Saturday, May 30, 2015

Marie Kondo's Magic

I recently bought a book because I liked the title and thought it might offer some good downsizing suggestions.  How to get rid of things more easily ... without taking a long time doing it or feeling bad about tossing something out.  I soon discovered that the book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing, was a best seller in Japan and the author, Marie Kondo, an organizational consultant, something of a phenomenon.  I was soon intrigued.

I'm pretty good at keeping things tidied.  I'm also good at going through everything fairly regularly and tossing out.  I call it doing my "room-by-room" thing.  I start in the upstairs corner room, work there until I'm finished, go on to the next room, the next, etc.  Fortunately, I have a place where I can temporarily stash things I no longer want.  When the whole process is over (and this can take days), I then recheck the give-away stash, usually retrieving an item or two.  Then disperse the rest.

But I got some inspiration from Marie Kondo's book, as well.  Her thesis is to take everything that you own, hold it, and see if it produces a spark of joy.  If not, get rid of it.  Don't give it to anyone you know.  Throw it out.  Or give it to a second-hand place.  Start with clothes.  Then do books, papers, miscellaneous items, and finally mementos.  Thank what you get rid of.  Feel the importance of where it was in your life.  Then release that and let it go on its way.

She also advises something my family and I used to do regularly.  We'd say goodbye to the house when leaving and hello when returning.  The house always felt like a great part of our family--and did, even more so, with that little ritual.  As Marie says, think of (and thank) your home for providing you and your belongings with shelter.

There's more, but I'll let you discover her words for yourself.  I found that the book started in a rather sweet, simple fashion and gathered momentum as it went along.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Bird Tales

Some time ago, an ornithologist on NPR's "The Diane Rehm Show" related a couple of true tales.

The first concerned crows in Japan (those very clever birds) who loved walnuts but couldn't break their shells so dropped them in front of cars waiting at red lights, then fed on them after the cars had run over them.

The ornithologist also spoke of mockingbirds in South Carolina who could still sing the song of a now-extinct bird, exciting bird-lovers who, on hearing it, thought the bird was not extinct after all.

And then there were parrots in some far-off country who were still speaking a few words of now-extinct languages which, of course, was an aid to various linguists.

One of my favorite bird/animal tales found in my reading concerns the Canadian painter, Emily Carr, a friend of the Group of Seven and a great animal lover, who'd once tamed a wild vulture to walk to heel and who gathered various pets about her including a rat (Susie), a monkey (Woo), and a parrot.  As the story goes, once when she was out and the phone rang, Woo opened the parrot's cage, then picked up the phone and handed it to him.

"Hello," the parrot said into the mouthpiece.

"Is Miss Carr there?" the caller asked.

"And who else?" said the parrot.  "Speak up, speak up."

The caller spoke louder and the parrot persisted.  "Speak up, speak up."

I don't know how long this carried on but Woo, the monkey, soon hung up the phone.  It's such a tidy tale, you have to laugh!

This is just one of her books

As an aside, I'd like to recommend Emily Carr's writings in the form of journals, stories, essays, memories--a collection of four books that I found splendid.  She's such a unique and honest individual, it's a pleasure to read her.  Considered Canada's most famous woman painter, she lived from 1871 to 1945, mostly in British Columbia with study in England and France.  She particularly loved painting mystery trees deep in forests.  And subjects related to the indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest, especially Vancouver Island since she spent most of her life in the city of Victoria.

These four books are:

The House of All Sorts
Growing Pains:  An Autobiography
The Heart of a Peacock
Hundreds and Thousands:  The Journals of an Artist.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Around Here

One of our dirt roads

I get out in my car a lot. Sometimes just to go for what I call a meandering drive.  No destination.  Just a chance to clear my head and take in some back road country greenery.  Many of the roads around here are dirt.  Since they become the mother of muddy roads in early spring, I avoid them in March and April.  But from May on, they're good as gold.  And better even than the paved ones with their "Rough Road" warnings because of all the potholes that, yes, do get filled in, of a fashion, but that still make you rattle as you drive over them.

So I've discovered some things about the drivers around here.  Often, if you're waiting to make a left turn, the oncoming cars can be very patient, stop, or slow down as they flash their lights, signaling you to turn.  So you smile and reply with the Thank You Wave.  But equally often, those waiting to turn onto a trafficked road will dash out smack in front of you, barely missing you.

And then, though cars should stop for pedestrians if they're in a cross-walk, you can guess that they often don't.  When a car does stop, the pedestrian gives a little wave.  A "Thank you for letting me cross without running over me."  It reminds me of when I was in San Francisco once, wanting to cross busy Van Ness Avenue.  I had no more than gotten to the cross-walk than, as if by magic, ALL the cars stopped for me.  I felt like saying, "It's okay, guys, I'll wait my turn."  But, no, they were saying, "It's the law here; we have to stop for you so you go right on ahead."  Well, it's the law here, too, but drivers can be oblivious.

Then, another thing.  Different subject.  A couple of days ago as I was driving along a main street, I passed a man in his pajamas walking his dog.  Or people dress as if their day's main chore is to clean out the garage or change their car's oil ... which it very well may be.  Or men on bicycles wear too-low trousers.  Then there's the woman with a short skirt over her long night-gown.  It made me want to write a whole posting about the missing art of Taking Pride in One's Appearance ... which seems to rank maybe #103 on a scale of the fifty most important things in one's life.  When you do see people nicely dressed, you have to guess they're lawyers or tourists from foreign parts.  There, got that off my chest.

Saturday, May 9, 2015


How's this for downsizing!

With "downsizing" being the operative word these days, especially in my age group, I've been looking for another house to buy for a long time but have only come up with two possibilities--each of which would have required a contingency clause:  I buy yours when I sell mine. Neither seller would, in fact, accept that ... and my realtor tells me that (since I'm not going to do a mortgage) I need to sell first, move into a temporary rental, then find something, then move again.  And I counter with:  moving once is bad enough but moving twice?!  (All of you in my age group will know how much energy we've got for that sort of thing!)

Nonetheless, feeling that I need to be responsible for the years ahead, I want to go from what is basically a three-story house counting the cellar (with washer/dryer, garage) to something on one level. But it's not a given that, once moved, I'll find a suitable place very soon--something easier, less expensive to maintain. Plus something with a garage--no having to dig the car out in the winter to go anyplace.  Nor can it be on one of our many dirt roads--which turn into mud pits for a couple of months each spring.  I'm not about to get stuck off in some backwoods spot, especially since cell phones often don't work there.  (One friend recently said that in their entire house, they have one chair upstairs where they can get reception.)

A lot of the problem is that the town, which is not very big, is old with a limited choice.  Either the houses are enormous (three-story Victorian heat guzzlers), the same size I have now, or just not for me.  And then new single levels are being rented, not sold, and all for high prices.

But I've long since started the downsizing part, going through everything I own more than once, putting piles in two yard sales, our "experienced goods" store, used bookstore, and local dump.  I've taken sheets of music to the music school, books to two libraries, and various things to friends and neighbors.

With all this behind me, I've now called my realtor to come and tell me what she thinks my house will sell for.  So, in preparation for her visit, I've been spiffing things up.  I've gotten the roof problem repaired and front entryway ceiling re-plastered after that ice dam leakage this winter.  I've had all the windows washed.  The yard raked for its spring clean-up.  The outdoor furniture and pots brought out.  I've cleaned up the cellar. Planted pansies. Tidied and uncluttered the house.  Just before she comes, I'll set out a bouquet or two of tulips.

Then we'll just see what happens.


Saturday, May 2, 2015

With Love and Remembrance

Hanuman Dhoka

13th century temple
Pots and barbers on temple steps
Little Swayambhu
Nyatpola, Bhatgaon
(It survived.)

Drying rice
The bazaar
Durbar Square, Patan
Farm house, Kathmandu Valley
Getting there:  the road from India