Measured Extravagance

2001-03-13 - 10:40 p.m.

Seasonal overlap: the Christmas cactus in my bathroom is still gracing us with dark purple-pink buds that subsequently explode into starry white blooms with delicate yellow centres. Outside, the forsythia has started sprouting its bright yellow flowers.

It's delicious, arriving home while the sun's still well above the horizon. I cleaned up a bit of the yard today, and am thinking of indulging in a whimsical seed-dump in the bare spots next to the porch: I've got a paper cup full of cucumber seeds from the salad I made for dinner, a paper pouch of morning glory seeds from a calligraphy instructor, a packet of forget-me-not seeds from a Shaw Festival promotion, and some envelopes of wildflower seeds that were "free gifts" from junk mailers. Provided I can rouse myself early enough tomorrow morning, I think I'll just throw the entire lot into the front yard, muddy it up, and see what happens.

The BYM will probably be horrified - his mother's a master gardener, and mine is also firmly dedicated to horticultural excellence. Neither of us inherited their zeal, however - the BYM would rather ride his bike, and I'd rather read my books, so our common approach to yardwork has always been more laissez than faire. I do have plans, though: I brought down jars of sage and basil seeds from my herb garden in Detroit, and I want to plant them in tubs this summer. I've got a package of kitty grass I need to sow for The Cat, and some pretty pots that ought to have flowers growing in them. The flowers must wait - as must new shoes - until the budget's back on track, it having been derailed by assorted unexpected expenses over the winter. I'm not suffering, mind you - I have enough to eat, and plenty of in-house diversions, nor am I skimping on travel plans. All the same, I'm looking forward to splurging on masses of mums and sturdier sandals and clogs once sumer is icumen in.

I did give in to the urge to splurge at the UU rummage sale on Sunday, but it was only $2 for all-you-could-fit-into-a-grocery-bag - and providential, too, as I'd neglected to pack an extra shirt for Monday. I'm so pleased with the sweater I bought - a silky rayon-cotton blend that fit perfectly when I pulled it over my dress. When I left the hall, the bag also included a cotton cardigan, seven tart tins, two tacky candles (one in the shape of an owl - it's going to be entertaining seeing that one melt...), eight faded cloth napkins, two metal pots, and one ceramic bowl. The sweater alone would have been worth the $2 (I'm guessing it cost at least $25-50 when new, and it was made in China, which I do avoid supporting whenever feasible), but it was indeed a cheap (but satisfying!) thrill to unpack my other findings just now.

The book currently in my tote bag is Susan Ware's Letter to the World: Seven Women Who Shaped the American Century. I read part of the Margaret Mead chapter at bedtime earlier last week, and then became engrossed in the segment on Marian Anderson last night, so I'm now starting at the beginning and going through the entire volume. I'm glad I hadn't started with the introduction, because I might have been turned off by the somewhat fanciful way in which the author describes how the seven women "auditioned" for their spots in the book. (That said, I suspect I'd have enjoyed that approach wholeheartedly back in my Seventeen-devouring days - I think it'd be a great book for a high school library.)

I read through the chapter on Eleanor Roosevelt during lunch today - finding of particular interest the biographer's assessment of Roosevelt's friendships: "What is striking is the freedom with which she picked and chose her friends, how much she learned and took from them, and the impunity (verging at times on imperviousness) with which she outgrew them and moved on" - according to Ware, Roosevelt repeatedly formed close, intense attachment with people who were subsequently displaced (a/k/a discarded) when a new friend and/or collaborator captured her interest. On her part, Roosevelt is quoted as saying to one intimate that "I made the discovery long ago that very few people made a difference to me, but that those few mattered enormously," and to another "that I love other people the same way or differently but each one has their place and one cannot compare them."

When I was younger, all of these phrases would have resonated powerfully through me. Today, however, I caught myself halfway through my nod - because it isn't really true, not when I look back over the friendships I've formed, kept and/or discarded over the past decade - as well as the ones where I was the one found, retained and/or dismissed. Earlier today, I was thinking about how much more I'll have to give of myself to establish local friendships - having overheard my co-workers making various plans to meet with friends for happy hours and game nights and feeling slightly envious - and then I chided myself for being excessively silly, as it's my turn to issue dinner invitations to a half-dozen people, once I'm back in the dinner-hosting frame of mind, and it was only yesterday that I wanted to dispense with all of my social obligations for the next two months and go lock myself in an attic away from the madding crowd. Then there's the in-box and the "to answer" snail-mail folder, which both have plenty pending.

In honor of Phelps, who's one of the patient pendings, I'll close with another item gleaned from bedtime reading - the poetry almanac being next to my pillow, it was inevitable that my eyes would eventually light upon "A Utilitarian View of the Monitor's Fight" by her beloved Melville. I confess that I wouldn't know Ahab from the whale, but I do know enough of military history to apprehend Melville's peculiar lament, and I love the language of the final "message from the Fates" (even I don't agree with the nostalgia, if nostalgia it be - I don't know enough about Melville to recognize this as sarcasm, if sarcasm this be):

War shall yet be, and to the end;
But war-paint shows the streaks of weather;
War yet shall be, but the warriors
Are now but operatives; War's made
Less grand than Peace,
And a singe runs through lace and feather.

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