Creative Nesting

I wonder if other writers experience this nesting phenomenon, much like before a baby is born, but instead it occurs at the brink of binge writing, or giving birth to a creative project.

I spent a good four hours nesting recently. I had this desire to know what I have, to love it or leave it, and to move things around or put them away.

There’s a kind of ‘shopping at home’ where you simply move things around until you find something that you just don’t like no matter where you put it.  I like to do this before replacing something or buying something new. A wall hanging that is unappealing in one area of the house might be perfect in another spot. I switched a couple large plants around too,  and thought them perfect again.

I went through my jewelry and my linens. I swapped out our gold chandelier that I never liked for a matte nickel one that is so much more aesthetically pleasing to me. I  have this feeling of fullness, of having everything I need, not feeling especially attached to any of it, but loving all of it. That’s the sweet spot with material things, I think- to love everything you have without being too attached to any of it.

20150828_215042At the end of my nesting, I ordered one large canvas art print and gave one old framed picture away. The look of the old one was cluttered and too country for my current taste. The new painting arrived, a splash of vibrant color across a lone branch. It looks both natural and modern to me, and I love it.

A chapter out of place, or no longer relevant, I move it or let it go. I feel the labor pains of writing: the blocks and the struggle, the fear and the pushing.

The bliss!

The fullness of it, when the words match my memory. The sentences, like thoughts on canvas, now visible. Fresh words, new perspective.

A labor of love, bursting forth to completion.

Create it, love it, let it go.

I have everything I need.

When you think you’ve simplified, simplify some more

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We need much less than we think we need. – Maya Angelou

A few months ago I overheard the mother of a bride telling someone that the month before the wedding was insane. It scared me a little because my daughter is getting married very soon, but I determined I would not let it get to the point of insanity. And it really hasn’t, but I see clearly how it could.

We are a consumer society and there is a huge market for weddings. Each vendor wants to schedule multiple meetings and sell their wares, preferably to an eager and demanding bride-to-be who thinks she is the only gal in town that ever married. The wedding cake vendor who requires two meetings to order a cake, and dismisses the groom in hopes of selling to an exuberant and frivolous bride. The makeup artist whose idea of a natural look is $250 worth of makeup. The bridal shop that doesn’t bring out the sought after simpler dresses because they are less expensive than the frilly ones. It’s sales, people. Wedding planning can and should be a joyful time, but without perspective, it has the potential to wreak havoc on one’s peace of mind.

Marketing schemes and Bridezillas aside though, there are things that must be tended to, and every now and then one of life’s details grabs me by the neck and has me in a chokehold. The current detail is wedding centerpieces.

The bride-to-be is, shall we say, the antithesis of Bridezilla. Her preference for her bouquet was literally limited to this: Let’s keep it small. I don’t want to be lugging anything huge thing down the aisle. She is in fact overwhelmed if she has to meet with one more vendor. So with the intention of simplifying, we decided to eliminate the florist by ordering dried flowers and arranging the centerpieces ourselves. I ordered lots of flowers and when they arrived we filled mason jars with dried larkspur in three colors, and then added ribbon. Lovely. In fact it gave me an all is well and I have simplified the decorations and am on top of my mother-of –the-bride duties moment.

And then it hit me. The centerpieces are too big. Guests will not be able to see across the table! How can they talk to someone they cannot even see? I pictured the dried flower arrangement looming too big in the center of the table. It was no longer a simple, pretty centerpiece. It was an obstruction. An intrustion. My nemesis. Worse than a task undone, it was an un-task, something done perfectly wrong that might require starting over.

I looked up images of the venue. I saw a picture of the rustic reception room looking lovely and inviting. In the center of each table was a number set inside a pretty stand. And nothing else. It looked good. Simple! Fabulous! Why hadn’t I noticed this before? There was room for the wine bottles, and open space to see across the table.

Suddenly, our simple centerpieces were too much. I had a box the size of a casket full of larkspur in my basement and what I wanted was to have almost nothing at all. The solution? Either fill the vases more sparsely, or only use the centerpieces to decorate the non-dining tables, such as the place card and gift tables. The lesson I learned? When you think you’ve simplified, simplify some more. When you think you have just enough of something, consider that you may actually have more than enough.

Holiday decor, simply put

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My desire to minimize the amount of stuff I own includes all manner of decorations. I was never one for nicknacks, seeing them only as moderately cute dust collecting things that our children would some day have to feel guilty about throwing away. So my home has plenty of surface space to decorate around the holidays. End tables,  a mantel, and doorways are all adequate places to strew all sorts of festive matter. But my preference to keep my indoor space simple and uncluttered doesn’t change when holidays come around. In fact, I’ve found it all sorts of fun to simplify my decorating year round.  I have been delighted by how easy and affordable it is to change the seasonal look with subtle, but aesthetically pleasing decor.

Clear glass vases can hold  dried flowers during spring and summer that can be swapped out for vibrant red silk flowers in winter. Table runners are easy pieces to change with the season. Clear lights can be draped over large plants to brighten up a dreary November. Vines of holly in winter, or artificial foliage in fall, can line a mantel perfectly.

I don’t buy holiday dishes, ever. They would require extra storage space, time to take them out of storage and wash them, time to put them away, and effort to search for new pieces to replace the ones that break. I am not even tempted by the cute holiday pictures crafted onto plates and bowls. My dishes are neutral and I let the napkins, table runner, and holiday food announce the festivities. My boxes of decorations are minimal and my trips to the attic are few and far between. It brings me  joy to beautify and shift my environment with ease.

Seeing Christmas lights and wreaths up well into March makes me wish  the owners would give themselves permission to bring the decorating  down a notch, to a level that can happen with ease, both at the start of the season, and at the end.  What goes up, really should come down.  Or consider skipping the holiday decorating altogether. Any visual pleasure that took place over the holidays, surely is offset by the unsightliness of Christmas decor when  we’re approaching springtime.  Like nail polish that stays on for far too long, chipping and unlovely, some things are better left undone to begin with.

My decorating strategy may be too sparse for some. It really is a matter of personal preference. And like clearing out a closet or a cabinet, I just can’t quite put my finger on why this simplicity  feels so good to me. I feel light.  I look around at the subtle sparkle of the season, and it feels like the holiday spirit has room to breath.