In times of absurdity and ongoing crisis, it seems hard, if not wrong, to feel festive. At least, that’s one way that I struggle with the state of the world. And yet, as my friends who are artists and theologians keep telling me (indeed, as the world itself seems to shout), we have to celebrate anyway. We have to celebrate what we DO have, the people and places and purposes that fill us up, make us laugh, demonstrate glory and beauty and grace.
October is a tough month for me in this regard. We have our anniversary, a bunch of family and friend birthdays including my own, and the whole greatness of fall itself. And yet I always feel like, with winter coming and work to find and projects to take care of before the snow flies, we don’t have TIME for joy. But then a little voice, lounging in a comfortable chair in the back of my head, tosses a chocolate in its mouth and says, “why not? What the heck else should we do? Pout?”
Which makes perfect sense. The scraping and sanding and caulking and priming and painting might as well happen from a place of gladness, right? Why not sing while we’re up there? Why not marvel at these astonishing blackberry canes that gave us four years of fruit before succumbing to some fungal infection? Of course it’s a pain to pull them out, but how grateful I am to have this little patch of earth in which to grow things.
I realized yesterday that I have a tendency to treat the flowers in my yard like rare objects, hesitating to pick them and bring them in. Ezra has been helping me with this issue just by assuming that anything out there that’s gorgeous should come in, and that he should both carry it in and arrange it in its vase. But even then: I pick small vases and make small arrangements, several even, instead of one big one. Why is that? It seems like a logic of scarcity, and that just isn’t where I want to be these days. Abundance is.
Resistance is out. Festivity is in.
That means maybe taking on a version of “Clay Days”: a friend whose nickname is “Clay” celebrates his birthday over a two-week period around the day itself. There are many parties and picnics and walks and bloody-mary-brunches and general good times. I want that. Maybe it means letting myself do, for a change, exactly what I want when I want. (Knowing me, this will not in fact lead to the chaos it might for others; it will more likely lead to more things getting done, perhaps with less advance planning.) Maybe it means making beauty for the sake of beauty. Examples: this morning before I took the boys to school I did two things that will cheer me up all day. First, I combined the flowers from several tiny vases into one larger arrangement of purple and green and orange, and I periodically pass by it and just stop and gaze. I’m soaking up its presence. The other one was making grape sorbet. I KNOW!! Grape sorbet. We have these concord-type grapes growing over our pergola, and last year I tried to make jam and it didn’t gel. But I froze it in jars, calling it “compote,” and yesterday I thawed one out and this morning put it in the ice-cream maker. Beautiful beautiful beautiful. We were all wildly impressed with ourselves.
So I say this: if we can’t play with flowers and make sorbet before school, what good is this life? If we can’t paint a bench a crazy color, or sip wine with crafting friends, then what do we think we’re doing? The serious stuff has a place, and I also need to remember that living in beauty, committing to abundance, is important stuff too. Bring on the festivity.