Tuesday, February 28, 2017


My first note this morning was an e-mail from Susan Branch, with all sorts of Spring happies and notes and sayings, and it’s just in TIME.  Because she sent me pictures of her little happy creatures and sayings and her perfectly wonderful art and attitude,  I’ve set this day, today on the cusp of March, the day-before-the-winds-come to cleanse the air and sweep away the leftover woolies of Winter---this day is to be the beginning of a whole new putting-together of our NEST.   I’ve got filmy curtains to drape on the windows, a lovely ferny-green cover for the sofa, wisps of pink tulle to festoon the wide treetop windows of Sweetpea’s room upstairs, and many, many lovely PINKS for the kitchen that I’ve been setting aside for When Things Are Just Right.   (And they haven’t been for so long and so severely that if you could see my house, you wouldn’t eat my cookin’, as my Mammaw used to say).

My Miss Mary will be here at 1:30, and she’s a whirlwind all on her own, up ladders and on her knees beneath furniture, swiffing and swirling away a season’s accumulation of grubbies in her few hours in the house.   And tomorrow's the day when the great beast of a "heavy garbage" truck growls and chews its way down the streets, gulping down all the throwaways and don't wants.   
The little hum of anticipation, that small quiver beneath the breastbone which says things are in the air, and change is coming---that’s been so elusive for so long, I’ve simply ignored and walked around and let lay things that should have been tended as a matter of course.   The bills stay paid, the bathroom shining and ready, the beds with fresh linens scented of lavender, and everybody’s laundry is daily fresh to hand, but I’ve let clutter and disorder and TOOMUCHSTUFF get the upper hand.   And today, I say NO MORE.

This day is the Turning, and for more inspiration I’m going back a whole seven years, to a day less than two years of blogging, when such order was a habit ingrained for a lifetime, when pressed linens and shining tables were the norm, when we didn’t soon-as-not grab paper plates and sit down before Netflix at the end of a where-did-the-time-go? fruitless day.   Back to when things were orderly and I GOT THINGS DONE, despite a little one in the house ten hours a day.  

From LAWN TEA, Spring, 2010,

I am the Keeper of a Nest. I just read that concept, in those four little words, on Dear Daisy Cottage, and it was just as if I saw our home and my role in it in a slightly different way. I’ve been pondering that new idea---an idea as old as old can be, from the first fur-huddled families coping with the dark and cold in whatever sheltering cave they could lay bloody claim to.

In the great ages since then, this nesting thing has grown and grown; wars have been fought, and territories seized; lives have been staked and lost; castles and hovels and sheds have all been refuges from the same dark and cold.

And we, the Keepers, have padded these nests with the comforts we could afford or find or make or, in earlier, bleaker times, wrest from weaker nesters. As long as the WE of us were taken care of, the driving, surviving force in us left others outside our own fold to fend for themselves. Cloth and feathers for easing our rest, and chink-mud to keep out the elements; a floor and walls and the thatching for the rain; pots to cook in, water to drink, water to bathe----everything encountered, I think, was looked at as a measure to improve the comfort and well-being of the family, to keep the WE of us warm and safe.

I try to think of the heart and mind of the first nester to pick a flower, take it into the abode, and place it in a vessel formerly used only for practical purposes. And when that first blossom went into that first humble cup, something in the world clicked into a different place. We saw that our hands could create and provide not only comfort and necessities, but something beautiful, no matter how small or hard-won. I think it's part of our nature to crave something pretty to enhance our worlds.

I think of my own forebears---especially those women of the Scottish Highlands. The centuries of deprivation and hunger and cold, the waiting for the men’s return from battle, the dread of loss, of starvation, of eking out that last scatter of oats or mutton-fat into a meager bowl for their families. That sharp, chilling wind and the sparse landscape, with nothing between it and their clan but their own courage and work. How they must have waited and wept, with hope fragile as life, and despair as their daily bread. And what WAS beautiful in their lives? Did they just stand looking at the sunrises and sunsets, or the hills with their fleeting purple haze?

We went to see; we rode and walked those hills of the Highlands, and the great spaces and crags and rust-hued rocky expanses are still there, looming and forbidding, their great beauty the blush of purplish heather in the Spring and perhaps the necklaces of stone fences and crofts, laced upon the hillsides to mark their territory, like pearls strung on a map.

And I thought deeply of those Grand-Dams of mine, those centuries-back female ancestors, whose lives were grim and sere---I could see them woad-smeared and wielding weapons, as easily as I could imagine their tending their smoky fires and nursing babies too soon gone. I hope they had the solace and uplift of something pretty---a polished stone, a braid of grass, a bird egg hand-cradled miles home, just for its curve of glorious color---and I hope they felt the great accomplishment of adding to the life of their family, not just their survival. 

The other side of me came from other parts of the British isles, told in the “Nutmegs” post last year. And Heaven knows, when my ancestor came over/was transported BECAUSE of those nutmegs, the things back in Ireland and England weren’t much to write home about, either, for folks of our working class.

So I suppose that yearning for a home, for a comfortable place to live and raise children, is so ingrained in my genes that I love being home, putting little touches, finding little additions, prinking with a curtain, a bit of lace, an old brooch which would look nice on a totted-up lampshade---those are certainly not talents, but needs, I think.

I NEED to make a nest, to feather it well for me and mine, to add and subtract (the subtracting part becomes more difficult with the addition of each year) and to make it comfortable and warm and welcoming. And whether our nests are the neat rounds of redbirds, with smooth straw and feathers for warmth, or the mud-daubed hammock-roosts of swallows, 
or the thatchy, gewgaw-frantic piles of magpie gleanings, the lost pull-tabs and gum wrappers arranged into their own wee versions of tatty yards with an old Maytag and a rusting Ford sprawled about---they are OURS, with our mark upon them.

So, we choose our own nests, and we build them to fit the fabric and the taste and the tenor of our own lives.   A bright-lit, topsy-turvy bursting-at-the-seams one, a little bit different from most, with its own windswept flair and all awhirl with people and activity and the bustle of daily life, or a serene sunlit spot, safely high, with a lovely view of the world, and the cool blue beckoning you home.

Or my own choice: A soft, comfy happy nest, with a lot of comfort, a little bit of something beautiful, and a lot of chicks to fill it.  That's my kind of nest.  And today's the day.


Patsy said...

What a lovely post today,I will have to go to
Susan Branch's home page and put her on my
Happy Day, to you!

donna baker said...

I have so much to do too Rachel. But, I want to take a nap in my nest. I love that little pocket nest. We don't have that kind of bird around here. LOVE spring.

Chronica Domus said...

"I think it's part of our nature to crave something pretty to enhance our worlds..." such true words that I live by and, I see your nutmeg kin have made an appearance in today's post.

I wish you much energy in all that you need to accomplish as spring is just around the corner.

Ang Specht said...

Your title "The Winds of March" grabbed my attention, as currently, we are having very high winds (will the electricity go out?) with a storm that will change to snow overnight. Today my boys played outside without jackets; tomorrow they'll need snow pants! Crazy! But this wind...oh, how I hate wind! I'd like my own nest to hibernate in! ha, ha. ...I do hope you're doing well, dear friend. :)

BeachGypsy said...

Oh I just love this post!

and I am definetly of this group---"THE PILES OF MAGPIE GLEANINGS" ha ha ha LOL
Trinkets, sparklies, junque, collections of many types and colors and sizes---pictures---so many pictures that tell of our family and our history and our own personal story. The old albums, the thick and heavy "scrapbooks" that became so popular back about twenty years ago and made "scrapbooking" a verb, LOL Even in a small space I just keep on, keeping on...collecting the things that speak to me and feathering our nest that way. I like the memories, and the stories that go with the memories, close by--the books, the photographs, the little dolls and bits of china and dabs of jewelry and maybe an old threadbare and thinning chenille bedspread--the kind our Ma-Maws had on their beds--or a soft patchwork quilt to wrap myself up in--something like that makes me feel safe and connected to the people who lived and loved before us. Isn't it so amazing how we can move about to and fro, hither and yon....be in a tiny cottage or a house that is grand in size, and still we "feather" our homes in a way that suits us best, no matter where we go--we bring our memories and ways of life with us, and like you said, we each have our own way, our own style. I am a magpie......

BeachGypsy said...

I tried to send you an email and not sure if I did it right? Let me know if you got it when you get a chance ok? Thanks!