April 2016

small ways


In this Spring of the year, I have yet to get to any Spring Cleaning in my home, but for the last ten days, I’ve been sweeping out and redecorating and organizing our rooms and gardens at Wisteria & Sunshine. One of the more challenging tasks (because it wasn’t arranging words and pictures!) was the paring down of our categories and getting all of the almost 1200 posts settled back into them.

I was able to pare them down to ten, but there amongst the Rose Hips, Winged Hearth, Papery Days, Gleanings categories, I found “Small Ways.” Back in January of 2012, just before I opened the doors to Wisteria & Sunshine for the first time, I wrote this about the category that is really the heart of what we are about…


This is the place we will explore living more lightly upon the Earth, something I have been working on since I planted my first little vegetable garden in 1986…even before that, as I think about it. Making the choice to become a vegetarian in 1981 was probably the very beginning of making connections with what I did in my little home-sphere and the people and the creatures and the planet that surrounded me. And just as my eating has changed and evolved over the years (and will continue to!) so can the ways we learn to keep our homes…with less plastic, less thrown away, less to care for and store, less time spent consuming and more time enjoying the beauty and tactile pleasure of more traditional and earthy things and ways.

These are the sorts of things that in the best of times, we learn from a visit to a friend’s house…I hope it will feel like that here. And even online, it can feel like that, with so many wonderful and helpful blogs and lists out there. But I have found that it can be overwhelming to have so much good information. And that sometimes, in spite of all the good information and good intentions, nothing much changes. That is why my approach is very gentle, with little piece by little piece falling into place and staying there.  Our Small Ways will most often dovetail with what we are working on each month…but not always…we shall leave room for inspiration.”


And as I was sorting those posts, I became uncomfortably aware that it had been a few months since I had shared a Small Ways post…and that I hadn’t added any new small ways to the circles of cooking and tending and shopping and creating which turn in the cosmos of my domestic sphere. It is natural to have fallow times, but when the pause is borne of overwhelm and just getting out of the habit of things, I find that taking a step back on to the path can set things in motion again in a gentle way.


What got me going again began with my Daybook. The $3.00 thrift store purse I’ve been using for the last few years, didn’t hold the Daybook well, nor did it feel like a pleasure putting it there. It had served me well, but was undeniably past its prime…the woven grass on its sides unraveling, the fabric inside beginning to pill and the straps a shadow of their former selves. My small collection of handbags, bought from Target years ago or given to me even longer ago had no likely candidates for replacement…too small, too large, to flimsy…nothing that would hold my Daybook nicely and securely.


A few thrift store browses weren’t successful, so I knew that meant shopping, not something I relish. I didn’t even think of shopping in person anywhere, because I knew my purse-to-be would have to be as earth-friendly as possible. I wanted it to become my One Handbag as the Daybook has become my One Notebook (simplicity!). So I hied myself to the computer, in spare moments, and slowly discovered that the options are few. No organic cotton handbags could I find, and only a few hemp ones that were too unstructured. I was at a loss until I stumbled upon a shop on Etsy that makes handbags out of cork. Cork, you may know, is nearly endlessly renewable as the bark is carefully gathered from trees that renew themselves and live for hundreds of years.

After some back and forth with the helpful owner of the shop, when I was debating buying some organic fabric for the lining and shipping it to her in the UK to use in my bag, I decided to go with some fabric she already had on hand as the best approach. I’ve had the bag for a month or so now, and it truly is my One Bag…just the right amount and placement of pockets, the cork is a wonderful combination of soft and firm, and it hangs on my shoulder or from my hand in just the right way. I hope to have it for years and years to come.


So, birthday money well spent and me back on the path of seeking out Small Ways. I’ll be back to sharing them at Wisteria & Sunshine now, too, and am already rejoicing in the kitchen trash that is taking longer to fill up again, and my plans for some Springlike napkins to be made from a stained tablecloth I remember is waiting in the attic. In the usual way of things, as my Daybook in all its earthy charm led me to wanting a fitting traveling home for it, taking that step in the right direction set me back on the path I long to stay on…however imperfectly…

my simple woman’s daybook post in early April…

OUTSIDE MY WINDOW…blooming lilacs and dogwoods, blue skies, piles of bright clouds, birds flitting, butterflies clinging with all their strength to the blooms blowing in the strong wind.
.I AM THINKING…the cold outside and the cold in my head will keep this a quiet day, moving between my studio computer and the sofa.

I AM THANKFUL…for the woodstove keeping my body warm and its light doing the same for my spirit.


IN THE KITCHEN…navy beans and almonds are soaking, the fridge is full of greens and I will be spending some time with my cookbooks looking for some variety almost a month into anti-inflammatory eating.

 .I AM WEARING…everything is soft today (as it is most days) pale green long cotton knit dress with ruffles at neck and just below the knee, knee-length brown light-weight cardigan pinned at my bosom, plum-colored corduroy ruched skirt underneath, stripey leg warmers made from old tights, fake-fur-lined pull-on boots I wear like slippers…tho’ they inspire action, not curling up.

I AM CREATING…a new look for Wisteria & Sunshine’s rooms and gardens. After four years, it was time. It is being pared of unnecessary bits that were acquired over the years and is now so comfortably arranged with just what we need and want.  And beautiful, of course…gentle and peaceful.


I AM GOING….no where in terms of travel, not even into town for days to come. But I am traveling deep inside as I continue to make my way with health issues and also refining my ways of being in the world…mostly the online world.

I AM WONDERING…so many things that are hard to put into words but are mostly to do with how to successfully follow a feminine path of being.

I AM READING…finishing Sandpiper, a biography of the poet Celia Thaxter, one of the Beatrix Potter mysteries by Susan Wittig Albert (may I confess to being bored with it?), waiting to get to the library for the last Jackson Brodie mystery by Kate Atkinson (these are re-reads), dipping in and out of a few anti-flammatory diet books trying to find my sweet spot with all of the advice.


.I AM HOPING…to find the staying power I need to see out my own chosen approaches with my health and work. It’s more challenging than I would have thought. Faith is entering in, I hope.
I AM LOOKING FORWARD… to the weather settling into warmth and green, even tho’ it will mean saying goodbye to our daily fires and hello to lots of weeding.
I AM LEARNING…that tho’ it is easy for me to let go of stuff of all kinds…possessions that are neither lovely or useful, unhelpful habits, online patterns…it is harder to rest easy in the spaciousness and not begin to fill it in the same ways all over again. But I am making progress with keeping Sufficiency a watchword.
AROUND THE HOUSE…I am longing to rearrange things, but really have no good options (having tried them all over the years!), nor can my back take any of that sort of rearranging right now. So I am pouring that longing into Wisteria & Sunshine and soon another online place. As well, I will be keeping my eyes open at the thrift stores for a tablecloth or curtains I can fashion into new chair covers.
.I AM PONDERING…how to more gracefully and naturally shift this blog a little from the place of sharing beauty and my heart that it has always been to also sharing more of what I am most drawn to-living more thoughtfully on the earth and with our days. I was going to say my passion…my enthusiasm…but it hasn’t felt that way for awhile. Pondering how to keep our ardor alive and fed while dealing with chronic pain is something else I am pondering.
ONE OF MY FAVORITE THINGS…these days…laying flat on my back on the sofa getting lost in a movie, or more often, a British series of some sort. When our fussy internet allows.
A FEW PLANS FOR THE WEEK…I am writing this on Friday, so my week is almost over. But I will be continuing to redecorate Wisteria & Sunshine in the next few days, get back to posting on Monday, some menu-planning (this is always a wrench for me, for some reason), keeping steady with my yoga and diet and other paths.
Thank you, as always Peggy, for these prompts from The Simple Woman’s Daybook.
P.S. Please excuse the wonky fonts, something to sort out….