- Education and Science
Joyfully Using Treasures
My Beautiful Mother Elcy
I can still picture my mother actively engaged in so many creative and practical pursuits: painting, sewing, knitting, crocheting, planting a cutting or a whole garden, doing ranch work, making soap or cottage cheese, caring for beloved pets, quilting, canning, cooking, administering to someone in need, serving in offices of her Art Club and Eastern Star, teaching Sunday School and substitute teaching, going to classes or perhaps occasionally - just sitting reading, but always a vivacious presence among her beloved people, projects and clutter, ever lighting up her surroundings; and sometimes just looking around with a smile of satisfaction and saying, almost as an epitaph, “Everything I see, I love.”
The things weren't all materially valuable, but were precious for remembrance. beauty, and the joy of beholding and using them. She imbued her people and her things with a special personal value and they rewarded her with joy.
She was so enthusiastic about life that when her prized Night-Blooming Cereus finally bloomed in the middle of a cold December night, she went to the neighbors' doors and invited them to come and see it - and they DID! They could not resist her zest for it.
She valued every moment so much that she often put in a stitch or two of her current crochet or knitting project while in the idling car, waiting for a red stop light to turn green! I do not jest! She was born in 1892 and she invented multi-tasking! She also waged a personal campaign for women's rights among her school mates. I found her diary from that time in which she recorded trying to awaken the other girls to THINK about conditions and to not just be passive. It was nine or ten years before women in the US even gained the right to vote! Her 1912 school yearbook described her as "Boundless energy. Elcy will not rest until she proves woman is man's equal." Yet she was totally feminine in the truest sense, never aggressive or domineering. Her secret power was being fully alive at all times and being totally authentic. Nothing more was needed.
That same year of her academy graduation she also was awarded a special diploma for "High Jinks and Fun"!
She never missed an opportunity to amuse the children, either, whether it was to dress up as a gypsy and tell their fortunes or to conduct a casual painting class or to help them catch "horned toads" or identify tree leaves. Dad always said, "Elcy, no wonder the kids love you so. You're one of them!" She'd just laugh with him. She loved humor passionately. She had a million 'Tall Texas" jokes in her repertoire.
Having raised two children, I can hardly believe she raised four of us in addition to the many other things she accomplished. She didn't waste time fretting about what wasn''t done, but focused on wholeheartedly doing what was there to do NOW.
I never doubted that my mother could do anything she set her mind to do. And she was so quick, she could do it in record-breaking time! Almost before one could vocalize a wish, she would have located just the thing to fill it and be back to hand it over.
She single-handedly invented recycling. When she sent a greeting card, she wrote her brief message and signature on the bottom quarter-inch of it so the recipient could just snip it off and send it on to someone else. Her grand kids all looked forward to seeing in which of last year's Christmas wrappings this year's gifts from her would be wrapped. She liked to say that Dad didn't spend on luxuries and she didn't spend on necessities. Between the two of them, they'd surely have been able to balance the national budget, deficit and all!
She was also famous for her ability to "make something out of nothing", from origami to designer clothes made out of remnants. She could locate any item 'on sale', any time of the year. If one needed a swim suit in December, she could find you one at half-price. Never mind that it might have a slight flaw, even a hole in the seat! The good news was that it would be found, bought and delivered in an hour or so.
She sewed beautifully except for one thing: fit. To her, everything was virtually "one size fits all", which is why I started designing and making my own clothes at 13 when fit began to matter to me! She'd been burned out on ironing after earning her college money doing it, back when clothes were frilly and irons were heated on top of the wood stove. As far as I know, she never touched another iron. Our house didn't even have a decent ironing board. Dad sent his clothes out to the laundry. Before I was in my teens, I'd learned to iron my own. Summers at the ranch - no one ironed anything. We were precursors of the crinkled look to come decades later!
Some Treasures of My Own
Little things here in my den: There's the miniature flower vase George gave me (among other treasures) for our last Christmas together. He'd always made a project of shopping for my gift. That last Christmas, however, his infirmities prevented being able to do that. So he asked me to make a wish list. I've never really preferred doing that. I love surprises most of all. But of course I jotted down several things from which he could choose when his son took him to shop for my gift. I meant for him to choose something, but doggone if he didn't get everything on my list!!
One item listed was a pretty vase for flowers, which I love to arrange. This one is a most singular design, as you can see. He knew that I'll pick weeds and grasses to arrange if nothing else. And even they would benefit from such a vase as this.
The little china vase is connected to its tile base with a common opening between them so the stems can reach into water in a separate container below. One can use any container for the water. I tried several possibilities, but nothing quite suited so well as a square stemmed milk-glass candy dish I've had forever. In the case of flowers in this picture, a small branch of japonica blossoms from the bush outside my kitchen window. It blooms these gorgeous coral colored blooms every year in late January and all through February, beginning before even crocus and tulips appear.
There's the pair of necking brass swans he gave me for a previous non-occasion.
One of my many books of Emily Dickinson poems, letters and her own amazing story. On top, a little book of special thoughts sent me by an online friend. It had belonged to his mother and he said he'd thought and thought about it and knew that I was the only person he could think of who would truly appreciate it.
An oversize Italian cup holds extra Van Gogh coasters not currently in use. Someone has left a vintage Vogue coaster on the table when sipping something while seated on the nearby couch.
A bamboo diffuser lends a subtle hint of lemon and coriander fragrance to the air.
There are many little arrangements on tables and bookcases displaying personal treasures to feast my eyes upon as I look around my house. But I most particularly treasure the things which remind me of people who have enriched my life with their friendship and kindness. Such things include hand made gifts, photographs, mementos - all those things primarily of personal and sentimental value.
Among my treasures are beautiful ceramics which came from major influences in my life: dear friends and well-known potters, Tom and Ginny Marsh. When I knew them both, it was as husband and wife who were soon to become a well-known potter team of considerable stature. I owe them gratitude for many efforts and acts of kindness. Their beautiful work is a lovely reminder.
A little of their story: ~ After Tom had returned from studying in Japan where he'd suffered a near-fatal accident and after he'd begun to resume normal life, was when we had the privilege of helping them dig the foundation for their charming little pastoral studio, which also became their most unique abode.
Having that affiliation with Japan, they used many Japanese architectural and design influences in their compound. Flat futons for sleeping were lowered and raised by strong ropes on pulleys from heavy ceiling beams at night and suspended out of the way by day. The primary activity in the main room was done on their two potter's wheels which occupied the center of the room, though a rustic kitchen on one side of the room was the site of marvelous meals, which Ginny prepared from the fresh produce from their oriental garden and served in Marsh plates on a heavy plank table with rustic wooden benches for seating.
On that same wall, Tom built in an incredible whole-wall fireplace of native flat pearl-gray fieldstones gathered from their land and finished with dark grouting. The rock in that area was deposited by glaciers pushing and churning the earth's surface during the recession of the last Ice Age. The effect was stunning.
Their round deep Japanese wooden tub used for bathing overlooked a huge glass wall with a view of the thick woods beyond the studio. What a treat! No spa or mansion could provide such an awesome bathing experience! I never allowed myself to think about what or who might be spying from those woods!
Later they built an enormous Japanese style kiln near the studio where they fired their incredible pots. They used the most special clays and made their own glazes of natural minerals which Tom learned about in Japan. They always insisted on authenticity in their work and also insisted that their pieces are to be USED, not put away for some other time and occasion. I was given a rare set of large plates, salad plates and beverage or soup mugs, as well as a covered tea jar as gifts. The inside of the tea jar and its lid are the most charming aqua, while the outside is their typical wildly natural browns with a spash of dramatic black.. Also I was later to learn that flat plates are among the most difficult pieces to fire; there's much breakage in the process. These are among my well-used treasures even now and I never fail to be pleased as they are used and lend their own quality to table settings and to the moments.
Next to the kiln was their modest little shop/gallery. Later, on a whirlwind visit back to Indiana, my husband and I stopped by but found them away. But the little shop was left wide open! There was an invitation tacked to the door for any visitors who happened by to look around and if a piece were chosen to own, to just leave the money in the pot on the table. Strictly an honor system!
We did choose and the platter below in my house is the piece we chose that day! It hangs above my little Chinese chests, atop of which are various other treasures.
Marsh Platter Among Other Treasures
The Chinese pewter covered urn and small pewter pot were given to me by my sister from among her own treasures. The little pinkish alabaster covered box was a gift my stepson brought back from Florence on one of his trips there.
George brought back the opium pipes from China where he was during WWII.
The woven beaked yucca leaf mat was a gift I made for him one Christmas when we were at the ranch and hadn't a chance to shop. It represents some intensive work and considerable caution staying out of the paths of the extremely long, pointed sharp projectileson the ends of each of the cactus leaves. It was all freshly picked and green when I wove them and tied the joints with tiny slivers of leaf. As you can see from the picture below, now they've turned beige.
A postscript about the Marshes
We knew Tom before he went to Japan and studied ceramics there. He had a degree in music and art, but when he returned to the states after the bike accident which he barely survived, his life changed dramatically. Soon, though, ceramics became his vocation. He taught art and ceramics at the University of Louisville, where Ginny was his student and where he became the head of the Art Department. After they married, together they went on to achieve high regard in their field through many shows and high praise in reviews. Their joy and the unmistakable authenticity which they put into their pots made them true works of art, designed to be used, giving them their truest value.
One summer day I got to ride with them in their VW bug to Bardstown, Kentucky and to nearby Gethsemani Abbey where Thomas Merton had been a monk for 27 years up until his death a few years earlier. The Marshes were delivering a ceremonial vessel they'd been commissioned to make. Though not Catholic, even I had heard of Thomas Merton and his outstanding world fame and was deeply touched by the silent monastery and its self-sufficient lifestyle. I have to say that it was one the most memorable of several memorable times shared with these friends during that period of my life.
Tom Marsh - RIP
Tom passed away several years ago. Ginny continues the work. She became the head of the Art Department at U of L, and has since taught in Japan, lectured in Canada and the US and still produces beautiful new and ever more truly her own style pots from the abundance of her heart and soul. She and her work continue to be geatly sought after. I recently discovered that she now lives not too far from Dallas. I've read about her work and local appearances.
These were good and beloved friends who contributed greatly to my well-being. Their generous spirits and strong principles validated my own, raised my awareness and impressed my thinking to the core.
Van Gogh - Almond Branches
Recently a spotlight on Vincent Van Gogh in which group participants were to post examples of our favorites among his works and information about the most famous of his paintings prompted me to refocus on a set of Van Gogh coasters I have which I'd been reserving from use because of their Van Gogh images and because they'd been a gift! But it’s not as though these are priceless originals, for goodness’ sake and they were given to be used and enjoyed!
Let me assure you that normally I’m most willing to use things that bring me pleasure. Furthermore, my use is not determined by whether or not it is to be alone or with others, though of course it’s a bonus if others can share the moments.
So I brought out the Van Gogh coasters and now the coffee cup and wne glass rings on them prove I've enjoyed them and it's not diminished the pleasure of seeing them out to be used and enjoyed!
One Of My Flower Aarrangements
I dearly love arranging and having fresh flowers in the house, even just for me. The ones from the grocery store give full measure pleasure as surely as those from the florist!
It amuses me, too, when in the checkout line I’m asked what's the special occasion to be celebrated? My reply that there's no special occasion except for the enjoyment of being alive, the looks range from pity that I have no occasion to celebrate to barely veiled suspicion that I may be a bit ‘tetched’! Even walking around the store getting the rest of my shopping list, the flowers and I get interested glances! I'd be willing to bet that some wives shopping with their husbands drag their guys back to the florist department to persuade them to spring for a bouquet for them too!
My beloved husband shared the joy they brought. It was his daily routine to sit in his chair and sip his morning coffee while gazing at the flowers in that magic moment just at daybreak. And with his expert photographer’s eye I'd sometimes see him 'framing' an arrangement with his hands or he might be just smiling or perhaps playing his harmonica while in this idyllic setting.
Alas. Life's most wonderful treats are temporary because being vital and alive, they are non static, perishable, made for their moments. It's part of the marvelous odyssey called LIFE!
When I realize that “everything I see, I, too, love”, it’s with the understanding that those things which blossom so abundantly will fade and cease to be so they must be fully enjoyed in the NOW.
Enjoying the Precious Thread of Life
Many another pure-joy reminder surrounds me, some are my own creations and the tools of creativity: musical instruments with their accessories, easel and art supplies, writing materials, a plethora of fabric and sewing paraphernalia, electronic marvels, cooking utensils and books - and of course books of every description. filling bookcases in every room - all reminding me that 'everything I see, I love', while using and enjoying them in the moments as Mother’s did.
Most precious of all are the people and relationships who enhance and adorn my consciousness; and one must never forget to enjoy consciousness. It allows us to appreciate being alive and equipped with the abilities to choose and to express ourselves responsibly in the now.
Treasures - People
At each phase of life with its landmarks of change, we can choose to remain aware of our moments, to radiate their liveliness and to welcome new friends while life is going on. Each and every moment with its special resources is precious.
After all, oneself is a valuable pearl in an external shell and when that self is fully alive and radiant like an irridescent “pearl of great price” which illuminates from within its own self and beyond its shell. Being a living person is a gift as it touches and intneracts with others.
A favorite quote: “Do not walk behind me; I may not lead. Do not walk ahead of me; I may not follow. But walk beside me and be my friend.”
Yes - I believe in living one's moments and enjoying one's resources fully, especially in being oneself, trusting oneself and sharing oneself.
We must ever remember that our earthly time and all material things have unseen expiration dates.
In the earthly sense, at least, it's a matter of using it or losing it.