Get Behind Me, Boredom!
I’ve been afflicted lately, as we settle into a quiet house sans-twins, of the deadliest sin of all: boredom. There’s no excuse for it, really.
I confess my restlessness to the spouse. “Thank you Lord,” he teasingly pray-scolds over dinner, “For this good, plentiful food—and that we don’t live on a backstreet in India.”
Duly noted, dear.
I don’t know why, but something in my temperament demands a high fascination factor—multiple times every single day. Whether it’s the joy-surge that comes from spotting chickadees splashing in the bird bath or a conversation that connects or an idea that comes bounding off the page of a book, I’m on the lookout for enthrallment like my grandmother fished for loose coins in the couch cushions.
She drove me nuts with that.
Of course, one has to be keen for chickadee sightings, and one isn’t always keen. Therein lies the rub. When the afternoon brain-fog creeps in, with the heat of an everlasting summer melting my mind into mush, or the fourth load of laundry threatens to crush my spirit, I trudge along like everyone else. But I’m not sure everyone else so violently rails against It: routine, rut, reality.
I’ve been doing some math in my humanities-shaped head: Boredom equals loneliness does not equal gratitude. Gratitude, the great eradicator of ills–how I under-utilize your super powers!
I am at my worst while my special needs youngest is at her after-school therapy and I’m hovering the area waiting to pick her up again. Said area has its relative perks: a Target, a handy post office, a good grocery, the ubiquitous Starbucks with its drive-thru line wrapping around the building. But one recent Thursday afternoon I can’t bear these, for some reason, so I drive ten minutes off the beaten path to an older street, lined with cafes and galleries and boutiques. I’m content as I settle into a little place, however contrived, playing Edith Piaf songs and selling artisan cheeses and cappuccinos. Four o’clock, the drudgery hour, takes a turn–suddenly I’m well-caffeinated and adding a character named Simone into my Kentucky-set novel.
La Vie en Rose…
Goals. Life in pink.
Just as the weather turns fall-ish (insert Handel’s Hallelujah chorus here) and my mood lifts with every degree the thermometer dips, I get sick. I’ve caught the most miserable of colds, the sort that makes your teeth hurt.
When the husband’s home, Lukey puts the kettle on for tea, but my baby works from 9 to 5 9 lately, so I’ve spent startling amounts of time alone on the sofa. I don’t like to watch TV by myself—I’m not sure why—and so it has been me, a box of Kleenex, the ticking of the mantel clock and the good, sighing dog.
I didn’t set out to do it (I’m not a fan of themes), but I’ve stocked this room with things I like, so I guess it’s not surprising that there are friendly beasts everywhere–figurines and pictures and lamps, even a woodland animal print on an armchair. This room is where we talk and read and nap and write, and while I look around in dazed congestion, the coziness of it closes in.
Fittingly, I am reading a lovely book by Elizabeth Goudge—if you don’t know her, get to the library toot sweet. In her novels, she writes descriptions of home that make my heart ache for, well, home. Here is twilight at Devon’s Weekaborough Farm:
“The candle flames and the flames of the burning apple logs, having it all their own way now, seemed to breathe and glow like living creatures, and slowly and triumphantly the grand old kitchen came into its own…” ~ from Gentian Hill
Late 18th century England (or anywhere, for that matter) had its hardships, I know, but in novels like Gentian Hill, the past’s charms make one overly romantic reader wonder if she was born at the wrong time. (Perhaps Mrs. Goudge, writing in the 1940s about times gone by, also suspected this of herself.) She describes the farmhouse kitchen as a large, roughly square room with two great mullioned, western-facing windows with deep window seats; flagstone floors; whitewashed walls; and a white ceiling crossed with strong oak beams, fitted with iron hooks for hams and drying herbs. The room is sprinkled with oak furniture “shiny and black with age” and pops of color provided by scarlet curtains and scattered red rugs and Blue Willow plates on the dresser. But the kitchen’s “greatest glory” is its fireplace, filling nearly the entire north wall—“almost a room in itself.”
Um, yes, please.
Another beloved and thoroughly British author writes of “eternity framed in domesticity,” one of my favorite lines in All The Books. Mrs. Miniver, a collection of Jan Struther’s World War II-era vignettes, long ago won me with its gentle insight and humor. (If you haven’t seen it, don’t miss the movie starting Greer Garson.) Winston Churchill appreciated these essays, which originally appeared in newspapers. He is said to have claimed they had done more for the Allied cause “than a flotilla of battleships.”
Both Mrs. Struther and Mrs. Goudge adored their rooms and their dogs and birds, and I’ll bet would’ve been as quietly glad as I am for a brief illness that sweeps one away from shops and commitments and calendars into house arrest.
Home arrest, that is.
I’m an equal opportunity anglophile and Francophile.
It looks as if I might start writing a bit for a French corporation. Likely I’ll be singing the praises of circuit breakers, but that’s okay. Writing is writing, and France is France.
I know, it’s only Tuesday, but to kick off next weekend, consider a football break (yeah, right, you say) with entertainment that has a bit more je ne sais quoi:
A Very Secret Service. A bizarre spy spoof with elements of Mad Men and The Office. From the series’opening scene, hilarity ensues. Love the bureau’s cocktail cart. An (imported) Netflix original.
Ensemble et C’est Tout. I’ve sung the praises of this warm, quirky film in this space before–forgive the double-plug. I promise you’ll get used to the subtitles in the time it takes to uncork a bottle of Bourdeaux. If you like Audrey Tautou, French food, and the bonding of unlikely characters, bon appetit!
Delicacy. More heart-warming Audrey Tautou, with fabulous clothes to boot. Unconventionally tres romantique.
Populaire. No Audrey, but a sweet Eliza Doolittle-ish story with a fresh-faced heroine and an adorable Henry Higgins. Retro and relentlessly cute. Makes you want to scour flea markets for a vintage typewriter, preferably in pink.