A Second Cup of Tea

800px-Cup_of_tea,_Scotland

 

Last year, I decided that I wanted something different for the new year– not resolutions which seemed doomed to failure and designed to inspire self-loathing– but something else, a kind of “to do” list. Not a bucket list, with its solemn life-changing scope, something smaller. What I came up with was a “tea-cup list“.

On the original list, there were 15 items. I achieved 7 of them:  I did renew my passport and I did leave the country. I bought a kitchen torch, I took Ransom to the beach, I spent more time with friends. I threw away my old tired undies, I explored more, I kissed more.

But the living room ceiling is still without gilt, I didn’t get to Kitty Hawk, I haven’t been riding, though I did take a carriage in Central Park.  I didn’t take the train to the Library of Congress, and I didn’t find a place to swim.  The fireplace still needs tile, and I haven’t learned to make a pie crust– though I found a restaurant in West Milton, Ohio that makes the most wonderful pie, so maybe I can cross that off instead. I am not writing five days a week and that does vex me.

I still want to get to all of those things, but they won’t make this year’s list.  Oh, perhaps you will catch a glimpse of one or two here or there.  But it is a new year and I have new things, and new-old things I want to try. And as with last year’s, I post these not because I think you have any particular interest in how I plan to make my year, but in hope that it may inspire you to make plans for some fun of your own.

 

Tea for 2015

1.  Two finished chapters by March 1.

I’ve been spinning my wheels on this long enough. The research is always fun, but the weight of what I need to do has begun to tax me. It’s time to get those chapters written, the outline polished, the pitch made perfect. In March I want to begin to sell the book.  (And while this sounds a bit like a resolution and I am resolved to make it happen, it is finally, a gift to myself to move forward.) 

 

2.  French doors to the study.

There are two sets of vintage French doors in the garage. And a five-foot wide opening into my study through which sail dogs, husband, children and the like. I love my family, truly, but if I can’t close the door, they interrupt, and if they interrupt I don’t get any work done. See item 1. 

 

3.  Detroit Institute of Arts

The Detroit Institute of Arts is safe, thank God. I had planned to go and visit when it was in danger of being raffled off to cure the city’s bankruptcy.  The imminent threat has been abated, but I still want to get to the Motor City to explore restaurants and make photographs of another great American city and poke around the art museum and see my friends Ed and Jerry over there in Windsor. 

 

4.  A few nights at the Elizabeth City Bed & Breakfast

When the Wrights went to the Outer Banks to try their Flyer, the train took them to Elizabeth City, North Carolina. They stayed in the Southern Hotel there while waiting for the weekly freight boat to Kitty Hawk. The Southern is long gone, but the quaint and charming Elizabeth City B & B is in an old inn that was the Southern’s contemporary. I think there’s a pillow there with a mint on it for me. 

 

5.  Chincoteague

I want to go and see the ponies. It’s not so far. 

 

6.  Finish early

This one is even more like a resolution, but my relationship with deadlines is a toxic one. It makes me anxious and cranky, and I could just be a lot kinder to myself by not letting it go so long. I will try. 

 

7.  Swim nearly every day.

What a luxury, and one within the realm of possibility. I would not have modified it to “nearly”, and could have planned to swim every day but I know my own life well enough that my best hope is four or five days a week. 

 

8.  Hang every picture in the house. On freshly painted walls.

I have many wonderful paintings and photographs and the like that are stacked in closets and up against walls and packed in boxes. It’s time to hang them so I can enjoy them. Some of the walls need a new coat of paint first. I’ve got the paint, I just need to set aside the time to make it happen.

 

9.  Rookwood Pottery. A single tile. 

Rookwood Pottery is functioning again. I told my husband I’d like a bear for my birthday. Perhaps I’ll get my wish. But really I’d like to go and look at tiles and see them made and perhaps buy just one, and use that one splendid tile for the focus of the surround that the living room fireplace has needed since we moved in. Eight years ago. 

 

10.  Go to the zoo and visit the lions.

I love the lions at the Cincinnati Zoo. There are new cubs. It’s not so far, nor so expensive. I just like to sit quietly and watch, it’s good for the soul.  I’ve never been sorry to spend an afternoon there. 

 

11.  Have a lobster roll.

My most favorite food. I don’t know where I’ll get this lobster roll. It doesn’t seem all that likely I’ll get to the Maritimes two summers running. But maybe. Revere Beach is closer. And if it comes down to brass tacks, I’ll make one for myself. 

 

12.  Resurrect the Suburban.

Poor Suburban, our work truck, gasping for fuel, the front passenger seat torn asunder where the dog lost his mind one afternoon. There’s a spot on the roof with a bit of rust. It’s sat in the driveway so long now that the remote won’t work. But it wouldn’t take so much to put it all to right, and once again have a rig that will carry sheet rock, plywood, garden soil, straw bales, dog crates, storage tubs and furniture. I miss it, I miss sitting a bit higher than the rest of the traffic. I miss its limousine qualities. It’s a worthwhile endeavor to bring it back. 

 

13.  Winnow

Like everybody, I’ve got too much stuff. Some of this stuff I don’t even really like. It’s time to pitch it. Ditto the spices I’ve been carrying around since I was a sophomore in college. The shoes I will never ever wear again. Some of the ways I squander my time. Friends who aren’t friends. Clothes that make me feel self-conscious. Books that I haven’t read and won’t read or those I’ve read once and won’t ever read again. Music I don’t like. VHS tapes.

 

14.   Go to the movies.

I like the movies. There’s a first run cinema here where you can see them for five dollars a pop on Wednesdays. I just need to make a point to go. I don’t remember the last time I saw a movie in a theater. It might have been a decade ago.

 

15.  Keep being grateful.

This autumn I made a point to count my blessings– three a day for a hundred days. I’ve finished that exercise and it was a good one. I’m so very glad I did it, even though I’m –um– grateful that I no longer have to do it such a formal fashion. But it did change me in a profound way. I learned to look for the silver lining, to note the things that made me feel happy or joyous or content instead of just letting those slide.  The glass is more beautiful when it is half full.

 

 

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The Tea Cup List

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For years, in the quiet hours before New Year’s festivities, I dutifully crafted a list of resolutions, usually on the flyleaf of a brand new journal.  They ran the gamut from good thinking  (“Be comfortable in your own skin”) to the painful (“Find a good man”) to the absurd (“Publish that book of poems.”) Almost without exception they became instead a list of failures, mocking me each time I opened the journal. Good God, who needs that to start the new year? Or any time. Eventually I gave up making resolutions (and became comfortable in my own skin and found a good man) — for that matter I gave up keeping journals: much time is wasted contemplating one’s own belly button.

When I turned 50, it seemed like the right time to make a bucket list, so I did. It’s a good list and it’s holding up well. But a Bucket List is like a Lifetime Achievement award, a road map for the things you’d like to eventually accomplish. Some of them are less practical for the short term.

Last week while making quiche I thought, “this year I’m going to teach myself to make a pie crust that is both dependable and delicious.” This thought was soon followed by another: what else would I like to accomplish in the coming year? The usual self-castigating cast of characters danced their way across my consciousness. “Lose weight!” they sang. “Write every day!” they crooned. “Get your thank you notes sent promptly!” rang out the chorus.  No, no, no. Those are all worthwhile and virtuous. But I want something else. Something fun.

Like a bucket list, but smaller and more immediate. And thus, dear friends, we have it. The Tea Cup List. (And many thanks to my dear friend, Fran Menley, for supplying the name of my wonderful new list for the New Year.)  I hasten to add here that I’m not posting this because I think that you are all so fascinated with what I’d like to do in the year to come, but because I think some of you might want to borrow this idea to make your own happy plans for the new year.

Larkin’s Tea Cup List for 2014

1. Gild the living room ceiling.

I bought the paint for this nearly two years ago. The previous owners of the house painted every surface of the living room a kind of golden ochre, in flat paint. The color works, but the texture is wrong.

2. Throw away all my old tired undies.

You know the ones. A little hole here or there, a stretched out elastic, that pair that was never comfortable. I can either buy new or go without. 

3.  Spend more time with friends.

Facebook alone is not good enough, especially when you compare it to a great meal together or time spent on a treasure hunt. For Trisch, who wrote to say “Come see me in L.A.” and Pam, who wants to share lobster rolls again on PEI, I’m intending to include you in this. Distances may be long, but the will is there. 

4. Go riding once in awhile.

I miss horses. I don’t want to own one again, but I’d love to be  seeing the world through the ears of a horse. 

5. Buy a kitchen torch and use it.

This is actually related to something on my Official Bucket List, which was to make a Baked Alaska, or just eat one. In any case, having a torch is useful. 

6. Take Ransom to the beach.

My Chesapeake Bay Retriever will be 11 in June. He needs another trip to the beach.  We live in Ohio, so the beach is something to be pondered;  though Lake Erie is not that far. There’s always  his ancestral homeland, the Chesapeake Bay. Perhaps I can combine it with Number 7. 

7.  Go to Kitty Hawk.

I’m writing a book about Orville Wright, and I live in the Omphalos of Aviation history. But I have to go to Kitty Hawk all the same. I wish I could take the train there, as he and Wilbur did, but alas, those days are gone. I can however . . . 

8. Take the train to the Library of Congress

The train goes from Cincinnati to Washington for less money than it costs to drive. I figure if I get a room at a hostel and don’t take a car, I can walk to the Library to do the research and I won’t be so tempted to waste time goofing off.  Which brings me to 9…

9. Write Five Days a Week

I am a writer, goddammit. It is my job to write.  This may seem to be one of the Mean Fairies of Resolution, but sometimes just defining how you’re going to do something is an enormous boon to doing it. Plus which, I get two days off. 

10.  Renew my passport, and go.

It makes me uncomfortable, almost itchy, that my passport has expired. Time to get a new one– let’s see, passport number five. Canada is not that far away. 

11.  Find a place to swim.

The old YMCA downtown has a wonderful pool, done up in 1920s Egyptian-inspired tile. Time to join. I bet my friend Martha will go with me. 

12. Re-tile the fireplace in the living room.

Speaking of tile. Our house was built in 1913, as Dayton was recovering from a godawful flood. (And yes, it’s built in the flood plain; which strikes me as a wonderful faith and foolishness combined). Over the years it’s been both well-tended and utterly neglected. The previous owners bought it for a dollar from the city. They did a lot of wonderful work in terms of restoration, but some things were a miss– like the dusty pink bathroom tile they used on the fireplace surround. It’s designed to have tile, just not that tile. 

13. Kiss more.

This is a philosophical position. I don’t have to be quite so prickly. 

14. Explore more.

There are so many things left to discover ’round these parts that it still feels like we just moved here. It’s been nearly six years.  Long past time to make time to see flea markets, abandoned watercraft, draft horse farms, haunted places, coonhound gatherings, caverns, dives, and museums of the obscure. I want to go to Henry’s and eat pie. 

15 .  Learn to make a pie crust that is dependable and delicious.