. And yet, solitude at the cottage is giving me time to think this through.
Walking home from the beach yesterday, I came upon a neighbor decorating his fence with greens just two houses down from mine. I made a friendly comment, to which he responded, “This is nothing. You ought to see what my wife does on the inside!”
Voila, he invited me in, and there she was, sitting on the couch amidst rolls of red ribbon, tying bows, The place was inundated with Christmas sitters, and two oil paintings had just been covered to look like Christmas packages. This couple was having a delightful time decorating in anticipation of visits from their children and grandchildren.
As far as I’m concerned, delight is absolutely essential for this kind of activity, because let’s face it, it can consume an inordinate amount of time and money. Here it is, still Thanksgiving weekend, and were thinking about Christmas decorations. Of course I have to consider simplicity. The family is coming and I want the house to look festive. What will satisfy everyone? There is much for us all to bear in mind with December just a few days away.
P.S. I must admit that the best part of being invited into the house was getting a peek at the incredible interior. This is no cottage by the sea, Their deck, although enclosed like mine, is about four times as long and a little closer to the water’s edge. Spectacular, but I wouldn’t change my cottage by the sea for anything.
It takes a while for me to make the mental shift from a delightful social Thanksgiving time to satisfying solitude at the CBTS, but I’m getting there. This afternoon, to ease the transition, I joined many others on the beach. A few were even swimming, and there was one man with his metal detector at the water’s edge searching for treasure. Now I’m back on the deck, just sitting and feeling content with the I & C (Independence & Close) of the last four days--the Close times with family and now the Independence of solitude.
Not easy to post during the holidays. With a rather full house, I have little silence, solitude or simplicity, but that’s fine with me. I need the community after days of quiet at the cottage. It’s that I & C (independence and close) or E & I (extrovert and introvert) that I’ve written about. One of those on-going life themes. Finding the right balance is a challenge for each of us. One size does not fit all.
I just finished reading “Townie,” by Andre Dubus III. In his memoir Dubus describes his life growing up in poverty in Haverhill, Massachusetts with his mother and three siblings. His was a tough life of survival. But Dubus also had contact with his father, who lived in Bradford and taught at the college. Living in these two worlds, he was able to see past his life of poverty and to envision, and then create, a life for himself as a writer.
Solitude, silence and simplicity was never easily offered to him in any way in which I am accustomed, but I think he found it in his own indomitable way, in his case through his writing. Great read.
Once again, I’m amazed at the time hit takes me just to get ready for the day once my feet it the floor. I’m down to bare simplicities here at the cottage, only having to tend to myself; and yet, it takes me almost twenty minutes to arrive on the deck with coffee in hand to await the sunrise. “What?” I say, “Twenty minutes to turn on the coffee, brush my teeth, wash my face, get dressed, open the blinds, and pour the coffee!” Um, maybe putting on five layers of shirts and sweaters wears away the minutes.
Why do I bring this up, this seemingly boring routine? Because along with my longing for silence, solitude and simplicity, is my need, and commitment to myself, to examine my experiences, and accompanying feelings and reactions, during this winter adventure of living by myself.
So, I asked myself, “What did you feel that made you so aware of this getting-ready-for-the day routine?" Oh dear, up comes impatience—in many ways the antithesis of the 3S’s. Clearly not what I wanted.
Tomorrow my challenge will be to embrace the physical preparation of getting ready for the day. Maybe I can think of it as preening, as in taking good care of my body; maybe I can add a prayer of gratitude for each layer I pull over my head. Maybe I can practice being patient by doing less each day, by being more than doing.
Every day since the world began the sun has risen; and every day since I began this blog a year ago, I have posted a daily quote. As I sit here on the deck, I am aware of these two phenomenon: the awesome and mysterious and the mundane and obvious. Sunrises and blogging are very much part of my life these days at the cottage. Whether the sunrise is visibly vibrant or just there lighting up the day behind the clouds, like Annie, I sing with certainty that the sun'll come out tomorrow. And like Annie, I’m hopeful; blogging keeps me so and is my way of expressing and sharing gratitude.
Speaking of gratitude, it was spectacular out on the beach today. I walked the entire length and back, joined by young and old, dogs of all sizes, and a woman on horseback—an ideal balance of community and solitude.
Believe me, it’s much easier to write about silence, solitude and simplicity when I am at my cottage by the sea. No wonder! I’m living it. Things are about the same this year on the beach, and yet each day and each walk is unique, one of a kind. This morning I made it further down the beach than ever before. My favorite rock, which is only visible and available when the tide is at its lowest, was waiting for me. Although the sea was too calm for surfing, a group of enthusiasts had lined up surfboards along the beach. For sale? As a demonstration? I was too into solitude to inquire, and besides I’m way beyond any desire to try to surf.
A beautiful late afternoon here at the cottage, where I’ll be for a few days before returning home to Thanksgiving festivities. Right now as I sit on the deck, the atmosphere is clear enough for me to see the outline of a lighthouse that I’m usually not even aware exists; the sea is calm; there’s not sound out there.
Need I tell you that the cottage faces east? After all, where do I get all those sunrises. So, although no direct sunsets, I can delight in the play of light on the houses across the bay, and this evening, on the seagulls that are racing by as red birds. (The photo doesn't do justice to what is before me, but I did capture the birds in flight.)
Arrival photo from the deck.
Last night I felt like a nine year old anticipating the first day of school. I kept looking at my digital clock (something I didn’t have when I was nine) and made myself stay in bed until 5 before arising to prepare for a 6 o’clock launch to my CBTS. Actually I got off at 6:10, still in plenty of time to miss commuter traffic. The place is wonderfully unchanged--the rooms, and of course the view from the deck. I put my stuff in exactly the same spots as last year, and the year before, and headed for the beach.
This first walk of the season was about sea gulls, at least that’s what I particularly noticed. The gulls were all very calm as they walked and lay around, seeming not to notice the few human beings who were on the beach with them. Maybe they were still used to the hundreds of sunbathers and water play enthusiasts of three months ago.
I was also calm, and oh, so grateful. There was just the right kind of silence-- the waves drowned out the noise of cars going by. There was plenty of solitude-- just enough folks to nod to so I didn’t feel lonely. There simplicity-- at least my life felt simple. And it still does.
Packing has started.
I just got the call that my CBTS will be ready for me tomorrow morning, four days earlier than scheduled. So I’m busy, simply trying to pack and arrange my schedule so I can leave at the crack of dawn and head north. It feels like a gift, these extra days in which to get settled, although I'll be back for some appointments on Thursday.
At the moment, I’m thinking about the gifts in the unexpected, in contrast to the gifts of anticipation. I like both, but presently, I’m voting for the surprise.
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