So, Why Am I Not Shinto?

Today I’ll share a story about my history, which you may find weird or endearing. You make the call. In any case, it may explain why I was having so much trouble yesterday dealing with KonMari and how it’s being represented in popular cultuer (you may want to know that I figured out that my issue was not with Marie Kondo or her ideas, but with yesterday what people have done with the ideas).

Baby Suna

I was an odd child, given to spending half my time talking people’s heads off and hiding like a hermit (a hermit!) in my room or the woods. I spent a lot of time in my own mind, creating long stories in my head. One thing I firmly believed was that there were beings in the trees and other natural objects where I lived. I talked to them, gave them gifts, and loved them.

This (and Black Beauty) was among my favorite childhood books. It was huge, smelled good, and had gorgeous images in it,

When I was very young, my mother gave me a book that had been hers as a child, called Little Pictures of Japan. Published in 1925, it had haiku and beautiful pictures, along with a few stories. I loved it very, very much. I still have it (but it’s at the other house).

Here’s a picture from the book. Someone cut them out and sold them. Argh.

When asked to dress up as a member of another culture, I insisted on being Japanese. Poor Mom had to make a “kimono” (not having a CLUE how they were actually made), put my hair up, stuck knitting needles in my bun, and got my picture in the newspaper (conveniently NOT in the archives of the Gainesville Sun).

No one could figure out why I was so fascinated with Japan.

Older Suna

As I got older, I continued to love the trees and waterways and rocks around me. I had a friend who’d walk around the older parts of Gainesville hugging trees with me (we thought we were hippies; it was the late 60s).

Teen Suna hugging a tree near the duckpond in Gainesville. 1974, probably, judging by the hat.

And I kept being fascinated with things Japanese. In college, I minored in Japanese and studied Japanese film. In grad school I kept that interest up, learning more and more about the culture. I learned a lot about the spiritual practice of Shinto, which is native to Japan (and which influences Marie Kondo).

A bunch of old Japanese dictionaries I used to use in the 1970s-1980s.

I ended up not wanting to be Japanese, or even to live there. I was attached to MY trees and rocks, not the ones there. But Shinto, that I understood. All those beings I thought were in my trees, who I brought all those presents to, were the kami (sacres spirits) of my part of the world.

But I’m not Shinto

I grew to realize that, of course, I can’t really practice Shinto. It’s all tied up with the geography and culture of Japan, and I’m not Japanese, just a hen na gaijin (strange foreigner).

Not my culture, but I love my neko.

Whatever my spirituality is, though, it’s been affected deeply by my childhood beliefs that came from…who knows where? And it’s been affected by all those years studying Japanese language and culture, even if I can’t remember many kanji or converse more than a few sentences with a lot of head bowing involved.

I think THAT is why it wrenches my gut to see people throwing away objects full of personal history. To me, they are inhabited by something like kami, the spirits of the people and places to whom they are attached. Dad’s in his old baseball glove. Mom’s in that embroidery. I realize, of course, that my attachment to things isn’t shared by others, so I’m becoming more understanding of their points of view.

Like I said, I’m a little weird. But I can function just fine in society, so I’m not worried much about me. I think it’s important to treasure your own personal spiritual path, and that’s mine. Maybe I was Japanese in a past life (if there’s such a thing; I’m agnostic on stuff like that). Maybe it’s some ancestral DNA. Who knows. I like having some mystery in my world.


PS: I am not attached to everything in my surroundings. I do recycle clothing I no longer wear, clean out the pantry, etc. Like Marie says, I just hang on to what brings me “joy.”

I am pretty sure this water bottle does not have to stay on my desk, staring at me.

Stuff. Let’s Have Some.

Unless you are buried under a pile of your own possessions, you have no doubt heard about the latest person out there telling us how to live our lives, you’ve probably already gotten tired of hearing how wonderful it is to tidy and purge from the beautiful and didactic Marie Kondo.

I am genuinely happy that she is bringing her special brand of joy to so many of my friends and colleagues. She’s perfectly poised in this era of minimalism, simple living, and all that kind of trendiness. And I understand very much how important it is to feel in control of at least something in our lives these days, when we sure don’t feel like we can do much about world events, jobs, and our families/friends. And there’s nothing wrong with organizing your stuff so you can find it (right, yarn closet?).

I assure you that everything on this shelf means something to me. Those teeny dogs are my first ones, Gwynnie and Scrunchy. The cups are places I’ve worked. That kid in the back is 28 today. The name tag reminds me of who I am, when I space out a bit. Ms Warren tells me I am tough, etc.

But, as I see everyone blissfully getting rid of things that don’t bring them joy, it occurs to me that there is most assuredly a range of people’s attachment to “things” in their lives.

A small selection of Supergirl things. I have more.

I have stuff. Yes, I do. I am on the spectrum at the end where people find comfort in the memories that come up when they look at things around them or draw inspiration from beautiful things they’ve gathered. Sure, I could pare some things down, but I am a former academic. I’m not going to own just 30 books. Geez. And by gosh, I love Supergirl and if I want to look at her, that’s my issue.

24 Starbucks mugs. I like them.

I think what gets to me with all these fads and trends and gurus of the day is that they really try to make people feel guilty for being different from them. Why? Some folks like three curated objects on each surface of their home. Some people want to look at 24 Starbucks mugs that remind them of friends and adventures. Like anything else, becoming attached to or detached from stuff really only gets to be a problem at the extremes.

Anita’s Fiestaware. And a reflection. Looks good to us.

When you can’t walk in your home or yard, you may have some mental health issues to deal with. And if you just have a chair and a bed (yes, I knew someone like that), at the least hospitality is difficult.

Yup. Lots of stuff there. Let me tell you all the stories. I guess if I were paring down, Bananagrams might go elsewhere.

So, I say unto you, my friends: if your stuff makes you happy and you can move from room to room, enjoy your stuff. Get rid of things that make you feel icky or have bad memories attached to them. Just follow your own instincts, the norms of your culture, and what’s right for your family. Don’t blindly follow some overly perfect guru from another culture (by the way, in the Shinto religion of Japan, inamimate objects have souls and everyone has inherent goodness, perhaps even collectors like me).

Share your thoughts. I like hearing what YOU think about tidying up and magic, and the opposite.


Postscript

I was not correct to blame Kondo for some people who are perhaps over zealous in interpreting her ideas. Please read the comments for some reasons why I’m saying this.

Also a friend didn’t comment here, but on her Facebook wall, and she was right that Kondo never said 30 books. I succumbed to Fake News.

One of her friends kindly posted this quote, which I do indeed agree with:

“As you reduce your belongings through the process of tidying, you will come to a point where you suddenly know how much is just right for you. You will feel it as clearly as if something has clicked inside your head and said, “Ah! This is just the amount I need to live comfortably. This is all I need to be happy. I don’t need anything more. … The click point differs from one person to another. For a shoe lover, it might be one hundred pairs of shoes, while a book lover might not need anything but books. … As you put your house in order and decrease your possessions, you’ll see what your true values are, what is really important to you in your life. But don’t focus on reducing, or on efficient storage methods for that matter. Focus instead on choosing the things that inspire joy and on enjoying life according to your own standards.” -Marie Kondo

I still get weary of extra tidy people acting like they’re better than the rest of us, since we each get to do what we prefer. But Marie is OK. Like Emily Latella, I must say, “Never mind!”

Monday Motivation

What a nice greeting I got today when I arrived at my Austin office (after driving 1.5 hours, dropping the dog off at the Bobcat Lair, and driving back to the office). There was the Little Orchid That Could, blooming to welcome me.

Even my monitor stand is happy to see the little orchid blooming.

I’ve never had one of these little ones re-bloom, so that made me happy. The slightly larger one behind it is also budding. Plus, there’s another one at the house, white with purple slpotches. That one was a real surprise, because it is the newest one I have, and it immediately put out new flower stalks after it finished.

The tiny succulents in the white planter used to be a much larger plant, but it got knocked over. These came from the roots. When I got to work today, one of the little plants had gotten knocked over, too. But I stuck it back in! (The main plant is still growing, too, at my house.)

I guess I better get motivated to work as hard as my plants do to provide beauty and meaning in the world. Last week, I came to the conclusion that I’d either need to quit or take on the hardest task on the list of possible things I could do. I chose to give the hard thing a try, with great hopes that I’ll have support from my colleagues.

The little Suna who could

I’m like those orhids. Given the right environment, I can continue to grow and rebloom, no matter how old I’m getting to be. And like the little succulent, I’ve been knocked over and had to start over, repeatedly (just ask my friends in La Leche League, who will probably be quite surprised to learn I’ve agreed to edit the online publication for the Friends of LLL).

Recycling. Complicated.

I’ll have a long and thoughtful post in the next few days on another topic, but until then, maybe I’ll just spew forth random comments from the past couple of days.

Maybe they aren’t really s pirals, but the symmetry attracted me.

I’ve been seeing spirals everywhere lately, even in the plants at the reception desk where I work. I wonder what all that’s about?

It’s prickly but darned pretty.

Maybe it’s just the time of year, when everything’s sprouting. I mean, wow, that is one attractive thistle.

All these lovely dandelions make me hungry for a salad or spring tonic or something.

Maybe it’s reminding me of recycling, which has as its theme image a mobius strip (which I didn’t realize until Joyce Conner mentioned it at our Master Naturalist meeting last week! Duh!).

Spealing of recycling, we recycled old t-shirts into tote bags to give out on Earth Day!

Joyce is a very thoughtful person, and she has been putting a great deal of thought into recycling, its benefits and its issues. She shared a lot of them at our meeting, which no doubt got everyone thinking about their own beliefs about recycling our waste.

I attempted to recycle myt-shirt sleeve into a visor. I think I failed.

Joyce showed us how much of the stuff we carefully recycle goes straight into landfills, because no one wants to recycle it. Apparently, we used to send a lot to China, but they don’t want it anymore.

In the end, she suggested that we concentrate on the reduce and re-use parts of the reduce, reu-use, recycle trio. That made sense to me. We try to re-use a lot of the glassware we buy things in, and I have started recycling boxes by decorating them and using them for storage, rather than buying decorative boxes.

Many of my friends re-use yarn rather than buying new, too.

What are you doing to re-use items?

Brody Update

I have to spread out my legs so I don’t fall over. Don’t do drugs, fellow doggies.

You may remember that our Australian Cattle Dog, Brody, has been limping since early last week. Lee was unable to get him to the vet last Thursday, due to the floods, but this week he got Bro-Bro in to Dr. Amy (she is only in town on Thursdays, and Brody is not great at traveling long distances).

For her to be able to look at his foot, she had to sedate him, so Lee left him at the Fancy Vet Trailer and came back later to find a dopey fellow who had trouble licking his face.

The diagnosis was a severe cut between his toes, but nothing broken. It also was not infected or healing wrong, so that was even more good news. Because Brody is out in the woods and such all the time, we got some antibiotics just in case it gets messed up later.

As a bonus, he got clean ears. He seems to have some proclivity to messing them up, too. Otherwise, he’s now back home, still limping, but putting more weight on his foot. He’ll live!

Mandi’s Bruised Behind. Yes, Really: A Guest Post

We have a guest blogger today, my friend and fellow member of the Hermits’ Rest community, Mandi.

First, I will go back to lay the scene. When the sheep first came to the ranch, I set out to make them understand I was a friend, because sheep and goats can get through any fence that water can get through. Many years with goats and every fencing imaginable has taught me that. I needed to be able to call them somehow, if I ever needed to put them back in the pen (hich has happened).

Pardon me, but do you happen to have any treats?

I am very much one of those people who is going to give my animals, your animals, a passing by animal, etc. a treat if I have the chance. The two sheep would hang around, fascinated when we fed the horses. They wanted what was in their feed bins.

This made Fiona (or FiFi as I call her) very annoyed. Apache (Patchtastic) and Spice (No real nickname, I just yell, “Hey Spice! Tell me what you want, what you really, really want!”) had the “Munch, Munch, GET BACK, Munch, Munch.” reaction to them. But Fiona is only little, so to the sheep she is just a really weird looking sheep with big ears.

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