Thursday, May 28, 2020

Marie Kondo Would Not Approve

Marie Kondo would not approve.

"Tidy your space; 
transform your life," she promises.

But I'm a pack rat.
There: I said it.
I've also lived in the same house for nearly 35 years now.
It's a recipe for an overwhelming task.
Only a pandemic could have forced my hand.
Well, that's one good thing, I suppose.

The casual visitor wouldn't necessarily uncover this particular character flaw.
On the surface, there may be a little extra dust from time to time.
For the most part, my house is presentable ... at least, at surface level.
But I sure didn't want anyone opening a closet or drawer.

And even though I've been slowly chipping away - a cabinet or closet at a time - I still am not ready for a visit from the white-glove lady.

Kondo - the organizational guru - says you should get rid of "stuff" that doesn't "Spark Joy." OK, but some of it does spark joy - or at the very least - it sparks memories. (I am guessing Kondo is happy enough that some people bought her book. She must be betting that her missive is worth the real estate it takes on the book shelf. Something to ponder, right?!)

Anyway, I've thrown away a bunch of stuff.
We've donated some other stuff.

I couldn't bring myself to throw away some of the cards or letters my kids sent, so those went into a little storage box. I guess they'll get to throw them away some day.
I uncovered a stack of thank you notes from people from back in my days as a writer at The Hutchinson News. Among the stacks of letters I'd saved, I counted five from people who had a bone to pick with a story I wrote. Two of them were connected to a story in which I quoted someone saying that the Kansas Author's Club members were "a bunch of old ladies in hats."

First of all, I didn't say it.
I shared an accurate quote from someone I interviewed.
Their opinion, not mine.
Upon further reflection, perhaps I should have left that quote out. I was young.

A couple more were from the grammar police.
I usually do a better-than-average job with grammar.
But I'm certainly not infallible. One lady enumerated my many faults in a multi-page missive.

Isn't it curious that I've spent a whole lot more time thinking about the criticisms than the largely-positive "thank yous" and "so well done" remarks?" I suppose it's a lesson in human nature as much as it is grammar.

Long, long ago, the Class Prophecy for Skyline High School's Class of 1975 predicted I'd be a writer at The New York Times. Since I'm a small-town girl through and through, I never bought into the vision some creative classmate penned 45 years ago. At the time, I suppose we all envisioned that success was measured far, far away from the plains of Kansas.
I'd forgotten a letter from an opera singer I'd interviewed. It said, in part:
My friends here in New York have decided that you should be on the staff of Opera News or at least The New York Times. I agree. You captured the essence of "me" on paper.
A Lindsborg native sent me a letter from Germany by "Air Mail" after I interviewed her for a feature story. 
I found notes from two of my elementary-school teachers. My college advisor and instructor sent a note after I won some national writing and page design awards.

Two other letters were addressed to Kim Moore and Pete Souza. At the time, Pete was a staff photographer for The News.
Pete Souza went on to serve as White House photographer for both Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama. (Well, at least one of us moved on to bigger things.)

I read all of the letters again and then reluctantly tossed them. And, in truth, I didn't specifically remember three-fourths of the articles they mentioned. 

In an evaluation I uncovered, a former editor called my feature work "exceptional." He had a lot of nice things to say, but he also pegged my shortcomings rather well.
1) While her reporting is - as always - thorough, it tends to be lengthy ...

2) She often gets very involved in the stories she's doing, and while so far that has actually been a benefit by giving her greater insight, caution must be exercised to see that it doesn't foul her ability to still look at the issue with the detachment necessary to provide balanced reporting.
Guilty as charged to both counts. This blog post certainly qualifies.
I feel really old after finding some thank you notes from Mrs. Leavelle's 2nd grade class at Stafford Elementary. They were sent to me following their field trip to The News. Some of those "second graders" are now friends on Facebook and have their own families.

I may have a harder time throwing away the actual clippings. I'm still in the sorting phase of that particular Kondo-inspired project. It's slow going.
I have a whole legal-sized file folder filled with the love of Herman. (No, I haven't been two-timing Randy. Herman was a sourdough starter whose appeal grew as exponentially as his dough.) Ironically, during this pandemic, there's been a resurgence in bread baking and also an interest in sourdough. I just haven't heard anyone call it "Herman" yet. See? Maybe I'm not ready to get rid of that file quite yet.

I'm having similar withdrawal pangs about tossing:
  • Mountains of newspaper clips, some of which I had entered in state and national competitions;
  • Foothill-sized mounds of newsletter publications for Wesley Towers, Newton Medical Center, Youthville and others for whom I wrote as a freelancer after "retiring" from The News;
  • Vocal solo accompaniment tapes, even though I don't have a working cassette player any longer and the church audio system can no longer play them;
  • 4-H foods and photography leader files. This represents another huge investment of time and effort through my kids' growing-up years.
I did toss a stack of newspaper clips crammed inside 5- by 7-inch manila envelopes. How research has changed! Back in the pre-Google days, we filed articles so we could reference them again. For example, if I was going to write another article about the Cosmosphere, I could pull my handy-dandy manila envelope for background material.
Also destined for the trash pile are file cabinets full of clips from other magazines, newspapers, etc., that might serve as a springboards for story ideas. They range from asparagus to zucchini in the food article realm to files on miscarriage, adoption and more. As long as my helper's back holds out, I'll keep weeding out those file folders and having him tote them by laundry-basket-full out of the basement.

Isn't Google miraculous when you think about it?

I was amused by a file I found labeled "computers." An article in Kansas Farmer from 1989 had this headline: To Computer Or Not to Computer" with the subtitle: That is the question. A computer for your farm isn't necessary. Be aware of how much time it's going to take if you do decide to buy a computer."

My, how times have changed, right?

Another article in the computer file was from Family Fun magazine: "So You'd Like to Buy A Computer: What every family in search of a computer needs to know to get the biggest bang for the buck."

I guess that article ended up with the most pull, since there's also a receipt for the first home computer I purchased in that file folder.
Another publication made me kind of sad. When I worked at The Hutchinson News, it was the flagship paper in the Harris Group. The community newspaper is on its deathbed, I fear, as large media conglomerates have swallowed up papers and slashed local staff.

My old proportion wheel reflects a time when page design required more brainpower than a computer.

I know my old Junior Parent notebook is obsolete, but serving as chair or co-chair of those efforts for both Jill's and Brent's classes also represents a lot of time and effort. Same goes for the kids' scholarship notebooks. And no way am I getting rid of the 3-ring wedding binder yet. 

I don't even want to think about the tubs of photos and my kids' school mementos that need to be sorted and organized. But I have plenty to do before I get to that seemingly insurmountable task. I sure wish that digital photography had arrived a little sooner.

You can't expect miracles, Marie Kondo. I'm trying ... I really am.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

I Know A Green Cathedral

I still know the first few phrases of the first vocal solo I ever sang for a music festival. It was "The Green Cathedral." It was my 7th grade year at Skyline Schools, and I remember standing by the piano in the music room with Mr. Bob White, practicing over and over again, trying to perfect the performance before the music festival.

These days, I sometimes can't remember why I walked from one room to the other without retracing my steps and trying again. But the words to that long-ago solo were among the first I remembered as Randy and I stepped into the light and shadows of an abandoned farmstead.
"I know a green cathedral, 
a shadowed forest shrine.
Where leaves in love join hands above 
and arch your prayer and mine."

It might not be a forest in the middle of the Kansas plains. But the Dame's rocket flowers were a siren call stretching far into the shelterbelt and dotting the blanket of green underfoot and overhead with a splash of lavender.

That day, we had been driving by at 55 MPH on our way back home. But the splash of purple at the side of the road had me asking Randy to turn around.
We've been to this spot on other springtime afternoons. But never do I remember the flowers being so prolific and magical.
True confessions: I didn't remember all the words to the song without Googling them. (And, by the way, isn't that reference tool a major upgrade from the old card catalog? After all, it was probably 50 years ago or so.)

So, "The Green Cathedral" has joined the never-ending sound track of my mind.

"Memories, light the corner of my mind. Misty, water-colored memories
Of the way we were."

Oops ... wrong song.

"The Green Cathedral" 
Verse by Gordon Johnstone

I know a green cathedral, a shadowed forest shrine,
 Where leaves in love join hands above
 and arch your prayer and mine;
Within its cool depths sacred, the priestly cedar sighs,
 And the fir and pine lift arms divine unto the pure blue skies
In my dear green cathedral there is a flowered seat,
Birdhouse at Sterling golf course, photo taken the same day.
 And choir loft in branched croft, 
 where songs of bird hymns sweet;
 And I like to dream at evening, 
when the stars its arches light,
That my Lord and God treads its hallowed sod, 
In the cool calm peace of night.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

No Hunting: Beauty Found

The sign said "No Hunting."
And, if you don't know they are there, it would be easy to miss the annual springtime visitors.
But because I look forward to the annual visit, I really didn't have to "hunt" to find my Zenith road flower garden.
For years, I've awaited the blooming of the irises at an old abandoned farmstead north of Zenith.
 By the middle of April, Randy was already keeping watch with me, too. I reminded him that May was usually the magical month.
And May it was again! With the news channels full of more coronavirus news, an evening visit to "my" secret garden was just the medicine I needed.
As you can see, my trusty companion went along, too. (That royal blue in the background is not a nattily-dressed deer. It's my wandering husband. Neither he or I realized he was in the shot that moment.)
Last year, the ground was marked with "For Sale" signs. Earlier this spring, a "SOLD" sign appeared on top of the real estate sign. We still don't know who the buyer is. But I am thankful for another year of appreciating the beautiful blooms.
(And to the new owner: No ground was harmed in the photographing of these irises, which I'd like to believe bloom for my enjoyment. But - true confessions - I did venture off the road and a few yards into the field.)
I love going to the spot as the sun is on its way down. It streaks across the dried CRP grasses in the background and contrasts with the deep green of the spring blooms.
The lights and shadows provide texture, as do the pieces of bark shed by the mighty trees who've born silent witness to the blooms for years.
We lived as newlyweds in a house just a mile north of Zenith. And, as I've shared before, I don't remember seeing the irises back then, even though they are less than a half mile away. I was speeding past them on my way to and from Hutchinson to work each day. That singular focus gave me tunnel vision, I suppose. At that point, I was likely gathering speed for the daily dash to The Hutchinson News offices. Or, after a long day away, I was ready to pull into the driveway and relax for a few hours before the merry-go-round began again the next day.
A trip to the Ninnescah pasture on Saturday afternoon included a detour to another of my secret gardens.
 Some of those blooms were only beginning to stretch out their petals for the spring show.
 The little caterpillar-like beard seemed to begin the metamorphosis into the beauty of spring.
Others were ready for their close-up.
While Covid-19 has interrupted our lives in ways we'd never dreamed just a few months ago, there may be a silver lining.
Or maybe the lining comes not in silver, but in the form of purple veining streaked like Crayola washable markers along paper-thin petals and the bright yellow beards of an old-fashioned flower.
And it comes with a realization to appreciate the little things. 
27 “Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 28 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! 29 And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it ... But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.
Luke 12: 27-31