Living in the House of Spirit

How to be happy when you are miserable. Plant Japanese poppies with cornflowers and mignonette, and bed out the petunias among the sweet-peas so that they shall scent each other. See the sweet-peas coming up.

Drink very good tea out of a thin Worcester cup of a colour between apricot and pink...
--Rumer Godden

It was the small things that helped, taken one by one and savoured," English writer Rumer Godden recalls in her mesmerizing memoir of an authentic life, A House with Four Rooms. "Make yourself savour them," she told herself when life was not tidy.

Life is not tidy around here today: schedules are colliding, needs are conflicting, and the house is strewn with real-life refuse, reflecting outwardly the disarray of my mind at this moment. My natural inclination - which I am thwarting with a tremendous act of will - is to start cleaning. But if I stop to clean, I'll interrupt the rhythm of the day. I really only have a few precious hours to work uninterrupted while my daughter is in school. A few precious hours to hold one thought in my head and follow it word by word to its completion, even if it takes all morning.

One of the reasons I love Rumer Godden's writing is that she stitches the colorful threads of her extraordinary life - domestic, creative, and spiritual - with such deftness; the hem that seems to hold her life together rarely pulls or gapes the way mine does more often than I care to admit. She began her career in 1936 and in nearly sixty years has written fifty-seven books: novels for both children and adults, nonfiction, short story collections, and poetry. Many of her renowned novels, which are very mystical, celebrate the fruitfulness of Real Life: the magic, the Mystery, and the mundane. The New York Times noted that she was a writer who "belongs in that small exclusive club of women - it includes Isak Dinesen and Beryl Markham - who could do pretty well anything they set their minds to, hunting tigers, bewitching men, throwing elegant dinner parties, wining literary fame." Of all her books, however, it is her memoirs that are my favorites. I am captivated by how she lived, nurtured a family, and created many homes out of shells of houses all over the world, while writing almost continuously. She is a glorious storyteller, but no story is as riveting as real life.

The soulcraft of creating and sustaining safe havens, set apart from the world, in which to seek and savor small authentic joys, is a recurring theme in her work, whether the haven is behind convent walls or in the nursery at the top of the stairs. Rumer Godden's secret to living an authentic life seems to have been dwelling, no matter where she actually kept the house, in the House of Spirit. "There is an Indian proverb or axiom that says that everyone is a house with four rooms, a physical, a mental, an emotional and a spiritual. Most of us tend to live in one room most of the time, but unless we go into every room every day, even if only to keep it aired, we are not a complete person."

-Sarah Ban Breathnach, Simple Abundance - A Daybook of Comfort and Joy©1995

I am on vacation this week, so I have included this issue on the menu a week early. The following is a rather interesting story that was forwarded to me by one of the readers of Friday's Inspiration:

With a cup of coffee in one hand and the morning paper in the other, what began as a typical Saturday morning, turned into one of those lessons that life seems to hand you from time to time. Let me tell you about it...

I turned the dial up into the phone portion of the band on my ham radio in order to listen to a Saturday morning swap net.

Along the way, I came across an older sounding chap, with a tremendous signal and a golden voice. You know the kind, he sounded like he should be in the broadcasting business. He was telling whoever he was talking with something about "a thousand marbles."

I was intrigued and stopped to listen to what he had to say. "Well, Tom, it sure sounds like you're busy with your job. I'm sure they pay you well but it's a shame you have to be away from home and your family so much. Hard to believe a young fellow should have to work sixty or seventy hours a week to make ends meet. Too bad you missed your daughter's dance recital."

He continued, "Let me tell you something Tom something that has helped me keep a good perspective on my own priorities."

And that's when he began to explain his theory of a "thousand marbles."

"You see, I sat down one day and did a little arithmetic. The average person lives about seventy-five years. I know, some live more and some live less, but on average, folks live about seventy-five years."

"Now then, I multiplied 75 times 52 and I came up with 3900 which is the number of Saturdays that the average person has in their entire lifetime.

Now stick with me Tom, I'm getting to the important part."

"It took me until I was fifty-five years old to think about all this in any detail", he went on, "and by that time I had lived through over twenty-eight hundred Saturdays. I got to thinking that if I lived to be seventy-five, I only had about a thousand of them left to enjoy."

"So I went to a toy store and bought every single marble they had. I ended up having to visit three toy stores to round-up 1000 marbles. I took them home and put them inside of a large, clear plastic container right here in the shack next to my gear. Every Saturday since then, I have taken one marble out and thrown it away."

"I found that by watching the marbles diminish, I focused more on the really important things in life. There is nothing like watching your time here on this earth run out to help get your priorities straight."

"Now let me tell you one last thing before I sign-off with you and take my lovely wife out for breakfast. This morning, I took the very last marble out of the container. I figure if I make it until next Saturday then I have been given a little extra time. And the one thing we can all use is a little more time."

"It was nice to meet you Tom, I hope you spend more time with your family, and I hope to meet you again here on the band. 75 year Old Man, this is K9NZQ, clear and going QRT, good morning!"

You could have heard a pin drop on the band when this fellow signed off. I guess he gave us all a lot to think about. I had planned to work on the antenna that morning, and then I was going to meet up with a few hams to work on the next club newsletter. Instead, I went upstairs and woke my wife up with a kiss. "C'mon honey, I'm taking you and the kids to breakfast."

"What brought this on?" she asked with a smile. "Oh, nothing special, it's just been a long time since we spent a Saturday together with the kids.

Hey, can we stop at a toy store while we're out? I need to buy some marbles."

Sounds like a great idea. Thanks, Retha. You continue to inspire me too!



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