Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Order, order

I'm reading a book on my Kindle about getting rid of clutter. I sometimes read books about de-cluttering, organizing, and simplifying life. They're a sort of fantasy literature for me. I read them and I dream about what it would be like to have an orderly household. I imagine it would be really nice. I have achieved it in the past, and perhaps I will again.

This author, Marie Kondo, recommends discarding over storage. She suggests organizing by category, starting with clothes. Get all your clothes from everywhere in the house and put them in one pile. Take each item in your hand and ask yourself whether it gives you a thrill of joy. Keep only those items that give you joy and get rid of the rest. Then take the things you've kept and decide where they go. She has further suggestions about folding, etc., but that's the gist.

Her book was originally written for a Japanese audience, so her advice about organizing good luck charms from Shinto shrines may not apply, but the idea of respecting yourself by respecting your belongings is worth considering.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014


Sometimes when I say, "It's freezing outside!" it's just hyperbole meaning I feel cold out there, but today it literally is freezing. My water feature is frozen over, and the ground feels hard underfoot.

Two trains of thought related to "the ground under foot." One was remembering how a few years ago I was troubled by painful plantar fasciitis, which is a shooting pain in the heel. The first standing on my feet in the morning was sometimes agonizing. One day I was in the parking lot of a grocery store and, walking from my car to the store, I walked on pavement, then over a grass median, and then pavement. I noticed the pain in my feet decreased when I walked on the grass, and I realized that I was walking on hard surfaces most of the time. I also realized, upon reflection, that I wore mostly flat shoes that did not cushion my feet from the pavement. Also, I live in a basement apartment where under the flooring is the cement foundation of the house--not even as much give as a wood floor. So I invested in better-cushioned shoes and, even in the house, where I  used to always be in stocking feet, I started to wear slip-ons with some give--often Birkenstocks. Sure enough, my feet soon stopped hurting.

Those thoughts took less time to think than to write, and then a fragment of poetry came to me, "nor can feet feel--." The context is, "Nor can feet feel, being shod." That's kind of against the point of my wearing shoes for my feet's health, but it is about walking on unnatural surfaces. It comes from Gerard Manley Hopkins' poem, "God's Grandeur":

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

Not a bad poem to contemplate as we approach the New Year. I tried to find a good recording of this poem on youtube, but they were all either accompanied by music or not a reading I cared for. Apparently several composers have also set it to music, but I didn't care for any of those renditions either. Just the word, please.

Monday, December 29, 2014


Clear and cold today. I visited for a few hours with a friend then went grocery shopping, then came home and walked and fed the dog. I almost forgot to feed the dog, but he reminded me. The evening ahead looks good for reading, or knitting and watching TV. Or both! Maybe I could knit in a kind of frenzy, like a Barbara Pym heroine. (No Fond Return of Love)

Friday, December 26, 2014


I was cleaning my kitchen (oddly enough) when I realized I hardly have any coffee cups. A moment's reflection told me that the majority of my mugs are scattered throughout my car's interior, where they make gentle clinking noises against each other whenever I go around a corner or over a bump.

I managed to fill the dishwasher even without them, so they can wait until tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Eve 2014

I went to a candlelight service at my church this evening. So much that I liked about it.

1. It was on Christmas Eve. There have been times when we've had a candlelight service for the evening service of the Fourth Sunday of Advent, but that's just not as satisfying. You should light the Christ candle on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

2. We sang all traditional Christmas hymns: Joy to the World, What Child Is This, Hark the Herald Angels Sing, Away in a Manger, Good Christian Men Rejoice, and so on. My only caveat in this department is that we sang in a register that was a little high for me. We had two song leaders, a man and a woman. The woman, I know, is an alto, but perhaps the man is a tenor. Anyway, they launched into the songs high enough that I couldn't get the high notes. To be fair, I'm out of practice, plus singing throughout the service--the service consisted only of songs and Scripture readings--started to wear on my throat. I would have liked to have a good cough session to clear the pipes, but that would have been too gross to do in the sanctuary.

3. The symbolism of light spreading through the church, starting from the Christ candle, and going person-to-person, is simple and beautiful. One has to stop thinking symbolically at the end of the service, when everyone blows out their candles and throws them in a box on their way out the door.

4. I saw some dear people: (A) The couple who are the "shepherds" of my "household of faith"--which is a grouping of people assigned to a particular elder, deacon, and shepherd(s). This couple are my dad's age, but very fit and spry. The man is an old friend of my dad's from their youth. They are always friendly and caring. (B) The couple who lead my small group. They are both so good and kind. The woman is someone whose kind, friendly spirit I've admired for years. A couple years ago, when I was thinking I needed some partnership in my prayer efforts, she called me out of the blue to invite me to join their small group. She said that the group had been thinking about how to expand, and my name came to her when she was awake in the middle of the night. I believe that that was the prompting of the Holy Spirit, and I'm thankful she was responsive. Both of these couples spoke to me warmly and wished me a merry Christmas. (C) I saw other members of my small group around the sanctuary, and chatted with another on our way to our cars. (D) An elder, whose good opinion I respect, smiled happily at the sight of me and greeted me gladly. (E) A woman who has always been kind and friendly to me smiled and me, and I gave a little wave back. There were other glances and smiles exchanged. They all helped me feel a sense of belonging.

I've been struggling with church attendance this year, but I thought I should at least meet the lowest level of commitment and come for Christmas. When I was girl, and my father was an Air Force chaplain, we always had a Christmas Eve candlelight service at the chapel, and it was always packed with people who normally didn't come. My dad said these were the "C & E" church members--they came to church only at Christmas and Easter. I think for Roman Catholics that seriously is the basement level of commitment.

I still am a member of my church in my heart and mind, but I am not doing my part towards corporate worship. Fodder for a New Year's resolution. Or (what the heck) even repentance.

Now that I've waited until late in the evening, it's time to start my marathon of gift wrapping for the celebration tomorrow with my family.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Home body

I've been browsing through Nancy Mitford's The Water Beetle which is a collection of articles. She has one called "The Tourist." She asks, "Why do hundreds of thousands of human beings feel impelled to leave comfortable establishments for the certain misery of the voyage and the uncertain amenities of the arrival, not to speak of danger to life and limb?" She replies to her own question: "The answer is that the modern dwelling is comfortable, convenient, and clean, but it is not a home. Now that people live on shelves, perched between earth and sky, with nowhere to sit out of doors, no garden where they can plant a flower or pick a herb, they are driven on to the road for their holidays. All human beings need some aesthetic nourishment and the inhabitants of ugly towns form the bulk of the tourist trade."

That may or may not be statistically provable, but it spoke to me. I love to stay home. I love vacation days where I don't have anywhere to go. And it's because where I live, I can sit out of doors, plant a flower, and pick a herb. Just one of the reasons I wanted a house, not a condo.

It's also a family trait. I once was at a family reunion where one in-law remarked to another, "You must not be a Kok because you like to go places." So I took an informal poll among my cousins and found that a significant proportion of us do indeed prefer staying home to going almost anywhere. I seem to recall that my mom once read an article that said this quality was common among the people of the province of Drenthe, the Netherlands, where the Kok family originated, so that it took a strong motivation (poverty, one assumes) to take them from their homes to the New World.

Saturday, December 20, 2014


There is a type of cedar on my lawn. My dad planted it as a little shrub, but he does not like to prune or trim plants. He likes them to grow naturally. So here's what it looks like now.

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You can just see the roofline of the house on the left in the lower side of the picture.

On the side of the cedar that faces the deck, I cut it back enough to make room to walk and stand.

So, from this side, you can see into the network of branches.

Birds love it in there.

Monday, December 15, 2014

A couple things

Chopped the red-twig dogwood back summer before last. Now it has new growth, and you can see why it has its name.

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Swans flying overhead.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Roast this

On my way home today, I stopped at the drug store. While I was browsing, a Christmas song came on the loudspeaker. The Christmas song was "The Christmas Song," sometimes known as "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire." For me, the most familiar version is that by Nat King Cole, which I've embedded below.

But this was not the familiar version. It was a female singer who was putting her own mark on the song. For instance, she was not bound by the melody but felt free to improvise her own tune. And, whenever a slight increase in volume might be called for, she would bellow and belt the lyrics. Finally, she had that manner of singing high notes that you hear so much today from women pop singers: she would sing the note, then slide her voice down, as if to indicate that she could hit a high note but not sustain it, then up and down, up and down, like a roller coaster, until one was praying for the next syllable so that she could get off the vocal carnival ride. I don't know who she was, but I'm not a fan.

Palate cleanser: