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).

Mysterious Flower Lady

I think I have too many reference materials. But I tell you what, I like that I’ve become so curious about the things I run across that I look into lots and lots of details. Today I’ll share what I learned about a humble painter of ceramics. And hey, if you know anyone from Gainesville, Florida, ask them about her.

These plates are in my bathroom. All were my mother’s. She was a big fan of purple. The three on the bottom were painted by Lula E. Moser.

I grew up in a house full of china with flowers all over it. My mother had a really impressive collection of decorative plates, cups, and saucers displayed throughout our home, and many sets of china, which my sister and I split. I can’t believe my brother and I didn’t break things, but I think we had a deep fear of touching breakable objects instilled in us from an early age.

I’ve been looking at t his lady, trying to figure out what she’s looking at, my whole life. She is French, from K&G Luneville, I’m guessing early twentieth century.

Mom had a strong set of likes, and those likes were very much like her embroidery themes: flowers, leaves, and more flowers. She had ONE plate with a person on it, this haunting blue scene of an 1890s style woman looking off in the distance. Of course I still have that. The blue lady originally belonged to my grandmother, so I know it’s old, but my limited French has stymied my attempt to pin down dates based on the back of the plate.

Yet another of Mom’s flower items covered with pansies. This was from the “random cup and saucer collection” that I still have more of at my dad’s old house.

So, where did Mom get all those flowery items?

The mysterious Lula E. Moser

Poorly lit, but this is another of the many pansy dishes my mother bought from Lula E. Moser.

My mother really liked hand-painted china (ceramics, really). She especially adored the work of one of her friends in Gainesville, Lula Moser. I can remember driving to her house more than once to get ceramics and painted china from her. I had a white bunny with blue eyes for years, which I think is the only non-flower item they ever got.

Now that I look at this, I see the artist signed it L.E. Moser. Hmm.

Mom had many, many plates with painted pansies or violets on them. The photos I’m sharing are NOT all of them by any means. As you may have guessed, I got most of them, because I happen to also like pansies and violets. This has led to all of my houses having something to do with flowers in their theme, since that’s what I have and I love it. When I see all those Lula E. Moser plates, I think of Mom, just like with the embroidery she did.

The street (Boulevard) where Lula Moser lived much of her life. It also happens to be where I hung out a LOT as a little kid.

I always wondered who Lula Moser was and why they were always visiting. So, who was Lula E. Moser? Good question. She was not a famous artist, but she sure loved painting ceramics. She was of my grandmother’s generation (born on my birthday, March 5, in 1903, in Ohio), and my sister tells me she lived in one of those lovely old houses across from the duck pond (also known as my favorite place on this here earth). Canova also said Lula was a beautiful woman with very white hair.

This map shows you many things. Like that Lula lived between my house and my grandmother’s house. ALSO! The park I played in as a kid is now named after TOM PETTY!

From my sleuthing I discovered she was briefly married to a man named Frank Parker (an Austrian, originally named Frank Joseph Paukert), who was a television camera operator way back in the 50s. I actually found this info on his naturalization form when he became a US citizen.

Most of her life, though, Lula lived alone in a big house, painting ceramics and talking to my grandmother and mother. My sister says that on most visits, they came home with a new object.

This is her parents’ headstone. Sadly, there are no photos of her headstone, or of her, that I can find.

Lula died in 1989 and is buried in Ohio, where apparently the rest of her family lived. Why did she stay in Gainesville all those years, alone? A woman of mystery. Maybe I’ll name the woman on my blue plate Lula.

More on my nature art tomorrow. This got long.

PS: Want to know more about the beauty of old Gainesville, Florida? Check out the B&B that used to be the “haunted hippie house” across the street from my grandmother.

Look Up!

Yes, look up and you can see all sorts of new things. I need to tell myself this often, since I spent an awful lot of my time looking DOWN, to see what kinds of plants, bugs, odd items and such are below my feet.

Pipes make a nice grid, plus bring the ever-popular “pop of color” to the ceiling in my office building.

But, by always looking down, I realize I do miss a lot, like the tin ceiling in my favorite restaurant, Dutch Towne. Or, like I found out last night, I miss the patterns cast by the mod light fixture in the place where I’ve been getting my hair cut the past few months.

The light fixture has bloomed into a flower.

It’s a good thing I looked up last night, since I won’t be going back to that location again.

I decided to see what I could see by looking up at my Austin office. It’s one of those open offices with unpainted concrete floors and no drop ceilings, so you see all the infrastructure. That’s supposed to appeal to millenials, you see. They like the industrial look, I’m told.

They’ve missed a big model train environment in these wire cages that hold all the wiring.

I have to admit you see some things that you can have fun using your imagination on. I keep wishing they’d put a model train track on these long tracks of wired that go all over the place.

Mmm, cozy pillows. Except they are full of fiberglass.

And the giant air conditioning duct that makes the very loud “white noise” we enjoy daily looks like it would make a very nice pillow.

This makes me dizzy. Maybe it’s a quilt pattern.

And while I admit that I looked straight ahead to see this, I keep wanting to turn the acoustical foam tiles in the recording studio into a game board.

So, if you are somewhere that doesn’t excite you visually, just look up! There may be a pattern, a shape, or an object that sparks your creativity right over your head.

Why Do I Do Stuff Like This?

I have been over-doing it in the decorating, lifting, toting, and moving department for the last week or two. I need to learn to do a few things, say “good progress, me,” and stop.

This is an old kitchen. But it’s less disgusting now. And our stuff is moved in

But no, once I get into a frenzy of decorating, unpacking, or moving furniture, I cannot stop until I feel like it looks to some unknown outsider like I’m finished.

That futon is another heavy object I should not have moved.

So today, despite having a sore back from lifting heavy objects the day before, not only did I completely decorate my new office in the old church building we bought, but I unpacked all the other office stuff, “cleaned” the kitchen (really made it less dirty), then rearranged all the furniture in the main room of the church building to look like a meeting area, an eating area, and a lounge area.

Why was I driven to make a little arrangement of random furniture?

I felt all justified when an unexpected visitor (the president of the bank who loans our business money a lot) showed up. It looks like people are working here, even though it is obviously an unrenovated space.

The lights don’t work in here, but maybe you can see the many chairs and tables I moved to make this arrangement. Not seen are boxes I moved OUT so it would look better.

My guess is that I am, at my core, a nester. I feel incomplete if the space I am in does not feel comfortable. Still, someoene MAKE ME STOP.

Pushing Past Fears: Party Time

The past two years have been a time for me to push past fears and try many things I haven’t wanted to do in the past. I won’t whine and whine, but there’d been a period where I lost a lot of friends and was feeling bad about it, so I was not being very social. I kept to myself and just hung out with my ranch friends and one or two people in Austin.

I have a welcoming heart, even if I’m scared to show it sometimes.

Because of this, I never had the open house I’d vowed to have when the Bobcat Lair house was finished. We had dinner with one or two friends, but that’s about it. I didn’t want to hold a party and have no one come.

Very proud that straightening up the kitchen gave me an idea of where I can display my Starbucks mug collection.

But, I meditated on it, talked to some wise people, and totally escaped my cocoon of self pity. I came to the conclusion that things just happen with friends and acquaintances, and I don’t need to try to figure out why. Instead, I need to live my life full of openness and welcoming to everybody, whether I’m their favorite person or not.

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