When Homemaking Pays Its Dividends

THERE is a charm and coziness in winter for the homemaker wherein she may be in possession of herself more than at any other season of the year. Keeping up with the work of homemaking, from cook to chambermaid and laundress to shopper, and all its incredible miscellany of numerous chores, keeps us in a running routine most of the time. Come winter, if we are wise, we do not need to venture out into the season's chilling blasts or onto slippery walks, but may remain indoors confident that our good management of squirreled-away foods and other necessities will outlast the few days of outdoor difficulty. This is the season when homemaking pays off its dividends in some delightful and relaxed activity and fun.

There are more moments to participate in leisurely projects - time and energy to accomplish the quiet, small things that help restore our balance and harmony. I get the broken pair of beads to restring on new, strong nylon thread. I have time to hem a skirt, or a dress that has been closeted too long. This quietude belongs to career-minded people, too, and to others who work outside of the home, but only on weekends and holidays, and possibly evenings.

My record player keeps me company during the few hours I give to cleaning and tidying. The voices of the great singers peal forth into my living room.

It is thrilling to the spirit to listen to Luciano Pavarotti or Pl'acido Domingo sing out in such splendor. The older recordings of Lily Pons, Edith Piaf, and John McCormack lift my spirits, too, and make of life a banquet.

Robert Frost is a great guest also with his rich tangibles of everyday happenings - from his mending of fences to his talk poems that reach everyone. His New England realities bring us closer to the universal aspects of life.

In winter, some somber thoughts are part of the experience of living, but this kind of sobriety serves to heighten the intensity of life. Thus it becomes constructive.

Sometimes I enjoy listening to the spirited outpourings of Emily Dickinson via the clear voice of Julie Harris. And sometimes the lyrics of Edna St. Vincent Millay suit my mood. I am always surprised by the husky voice of this diminutive woman poet. I have company even when it is too cold for friends and neighbors to come to my door.

There are a few moments to pot some grapefruit seeds left from my simple breakfast. In a world where there are still hungry people, I am glad that I was born and bred as a thrifty New Englander to the proverb ``Waste not, want not.''

It is said the Chinese have another way of putting it: ``Be frugal so you can be generous.''

To have enough for others is a blessing, but it is not from virtue that I pot the few grapefruit seeds. It is from the joy of seeing a little tree come alive.

I remember to place a sweet potato in a jar half filled with water. Soon it will trail its leaves on the windowsill over the kitchen sink.

I am always rewarded by the miracle of greenery stemming out of a seed or a tuber in a bit of earth and water. Many plants grow in just water - that simple effort in rooting called hydroponics. Amateur hydroponics, no doubt.

Within a moment I get out the big, round goldfish bowl complete with a tiny castle on a miniature sand dune. I fill it three-fourths full of water and allow it to remain overnight so all the chemical elements that are toxic to goldfish will evaporate.

This winter, two friends, 6 and 16, brought to my aquarium two pairs of goldfish swimming in a transparent plastic bag of water. The brightness and aliveness of the tiny creatures made me pause in wonderment and happiness at the bounty of life.

Pretty redbirds and blue jays come, and when I have forgotten to fill the feeders, they find seeds on bushes and trees and create an oasis of color and activity in my yard.

Whenever I see them, something in me ticks joyously.

On cold, snowy days I reach out to them with sunflower seeds, peanut butter mixed with whole-grain bread crumbs, and chunks of apple.

I know my birds are better fed than children in war-torn countries. In the midst of joy, there is sadness, and the pricking of my higher consciousness. I feel helpless and limited, and unsure of what my part is in the overall problem. It will take time to acquire world balance and harmony. Meanhile, the plight of starving people is awesome.

On winter evenings, I am ready for some recreation and refreshment and like to watch educational TV.

If I am not too tired, I will bake and cook while listening, and soon the warm scents from fruity bran muffins, a quiche or a hearty casserole, and a pan of cinnamon-spiced apples assail me. Then I feel that here on this land winter has its share of the amenities and pleasures of living.

Many winter nights I go moon-viewing, if only for a few minutes, for it is a particularly appealing experience to see the golden-lighted moon festooned in the sky amid the sister specks of starlight, when on earth all is cold and white and still. The contrast of this warm-looking moon peering down on frozen earth has a pallid and silent charm, but a charm, nonetheless. It is an aesthetic object - a lantern in the sky to light up the darkness.

My heart is warmed and at peace, for all is well here.

There is cosmic order in the universe. The same moon is exhibited from here to China, and all the way around the world. It is the same too for all the world in gravitational pull of the tides and in aesthetic delight.

The world is one. We must be as one also, united in caring so we shall not perish from this inviting earth.

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