Sunday, December 11, 2011

Squirrels in the Fairy Fort

I walked through the sun room (that spot of sun that falls on my kitchen floor in the fantasy sun room) and opened the back door for Jack. I saw a squirrel scramble from the fairy fort to the large oak at the back fence. Jack saw him as well and took chase. The squirrel is now sitting in the top of the tree chattering away.

It has been months since I posted here. I still struggle with finding time and space in my life. What are the squirrels that interfere with my creativity, pick up the seeds and run away with them? Procrastination and my tendency to be a perfectionist? I promise myself in the new year to find time for creativity, to chase away the squirrels who feed on the acorns that slip through my fingers in the fairy fort.

I am de-cluttering books today and cleaning closets and to make room for my art supplies. Weeding in the fairy fort. Letting go is not easy for me. Just maybe the fairies will help.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Elvis, Hurricanes, and Loss

When I was 8 years old, my mother took me to my first concert. It was an all-star country music show. We saw The Carter Family, Faron Young, Web Pierce, Kitty Wells, and The Hillbilly Cat, a young man who wiggled around on stage while the girls screamed, and he broke his guitar strings as he sang “Heartbreak Hotel” . Yes, he was also known as Elvis Presley. After the show we followed the crowd to the back stage door for autographs. I had a program printed on bright yellow cardstock with Elvis’ photograph. He took my program, looked at me, and curled up his lip in a smile and scribbled his name across the photograph. I was in heaven! We moved several times after that concert, but I always carefully packed my Elvis autograph with my most prized possessions.

When I was about 10 years old, I came home from school one day to a clean bedroom. My mother had cleaned it thoroughly. I reached under my bed for my box of movie star clippings and photographs. They were gone. They were there when I left for school. Now they were gone. My Elvis autograph was in that box. My mother denied throwing the box away, but it was gone nevertheless. I cried myself to sleep that night. Now I look back and realize that I had many losses up to that point, but none of them affected me the way the loss of my Elvis autograph. I was devastated.

I don’t think my mother meant to be cruel. Her intention was to teach me a lesson about keeping my room clean. My mother’s parenting style was impulsive retribution. And she never looked back or reconsidered her actions. Perhaps this incident was the source of my emotional tendency to “hold on” to certain special items. Do not misunderstand. I have seen The Hoarders on television. I am NOT a hoarder. I do have some sense of when my little house is beginning to get cluttered, and then I take care of business. However, until just a few years ago, I had a home away from home--- my classroom. That’s where many of my favorite things were stored. Now I don’t have that extended space, and the time has come to take care of business.

I gave away tons of things when I retired. Most of it was easy to part with, since I knew I would not need it any more….books for the students, bulletin board displays, posters, supplies, bookcases, and even a nice stool. However, there were many things I could not bear to lose. Now that I have had some time to consider what I will be doing with my days, I realize that I saved many things I won’t need anymore. It’s time to find them a new home.

I have to admit, the loss of some of my favorite things is really hard for me. However, I have to put it into perspective. Right now there are people who are suffering catastrophic loss up and down the East Coast from hurricane damage. We lost our power. We lost our Internet connection and our cable television service. We even lost a couple of trees in our yard, but we are all safe. And our loss is not even worth mentioning when I consider all the blessings we have. I am so grateful. Our prayers are with all of those who were not so fortunate. And if anyone happens to see my Elvis autograph floating around on a program made of yellow cardstock, let me know.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Broken Wings

I was sitting in the fairy fort this summer when a dragonfly landed near me on a little wire that Roger rigged up as a trellis for one of the the hibiscus plants. Since I recently took a watercolor class, I was observing the dragonfly as closely as I dared without disturbing him. He allowed me to watch him for about 3 minutes before moving on. I noticed that he had a chunk missing from one of his wings. I was trying to remember everything I could about his physical features. But after he moved, the one thing that stood out in my mind was the chunk missing from one of his wings.

Looking around to decide what to de-clutter, I notice that the fairy statue in my fairy fort has a chip gone from one of her wings. A few years ago, Clay ran into her with his little monster truck, and now her bottom part has been separated from her top. I tried to glue her back together, but it never lasts. So, I usually just prop her up with the bottom and top together. It works until a strong breeze comes along. She's so pretty that I just haven't been able to bring myself to throw her away.

None of us are perfect. I try to do my best, but I, too, have chunks missing in my wings. I have too many faults to list here. But I try.

I can't let go of this little fairy. She is part of the charm of my fairy fort. I will just have to bring my search for the first item into the house. I have lots of closets to de-clutter. And besides, there are many days that I can't tell my bottom from my top. And my wings definitely have chunks missing.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Dragonflies in My Life

In Japan dragonflies are associated with courage, strength, and happiness. I prefer to think of them as angels in disguise. They give me courage and strength in times of discomfort. I have dragonflies all around me. In the summer my fairy fort is a playground for dragonflies. They flitter around from the hibiscus flowers to the fig tree branches. They land on the smooth branches of the crepe myrtle trees. And that's just the REAL dragonflies! A few years ago, I declared that dragonflies are our family symbol. A few people looked at me like I am crazy. (I consider this a compliment!) But many other people, the ones who really count, loved the idea and started bringing me dragonflies. I have dragonfly candles, dragonfly towels, dragonfly paperweights, dragonfly lamps, dragonfly wind chimes, dragonfly t-shirts, and on and on. You get the idea. So here's the deal, when I am feeling down or worried about something, I look nearby and see something like my dragonfly magnifying glass or my dragonfly necklace (both given to me by students), and I realize that there are many people who care about me. And maybe, just maybe, whatever I am worried about is really insignificant. So you can see that I could never de-clutter any of my dragonflies!

A few years ago, I became very sick. I was in intensive care for a few days and the doctors prescribed strong pain killers. I was even more loopy than usual. At night when I was falling asleep, I saw people coming into my room. They gathered around my bed and talked with me and with each other. There were lots of them, but I only recognized a few of them. They were the characters in the books I had been reading! Azar Nafisi (Reading Lolita in Tehran), Dina Dalal (A Fine Balance), and Isabel Allende (Paula) stood around my bed talking to me, giving me advice, encouraging me, nudging me to fight for my recovery. I remember thinking, Okay, now I know I am really losing it! Now I think of these characters as friends. So as you can see, I can't possibly de-clutter any of these books. Maybe other books?

It occurred to me today that my fairy fort is a metaphor for my life. Yes, it's cluttered, but it's full of wonderful and beautiful things and so much for which to be grateful.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A New Beginning

When traveling along the roads of Ireland's rolling hills, you will come across the most beautiful green fields you have even seen. And every once in a while you will see a clump of bushes and trees that sprout up in the middle of the fields. These are the fairy forts, enchanted places where the fairies live. Really!

A few years ago, I decided to dig a spot in my back yard for an herb garden. I just wanted a small spot where I could plant a few interesting plants and watch them grow. Roger brought out the roto-tiller and before I knew it, my little herb garden was much larger than I expected so he added a few plants to my collection. I planted basil, some lemon verbena, and a small fig tree. I planted eucalyptus just to see it grow. I decided to add some Queen Anne's Lace here and there. The next summer, black plastic covering was added to keep the weeds down. He covered everything with mulch he purchased at the garden center and pulled up all the Queen Anne's Lace (because they were "weeds.") By the third summer, we began to see crepe myrtle trees sprouting up all around the herb garden. Roger determined that they had been in the mulch he bought from the garden center. We decided to let them grow and see what colors we had. They were deep pink, white, and lavender...too pretty to remove. We let them grow. Over the years we added clematis, several hibiscus plants, bird feeders, and a few hanging pots. The basil had to be relegated to pots and placed in sunny spots around the yard. Our herb garden was now devoid of herbs. It had become a fairy fort! My fairy fort is a great place to think, to plan, to dream, to read, to sketch, to write. An enchanted place of my very own!

Sitting in my fairy fort, I realized that each new school year was always a beginning for me as a student and as a teacher. I am a planner and an organizer (which is different from being organized). For the few years I have been retired, I have been floundering. Not quite sure what to do with myself. I am staying busy lunching with friends and taking care of my grandson. I have also been de-cluttering. This is a painstaking process that requires a packrat like me to read every piece of paper, wallow in the memories, and evaluate my decisions carefully. Should I toss, keep, or find another teacher-packrat who wants this? Sometimes you just have to let go. I know this in my mind. It's my heart that has trouble letting go.

When I was working, I could never find the time for writing or art. Now I am trying to make up for lost time. I have taken a few art classes, but I am not spending nearly enough time with writing or practicing what I have learned in my art classes. I started to think about this and decided to create a new beginning. I am initiating my new beginning appropriately with the start of the new school year. I have decided to let go of something each day of the school year and write about it from the fairy fort.