Clutter vs. abundance
''Simplify, simplify,'' admonishes Thoreau, and his words are often in my thought. The idea is attractive to me, but then -
Had I followed his advice would Brit have won first prize for her modern flower arrangement in our garden club's spring show? Were you to trim your wisteria vine in the fall, you'd put the cutoff pieces in the garbage or perhaps the compost, right? But you see, with intuition born of twenty-five years of garden club activity, I did not do either. I rolled them up, tied them and put them on the carport shelf that houses garden accouterments. When Brit called me this spring, therefore, and asked, ''Grace, how are you and the family and do you have any vines?'' it might, to someone else, have seemed a slightly weird phone call, but not to me. I replied, ''Of course, and you can pick them up from the carport anytime you like!'' Upon Brit's receiving a blue ribbon, I jokingly told her that her exposition card should have read, ''Arrangement by Brit B.; vine courtesy of Grace P.!''
''Simplify, simplify,'' but then would I have had the margarine cups when I received these phone calls: ''Do you have forty margarine cups?'' or another time, ''Do you have sixty margarine cups?'' The first was from the committee chairman of our local scholarship fund, who planned to use them to make centerpieces for an annual fund-raising dinner. The second was from the representative of a group going into the county old-age home to do an arts and crafts program with some of the residents. Of course, I had the margarine cups and could have supplied more. Not that we eat margarine in our house. We do not. Friends who do keep me in supply. It is their repayment for items they receive from my clearinghouse activities.
''Simplify, simplify,'' but would our neighbor's honor high school student still be an honor student if I had taken this injunction too seriously? At 9:30 one evening he telephoned. He had completely overlooked the fact that his English assignment for the morrow was to read a play by an American playwright and write a report thereon. Our local public library closes at 9 p.m. but my library never does. I invited him over and in minutes he was vastly relieved to have a suitable drama im his hands. Had he needed a book on early American glass , for example, or a vegetarian cookbook, or Goethe's works in German, he could have been as easily satisfied! For a great many books in my library are donated to me by a secondhand book dealer. It came about in this wise. Having some biographies in which I was no longer interested I brought them to him with the idea of turning them into a little cash, perhaps. The man gave the books one quick, disdainful glance and snapped, ''I throw out better books!'' As a bibliophile, I asked, ''May I have them then?'' His affirmative reply has enabled me to build an extensive and diversified library while also donating my discards to local thrift shops and a veterans' hospital.
''Simplify, simplify.'' In hundreds of cases my contrary decisions in this respect have been a matter of life and death to those involved. For thirty years I have rescued throwaway dogs and cats from the run-down area where my business day is spent. Most were abused and semi-starved. After a period of rehabilitation, both emotional and physical, with the exception of fourteen dogs and nine cats, they have been placed in very carefully chosen homes. The exceptions, which remain with me, were for the most part so cruelly treated they have never learned to trust other human beings. Of these, rescued as young animals, the oldest cat is sixteen years, the oldest dog, fifteen. The animal project has a wide ripple effect. An example is the family next door, which moved here totally indifferent to pets and now has three adored and adoring cats which were originally strays. Their teen-age daughter worked as a kennel person this summer for a nationally known dog trainer and acknowledges that it was her experience, gained while helping care for our animals, that got her the job.
Simplify? Perhaps. But might not one make a more abundant life for himself and others by a willingness to complicate it with expenditures of thought, energy and time?