Friday, February 19, 2010

Domesticities

I went out to consult with Our Forester this morning. He and his son are turning the woods behind our backyard into a sort of "park"--you know, like you see in those BBC specials about the Great Houses of England. They are clearing out the skinny trees and the undergrowth so that the big trees can grow even bigger and we can walk unimpeded by thorn bushes and honeysuckle. As the big trees grow, their canopy will shade the ground and keep down the undergrowth, and voila--we will have our English park.

The wind was blowing so hard while the Forester and I talked that when I got back in the house I was chilled to the bone. Even though it was morning, I lit a fire in the stove. But that meant that I had to stay in the living room, to tend the fire and, well, to enjoy it. I'm still enough of a flatlander that I think of fire in aesthetic rather than utilitarian terms.

"I know," I thought, "I'll do some mending." There was a pair of my husband's pants that needed re-hemming. Perfect! I could sit by the fire in the a.m. and do something useful as well. I brought my sewing things into the living room got to work.

Sewing--such a peaceful activity. Kind of like carving stone in its slowness. Sitting by the fire, hemming my husband's pants, I felt connected to Victorian women in their stuffy rooms, medieval women in their chilly towers. Heck, I felt connected to my mother in the 1950s, who used to like to darn socks on rainy days.

Unfortunately, I always like the idea of sewing better than the act. I get tense and impatient, and make bigger and bigger stitches. This time, to make sure I stayed on-task, I put on Handel's "Messiah." My musician father would have called this philistine multi-tasking, an act of lese-majeste, an insult to Handel and all musicians. I decided to ignore his voice as it lives in my mind, and get on with things.

It was wonderful. I was especially taken with the aria "Man of Sorrows," sung by a contralto. "He was des-pi-sed," it goes, "re-jec-ted. A man of sorrows, and rejected by men..." Who, especially what artist, hasn't felt that way? When the rejection letters come, it helps to know that others, including the Son of God, have experienced it before.

The pant cuffs were finished before the oratorio. I went into the kitchen and made a gallon and a half of mint and green tea. We keep this in the fridge and drink it cold or hot for a week. I filled a large tea ball with green tea. I filled a square of muslin with a mixture of mint, apple mint, orange mint and melissa, tied it up, and put that and the tea ball in a 1 1/2 gallon glass jug. In the summer, I set this out on the stoop and let the sun do its magic. Today, I had to heat the water and let the whole thing steep a while. I was glad to be using some of my dried mints--I have 18 jars of various kinds, and before I know it, the real, fresh mint will be sprouting up in the corner between the house and the garage. I also felt good because mint tea is good for you.

Now my husband, as I sit by the fire writing this, is sweetening the tea. That is his job. He pours in just the right amount of honey, deals with the stickiness, makes sure the honey dilutes evenly. Funny how, as a couple, we have specialized. I make the tea, he sweetens it. I cook dinner, he washes dishes. He drives the car, I do the talking. I teach the girls how to write, he teaches them how to drive...it's been going on for over forty years, this division of labor. It's efficient in many ways, but often I think, what would either one of us do on our own?

The "Messiah" is over now. England is told that God will smite its enemies "like a potter's vessel"; the King is reassured. The fire is still going and, outside, Our Forester is wrapping up for the day. It is still light. I don't want to write another "spring is coming" post, but I am human, and above all, I am an animal. So I can't help it: spring is coming, and I'm glad.

3 comments :

  1. And winter, although not yet quite des-pi-sed or re-jec-ted, will be.

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  2. We have a first crocus and when we have the silly daffodils, it will be time to leave your mud season and come to visit our Spring.

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  3. mrb, please kiss that crocus for me.

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