Remember a few weeks ago, when I posted pictures of my newly-filled planters? Do you remember how thrilled I was at just having been able to make this small outside effort, as if by marking some territory, much like posting a flag, I was claiming that I was back in the world? I remember.
It seems sometimes that I am still there, simply marking my territory. It is true that much of the world, and our acknowledgement of our place in the world, hinges on maintaining a complex web of appearances. After we have no way of knowing someone's inner life, or the shape of other's private lives, nor should we. In much the same way, no one really cares that I am managing to clean out my closets, and that decisions I could not make months ago, decisions about truly insignificant things, like what to keep and what to discard, are easier now. Nor can I really share the immense sense of satisfaction that comes with clearing off a shelf, or a drawer, or the accomplishment that I feel when I discover that I don't need to hold on to things for someday, that they would benefit others more, and I simply let go.
But sometimes, lurking on the surface, there are hints of the depths within. Some of my neighbors have beautifully laid out and maintained front yards, artfully decorated front porches. I don't think I have a gift for decor, although sometimes things go together well. I'm not good at design for design's sake. Everything has to mean something to me or I see no point to it. As a result, far too often things are left undone.
This spring however my front porch offers a little more insight into the resident within than had previously been the case, at least for those who are inclined to notice. In the process of downsizing to her own smaller house, my mother shipped me these planters. I hadn't remembered them specifically, and once I might have claimed they were not to my taste, but now I adore their Texas stars, their graceful beauty, the fact that they were made by my paternal grandfather. These planters are part of my history and a reminder of how I became the person I am today.
Every morning, when I take the pots out of the planters and rotate them to insure that all the plants get adequate sun and water, I think of my grandfather. I called him Papoo. I think of the beautiful things he would make, of his big heart, of the way he would take time to tell stories, and examine rocks, and bugs and plants with wee grandchildren, and tell us about the world. I am grateful to have this reminder of him, this beloved grandfather, my step-grandfather actually, who was not so beloved by his step-sons, of whom my father was one. But my father's animosity couldn't stop me from loving Pappoo all the more fiercely, and now the planters he made grace my entry, battered and dinged though they may be just as we all become battered dinged by a life well lived.
But the planters themselves are important only to me. It is the flowers, and the attention needed to maintain them, that signals invitation and well-being to friends and neighbors and even to oneself. I suppose that making an effort, not to be fancy, not to be something one is not, is also a way of reminding ourselves that we too are capable and organized and not overwhelmed. Perhaps keeping up appearances is something like smiling. Research seems to show that smiling, and having those smiles returned, actually seems to make people happier. Paying attention to the front we present to the world shows not only the world, but inner self, that we are paying attention.
And yet, we are always a bit rough around the edges, although some of us prefer to put forth a more manicured front. Obviously I did not bother, here, to sweep the walk. My front porch is no better groomed than the rest of my life. The photo was taken between thunderstorms, before my evening walk, and I saw no point in straightening what would only become wind-blown once again within an hour's time, if the forcast was too be trusted. It was. I was drenched. The rain began when I was still 250 yards from my house, on the last leg of my loop. I can't run yet, but luckily I don't melt either. And I found a welcoming place to stop and take off my sneakers and pad gently through the house.