Saturday, 1 November 2014

Just Junk?

There's lots of junk in this world: junk mail, junk heaps, junk bonds, junk food. Originally, junk was a nautical term for a piece of old cable; then it became a synonym for unwanted or poor quality items. Lately, it’s also been a “euphemism” for male genitalia – see the things you learn when you read CrowDayOne? But we won’t go there in this blog, I promise; how the family jewels became junk is a mystery I’m not interested in exploring.

Junk is another word for mess, and that’s what we found when we got home from our trip: our garden was a mess. Overgrown perennials, dead sunflowers, long snaggy grass, tomatoes sliming on the vine. “We’ve got to get out there and clean up that junk,” said the RS, gazing mournfully out the window,  and I agreed. But it rained. Then it rained. And it rained some more.

While we were waiting for a sunny day, I spent time cleaning out my closets and  shelves  – three garbage bags full for the thrift store. One woman’s junk is another woman’s treasure.

I also checked my e-mail and began unsubscribing to junk-mail posts. One regular posting I didn’t delete, however, was the blog post I receive from Margaret at – lots of useful information, including a post on cleaning up your garden. Well, that’s timely, I thought. Except that her message was: DON”T. Don’t clean up your garden – at least not to the point that it’s what my mom would have called “nettjes” – a Dutch word meaning neat and tidy, proper and orderly. Nettjes is good; slordig – sloppy, messy, junky –  is not. But Margaret was telling me that slordig might be fine. Hmm.

What we think of as junk is a treasure to others of God’s creatures. Apparently, birds, bees, bugs and other small wildlife such as toads and salamanders love slordig, which is the natural state of nature – seeds to peck at, leaf piles to keep them warm and to hide them from their enemies. And we saw the evidence in our backyard. We’d never seen so many birds flitting about and feasting on our junk. We’re cleaning out the garden, but we’re being a little more thoughtful about it. How can we continue to share it with other forms of life?

It’s made me think about junk with different eyes. Yesterday, while carving up the Halloween pumpkin, I cut open the top and began scooping out the junk. But the innards weren’t junk, I realized – they were actually what the pumpkin was supposed to produce, each seed a jewel that could, if given the right conditions, produce many more pumpkins. (Sorry to say, my pumpkins’ seeds were consigned to the compost heap,  but still...)

I thought about the potential that might be hidden within so many other things that we call junk...including people. In the quilt I made to celebrate the year I turned 60, I created a square that looks like junk. It’s a self-portrait, actually – I was feeling very angry that week, and so I portrayed the monster that was living inside my inner closet. Maybe you have one of those too, that comes out of nowhere to sandbag you and turn you into a raving Frankenstein, practically foaming at the mouth? Not a pretty picture.

I did a lot of journaling and exploring that week, and realized that the anger monster just might be my best friend, telling me that there’s something wrong in my life, telling me to pay attention. Sooner would have been better, before the lid blew off and spattered the RS, but later is better than never. So I made friends with my inner monster, fixed up some things that needed fixing, and that was a good thing.

I belong to a group of fiber artists that challenges itself to create works on specific themes. The Small Worx sisters this month are working on self-portraits to show what we like about ourselves. When we first heard the assignment, some of us had that “deer-in-the-headlights” look, paralyzed by doubt. It would be so easy to portray the junk within, the things we don’t like about ourselves, the monsters in our closets. But this assignment asks us to come home to ourselves and recognize ourselves for who we are: not junk, but created masterpieces.

This week, poet Galway Kinnell died. His poem St. Francis and the Sow is such a lovely reminder that God doesn’t make junk, although "sometimes it is necessary to re-teach a thing its loveliness".
We may be kind to ourselves, blessing the “us-ness” within.

Saint Francis And The Sow

The bud
stands for all things,
even for those things that don't flower,
for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;
though sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on its brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;
as Saint Francis
put his hand on the creased forehead
of the sow, and told her in words and in touch
blessings of earth on the sow, and the sow
began remembering all down her thick length,
from the earthen snout all the way
through the fodder and slops to the spiritual curl of the tail,
from the hard spininess spiked out from the spine
down through the great broken heart
to the blue milken dreaminess spurting and shuddering
from the fourteen teats into the fourteen mouths sucking and blowing beneath
the long, perfect loveliness of sow.

--Galway Kinnell

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