Wednesday, January 21, 2009

It's the simple things, really

"'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free,
"'Tis the gift to come down where you ought to be,
"And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
"'Twill be in the valley of love and delight."
-Shaker hymn

I'm trying to land, more often, in the place where I find myself content with simply what is.   To be fully aware of the now.  And that is not an easy task.  My ability to do this seems to wax and wane, very much like the phases of the moon.  I'll have periods where I am very virtuous and intentional and for a time, I will be very happy.  Life will seem to have a somewhat rosy glow to it and the days melt, one into another.  But storm clouds come, as they always do, and my ripe contentment is too often eclipsed by a darker presence.  And then I find myself all broody and distracted, drawn to the things that don't really matter but that, all too often, appear to very much matter.

Which brings me to the above pictures.  To elaborate on what may seem like completely unrelated images...

This week brought me an incredible gift.  The kind of gift that just sneaks up on you and takes your breath away by measure of its infinite simplicity, yet depth.

There are two things that I have been longing to add to my kitchen--a Kitchen Aide mixer and a cast enamel dutch oven.  Both are the kind of things that you get once and have forever. Unfortunately, this means that they come with a price, and hefty ones at that.  So, in an attempt to better embrace our lean economic condition, I "let go" of these desired pieces and resigned myself to keep an eye out for them at garage sales, or simply go without.  

It's that letting go that's always the hardest.  My biggest argument for not letting go is that to do so means I am, effectively, saying that I don't need the said object, that I can go on in this life without this thing.  If I go so far as to let it go, I am forever accepting that I may never see my desired object, if not all out ensuring that I will never see it.  NO!  Even if I can't have it, aren't I entitled to the small joy laced with heartache, that comes from carrying around a kernel of hope that one day I might?  
Good grief!  I know I am being dramatic and that these are only things, but surely you understand.

The mixer pictured above belonged to my grandma.  It has been sitting in my parents' basement ever since they cleaned out my grandparents' house almost 10 years ago.  In a passing conversation with my mother, the subject of the Kitchen Aide mixer came up and the next thing I knew, this mixer was in my hands.  Yes, it is old.  No, it is not the latest and greatest.  But it is seriously heavy duty, has a million settings on it along with three mixing bowls and a juicer, and best of all, it was my grandma's.  I don't have a ton of memories of my grandma, as they lived in Ohio and I only saw them about once a year or so.  But the memories that I do have of her most definitely include her baking.  She used to make pies for us when we would come to visit and although everyone always raved about them, my favorite thing was the other dessert she would make, just for me, from the rolled out pie crust scraps.  I'm not sure what she called them but they were the most delicious mixture of butter and cinnamon and sugar, all rolled up like sleeping bags and just a little bit crispy.  Never wanting to waste a single thing, my grandma made a point of using every piece of pie crust dough.  So, to have her mixer to do something that I love to do, bake, is just so fitting.  And such an unexpected gift.  

The dutch oven that shines like a brand new fire engine is our other incredible find.  The most notable brand of these gems is Le Creuset and they are incredibly expensive.  They are usually heirloom pieces that can easily be passed down for generations.  For years, I have scanned the discount shops, looking for even a knock off that would fit the bill, but they, too, proved to be just too costly.  Then along comes Aldi, the grocery store that defies description and randomly has objects that you don't expect.  John stopped in to compare olive oil prices and he found this, gleaming back at him from the shelf.  The price was unbelievably reasonable, cheaper even than some simple skillets that we have purchased in the past and we knew that we had to buy it.  Now it sits upon my stovetop, shining in all of its red glory, and I can't tell you how much joy it brings me.  In fact, just this evening I made my first dish in it, Slow Cooked Tuscan Pork with White Beans.  Heaven, I tell you.

And that last picture... that is last Saturday morning...a lazy, sunny day in the living room where I hunkered down with a book but occasionally looked up to observe the precious moments of a dad teaching his son how to play chess.
It's the simple things, really.


  1. Those are ALL treasures! How wonderful to have your grandmother's mixer. And I am sure that it is well made and will last forever! I bet that you will really enjoy using this and imagining your grandmother's hands doing the same things you do now.

  2. So enjoyable finding your blog this morning. I feel like we must be neighbors as we visit the same places (Lori's camp creek & Stefanie's blue yonder, and even Brene's Ordinary courage!). I stopped reading blogs for the summer, but those 3 top my "dipping back in" list.

    And I have a seven-year-old Aidan as well...who also loves chess:-)

    I'm inspired whenever I see or read about women who are carving out a life to fit their own dreams/needs rather than just taking a life "off the rack" of what our culture serves. Thanks for the inspiration.

  3. Holly, you have a gift for writing! I nestled snuggly into your first paragraph, and made pie dough with your grandmother! My family prides ourselves on flaky, buttery pie dough. I carry fond memories of similar pie dough rolly cookies. We added raisins sometimes. Mmm!
    I tried to find you on Facebook, but there are a lot of Holly G.'s. We are BryanShauntaiJ. Feel free to friend us on Facebook!
    (BTW, it was my daughter's boots that smelled bad in the library. They're outside with baking soda in them now! Glad you didn't smell it!) It was good to see you there. Enjoy your new kitchen items!

  4. Thanks for the reminder of the simple things. I far too often forget how much I have to be thankful for.