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.