Yesterday had a large social occasion in it. I didn’t want to go but it seemed imperative. Discourteous and ungracious to stay at home. Hurtful, maybe, to friends. But in my soul I am travelling further and further away from parties.
Living simply is not just a matter of how many things one owns or how cluttered the diary is, or how earth-friendly are one's choices. It make changes closer to the root, it seems. Or washes away the clinging earth and exposes the root already there.
Like a fish lying on the bank or a mermaid as she walks up the beach. At parties, I mean.
When I came home I had the same sensations as when I am in shock. I slept all the remainder of the afternoon. I woke up with a furious desire to throw away as many things as possible, but I couldn’t find many left to throw. I had some salad, and some vegetables that Alice was cooking. Then I went back to bed and slept all night. My last dream was of finding a very small furry wild animal unable to get away from a cat because it was impeded by a label, the fine string of which had got tangled around its foot. I caught it easily, reassuring it, and carefully unwound the label, then I let it go free and it scampered away. I didn’t bother to read the label. This morning I woke up feeling restored.
Last night I looked at a few pages of a favourite book.
I had thought I would read the whole thing (it’s short and mainly a picture book) then watch the Indian Hill Railways DVD that I love for the homes and lifestyle of the Indian porters that I glimpse, and the patience of India. But I was falling asleep after only a few pages. I marked one that spoke to me especially:
There are only three treasures: Mercy, Economy and Humility. From Mercy comes tolerance, from Economy springs charity. From Humility comes leadership.
This is credited in the book as a saying from China in the 6th century BC. It must surely be from the Tao, for this is Lao Tsu’s thinking, and it was written around then, but from a translation I do not know.
On another matter, why don’t we have clothes libraries? In my shoe drawer I have 2 pairs (1 black one brown) of boots with low heels, that fit me well and are comfortable. In my wardrobe I have a red linen skirt, a grape-coloured linen skirt and a black and white fine cotton lined summer skirt. I have a dark navy jacket. I have a black linen skirt suit. Common sense cautions me to keep these items as they fit well, were moderately expensive, are beautiful, modest and plain, and look quite smart. But they annoy me intensely by existing. It feels like having something stuck to me that I can’t get off. If we had clothes libraries, when I needed something like this I could borrow it and take it back. For me clothes shopping is like a fabulously expensive clothes library with a rapidly changing stock.
But buying things, once a cheerfulness habit, remains a habit but begins to feel increasingly like the time when as a child in the school playground, sucking a Murray mint (large boiled sweet) that Rona had given me from the stash of candy which which her mother sent her to school each day, I inadvertently swallowed it whole.
I do still buy things, waste money. But it no longer feels good. If I drink tea or eat fatty food or bread, I get raging heartburn, my gullet bathed in acid, exquisitely painful. My body that once asked for vegetables, salad, plain food, now DEMANDS it. Something similar is happening with my soul and purchases.
I have bought a pitcher and bowl for a bedroom washing station. It was not an impulse. It is plain and beautiful. I feel uneasy about the money spent, about industrial process and manufacture. And, my soul feels tired of engagement, of entanglement. Like a small furry wild animal that needs to get away. Maybe I will keep this pitcher and bowl. Maybe it can be like Sara Crewe's Last Doll. Remember?
(if you don’t know what I’m talking about, see here)
What we here call a ‘loo book’ – cheerful reading needed for intermittent brief occasions, if you see what I mean. Fun, and we had it quite a while. Time for different reading material.