Posted by: mew | October 10, 2009

everyday grace

This week’s Mission Monday assignment over at The Joy Rebel seems tailor-made for me, almost as though Brandi Reynolds were channeling my spirit as she wrote.

What do I do well in life?

Well… have you ever seen a baby just stare and stare?  Just rapt with attention while looking at, say, the ceiling fan or a patch of dirt.  Yeah, that’s one of my talents.  Only most people don’t call it a talent, per se.  More like weirdness.  One acquaintance called it my “bizarre capacity for focusing on useless things.”  (We never became close, strangely enough.)

Once, while walking through a field with a friend, I pointed out the sprinkling of tiny wildflowers in the grass.  We were tromping right over millions of the things, and they were rising up in our wake as if nothing had ever happened.  I said it was remarkable that they were so tiny and perfect, even after beings tens of thousands of times their size had stood on them.  They looked like little stars, bright and even a bit shiny in the dewy grass, and I had a momentary fancy that the earth and sky had inverted themselves, especially since the grass still had that blue tint of just-after-dawn shadow laid upon it.

My friend crouched down and stared for a minute in silence, and then looked up at me with something like shock on her face, saying finally, “What kind of stuff must go on in your head??”

Very encouraging commentary.

The thing is, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve embraced that side of me that’s so good at paying attention to what’s right there in front of me.  Over and over, I’ve seen that the people who love me — who get me, really — embrace that part of me wholeheartedly.  F., for instance, says he likes my “paradisiac [sic]” way of looking at things, and I know from experience that joyful exuberance only comes after I’ve had time and space to contemplate my world.

I need to be allowed to just Be.  I am, after all, a Human Being.

Otherwise I get really cranky and cramped and act like a baby that’s been jostled too much and prevented from staring at the ceiling fan because that’s just pointless and baby really needs to learn how to read with that new video mommy just bought so she can get a head start on getting into that prestigious private kindergarten.

After the overwork of meeting the deadline this last week, I felt pretty much like a baby taking those deep, threatening-to-wail breaths just preparatory to making everyone in the vicinity miserable.  On Wednesday morning, I felt like I had a small crater in my soul where it had been firebombed.  I haven’t yet figured out how to do living in the moment in a really pressured and time-crunched situation.  I revert to old habits — anxiety, racing thoughts at night that won’t let me sleep, obsessive mental list-making, shaming and scolding and “shoulding” all over myself.


And then Brandi invited us to appreciate our world just as it is this week.  It’s not like I needed permission, I know.  But an invitation was just what I could use right at that bottom-of-the-hole moment, and that’s what she put out there:  a beautiful invitation with pretty pictures and a link to an inspiring article.

I’m so glad I accepted this mission.


Who needs to plant a garden?  Okay, I know, I love to garden, and I have a whole blog dedicated to journaling about it.  But you really can find the most extraordinary plants and flowers (and even food!) wherever Nature’s been left relatively alone.  There are dozens of these gorgeous lavender daisies in the wild brush growing at the edge of the forest beside my driveway.

Also on the asphalt drive, fire ants, creating the funniest little face with their tireless nest building.  Of course, it has to be tireless because, to give an example, this nest was completely washed away in the rain last night.

Game Over.  Play again?


Doesn’t he look bewildered?

(I was bewildered about the purpose of fire ants, and ants in general, until this summer’s interaction with them in the Victory Garden, when I realized, hey, they actually aerate the soil and keep the top layers from getting compacted and create this great, friable medium for planting — if only you can get them to move on from that site once they’ve tilled the earth for you.  Good luck with that!)

F. says this is another one of my talents, anthropomorphizing the natural world.  I’m pretty sure the natural world is doing the anthropomorphizing, and I’m just noticing.

And sometimes it’s making other animals or creatures besides humans, such as this ancient, shrivel-necked tortoise, found on the tip of a free “trellis” (a.k.a. a branch I found on the ground in the woods) for my slightly lanky jalapeno pepper in a pot by the front porch.  It’s been propping up that plant all summer, and I just realized yesterday that he was there, moaning about how his joints ache.



Did you know that moss is a vital part of the cycle of the creation of soil?  Without moss, we might never have anything to eat.  We actually wouldn’t be here to notice the moss.  I love moss.


I also love misty days with kudzu creatures and tracks stretching away into the distance.  Kudzu creatures will soon be reduced to their skeletons for the winter months, and will arise again in new shapes and formations next year.


What a brilliant soul to have looked at a stack of old newspapers and thought, oh, great, I can make a beautiful spiral trivet out of that stuff…

And here is where I think Nature is writing little messages to me in words.  Can you find a message to you?  Hint:  the message I read begins with a “V.”



Before you tsk, tsk me about the state of my kitchen window, keep in mind I spread handfuls of sunflowers seeds on the sill so that I can watch chickadees and cardinals and titmice while I do dishes.  So it gets a little dirty.  But I can still see out of it, directly into my kitchen garden, and beyond, to the forest where the dogwood is beginning to turn bronze and pink.  That’s why I’ve tacked up this particular phrase in Romanian.

Ce peisaj frumos!

What a beautiful view!

It seemed important to learn that phrase as I begin to learn the language.  The going is super slow.  The last time I started learning a language, I was 19, and things stuck a lot easier in the ol’ memory banks.  Hence, the index cards taped up everywhere in the house.  The one on the other side of the sink reads:

“The sink is full of dishes.  Who will wash the dishes:  you or I?”


I should have made a deal with F. that he would wash the dishes whenever I pronounced the whole two sentences correctly.

On second thought, nix that.  I almost never pronounce a sentence in Romanian correctly.  Turns out that language is really difficult to pronounce.  Maybe the deal should be he’ll wash up if I just attempt it.


An unattractive (subjective!) plant on the edge of the forest has put out the most gorgeous berries for fall.  A complete surprise.  I didn’t know she had it in her.  Talk about late bloomers.

And consistent with exploring and appreciating what’s right in front of us, F. and I have made the discovery of the local diner this summer.  The sign on the building literally identifies the restaurant as “DINER,” and my sister suggested we check it out because every time she drives by, the parking lot is packed.

Sure enough, they serve Southern soul food.  You know, green beans cooked with fat back, fried okra that actually can call itself “fried okra” without shame, field peas cooked until they’re mushy, and coleslaw the South Carolina way (new to me until recently), with vinegar in the sauce.  The first time we went, F. ordered a pork chop, and when it arrived on the plate, I started to giggle and had to make a valiant effort to hold it in until the waitress walked away.

It was a deep-fried pork chop.

F.  thought it was heaven and said afterwards that, in spite of being raised across the ocean, maybe he was a redneck at heart.


This is the bumblebee seen burrowing into the very heart of a peony growing outside the DINER.  Finding local treats like that place is the bees’ knees, y’all.  And I always appreciate the bees.  Though not nearly as much as they deserve.

And speaking of deserving…


F., seen here at the DINER after doing an all-nighter.  We met for lunch after the lab he teaches on Friday mornings.  F. definitely falls into the category of “appreciating what’s right in front of you.”  I actually don’t tell him enough how much I appreciate all that he is.  How could I have failed on that one?  My only excuse is, he’s so supportive and laid-back and kind and wonderful, I’ve gotten a little spoiled.  Yes, I’ve fallen into that pampered woman trap of taking him for granted.

I love those beautiful green eyes, that irreverent little smile lurking slyly in the left corner of his mouth, that red beard sprouting and catching the sunlight.  (Yep, he’s my Barbarossa:  dark hair & red beard.)

th_DSC_0003-2 Pleased to still call myself a Joy Rebel even though this soldier has been AWOL for the past couple of weeks.

I think Brandi’s still recruiting… hint, hint.

And that’s it for this week’s mission debriefing.  Over and out.



  1. Meredith- thank you so much for the visit! What a cool site you have; you have created such a wonderful space. And let’s here it for joy rebels everywhere! xo

    • Yeah, we make quite a fascinating army 🙂

  2. my thoughts:

    1. My response to this–> “What kind of stuff must go on in your head??” would have been “all sorts of cool stuff. What kind of boring ass stuff goes on in your head?” Okay, not really. But I’d want to.

    2. I do this all the time too–>” I revert to old habits — anxiety, racing thoughts at night that won’t let me sleep, obsessive mental list-making, shaming and scolding and “shoulding” all over myself.” For the same reasons. I understand totally.

    3. I love your attention to detail! It’s details that make life interesting. 🙂

    • LOL. I love your smart-ass response to the commentary. I never think of things like that in real life until way too late. And in this case, I was just stunned my friend hadn’t noticed them, too… but you’re right: with age (and wisdom?) I do think I got rather lucky in the cool-stuff-going-on-in-my-head category.

  3. […] Brandi Reynolds over at the Joy Rebellion invited us to appreciate what was right in front of us for this week’s Mission Monday assignment, and I’ve just written about all I found to appreciate in the last four days over on my other blog.  Lots of pretty pictures.  Feel free to check it out. […]

  4. Thank you for showing me glimpses into your view of your world.

    I smiled at the human being. That’s what we are – just humans being.

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