Last week, 5 friends and I had tea together. We are all fond of formal teas, and we have enjoyed them in many of the places that "do" them on Long Island. This was different: it wasn't a "place," it was a private house, and it was one of the loveliest experiences yet.
Debbie played gentle music (Enya, Faure, Debussy), fed us homemade sandwiches and cakes, replenished our teapots continually, and created an atmosphere in which we could laugh, talk, be silent, and be appreciative of each others' company. We all felt at home in her pretty house, we loved the stuffed bears and teapots on high shelves, and we felt as if we had found a true haven.
This was an experience that was both simple and elegant. How rare is that? How many people even realize the beauty of simplicity and elegance? Nana Sadie Rose has been discussing simplicity on her blog for the last few days. (Check out her yarn focus challenge.) Her entries have made me re-examine some of the clutter that I accumulate, whether yarn, books, stationery, music, or fountain pens, and to be very conscious of how often I buy these things to fill an emotional need. The things themselves are authentic representations of what is important in my life, but if I did not buy them with that conscious purpose, they do not represent the life I would like to live.
I'm sure we have all meditated, contributed to causes, tried to reduce our ecological footprints, and tried to send out the kind of compassionate, giving vibes that could harness the runaway ugliness, greed, violence, and mindlessness that permeates the world. I don't see any meaningful, positive movements that might slow down these hideous forces.
Does mindfulness, mindful attention to one's own life, make a meaningful difference? Or does it so sentitize a person that it creates paralysis? Nana Sadie is struggling with bigger questions than the amount of yarn in her closets. So am I. Simplicity should not mean deprivation; it should come from conscious, mindful choice.
Where does elegance come in? I keep coming to the conclusion that something is elegant if it has an essential core, and if it is not afraid of the light. It need not be spare, it need not be new, it need not be shiny. It can be a piece of scrap metal, if it expresses the essence of scrap metal.
I just started a shawl for myself. (In fact, I might want it to be my KTC project for Pride and Prejudice... ) I was fooling around with various stitches and patterns, and then I realized that I wanted something simple. It will be pretty because the yarn is pretty (sport weight, periwinkle, very soft), and because a simple, garter-stitch triangle will allow the beauty of the shawl to come from the yarn itself. It will be warm, light, and comforting. It will be intentional.
Elegance and simplicity, yes? And a useful way for me to be mindful.
How do you practice mindfulness? Please share.