Kate Flora: There has been a lot written lately about the importance of getting out into nature and the resulting positive effects on our health. Being connected to the natural world was never an issue growing up. We lived on a farm in a small Maine town. We had 140 acres of land. Dealing with the raising of food was a daily event in spring, summer, and fall. From as soon as the pond was warm enough until fall’s chill drove us out, we swam in the pond as often as possible. I grew up with the beauty of sunrise over the orchard and sunset behind the hills across the pond. I didn’t have to make an effort to slow down and see the beauty of the world around me.
Fast forward six decades, and I realize that I have spent a lot of those years sitting at a desk and staring at a screen. It now takes an effort to get up, put down my glasses, and go outside to look at the beautiful world around me. Now that another big birthday looms, I am making myself get up. Go outside. Look around. And I am ridiculously lucky that I am surrounded by lovely gardens at one house and have ocean views and sunsets at my Maine cottage.
The notion that we should always be “doing” is a deep-rooted New England one. The devil finds work for idle hands and all that. I don’t know about you, but I have to shove that aside to allow myself to enjoy not doing. Especially since I have promised a book at the end of the summer and I’m not very far along. So this summer, I am trying to balance the thousand words a day and the reading I have to do, with gardening–including admiring how delicate and lovely each flower is–and breathing in the world around me.
I can feel awfully old-fashion sometimes, when what I enjoy is my work, my gardening, and cooking. Isn’t it time to cast those comparisons to others aside? To simply love it when a character seizes a scene and takes off? To be content when hours of work result in a patch in the garden that is suddenly harmonious and interesting? To be pleased to bring a strawberry-rhubarb pie to the table made with my own rhubarb.
Maybe I’ll never be Michelle Pfeiffer curled up on the piano singing in The Fabulous
Baker Boys, or the brilliant painter my friend Pete was, or the exquisite baker my friend Carol is. My desk will never be neat. Neither will my gardens. But that’s okay. I am writing to the trilling of birds at daybreak and watching storm clouds and sunsets and practicing something new: contentment.
Next time you see me, ask how that’s going.
Now–here are some clouds for you.