You know how, some days, you don an outfit and, even before you’ve applied makeup or styled your hair, you know the clothing combination you’ve selected will just work? In this outfit, you feel sure, you’ll look poised, polished, joyful and attractive!
Some design schemes are like that, too. With even just a sliver of a sneak peek, you know that this room just works! The color palette, the selection of furniture, its arrangement — all the requisite elements combine to create a space that is, quite simply, beautiful. In this room, you feel sure, you’ll feel at once calm, peaceful, light-hearted and happy!
That’s how my sweet friend’s newest baby boy’s nursery is. One look at the photos she texted and all I wanted was to curl up in the cozy glider, collect my children in my lap and read a story book to them! That’s not how Mint Julep’s nursery was for me.
In my freshman year of college, I roomed with one of the least selfish people I’ve ever met. She was extraordinarily self-disciplined, incredibly generous and generally good-humored with a contagious laugh. As a committed Christian, she began and ended each day with the Word.
When we were juniors in college, she married a similarly sterling man. A few months after their wedding, I asked her what it was like to be married. I’ll never forget her answer.
“Marriage reveals my selfishness as nothing else ever has.”
Today is the Feast of Saints Michael, Gabriel and Raphael — or, as it was once called, Michaelmas. (Head on over to the eponymous Carrots for Michaelmas for ideas to celebrate this feast!) It’s a day that has assumed ever-increasing significance for me as a Christian disciple, wife and mother.
Throughout my adolescence and first few years of adulthood, I was oblivious to, if not in outright denial of, spiritual warfare. Oh, sure, I had an acute conscience, I believed in right and wrong, and, as I strove to choose the right, I often experienced inertia, anxiety, doubt, despair and all manner of interior struggle — but I still had a vague sense that my spiritual difficulties stemmed solely from my own concupiscence and sinfulness.
Actually, I probably didn’t even think in terms that close to the truth (after all, my spiritual difficulties did and do stem largely from my own fallen nature!). Had you asked me at the time why I struggled interiorly, I would have either balked entirely or confidently spouted psychobabble about past “traumas” (Spoiler: I’ve really never suffered any!).*
When I was 11 years old and encountered the Rule of Saint Benedict for the first time, I promptly adapted the idea of “a rule of life” to my own particular circumstances and churned out a little document I dubbed “The Kristinian Rule.”
The rule admonished me to pray three times a day (hey, like the Didache!), to practice piano for two hours daily and to finish my evenings with some kind of “wholesome” hobby like “embroidering.” (I don’t recall how faithful I was at following all of it, but I know for a fact I rarely got in my full two hours of piano practice!) One of these days, I’ll dig out that old rule and publish it; I think you’d get a kick out of it.
At the time, I thought I was highly original in doing this. Obviously, I was very young.
As I’ve written before, I’m fond of periodicals. A very few, I recommend and endorse — but I read a wider variety than I recommend. My own mama and the Oilman’s mother both know this and pass along the magazines to which they subscribe.
In this way, the September issues of WSJ and 405 magazine came to reside temporarily in my periodicals tray. Last weekend, I browsed both. As I did, I was reminded yet again of the sweep and allure of self-styled “culture,” that affected, self-conscious, stilted, self-referential realm of celebrity, whether national or local.
All of the true elements of culture are there — art, architecture, music, food, literature, beauty — and, yet, it all rings false to me somehow, smacks of self-importance, insecurity and desperation. Its self-proclaimed highest aspiration — to be original — all too often amounts to nothing more than its negative, which is not to be derivative, not to be imitative.
In a passage of the Aeneid that reminded me of Proverbs 31, Virgil speaks of “that hour a housewife rises.” It’s pretty clear from the context that that hour is early:
And then,/ when the first deep rest had driven sleep away/ and the chariot of Night had wheeled past mid-career,/ that hour a housewife rises, faced with scratching out/ a living with loom and Minerva’s homespun crafts,/ and rakes the ashes first to awake the sleeping fires,/ adding night to her working hours, and sets her women/ toiling on at the long day’s chores by torchlight –/ and all to keep the bed of her husband chaste/ and rear her little boys — so early, briskly,/ in such good time the fire-god rises up/ from his downy bed to labor at his forge.
At first, I was inclined to dismiss these lines — as I once dismissed Proverbs 31 — as a hopelessly unattainable ideal. To work from (before) sunup to (after) sundown, apparently never slackening or complaining? Impossible!
To me, it’s still summer — and it will be until at least Sept. 22, which is officially the Autumnal Equinox. Unlike mothers of school-aged children, I have no reason to submit to the arbitrarily-imposed feeling of fall that a return to the school routine brings. I go primarily by the weather — and, by that metric, in Oklahoma, summer sometimes lasts through October!
Once upon a time, I, too, was impatient for pungent hot coffee, crisper air and cooler temperatures. I’d refresh my scarves, sweaters and ankle boots far too prematurely — and then find myself embittered when relentless heat dictated that I not yet wear them.
Then, I had babies. As they’ve changed so much else, Sweet Potato and Mint Julep have changed even the change of seasons. No longer is summer — those months of miserable, sweltering heat! — a season to be suffered or, better, avoided entirely with iced tea, an armchair, a book and air conditioning (although I’ll still take that combination any chance I get!). No, with children, summer is fun — just as I remember it was when I was a child myself!