February 5, 2016

Amy told me that snowdrops were blooming in our neighbor's garden. I don't remember ever seeing them this early, but it's been a very mild winter. I grabbed my camera to document it. That was yesterday.

Today, the snowdrops have vanished beneath eight inches of snow (and it's still falling!). It's so lovely. There are only a few short weeks of winter left in which to read novels, knit, drink hot chocolate, bake cookies, light candles, and snuggle under blankets. I intend to enjoy every minute of this season of beauty, rest, and coziness.

 I  love the soft hush of falling snow. I took a little video for you when I got up this morning:

And, here are a few things I have enjoyed this week: 

Have you seen the new Barbie dolls yet? What do you think of them? While good toys are certainly important, we can't forget that it's people who have the greatest influence on a child's developing self-concept.

Lent begins next Wednesday. Here are eight ways to deepen your prayer and keep a more meaningful Lent.

Efficient Life Skills presents a unique way to tie shoes that is fast, simple, and easy.

I am enchanted by Guinevere von Sneeden's fairy tale art and fairy tale cottage in New England complete with a house bunny!

One of my favorite authors is Alice Hoffman. She and her cousin Lisa are doing a column for Faerie magazine that features a short story by Alice and a knit design by Lisa. Enchanting! Amy wants me to maker her Rose's Wristlets

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February 1, 2016

I have always been intrigued by the daily routines of famous people because, as Annie Dillard famously penned in her book The Writing Life, "How we spend our days, is of course, how we spend our lives."  It strikes me that whether or not a person's days are carefully planned, they will acquire a familiar shape over time which either advances or limits that person's aspirations. Here are the daily routines of a handful of writers and artists:

Kurt Vonnegut:
In an unmoored life like mine, sleep and hunger and work arrange themselves to suit themselves, without consulting me. I’m just as glad they haven’t consulted me about the tiresome details. What they have worked out is this: I awake at 5:30, work until 8:00, eat breakfast at home, work until 10:00, walk a few blocks into town, do errands, go to the nearby municipal swimming pool, which I have all to myself, and swim for half an hour, return home at 11:45, read the mail, eat lunch at noon. In the afternoon I do schoolwork, either teach or prepare. When I get home from school at about 5:30, I numb my twanging intellect with several belts of Scotch and water ($5.00/fifth at the State Liquor store, the only liquor store in town. There are loads of bars, though.), cook supper, read and listen to jazz (lots of good music on the radio here), slip off to sleep at ten. I do pushups and sit-ups all the time, and feel as though I am getting lean and sinewy, but maybe not. Last night, time and my body decided to take me to the movies. I saw The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, which I took very hard. To an unmoored, middle-aged man like myself, it was heart-breaking. That’s all right. I like to have my heart broken. (Written from his post at the prestigious Iowa Writer's Workshop to his wife Jane, who stayed at Cape Cod with their children.)

Novelist Joy Williams writes simply and poetically of her daily routine:
Tea and fruit in the morning, then four or five hours of solid work, a salad for lunch. A nap, in which my lost loved ones come to me and tell me they’re happy and still love me, a walk through bird-songed woods, followed by several more hours of oxygenated work. Drinks with friends, each more accomplished and interesting than the other, then bed, windows flung open to the soothing pounding of the sea, turning rock over rock, all messages which will fuel the morrow’s pages coming to me in friendly and artful dreams…

Herman Melville wrote a letter to his friend (the editor of The New York Literary Journal) about his new life in Massachusett's Berkshire Mountains in 1850:
Do you want to know how I pass my time? — I rise at eight — thereabouts — & go to my barn — say good-morning to the horse, & give him his breakfast. (It goes to my heart to give him a cold one, but it can’t be helped) Then, pay a visit to my cow — cut up a pumpkin or two for her, & stand by to see her eat it — for its a pleasant sight to see a cow move her jaws — she does it so mildly & with such a sanctity. — My own breakfast over, I go to my work-room & light my fire — then spread my M.S.S. [manuscripts] on the table — take one business squint at it, & fall to with a will. At 2-½ P.M. I hear a preconcerted knock at my door, which (by request) continues till I rise & go to the door, which serves to wean me effectively from my writing, however interested I may be. My friends the horse & cow now demand their dinner — & I go & give it them. My own dinner over, I rig my sleigh & with my mother or sisters start off for the village — & if it be a Literary World day, great is the satisfaction thereof. — My evenings I spend in a sort of mesmeric state in my room — not being able to read — only now & then skimming over some large-printed book.

Anne Truitt wrote about her daily routine while living at the Yarddo artist community in Saratoga Springs, NY. She was 53 years old:
I have settled into the most comfortable routine I have ever known in my working life. I wake very early and, after a quiet period, have my breakfast in my room: cereal, fruit, nuts, the remainder of my luncheon thermos of milk, and coffee. Then I write in my notebook in bed. By this time, the sun is well up and the pine trees waft delicious smells into my room. My whole body sings with the knowledge that nothing is expected of me except what I expect of myself. I dress, do my few room chores, walk to the mansion to pick up my lunch box (a sandwich, double fruit, double salad — often a whole head of new lettuce) and thermos of milk, and walk down the winding road to my Stone South studio.At noon, I stop working, walk up through the meadow to West House, have a reading lunch at my desk, and nap. By 2:30 or so I am back in the studio. Late in the afternoon, I return to my room, have a hot bath and dress for dinner. It is heavenly to work until I am tired, knowing that the evening will be effortless. Dinner is a peaceful pleasure. Afterward I usually return to my solitude, happy to have been in good company, happy to leave it. I read, or write letters, have another hot bath in the semidarkness of my room, and sink quietly to sleep.
I am struck by a few things in these routines. The first is joy--these people love what they do and also notice and take pleasure in simple things like birdsong and the scent of pines. The second is rest. Their work is relieved by frequent breaks:  walks, naps, conversation, food, and other ordinary enjoyments. The third is that all of these people require solitude to work. To that point, none of them are responsible for caring for children or other people. Lastly, their routines flow in a manner that provides a great deal of space for movement and being. 

I have noticed in my own life that my routine changes seasonally. For example, in winter, I rarely walk in the woods during the work week because the days are too short (by February my body and spirit seriously begins to long for spring). My summer routine has a different shape from my winter days which currently look like this:

I'm up at 7:30 most mornings. I sit down at the table with a glass of water and pray while watching the birds and squirrels at the feeder. I write yesterday's news in my journal  and then around 8:30 I make breakfast and get the day's lessons ready. School lasts until 1 or 2 o'clock with a break for lunch at noon. During those morning hours I keep the laundry rotating, write, read, and knit a bit, and assist everyone however I can. There is often deep conversation on all manner of topics from our studies to the upcoming elections to space travel and the costs of owning a home in eastern Massachusetts. After school, I tackle any larger chores that need doing, run errands, attend appointments, and make phone calls. At 4 o'clock I usually have a cup of tea and a piece of cake and sit at the computer to read blogs and attend to email, although some days I take a twenty minute nap. At 5 o'clock. I begin preparing supper, which is at 6. From 7 to 9 I read or do a crossword puzzle. I watch television and knit from 9 to 11. Then, I retire to a quiet spot with my prayer book before going to bed at 11:30

What is the current shape of your days?

*These routines and others can be found on the incomparable Maria Popova's fabulous website Brain Pickings: an inventory of the meaningful life.