Tag Archive: curiosity


High-Acreage Curiosity


I’m getting ready to take Putney (my dog, for those who haven’t met him) to Camp Clough (AKA my parents) for the summer. I’m leaving soon for 20 days, part of which is a liturgy conference at Yale.

I’m expecting a house guest for two nights, immediately before departing. I haven’t had an overnight guest for months, and the guest room is the staging area for storing winter clothes and disposal of things I no longer need.

Behind my piano is a pile of music: ten volumes of piano rags and French romantic chansons from the Chicago Public Library, a tote bag of choral octavos from Ellen Fisher, a borrowed collection of Schubert piano duets.

Behind my couch is a basket of issues of Maine: the Magazine, Vermont Life, National Geographic, unread, awaiting reading.

My refrigerator is packed full, most of its contents a large collection of sauces, relishes and other accompaniments I’ve picked up in stores trading in local and artisan foods. They keep well, but get used in exceedingly small quantities. On the kitchen shelves is a similar collection of unopened toppings. There are five jars of different kinds of mustard from Raye’s <www.rayesmustard.com> in Eastport, ME . One is open.

Mustard jars

I live alone.

And then there are the books.

A friend of mine popped his head in my office last week, and said, “It looks like a dorm room.”

Scattered about therein are more books and scores.

I need to say right now that I am NOT a collector. In my twenties, I realized that the few collections I had collected for the sake of having collections brought me no joy. There was remorse for spending money on things that had no utility. I committed to no more collecting. No thimbles, no bone china plates of exotic places. Not that there’s anything wrong with it.

In tidying for my guest’s arrival and my departure, I see the problem, arising from my being a curious person. Working with a life coach <www.purposeatwork.com> a few years ago, I articulated a life purpose that is, briefly, to guide others to uncover their own curiosity to lead them to discovery and learning. My life purpose grows out of my own attitude. I find meaning and joy in vacuuming up experiences, then letting them shape my perspective and choices. I thrive on exceptional sensory experiences. Five jars of mustard could tell you that (actually, there are seven jars, but only five from Raye’s) with a translator.

The musical scores, the magazines, the Mason jars. These are containers for experiences. They gather around me, offering adventures. But they compete with each other for my time and energy, and my space. They conflict with my desire to simplify, to live more like the Shakers I visited a few summers ago.

I am immensely blessed to know that curiosity will never, ever let me be bored in this too-short life.

But it’s taking up a lotta space in my apartment!

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Before we begin, apologies for the delay. My excuse for the first two days was the ongoing preparations for the concert I was to give next Tuesday. Hours of rehearsal; researching program notes; writing a pithy, irreverent bio (self-irreverential, I guess). Last night, two days after my Monday deadline, I finally left work early enough to get home and work on the blog.

The Postal Service had other plans for me, however. Two-thirds of the way home on my bike ride in 90-degree heat (which should have been punishment enough, considering that it was only hours until autumn), a postal worker in a company van plowed into me, throwing me *ahem* ass over teakettle (as Dad likes to say), and ruining my whole night. I spent an hour at the scene (half of it, thankfully, in air-conditioned comfort on a cushy stretcher in the back of an ambulance), a half-hour in transit, then SIX HOURS in the Emergency Room. At least I had regular changes of scenery: six rooms, and an awful lot of walking for someone with a sprained knee and a laceration requiring nine stitches (and two broken fingers). But then they didn’t know those things for the first five hours.

So, today, I’m at home with bandages, ice packs, care packages, oh, and codeine. And sick leave permits me to finish my story about the naming of 18Pockets.

_____

The community in the Hundred Acre Wood was small at the beginning of Winnie-The-Pooh, clannish even. Rabbit, Piglet, Owl, Eeyore, Christopher Robin, and Pooh. [No, sorry, you’re wrong. Tigger doesn’t show up until the second book.] So not until Chapter Seven do the first new residents arrive. It’s was never one of the most memorable chapters for me: “in which Kanga and Baby Roo come to the forest, and Piglet has a bath.”

“Nobody seemed to know where they came from, but there they were in the Forest”. Rabbit is agitated by the new arrivals, “What I don’t like about it is this[.] Here are we…” and he proceeds to name everyone in their little community, “…and then suddenly… We find a Strange Animal among us.”

Rabbit is particularly energized by the fact that she carries her family around in her pocket.  Rabbit has many Friends and Relations, and he wonders how he could ever carry all his family around as Kanga does. How many pockets would he need? Piglet estimates sixteen, Rabbit – prone to escalate things – counts seventeen, plus one for a handkerchief. “Eighteen pockets in one suit! I haven’t time”. He schemes to kidnap Roo, and return him to his mother only if they “promise to go away from the Forest and never come back.”

How do we react when we encounter the unknown? The stranger and her traditions? Do we sample new foods from unfamiliar cultures? Do we admire or wince at unusual clothing? Do we fume at what seems like chaos? Do we feel oppressed by hyper-efficiency? Do we try to understand the reason for the difference?

In discovering this little passage, I have found, in my favorite book, one person’s reaction to discovery. Rabbit – the brusque, insensitive, self-appointed community leader – demonstrates one response when a new way of thinking or doing comes uncomfortably, surprisingly close. Pooh counters with his charming mix of ignorance and innocence that Rabbit would only need fifteen pockets; he becomes the optimist.

I have always felt that I have some things in common with Rabbit (Ask Leslie about, “You dance, I’ll sing!” – we were five.). But I find a little of myself in all of the residents of the Hundred Acre Wood.

How do we meet the world? Do we go out and look for it? How far out do we go? Do we wait for it to come to us, with cookies on the counter and a pitcher of milk ready to pour when it comes to our door? Do we invite the world in? Do we peer out through closed curtains from darkened rooms, hoping that the world will pass by without knocking? Do we arm ourselves for defense?

I haven’t seen anywhere near as much of the world as I dream to see. But I know that I become more curious with every year. I have a spirit of exploration: just around one more bend, turn one more corner, scale one more hill, to see what’s beyond. I delight in a five-senses experience of the world around me: biking country roads around my home town; shopping exotic food markets in the UN that is decidedly-uncharming yet fascinatingly-diverse Wheaton, MD; wandering the streets of untouristy neighborhoods in great cities. You may not find me scaling K2 or slumming it in Vientiane, but I am an explorer. I hope that if you join me as I cultivate my own curiosity and encourage your exploration, I can deliver some delight along the way.

Got your eighteen pockets ready?

[all quotes from Milne, A.A. Winnie-The-Pooh. London: Methuen Children’s Books, 1926, 1954, 1973.]

When enough people had said, “You should blog about that”, I began slipping slowly into a pop-author-like delirium. Of course, the only logical next step was… to buy a book about blogging.

Weeks passed. Months. No blog.

I bought another book about blogging.

Still no blog. *sigh*

Casual descriptions of my dream to cultivate cultural curiosity by offering food-forward active adventures to a curious clientele prompt responses like, “If you offer a trip like that, I’ll go!” and “Sign me up.” Launching an international tour business from the organ bench seems like a logistical impossibility (one lacks time and money enough to support it, and how does one learn not to be an organist?).

Poppa never traveled much. Nana refused, for the most part, and after she departed this earthly life, although travel became more possible for him, there were still limits imposed by seasickness and pteromechanophobia. Mostly, the armchair was the vehicle of choice. Tickets for passage, foreign and domestic, could be found in magazines, books, television shows, supplemented by occasional car trips with family and frequent self-guided ramblings around Central New York.

I hold my Poppa in high esteem. “Why go, when one can blog?” “Blog” spelled backward is “go[lb]”. Drop the last two letters, and find your mandate: Go when you can; the rest of the time, blog.

I remember Winnie-the-Pooh and friends went on “explores” and “expotitions”, and, since the two Pooh collections are my most enduringly-beloved books, I think that perhaps Christopher Robin’s adventures infected me with wanderlust from childhood. I go on an “expotition” through the books, looking for an emblematic “explore” to illuminate my mission to my readers. Success eludes me.

Next time: The Revelation of 18 Pockets