Monday, October 8, 2007
Around the House and In the Garden
Around the House and In the Garden is a lovely collection of essays about “heartbreak, healing and home improvement” by Dominique Browning, a divorced mother of two sons.
Lest you fear, as I did for a couple of minutes, that the writer’s day job as the editor of House and Garden magazine would have you stumbling as you read over designer names you feel like you should have heard of, or French terms for fancy furniture you’d never want in your comfy home, don’t worry.
Yes, there is a reference to a prie dieu, (hm?) but Browning reassures in each brief essay that meaning lies in the love, the comforting habits and the beauty created within a home rather than the sticks of furniture inside its walls.
The writing comforts and sustains, even as Browning takes us on her painful journey of deciding to leave her marriage, tearing a home asunder, grieving the emptiness, and working towards healing. There is agony on the way. When her son compares her to his father’s new wife, the normally gentle and equanimous author hisses, “Don’t you ever talk to me about that woman again,” and you feel the raw wounds of parent, child, family, home.
But spring returns with its crocus blooms, light enters the rooms again and Browning rediscovers joy in life and its beautiful objects. She writes, ". . . Even though, after several years of being on my own, and still taking to my bed on occasion, overwhelmed, I fell alive again. Attuned to the lives around me. I see beauty, again, and I feel the spirit pulsing in the things of everyday life."
In the spirit of how beloved things of this world can work pleasure on you, here are some of my favorite things this week:
1. Far friends who keep in touch and remind me that “Everything you need has been given to you and is inside you.”
2. The plastic parakeet on a tiny perch on our kitchen counter who chirps via motion sensor each time I walk by. He keeps me company and I don’t have to feed him or clean up his poop. What better pet?
3. Mad Men, continuing to please way past its pilot (ha! Good luck with THAT, Pushing Daisies!)
And 30 Rock, funny as ever (Tina Fey calls her ex-boyfriend and a woman answers so Tina pretends to be a survey company. “How old are you? . . . How much do you weigh? . . . When was the last time you had sex? . . . Well, who are YOU!? . . . No, who do YOU think YOU is?!” Hang up. I’m snorting with laughter.)
And one-third of Tell Me You Love Me – the couple-with-kids storyline. Forget the other whiner characters; this is the plot to follow. It’s an utterly moving portrayal of two good people who are working their butts off to be good parents but have become stymied by the mysteries of each other’s desire. The kitchen table with the kids is their safe cottage; the bedroom is the dark forest where they are lost.
4. Our Toyota hybrid. Because I don’t have to feel guilty driving Mia to school in an internal combustion engine, and waiting in carpool line I get to play with the computer map in the dash, and the CD player. The energy graph that tells me my mileage by the second is my coach in amateur hyper-mileaging as I coast to stops, and confuse other drivers by keeping within the speed limit.
5. Recently spied bumper stickers:
“Isis, Isis, Rah Rah Rah!”
“Mental Illness Runs in Every Family.” I don’t know why this last one makes me smile, but it does.
6. A Mate Latte with almond. “Mate has caffeine, but it is water soluble, so it’s not as much a shock to your system as coffee,” said the Argo Tea woman. I don’t know what she meant, but mmm, it’s good.
7. My khaki-green Free People shirtwaist dress from Crossroads Trading Company. It’s my go-to dress for almost any casual outing. Recycled! Cheap! Flattering!
Shopping at this place does make me feel a bit like the crazy old college-town lady who wears too much rouge and thinks she's still one of the kids, but I get to overhear delicious bits like this in the coed fitting room.
Guy one: Did you try on these True Religions shoes? They’re too small for me.
Guy two: I think these are women’s True Religions. (Pause) I don’t care. They look good.