07 September 2006

Simple Abundance (with apologies to Sarah Ban Breathnach)

By middle-class American standards, I’m poor. Compared to real poverty, of course, I’m amazingly wealthy. It’s all relative. Truth is, I don’t have a whole lot,but what I have is in my life by choice.

My house is smaller than some of the "bonus" rooms I’ve seen at clients’ houses (who the hell needs a "bonus"room?), but it’s big enough for me and my five cats.(My sweetheart of seven years, Anthony, lives with his four cats in his house,about 15 miles away.) My house is 24 x 28 feet – a bedroom, office, bathroom,and open kitchen/dining/living room. (Okay, if you count the laundry/utility room, add another 60 square feet or so.) The only door in the house is to the bathroom (the bedroom and office have arches), so the house feels open and airy.

My income is smaller than most of my clients’, too. For unknown reasons, business has slowed down considerably this summer. This has been an interesting exercise in faith for me: trusting that I will be okay, that this is just one of those (stomach-lurching) dips on the rollercoaster of self-employment. Some days are emotionally easier than others, but I find myself too vulnerable to sudden shifts; while generally cheerful(especially if I’m involved in a creative project), I plummet into depression when a client cancels. My cash flow is so tight that every cancellation requires re-juggling of resources to barely squeak by.

Which brings me to the Simple Abundance part of this post – a day of richness and blessings, without needing to spend a penny.

Morning began with cat cuddles. Jules snuggled against my left side, Sam on my stomach,Paquito on my right side. (Zachary’s still learning to be affectionate, and so was by my left foot at the end of the bed.) Ochosi, my calico princess,jumped up for loving at one point, too. What a lovely way to start the day– waking up on my own, no alarm clock, and lounging with the cats, purring and petting for a good half hour or more.

Fed the cats, made the bed,swept the floors, checked email – my usual morning routine. Heated up left-over Southwest Corn Tart (from Fields of Greens) and baked a batch of zucchini muffins (recipe at the end of this post), enjoying both for breakfast. Then I watered the deck plants, dead-headed the oregano and dahlias, and put together bouquets for the house – a vase of sterling silver roses, another of sunflowers and huge yellow dahlias, a third of larkspur, snapdragons, scabiosa, geum, calendula, dahlias, and lavender. All from the garden. For years I’ve wanted to have enough flowers growing that I wouldn’t feel guilty picking them; finally,I have my wish! (The oregano I’m drying for my spice rack.)

I read for most of the afternoon. Am reading both Judith Levine’s Not Buying It:My Year Without Shopping (a disappointment, I’m sorry to say) and Affluenza. Both are borrowed from the library. (I’ve also been reading the daily posts from The Compact’s yahoo group. I’m encouraged to see people living consciously and simply. Especially as a professional organizer, I’m delighted to see folks scaling down, de-cluttering, not buying so much useless crap, healing from their addiction to retail therapy.)

At one point, I walked over to Marianne’s house to return her serving dish (she’d left it here after my birthday party) and to bring her a jar of sunflowers. Then I made dinner. Picked the last of the peas from the garden and steamed them up with a delicious carrot(from the carrot lady at Farmers’ Market) and some rice, and baked a fresh salmon steak (with a ground almond and horseradish crust) that my neighbor gave me. (I have the best neighbors! At least twice a year, Dave and Teresa give me crab or salmon that Dave’s caught that day.)

Also whipped up a batch of pesto (basil, lots of garlic, olive oil, toasted pinon nuts, and grated parmesan, with some lemon zest thrown in for fun) before the basil wimped out on me. (The pesto’s now in the freezer, as are most of the zucchini muffins.)

And I harvested a cup of strawberries for tomorrow’s breakfast (with plain, nonfat yogurt, a bit of maple syrup and vanilla stirred in).

Dessert was a peach and blackberry crisp (blackberries picked from my back yard): I sliced 3 peaches into a square Pyrex, added a quart of blackberries, and covered them with a crumble made of steel-cut oats, butter, and brown sugar. Baked at 350 until it smelled ready and was nicely browned.

(The left-over salmon will be turned into salmon patties: mix cooked salmon, an egg, grated onion, horseradish, lemon, dill,and chopped parsely, add enough bread crumbs or panko to hold it all together, form into patties, then sautee until golden brown.)

So that’s my day– filled with fresh-cut flowers, delicious organic food, books, a beautiful home, and kitty love. All for free. I didn’t spend a cent, nor did I have to drive anywhere.

Oh, and I started this blog (which I’ve been thinking about doing for months).

And,perhaps in answer to my prayers, over the past 24 hours I’ve been asked to speak at two separate upcoming gigs. The talks aren’t paying much, but they’re an opportunity to help others, to make new contacts, and maybe even to sell some books. Who knows, maybe they’ll even generate new clients.



Zucchini Muffins (courtesy of my friend Pam)
1 cup white flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp cloves
2/3 cups coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans

In mixing bowl beat:
2 eggs
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup oil
Beat 3 minutes or until very smooth.

Add :
2 cups grated zucchini (about two medium)
Optional: 1/2 cup raisins

Mix in the dry ingredients.

Fill muffin cups and bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes.


laura cooskey said...

Hey Claire,
Thanks, that was a good start to my day; inspirational. I will do some cooking today myself, making a banana bread with some 'nanners i was going to throw away.

Yeah, i've been cash-poor lately too; it's a bit scarey, but i think it will change soon. I find, however, that this material thing can turn into a psychological problem... witness my original family. Money was always a problem there, and cause for stress and arguments; it ended up leaving us kids with a sense of not being the ones with any power, or means, or chance of doing anything but scraping by. Funny one of us didn't get the compensatory notion of just making money hand over fist, but no. Anyway i think the poverty mentality helped create a helplessness mentality, and a no-time-for-fun attitude.

Of course, people who didn't grow up with this conditioning may choose cash poverty without taking the negative attitudes that go with it. I am trying to pretend that i am only choosing the money part of scarcity but can act as if i came from, or as if i am the embodiment of, confidence, power, abundance, etc.

Anyway thanks for the reminder to count blessings. Meow!

Love, Laura

Robert Weeks said...

Hi Claire,

Many and muchas apologies for missing your birthday. So Happy Birthday anyway! I'll send you a card soon. Been thinking of you. Deanna and I are looking at traveling to Italy later this year. Hope you are well.