A few days ago, my friend Renate invited me back to her house after an outing. It was spur of the moment, just coffee and a little snack, but she made it as beautiful as she always does. The coffee was poured into a beautiful pot, and she laid out small slices of cake on a china plate, arranged in a fan. She put china cups and saucers on a tray, and pretty little spoons, and we carried it all outside to her wide wooden deck, to enjoy amid the splendiferousness of her blooming garden, which is the most glorious on the street, and she tends entirely herself.
It is this way with everything she does. When we go hiking, she brings a sandwich made with good rye bread she buys at a bakery and tomatoes she found at the farmer’s market. If we have a glass of wine, she brings it out in a beautiful glass, and her clothing is meticulously, elegantly tended. Not for her the ragged t-shirt or grimy sweats. Beauty is a way of life for her. Taking time to make every little thing right.
We don’t spend much time on beauty anymore. We from task to task, rushing through work to get home to microwave a dinner pulled out of the freezer. There is a shower instead of a calming, quieting bath. In the morning, it’s even worse—rushing to get ready, grabbing a muffin instead of sitting down to breakfast, maybe some coffee from a drive-up window to drink in the car instead of sitting down to enjoy it.
What I notice when I am enjoying Renate’s graceful attention to detail is that I feel serene. Well-tended. Treasured, even. The first time I spent the night at her house, I was a little raw from a breakup, and we talked late into the night. The next morning, she set the entire table with her china, including boiled eggs in the most beautiful little egg cups. That single egg, waiting for the tap of my spoon in its lovely china holder, did more to heal my spirits than any thing anyone could say. It said, you are loved, and you matter and I am glad you are here in my world.
Inspired by Renate’s good example, I have been practicing doing things right. Taking the time to do whatever I am doing with my full attention. We always sit down to breakfast and to dinner, together, but I’ve been making more of an effort to make it beautiful, in little ways. Cloth napkins and a flower in a little vase. So small, so easy, so satisfying. A few weeks ago, my mother and I were poking around antique shops in Pueblo and I found a set of china, not complete, but with enough pieces to serve all of my friends or my mother and sisters or me and Christopher Robin dessert and coffee. It thrilled me to buy them, to imagine putting them on a tray, with the little spoons I bought in England, and sugar cubes in the bowl and real cream in the pitcher.
No egg cups, but I’m keeping my eyes peeled for them. In the meantime, I’m setting aside time to iron my napkins and have begun carrying the lace-edged handkerchiefs CR’s mother sent me. Small treasures to honor the precious, fleeting moments of our lives.
5 thoughts on “Walk in beauty”
What a beautiful post…thanks for the inspiration, which is just what I need this evening!
I’m staying in NYC with a friend who, every morning, serves me coffee with the milk and sugar in their own little pitchers, on a lovely tray (in an apartment I think you would love, because it’s filled with books and arts and crafts-era pottery and furnishings). It’s such a nice ceremony to start off the day.
I never seem to find time in my day for these special little touches that honor the beauty of life. So when I go on a trip and stay in a hotel or a B & B, those kinds of details are the things I cherish the most. Little basket of soaps and toiletries in the bathroom; beautifully folded fluffy white towels; bedding turned down just so; food served in lovely containers, hand prepared (I’m not much of a cook). Makes me feel special and pampered. On the rare occasions that I entertain, I try to make sure my home is clean and inviting, and friends sometimes think I’m doing it to impress with how clean my house is, but really it’s just to make it welcoming. And of course I live with a husband and son who could care less about these little pleasures. And so I don’t take the time. Your post was a lovely reminder of how these things can minister to a weary soul. Thanks.
Thanks for the reminder, Barbara. I am another one of those who never makes time anymore for those special touches. It wasn’t so many years ago that I used to love taking a whole Saturday to prepare for a dinner party, set the table ‘just so’, create a floral and candle bedecked centrepiece, and cook up a spectacular meal. I keep thinking, yes, when I get ‘this’ done, or ‘that’ done, then I’ll go back to those moments, but I always allow something else to intrude somewhere along the line. I think I need to prioritise what is important to me and my life and make time for those special moments before I become so soul weary I simply cannot be bothered any more.
P.S. I have delightful porcelain egg cups but can’t even remember the last time I boiled an egg. Now that is sad. They belonged, ironically, to the woman who first introduced me to reading romance.