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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?

8 comments to Winter Mind.

  • About 500 books, mostly crafts of all kinds, that I donated to our local library. I don’t do so much anymore and know much of what was in them (or as much as I’m going to learn) so it was time. I feel much better too! Next goes the quilting supplies!

  • Gigi

    “It’s the one true thing I know: How you get through January is how you get through Life.” I love this! It rings true with me, too.

  • Deborah

    Love seeing the real mittens. So glad you found them.

    I seem to be in a re-visiting mode: re-reading books, like “God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater” and realizing that the fictional setting is 30 miles north of the Ohio river — about 23 miles from where I live. The last time I read it, I lived in Michigan, so the Ohio River wasn’t very relevant. Also, I’m labeling things and rearranging them to be more efficient. I think maybe this is the stage that follows the clean sweep stage for me.

  • Nice touch, Vivian, with the tea bag. Keep those little diget-warmers in a frame. They are beautiful.

  • JOAN

    Purging closets, gettng rid of quilting supplies, notions, books, any old hobby items I no longer use of want to use in the future. Porcelain dolls and their clothes, home decor items I used to think were wonderful but now find get riddable. I want bare shelves in the closet and my sewing room that has morphed into my library/office/art desk…moving out the old and welcoming in new adventures in art, computing, reading. I love to find emptiness in drawers, closets…thrills the crap out of me!

  • The mittens! I had forgotten about them – so glad you found them. And thanks for keeping up with the tea bags.
    Your cats are so brave, venturing out in snow that is almost as deep as they are tall.

  • Shelley

    This seems to be my year too for “getting my sh*t together and taking it to the dump”, or more aptly, to the thrift store where it might be someone else’s treasure.

    I do struggle with pack rat tendencies but I am doing MUCH better than usual at being ruthless. I love the way the energy in a room changes when the clutter is removed.

    What old idea of myself am I most happy to get rid of? The idea that my happiness is dependent on the mood, actions, and reactions of other people. If I learn nothing else this year than how to maintain my inner peace and equilibrium regardless of what storm may be raging around me, I will have succeeded. It’s an ongoing process, but I am making progess!

  • Carol Rexford

    Wow, loved this one. “If you get through January you can get through life” is my philosophy, too. And Shelley said it all for me about depending on the moods, actions and reactions of other people to be happy–inner peace is my most important goal.

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