Inching Toward Simplicity: Pragmatics and Prose

Monday, November 19, 2007

Joyful Juxtaposition


Sometimes contrasts allow us to see better. Some thoughts on the topic:


I finally tackled it yesterday. Well, some of it. The mess in our house had reached critical mass, partly the fallout from busy schedules, part the fallout from domestically unfriendly choices (like using precious spare time to write). My disgust with the clutter grew for weeks, and it was this disgust that propelled me to clear the decks with the pace of a whirling dervish.

It felt good to be ruthless. Magazines that I hoped to someday read found their place in the recyclables paper bag. Tom’s tool bag and work equipment have landed too many times on the kitchen chair, so I cleared a new home for them in the pantry. Gavin consented to donating his “baby Legos” to charity. Once the decks were cleared, I dusted. I thanked the heavens for our Roomba purchase. The automated vacuum did not come cheap, but it saves me heaps of time and energy. It makes it possible that I can dust and vacuum in an afternoon, rather than having to pick one!

I clean best when indignant and angry—it fires me up. But in the bedroom I ran into some items that quieted my rant. I started to notice the beauty in our mess, framed by the contrast between real and ideal. The primary colors of Gavin’s many books strewn about our bedroom, clashing with our attempt at muted tones. A “great job” giraffe sticker stuck to the top of our otherwise sleek alarm clock, a memory of a worthwhile day at Kindergarten. A cardboard “treasure chest” next to my jewelry box, recalling the day when Gavin split his gems with me. Countless shells and rocks and leaves, cluttering our windowsill but also memorializing many fine walks. Any decorator worth her salt would have me hustling to remove this “clutter”, and I did find better homes for most of the items. But I appreciated those imprints of a busy, happy family and all of the clutter that can entail.

I also thought back to a personal joy I experienced this week. A columnist at the Baton Rouge Advocate gave eloquent thanks for things not owned, a thought that propelled me reduce and recycle (and acknowledge that there are some things I can’t reuse). Even better, he called my essay in Get Satisfied "charming”, definitely a banner moment.

The contrasts outdoors are getting more extreme: branches against sky, the sharp cold against our skin, and soon the fall of snow that will soften but also showcase every shape. I'm hoping for a winter where each juxtaposition lends a lesson, each contrast uncovers a forgotten joy.

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At 11/27/2007 6:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi. I found your blog by way of Simple Living America. I loved your post there. I felt the same way when I started reading blogs by the simplifiers that were working to get off the grid. I'm a simplifier who has taken it slowly and felt it's impact deeply. We look like any other American family but we think and act a bit more deliberately than some. (I think). It's a journey for sure. Thanks for the post and good luck on your journey!


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