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Posts Tagged ‘soul work’

pink hydrangeas flowers

The hydrangeas are everywhere this summer.

I love watching the seasonal progression of flowers in New England every year – from crocuses to tulips and daffodils, then on to iris, peonies, roses and sunflowers. But I’ve never noticed so many hydrangeas as I have this year. We are in the thick of summer – hot, languid, blue-sky days that end with hazy pink and gold sunsets – and the daylilies and hydrangeas, vivid splashes of color, seem to pop up on every corner.

I read a long time ago on Lindsey’s blog that the color of hydrangeas is determined by the pH composition of their soil. This fascinates me, especially since there are often multicolored flowers on one plant. How does the same soil – or slight variations of it – produce so many shades of beauty? (On a walk to the beach the other night, I spotted four hydrangea plants growing in one yard – all of them sporting different-colored flowers.)

blue hydrangeas purple door

The hydrangeas also fascinate me as a metaphor. I believe place has a strong influence on who we are, and who we become. I’m a native Texan who has lived in Oxford and now in Boston, and all three places have powerfully shaped who I am. The particular terrain of each season of my life – the beautiful and difficult elements alike – also has its effect on me. Like the hydrangeas, I must draw on the gifts (and the trials, and the weather) of my environment to create something rich and beautiful. The hydrangeas can’t choose what color their flowers will be, but I can choose what I make of my life.

This summer, despite its many delights, has been a difficult season in some ways. I’m turning back to my tried-and-true comforts: tea in the morning from my favorite mug, lunches and coffee dates with friends, the words of Julia Cameron (in The Sound of Paper) about self-care and building a creative life.

As I walk through my town on Boston’s South Shore and my work neighborhood in Harvard Square, I keep noticing the hydrangeas. I love them for their beauty, but I’m coming to love them for their resilience too.

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Over Labor Day weekend, inspired by an article in the (massive) September issue of InStyle, I spent an afternoon cleaning out my closet and dresser drawers. I’d intended to do this for several months, but the time and the motivation didn’t converge until that day. I didn’t think to take a Before picture, but here’s the After:

closet 008

(Yes, it’s a small closet. I live in New England, and our house is old. Trust me: the space was much more crammed before.)

I ended up with two big paper bags of clothes to donate, and one plastic garbage bag of ratty, worn-out items to throw away. The latter bag was full of tank tops, T-shirts and pajama pants I’d kept long after they grew frayed or worn. It felt so liberating to toss them, knowing I’d never wear them again. I’d held onto them mostly out of a sense of obligation: they were still useful (albeit in a limited sense), and I have a horror of being wasteful. But the space cleared by tossing them was far more valuable than their presence had been.

A week later, I took about 20 books (mostly advance copies I’d received for free, but also a couple of books I’d bought and didn’t like) to the bookstore run by our library. It felt good to hand them over to the librarian – even better when she exclaimed, “Wow, these are quality donations!” I love our library, and I’m happy for my unwanted books to help it out in a small way. And now there’s a bit more space on my shelves for the books I really want to read (and keep).

It feels satisfying, this clearing out and making room, paring down my collections to include only the things I love and use. The beginning of fall always feels far more New Year-ish to me than January 1, and this “zenning” of my spaces (as Serenity calls it) feels right for this time of year. Before the rush and press of fall events, before the Christmas gift-buying, before the nesting instinct kicks in with the cold weather, it feels good to create space without filling it up again right away.

My closet isn’t exactly a minimalist’s dream, but believe me, there’s far more space in there than before. I can see what I have (and what I love) right away, which makes me more aware of it, more grateful for it, and more likely to wear most of what’s in there. The same thing applies to my bookshelves, and by extension, to my soul. If I can clear away the clutter and keep some of that space free rather than cramming it with new stuff, I feel lighter, calmer, more at peace. And I’m more likely to welcome the good things – a new red cardigan, a delicious novel, or something more intangible but no less valuable.

Do you do any “fall cleaning” at this time of year? How do you “zen” your space, and/or your soul?

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