“Oh, that I lived here,” I say to myself. “In this valley just south of Sault, France. In this stone house brightened by turquoise shutters.”
But I don’t. And that’s actually okay, I suppose. The place, its happy shutters, its old trees, its nearby fields of lavender: real alright, but not my real. Moreover, the house probably has plumbing issues, electrical issues, varmint issues, and drafty room issues. Sure, it’s charming, but charming is a matter of perspective, isn’t it? At least, that’s what I’ve been persistently telling myself over the last month as I’ve been moving into a new place.
Having relegated the beauties of Provence to memory, I’m planting myself in my New Real, a place at the foot of the Wasatch mountains, in Utah, a spot I never bothered to imagine myself in because I was born and raised in California. But times change, jobs call, new landscapes beckon.
I’m earnestly trying now to see my little corner of the world the way I saw this valley in the Luberon, in France, back in June. The formula for this kind of seeing: 1) really look, 2) find the Lovely, and 3) remember that the Grass On The Other Side may only be greener (or the lavender brighter) because the lenses of your dark glasses ratchet up the color of everything five shades.
Want to practice along with me? Okay. First, we’ll examine the grass on the other side. Yes, the South of France is decidedly green. And yes, the village of Sault, nestled right in the soul of lavender country, could charm anyone: the stone churches and facades, the riot of colorful shutters, the flowers bursting out of an old wheelbarrow.
But being back among my own things?–that business has its charms, too. For example, I felt myself smile as I unpacked my favorite books, which now happily crowd the bookshelves in my new family room. And unearthing my mother’s china, which lived in storage for years, did me a world of good, reminding me of all the occasions when, as a child, I had the job of setting the table for Thanksgiving or Christmas. I never imagined that simply unwrapping my mother’s things would trigger so many lovely memories of the woman whose absence I still feel so keenly after fifteen years. “We’re going to use all this!” I assured my girls as I filled up the china cabinet that also was hers (and her mother’s, and her mother’s mother’s). Remember in The Quiet Man, when Maureen O’Hara’s character refuses to consider herself properly married because she doesn’t have her mother’s things around her? Yeah, I get that now.
The Look, Find, Remember-to-remove-your-sunglasses recipe for Being Content is neither new nor novel, I know that. I’m not the first to realize the value not only in blooming where you’re planted but also in noticing what else has bloomed nearby, so to speak. In the spirit of flexing my Finding-the-lovely muscles, I thus have to confess that the late summer skies in Utah rival anything the Continent cooked up for us over the last year. And the mountains here feel mystical in their rugged beauty–sunglasses or no.
The other cool thing?–you know those kids I took with me to Europe? Well, I brought ’em back with me, too.
Miss Lavender’s smile eclipses many other things just as well down on the railroad tracks here in Utah Valley as it ever did abroad.
And Miss Zinnia’s diaphanous-ness transposes from one continent to the other just fine.
If I can just get this down, you know??–the formula, I mean. Look, plus find. Plus remember the way those (blasted) dark glasses (read “unmanaged expectations”) so often distort things.
Here’s the drill. I’m writing down ten things I’ve already named “lovely” today, things that have blossomed for me. (And the shades are in the kitchen drawer.) Moreover, lest you find this exercise too cloying, consider this: deliberately searching out what makes you feel light and bright helps keep the darkness at bay.
One, the song I’m listening to by Juanes, “Es Por Ti.”
Two, the Kershisnik print of the Nativity, sitting on my fireplace mantle. (I like to imagine myself as one of the women ministering to Mary . . .)
Three, Goose’s hair this morning, the front of it slicked with pomade. (Look out, fourth grade girls at Barratt Elementary.)
Four. The Wasatch ridge. No words grand enough.
Five. Miss Zinnia early this morning, perky and unflappable, even when I broke the yoke of one of the eggs I was frying for her.
Six. Fresh-picked Gala apples found at a local roadside stand, now resting in a dish in my kitchen. (Had one for breakfast. Oh, my.)
Seven. My four-slot toaster. Yes, indeed.
Eight. Miss Lavender’s Rapunzel hair.
Nine. My piano. And the old, wind-up metronome that tick-tocked its way through my childhood practice sessions with me.
Ten. This list. I’m serious. It’s helped me bloom today.
Happy September, friends. Here’s to living in the season, whatever it is!