It snowed during the night again. My Champagne-O-Meter had a new-fallen cap of powder on him.
The new snow covered up the trail of grimy footprints between the garage and the shed. It is surprising how much dirt those little bitty cat feet can track to and fro. It starts like this, with somebody (in this case,Lickety) thinking he’s going to trail-blaze in the pure driven snow:
And his breakthrough becomes the beaten path:
Little birdies can make quite a mess, too. Oh sure, they look sweet:
But they have terrible manners, spilling their bird seed all over the place:
That’s why we had sorghum growing on our patio all Summer — it seems that store-bought bird food has sorghum seeds in it and thanks to the piggy way our birds eat, they sowed sorghum in between the herringbone-brick pattern on our patio. And it grew all Summer, to about five feet tall — and the birds are still dining on it:
So, with all this new snow and old habits on my mind, it was a good day to clean out the linen closet.
We call it the linen closet because of its location, in the upstairs hallway across from the guest bathroom…but really, there is precious little linen in it. It’s where I’ve been storing all my old files, my vintage suitcases, and my library of heavy-duty reference books from my other, past life (lots of jewelry and embroidery books). So imagine my surprise when I pulled out a small Saks Fifth Avenue shopping bag (Where did that come from? I never shop at Saks) and looked inside and found my long lost baby mitten collection!
Readers of my book might know these mittens from page 11:
This is the picture I called Mindfulness and Mittens: Tiny baby-sized mittens, lost and scattered on the snow. One by one, year after year, I picked them up. Ten Years. I can’t show you my Winter Mind, but I can show you 19 found mittens.
And I’m not being hypothetical: I really had 19 real mittens. Collecting mittens became my favorite Winter hobby, when I was living in that little village on the Long Island Sound during that decade that I write about in When Wanderers Cease to Roam. Keeping an eye out for lost mittens — only the smallest ones would do — like they were truffles; or strange, Winter-blooming roses: it kept me on the alert for possibilities, kept me in the game during these most sensory-deprived months of the year. It was part of what I call my Winter Mind, the interior space of myself that I was furnishing with the quietness, awareness, and small rejoicings that were going to get me through the rest of the year. It’s the one true thing I know: How you get through January is how you get through Life.
Collecting little lost mittens was a Winter ritual, one small way to train my Winter Mind. Only, when I got married and moved into Top Cat’s house, I lost track of those mittens. I’ve been wondering for years (all seven years that I’ve lived in his 100-year old house) what happened to them…
I’ve cleared out all my books, and files, and nine vintage suitcases from the linen closet. I’ve bundled up my embroidery and jewelry books for donation to the library’s used book store — my Winter Mind this year is all about clearing out out-dated ideas of myself.
I used to be able to thread a needle with my eyes closed, used to be able to sew for ten hours a day. When I back-packed around Ireland and France in the ’70s and ’80s I always had my sewing with me; I taught hand-sewing in the Peace Corps in the 1980s, I won third place in a national competition for my hand-embroidered story quilt in 1992, I almost got famous with my embroidered maps when the New York Times photographed my work in 1993 but never ran the story in their Arts Section…
But I’m not an embroiderer any more, haven’t sewn anything in ten years; and I haven’t been a jewelry historian since 1997, when I wrote my last article for a jewelry magazine. I’m not sad about tossing out these old accomplishments. I believe there is an expiration date on bragging rights, unless you win a Nobel prize or marry a Beatle, and the 1990s are ancient history (just ask Top Cat’s 27-year old daughter). My Winter Mind is all about What’s New.
But I still collect little lost mittens. The collection now totals 24.
Question of the day is for your Winter Mind: what old idea of yourself are you the most happy to get rid of?