Life in the village has its own momentum. Nothing seems quite as urgent as it does in the city. My days are governed more by what I feel like doing than what I feel I have to do. Wednesday, for instance, I felt like washing windows (yep, I was surprised at that, too). I actually felt like it Tuesday, too, but by the time the water came back on, the humour had worn off. Wednesday, we had water. And vinegar. And a fresh sponge. So I got to work.
My job is about changing things – words, speeches, presentations. I don’t make anything tangible that I can look at and say – ooh! Didn’t I do well? Isn’t that lovely! Very often, the part I play is one of many, each contributing to a final product, perhaps collectively sharing in the pride of ownership, but an individual sense of achievement? That’s rare.
Washing windows in a royal pain in the proverbial. Too lazy to walk to the barn to get the step-ladder, I made do with a kitchen chair. I’m 5’5″ with short arms. My reach wasn’t great. I got my workout for the week. But as the accumulation of winter dirt and grime came away and the panes of glass lost the opaqueness created by the droppings of the millions of insects that had walked across them since the last great wash, I felt a sense of accomplishment.
My favourite room is my hallway, my gallery, my homage to black and white, with a purple accent. Because we rarely use the first set of front doors, the hallway has become a room, perfectly lit by two opposing narrow windows that let the sun stream through. They offer a street view and a garden view. My reading bench has arms so I can sit either end and choose which one I want to lift my head to.
Anyway, as I was basking in my sense of individual accomplishment, I took stock of what I saw.
The dresser was a gift from a Texan friend who is so laid back, they’re still in the middle of last week and yet so ahead of the game that you’d need to get up very early to outsmart them. They taught me the meaning of carpe diem. The painted book was a gift from a friend in Belgrade, a beautiful piece made by their sister that set me on my purple streak. We’ve had long conversations about the propriety of giving when two giving spirits collide [and it’s been too long – note to self to get in touch duly made]. The Tiffany-style purple lamp was something I’d coveted for a while but couldn’t justify the spend. And then while visiting SR one day (they lived in a flat above the light shop), I got a lecture on cost per wear: I shouldn’t look at it as a once-off expense but rather as something of an investment that will (and does) give me hours of endless pleasure when I see it. I’ve applied that lesson many times since. The paper art came from Wisconsin, from a friend blessed with more patience in their little finger than I will ever have in my whole self. Another lesson there – the detail is quite something. The ceramic teapot-and-teacup gin-and-tonic [by Irish artist Rachel Webb] was a thank you from an Irish friend who visited for New Year. It’s a constant reminder that we shouldn’t be so constrained by norms that we fail to see potential in the differences. The holy water was something I brought back from Costa Rica, an adventurous two-week trip with a mate from Kentucky. The clock was a spontaneous buy that fit the picture I had in my head of what I wanted that window to be. Sometimes, when you least expect it, the right thing comes along. I won’t even begin on the artwork.
The sum of it all is that it ain’t just me. Nothing is just me. Even individual accomplishment is relational, situated as it is in the midst of the contributions of others. Sometimes a clean window is simply a clean window. But other times, if time allows for reflection, it offers a whole new perspective on what’s around it.