I can count on one hand the times in my married life I’ve had a perfect closet. In that closet, everything has a place: short sleeves on one rod, long sleeves on another, dresses and skirts on another. Belts and strings are tied up at the waist, never dangling low. Sleeves are smoothed out. Hangers are equidistant. Each rod is an array of color in the order of roygbiv.
Every time I’ve gotten it to that point, I’ve always had plans for keeping it that way, but really it’s like sweeping the the beach. Just as soon as I think I’ve got my spot smoothed out, the winds of busyness keep moving the sand about, and I just can’t keep up. Within a week, the clothes are lingering long in the basket and the dryer steam cycle has to save the day, springing them to life again.
As we are packing for a day trip to the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore this weekend, in my house, laundry is piling like those sand dunes. Do you know how dunes are formed? Sand moves through the air on bursts of wind and stops when it comes upon an obstacle, like the trunk of a tree or a large rock. And then it builds.
For me, that “obstacle” is creativity and the written word. Each day, when nap time comes around and the kids are tucked quietly (well, on a good day, anyway!) in their rooms, I retreat to my notebook and pencil, my keyboard and screen, a little vacation in the middle of my day.
In my last post, I mentioned Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s affirmation that women need solitude in order to “find again the true essence of themselves”. Sometimes that may mean taking some time to get away alone like she did on Captiva Island in the early 1950s. Sometimes it means resting from our work in the middle of our day to day and taking time to find our own contemplative corner.
On vacation, domestic work is cut to a minimum. I make simple meals, dirtying only a few dishes. Clean up is quick and easy. I bring a minimal wardrobe and wear things more than once. I forget about make-up and perfectly-coiffed hair, and instead let the wind give me the tousled look.
Of her own vacation, Anne said, “I find I don’t bustle about with unnecessary sweeping and cleaning here. I am no longer aware of the dust. I have shed my Puritan conscience about absolute tidiness and cleanliness. Is it possible that, too, is a material burden?”
When nap time is over and I return from my mini-vacation, I do have to work a bit at the laundry to keep us from getting lost in it. I simplify and speed up the task by keeping myself from that Puritan perfectionism. If a shirt comes out of the dryer inside out, that is how I hang it. The seconds I save on each item add up into valuable minutes of time working at my real passion. My creative call may be an obstacle to a perfectly clean house, but I’m willing to live in view of the laundry dunes and a few inside out shirts in order to feel the breeze in my hair and sand in my toes on this daily little vacation all my own.
I hope you’ll join me in exploring more of these ideas as we dig into Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s classic book Gift from the Sea in our brand new Stories Preserved Summer Book Club! This memoir helps women contemplate how to live a simple life in the midst of a complicated world. Take a virtual vacation with us this summer as we ponder such topics as love, marriage, the work of the mother, friendship, the creative life, simplicity, solitude, generosity, communion, youth, and age, all through the metaphor of beautiful seashells found on a quiet island. This is a short, refreshing read perfect for an easy, breezy summer book club. It’ll be our own little getaway.
I will write on a different chapter each Monday throughout June and July. Make sure to sign up right now by subscribing in the sidebar and commenting below. Then you’ll want to comment on each Monday’s Gift from the Sea post. Each comment will get you one entry in the drawing for a Gift from the Sea prize package at the end of summer. The more Gift from the Sea posts you comment on, the more entries you get!