Sunday, February 28, 2010

Late Winter Bustle and Bluster

For much of the winter, the winds here have been fierce and seemingly ever-present. When it's really raging, the wind makes a nearly constant droning sound as it courses through the tops of the trees behind the house. For days that sound reminded me of something I couldn't quite put my finger on--something metal and unnatural. Then it hit me--it's like that hollow sound made a marble circling the bottom of a cylinder or metal garbage can. It's an unnerving sound, and yet exciting in that shivery way, too. It makes me want to bustle around the house, making things cozy. My grandmother's old expression forms in my head: "Time to get cracking."

I do bustle. I've noticed that my days have a definite seasonal rhythm, and it's pleasantly reassuring, especially against the backdrop of the wind. Late winter brings a routine that lacks the magic of Christmas preparation, but taps into a deep need for comfort and--there's that word again--cozy. The very first things I do most mornings reflect this. Take a peek in my 7 am kitchen, and you'll see me turning up the heat, setting the kettle on the stove, and, many mornings, starting a fire in the belly of the kitchen woodstove.

I admit I love the pioneer mama feeling I get from doing these things around the kitchen. Is it ridiculous to admit I love bringing in the wood for the stove? Oh yes. But I know I love it only because it's optional. One morning last week, as I was lugging in a bunch of logs, I was nearly giddy with the prospect of feeding the fire. I put the wood into the stack by the stove and paused to admire my industry, stopping just short of hooking my thumbs into my pretend overall straps and rocking back on my heels with a self-satisfied, "Yesirree."

If you met me when I was younger, you would never have guessed that I would be so eager to create an over-folksified version of myself. That Laura-Ingalls appeal has only really surfaced in my adult life. Baking bread, making laundry soap(?!), heating the house with a woodstove--these are all a bit over the top Laura-ish, and doing any of them gives me the same sense of "yay-me!" industriousness. And I'll be the first to tell you that it's a farce. Laura Ingalls, I love you, but I can only go so far. I'm too much a fan of electricity and water and hygiene to do much beyond feign self-sufficiency.

I've been thinking about this lately because some of our mornings are so damn stressful. With the lunches that need to be made, breakfasts burning on the stove, a three-year-old who runs away from me half-dressed when we are pushing to get out the door, and an eight-year-old who always finds "one last thing" that has to be done before the bus comes, tell me this: Just where do I get off thinking that I have time to fiddle with the woodstove to get cozy? At first blush, it really seems that I'm probably adding to my own stress.

But honestly, I think I get such satisfaction from things like this specifically because I do them for no other reason than my own free will. Making a fire when you have a perfectly good heating system is fun simply because it's optional. It's an extra that I do just because I feel like it, and because looking at that little fire chugging along is reassuring. The wood fire is there because I willed it to be. Clearly, it's a sharp contrast to the way my mornings run otherwise, and it's a needed difference that actually reduces my stress. The bulk of time between waking and getting Ada off to school is mostly about doing things not because I feel like it, but because they just need to be done. Starting a day with lighting the stove is like putting a capital at the start of a declarative sentence: I still exist as something outside of the routine; I retain my free will.

I've noticed also that there is a gentleness to the routine of bustling about a woodfire, or kneading bread, it's gentle in the way that smearing cheese on bread and zipping lunchboxes is not. When I'm going through the motions with the fire or the kettle or the flour and dough, I get the sense that I'm tapping into something with deep, primitive roots. I feel connected to a long line of women who nurtured and prodded, and brought forth the morning with the crack of a spark in the stove. The morning routine is lonely sometimes, and sometimes its repetition makes me feel cagey. But there are sisters and mothers, and aunties and grandmothers behind me, tending the homefires as the shadows recede.

What routines do you embrace, or flee? What small actions do you take in the day to connect with something bigger than yourself?

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Cheryl said...

Hi Kirie!
Right now, unfortunately, the only routine that keeps me feeling connected is my daily run by the beach. Or connecting with friends which I sometimes have to force myself to do because I'm always feeling I need to get more, more, more work done. But I rush to get the cooking, the cleaning, and other such chores, done. I hate rushing through life. It gores by quickly enough. It's really nice to read the ways you deliberately slow it down.

The Storialist said...

I love how you describe some routines as gentle.

I love my routine of writing my poem in the morning, looking at art and envisioning my reader on the other side of the computer screen.

I also love walking along the water here in Vancouver. There are certain places in it where I stop and stand, and just absorb.

Kirie said...

Cheryl, I envy you your runs on the beach! You can't help but "get away" from the minutia being so close to the water and doing something that pushes yourself. I should give that a try--perhaps some walks on our beaches to start.
I wonder why it is that so many of us (me included) feel that the "chores" block so much of what we really want to do. I put off all the good stuff (talking to friends, writing, painting, making things) until I've finished the stupid and mundane things--like folding socks and cleaning the kitchen counter. I need to work on that and get my real priorities in order. Good to see you here, Cheryl--and I love those recent "goth" paintings of yours. Eager to see how the latest one develops!

Kirie said...

Another water-walker. Again, that pull to the ocean as a way of getting lost in thoughts. Creative minds thinking alike?

Your writing shows your discipline of morning writing--your poems are so beautiful and precise. I myself seem to do my writing in fits and starts, which probably suits my manic nature a bit. I keep promising myself that one of these days I'll establish a good writing routine....ah well.

Angie Muresan said...

FINALLY!!!! I am so thrilled, Kirie that you've written another post. You know how I love your writing!

I enjoy the rituals of keeping a house. Cooking, baking, building a fire in the fireplace. But for me it's all about providing my kids with the same enchanted childhood I had. I want them to always remember home and yearn for it, wherever they may be.

Francesca said...

I'm also among those women who start the day with lighting a stove (after I've made my coffee)! And then I look out the window, notice all the changes in the season, and that's I guess when I feel connected to something bigger.

Kirie said...

Angie, thank you for your kind comments. I love your stories, too. And you are definitely building a story of home that your children will carry with them.

I hope that some of what I do makes great memories for my girls, too. I think that urge to "cozy" up comes also from my nesting mama instinct, and I would love it if my girls grew up associating safe and cozy with our home, too.

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Judy said...

I'm so HAPPY to see your blog come to life again! I have missed your writing. I love my yoga routine and some time for me to relax. The time with friends and family is also the best. Chores are hard to do but keep ahead of the necessary and invite friends often enough to get all the spaces cleaned up! Hugs to all! Love Aunt Judy

Maggie May said...

this is a beautiful post. i know exactly what you mean about the loving put into those gentle routines, and the frustration in the ones that are rushed and harried, and the roots you can feel when doing something that has been done and done and done over time by many another woman.

La Belette Rouge said...

"Bustle" is such a fantastic word and it does indicate an action that feels like it is pulling in. Pulling in what? I suppose when I hear someone is bustling I imagine they are bustling with energy, love, and activity.

I am aware that there isn't much I am doing in terms of routine, ritual or activity that would be classified as bustling. Reading, writing, journaling and dreaming---those are the inner activities that connect me to something larger. As I ruminate on this I realize that I might benefit from some activity that allows me to feel that connection. As always, you got me thinking....

Maggie May said...

kirie i wanted to come back to thank you for your support on my post about miscarriage worries. I really appreciate it. xo

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Lisa said...

Ages late, but I wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed this post. When we were without a dryer and I was hanging clothes to dry and then ironing everything (even underwear), I had that same sense of pioneerism. I knew it was silly considering the fact that I was still laundering the clothes in a washer, but I still like the rhythm of it.

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