Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Flowers on the Table, why? (Hidden Art of Homemaking, Chapter 7)

It's at this point in The Hidden Art that we (any readers, but especially "Christian homemakers," since it's aimed at us) feel a bit or a lot overwhelmed. 

A familiar Proverbs-31-lady tension sets in:  not only do we have to "think artistic," but we also have to be creative decorators and make bed trays when people are sick and grow gardens and make candles and do needlepoint, and not just put food on the table, but pretty food, and search out flowers and decorate the table as well.  Flowers on the table, not just on special occasions but as a regular feature, and if we don't have flowers, trotting out to the garden for gourds. And we would never set out a plastic tub of margarine or a plain jar of applesauce or jam, would we?  Hidden art, nothing--it's us who should be hiding.  All this visual "communicating" sounds like hard, hard work; and what if it just burns us out, ends up costing a lot of money, and the people around us don't appreciate our efforts?  Anyway, they've never said they wanted flowers on the table.

I think Edith would say no, no, no, no, no.

This is supposed to be freeing.  Encouraging, not guilt-producing.  Remember the image Edith used of a broken body part in a cast?  We are being allowed to express our hidden-art side.  It's a reminder that we have permission. It is meant to allow movement, freedom, possibilities, especially after a time of feeling immobile, shut in a small space...in any way, physically, emotionally, or spiritually.
If our homes are already overwhelmed with clutter and stuff, or we have shopaholic tendencies, then buying even more candles and flowers or starting a craft-store centerpiece project is NOT a good idea.  What we need to work on, home-wise, might be breathing spaces.  The table and counters free of clutter.  Maybe ONE flower in a vase.

But others may be living with little, maybe in a small apartment or a government townhouse.  A landlord who won't allow paint or nails in the wall.  Not much to look at from the balcony or from the front steps.  Smells and noise coming in from other units, and from outside.  This is the opposite challenge:  starting from "underwhelmed."  And again, a little can be the big equalizer: a couple of flowers in a vase.  Something to contemplate.  Something no landlord can complain about.

And this is the deal with the flowers on the table: we keep hearing that "nobody" eats meals at the table anymore, at least not all together; nobody cooks proper meals, nobody has time; and the idea of sitting and stretching out a mealtime together, well...that's the most difficult of all.  Homeschoolers are usually a little or a lot better at this than most, because we tend to have more people at home; but even homeschooling families can get rushed and preoccupied.

So maybe it's not flowers and candles at all, because maybe you can't get flowers, or your spouse has allergies and the kids might knock over the candles and set the place on fire.  Maybe your creative stretching in the eating space is just nice cloth placemats, or cartoons drawn on a chalkboard over the table.  Maybe it's bright red or pretty blue paper napkins, laid out over the plates--I'm serious!  Sometimes a bit of colour is just what a boring table needs, even if it's from the dollar store.

But think about this: if the table looks a little nicer than usual, and the room is clean and smells good, and the food is set out in a specially pretty or fun or appetizing way (that's chapter 8)...you see and they see that somebody cares. Maybe we will spend a few minutes longer sitting there. Maybe we'll even try talking to each other while we're there.

Maybe that's the why.

Linked from the Ordo Amoris linky for Hidden Art of Homemaking, Chapter 7. (I checked this time! It's the right link!)


amy in peru said...

i'm not supposed to read this post yet, because i haven't read the chapter... you are ahead, right? or am i more behind than i thought...?

anyway, you're right! now, i'm off to read the chapter, because i can't wait to see if i'll feel the pressure you talk about! ;)

Mama Squirrel said...

You're not behind, I'm writing ahead.

Barbara H. said...

Love your take on this chapter. I so agree - just a simple garden flower in a vase or a bit of color can be just enough. We don't need to accumulate more.

Mystie said...

Thank you for this post. It is so easy to let the wrong perspective grip and guilt us, when it's supposed to be a simple, freeing expression. Yet, it does take time and effort. But that effort helps us grow pleasantly.

Cindy said...

Amen!! This is a timely reminder and one we may need to have several times as we read the book. I did find myself in Marshall's wanting to buy all kinds of little trinkets to beautify my home. But the point is not to spend money but to do what you can where you can.

M.K. said...

Yes, yes, yes -- I agree that Edith probably wouldn't want us fretting or feeling guilty. This is supposed to FREE us to express ourselves as we long to! I recall in one chapter (I forget which one) she noted that no one will do ALL the various avenues of hidden art. We have specialties and other areas we won't dip into. I think she said we'd have to pick and choose and manage our time. Flower arranging would probably be one area I'd take a pass on. But I do want a tidier table, a prettier table. Lovely post!

Cheryl said...

To show that "somebody cares." Yes, I think that's the crux of it!

I have found this, my second reading of The Hidden Art of Homemaking, freeing, as you have put it. Small things matter.

hsmominmo said...

Yes! Freedom and permission! That's it! This book is not a how-to-decorate-entertain-perfectly kind of book, but a lesson in giving of yourself and serving others and making your environment a special place for them.

My favorite centerpieces have been not flowers, but a pile of kiddie blocks in the center of the table the day we started school. And a log cabin build from lincoln logs on President's Day.

I love the spirit and passion with which you write. Thank you for your thoughts today!