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Not Things

I've been learning things lately, maybe more than usual.  Maybe not.  I'm always on a quest for knowledge, to an almost un-natural level, and since I wake up one to two hours before everyone else, I have time to think and read every day.  My latest lesson--even those of us who are die-hard minimalists can become preoccupied with things.  The acquisition, the bettering, the removal, and the photographing.  

I'd even thought of doing a photo post where I'd talk about all the recycled toys we have--ones that were mine, ones that belonged to friends, ones from Goodwill.  Really?  Why?  So I can prove to you all that I don't buy lots of toys and yet we have them coming out our ears?  See?  It sounds really silly when I write it all down.  

The inspiration has been all the blogs that I read where at-home mothers share photos of all the playthings their children have.  Always tidy, always colorful, always wood, always handmade or fair trade or imported. . . You get it.  The thing I noticed, and it was odd, was that most of the photos were absent of the children.  I admit that I have been tempted to wait until Willow was out or asleep to photograph various things around the house, a little tour of sorts.  But it's not real.

Things are meaningless when they are not in use.  And maybe we're being a little dishonest with ourselves if we don't capture the things in our homes being given life by the people we care about.

Susan and I talked about this the other day--how I've found as I've tried to learn more about various education styles that most of the information seems to center around what things you need in order to make it happen.  I guess certain things do make putting ideas into practice a bit easier--like items on a child's level or size for Montessori techniques.  The truth is, children make ideas happen no matter what things you have for them to use. 

Willow still mourns the broken stick that was once forked--it was her vacuum even when we had a toy one for her to use.  Yesterday, she requested all my pocket field guides from the bookshelf and spent much of the day organizing them on the floor and stacking them in our hands.  At one point, she had all the loose blankets in the house on the rug, blocks out of the cart all over the floor, mushroom house emptied of people and critters, playsilks off the play stands and wrapped around Fraggles, and the Fraggles had hair elastics looped around their eyes.  My Cycle Beads were dangling from Gobo's neck.

Children do a lot to teach us about life.  How is it we forgot?


( 13 trees — Plant a Forest )
Angela Braford Tuell
Mar. 8th, 2011 01:58 pm (UTC)
Thought of this song when I read your blog
You've heard this song I bet:

Goes good with your blog entry.

Have you every looked at Waldorf stuff vs Montessori? It's more nature based and not so much special stuff to buy.
Mar. 8th, 2011 02:54 pm (UTC)
Re: Thought of this song when I read your blog
I had to read the lyrics to get a real grasp of it. Nope, hadn't heard it, but I have read Into The Wild. Very interesting book. I often think I could have left most of civilization behind, but not to that extent. I like to think I wouldn't have met that kind of end, but who knows?

Interestingly, many of the blogs I'm thinking of are Waldorf ones. All the things are so pretty, so I can understand getting caught up with them. I really like needle felting, dyeing and Stockmar crayons, so I had a natural tendency toward Waldorf aesthetics. The philosophies seem a little out there and nebulous. Still sorting it all out.
Mar. 8th, 2011 04:15 pm (UTC)
Hi Brandy!

I became rather disillusioned with mommy bloggers who seemed to be embracing minimalism and nature, but yet they seemed utterly enamored with "lifestyle stuff". The thrill of having children seemed to be overtaken with the thrill of putting on a new lifestyle of "stuff" that was advertised as natural, gentle, and pure. Through the accumulation, the whole act became inauthentic.

I go into the organic, whole foods groceries and experience the same seduction of this stuff. Then there was the REI when we'd go in to look for some equipment we needed for the bikes, backpacking or camping. . . the place was filled with wealthy Baby Boomers who hadn't set foot in a campground but dressed in outdoor-sy (expensive too) clothing styles as they frequented Blue Ridge bed and breakfasts at their retirement leisure. It's all a put-on.

I swear there's a whole faction of our generation having babies just so they can feel important as they "put on" this "stuff". It makes them feel as if they have an identity of superiority and noble purpose. It's the same with any age group, including teenagers, looking to fit in. . . it's just that the whole natural thing seemed more noble. If not practiced with the right wisdom, the whole thing is nothing more than a controlling marketing scheme. It's like birth and breastfeeding: is there really a right way?! Sure, there are ideal ways, but that varies from unique individual to unique individual. (It's strange to me that a more liberal set of thinkers don't see their own narrowmindedness on the matter!)

As they say, the road to hades is paved with good intentions!

I've had opinions on this topic for awhile. I enjoy seeing all the great toys, product, activities, and ideas too. Don't get me wrong. But it's an inauthentic lifestyle when it's all about getting the shiny new, if you know what I mean.

Your post here definitely strikes a chord with me!

: ) Emily

Mar. 8th, 2011 10:51 pm (UTC)
Glad to hear from you again. Still opinionated as ever. ;-) I think this was a eureka moment for me--a good lesson to learn at a good time.

The owner of our local backpacking store calls people like you described "bird watchers." He's a really casual guy--often wearing shorts with duct tape on them and worn shoes. We browsed there recently and I was pleased to find that the gear I purchased 10 years ago was still just as good as what is for sale now. Life is interesting.

Mar. 9th, 2011 02:44 am (UTC)
I like that, "bird watchers" (although something tells me most of them wouldn't know much about birds, haha)! And yes, I am still terribly opinionated, and I often remind myself of what my very opinionated grandmothers says about opinions and everyone having them, LOL!

BTW, I hope I didn't offend you. It wasn't you as a mommy blogger I was thinking of. . . you're a thinker, and you've challenged me at the task myself. I still think of you saying "ruthless decluttering" when I'm continually trying to pare down!

I hope you are feeling really well these days!


Mar. 9th, 2011 02:02 pm (UTC)
You didn't offend me. I learned a lot by writing this post and even had some attitude adjusting to do over the time it took me to write it. We're doing pretty well these days, just waiting around.
(Deleted comment)
Mar. 8th, 2011 10:45 pm (UTC)
It's easy to feel pressured to find one style of being/doing/learning, but children don't care. That taught me a lot about vanity. Of course, what matters is the ultimate happiness of our children and a genuine love for God--yours have such a wonderful start. :-)
(Deleted comment)
Mar. 9th, 2011 02:03 pm (UTC)
:-D Thank you.
Mar. 9th, 2011 02:09 am (UTC)
what a wonderful and honest post.
I feel the same way!
Too often when parents or people in general concentrate on material things, magic is lost...esp. when it comes to children.
the internet is a great resource...but sometimes it is an information overload.
Mar. 9th, 2011 02:03 pm (UTC)
Thanks! I really like your blog since you find creative ways to reuse what you already have and like to make things from tree cookies. ;-)
Mar. 9th, 2011 07:31 am (UTC)
So are you saying that I should *not* feel guilty because my girls aren't running around in open meadows wearing organic cotton dresses, flying the play silks I hemmed for them myself, with delightful abandon? Hmmm.

Seriously, I know exactly what you mean and were I rich I would potentially be as bad as any of the bloggers you mentioned! But thankfully I am not, and my efforts toward that idealistic-but-faddish lifestyle have been met with only touch-and-go success. My kids don't actually use the playsilks I hemmed for them and they refuse to wander the backyard without me 90% of the time. Sometimes they've preferred plastic toys to wooden ones. Would they ever play with anything if I had the means to take the natural/ organic/ Waldorf path completely? I don't know.... but it would look great on the shelves. ;-)
Mar. 9th, 2011 02:07 pm (UTC)
You hemmed playsilks? Where's the eyes-bugging-out smiley? I guess you have had a lot of silk pass through your home with all those wedding dresses you've made. Don't feel guilty at all, not that you need me to tell you that. ;-)
( 13 trees — Plant a Forest )

A Blessed Wilderness

It was just like being in heaven, being in there. In those days there was no road. The park was all a blessed wilderness. I have often thought what a wonderful people we would have been if we had wanted to keep it that way.

~Adolph Murie, biologist, on Denali


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