An End to Cutting and Choosing

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I never believed the old family story that my first word was “Why?”  Still, there’s no doubt I was an early questioner, indiscriminate in my curiosity. “Where do clouds go when they aren’t here?” “Is it dark inside an egg? Are the baby birds afraid?” “Why don’t you like  Mrs. Wilster?”  “Did God make his nose funny like that?” “Why can’t I have cake for breakfast?”

I was full of questions – about the world, about adults and even about the cloud of secrets I sensed floating across my sunny young life.  Given my willingness to question everything in sight, it seems strange I never asked about my lack of sisters and brothers. Even though my friends had them, siblings still reminded me of woolly wormswalking sticks and puff balls. Some of them were creepy and mysterious. Others appeared to be harmless but capable of annoying mischief. When little kids need help from someone bigger, taller or stronger siblings can be useful, but in the end my friends and I were happiest when they decided to leave us alone.

Friends told me I was lucky to be an only child, but I never thought of myself as lucky or unlucky. Life was what it was, and my solitary state seemed normal. My parents paid attention to me, helped me to do well in school, gave me nice presents and always had time to do things with me. With the deep, pure wisdom of childhood I understood that brothers and sisters would mean more people at the dinner table, fewer presents at Christmas and less room in the back seat of the car. None of those prospects seemed appealing, so I held my peace, and didn’t question the size of our family.

The true consequences of being an only child escaped me, of course.  I lived in clothes that were purchased or made new rather than being handed down from an older sister. My toys were my own. My dolls never disappeared and I never had to defend my right to play with them. If I wanted to finger-paint, I could stand at the easel as long as I pleased. If I walked away from an uncompleted puzzle, it would be there when I returned, waiting to be finished.

Best of all, I had extraordinary control over my world. When it was time for games, I was allowed to make the choice between Mr. Potato Head or Cooties. During my famous cold-meatloaf-and-tomato-soup-for-breakast phase, my mother baked six months’ worth of meat loaves, assuming that weird nutrition was better than no nutrition at all. I had my own room, painted Overwhelming Pink and outfitted with enough 1950s ruffles and flourishes to gag Tinkerbell.  Best of all, I had a Bozo The Clown night light. It didn’t fit the room’s decor but it gave enough light for me to keep reading classics like The Pokey Little Puppy long after I was supposed to be asleep, shoving books under the covers at the sound of footsteps and feigning the dreams of innocence.

When it came time for kindergarten, it was a cold plunge into a different reality. In kindergarten, others were in charge. There were routines, schedules and expectations. “Leave your coats and mittens in the cloakroom.” “Find your chair and carry it to the reading circle.” “Unroll your mat for nap time… roll up your mat and put it away.” Our teacher chose the stories and books, lessons and games.  We cooperated or found ourselves tucked into solitary confinement among the mittens and boots. We came to loathe certain words, especially words like:  Now. Because. Stop. Don’t.

But there were pleasures, too. We learned to write our names and lined up our lunch bags alphabetically. We read stories of Dick and Jane, one awkward syllable at a time.  We played games with numbers and words, and raced one another to the swings at recess. If the weather was bad we stayed in the classroom, painting, making “books” with construction paper covers or just messing about in the huge sandbox tucked beneath the bank of high, south-facing windows. 

The sandbox, painted a translucent robin’s-egg blue and elevated on eight legs, was filled with pure, sugary-soft white sand. It was just the right height for youngsters eager to dig and it was filled with toys – little houses and trees, castles, chickens and cows, bridge trusses, sections of fence and hard plastic people.  I was entranced by the bright, shiny trucks, the tiny green-and-yellow John Deere tractors and my favorite of all, a lovely, double-decker bus. 

One day, I found my special bus and tucked it into a corner for safe-keeping.  One of my classmates had the audacity to reach into the corner and pick it up, refusing my demand that he give it back. Incensed, I screamed as though my life had been threatened. The teacher came running, probably convinced she was going to find blood. Instead, she found me, tears running down my face as I blubbered, “He took my bus!”

“Were you playing with it?”, my teacher asked.  No, I hadn’t been playing with it. “Was it just lying there in the sandbox?”  Yes, I had left it lying there. “Would it be nice to let him play with it?”  I was adamant. “NO!”  When she asked,”Why can’t he play with it?”, I couldn’t have been more clear. “It’s mine!”

A smile played around my teacher’s eyes as she said, in the sweetly reasonable tones of a woman who thinks she’s stating the obvious, “When we play in the sand box, we have to share.”

I was astonished, shaken and chagrined. “Share?!” I thought. “What’s this sharing business?”  I’d never had to share anything in my life, and I certainly wasn’t about to begin by turning over my beloved red bus to a kid I barely knew.  As the teacher walked away, my classmate turned his back and the first evil impulse of my life overcame me. I grabbed the bus, dug furiously and buried it nearly to the bottom of the the fine, sugar-like sand.  When my adversary turned around, the bus was gone and it was his turn to howl and burst into tears.  When the teacher arrived for the second time, I showed her my empty hands, gave a casual shrug and walked away.  Whether she thought to run her own hand through the sand and discovered the bus, I never knew.  

Needless to say, that was the beginning of a journey that extended far beyond childhood. The process of learning to share is difficult at best, and as we age the stakes grow higher.  

Years ago in rural Texas, I was introduced to one of the best sharing techniques in the world.  When I stopped by the home of a friend and agreed to stay for a cup of coffee,  she pulled out a piece of leftover pie to go with it.  The piece was fairly large, but it was just one piece. Taking down some plates and a knife she glanced over and asked, “Cut or choose?”  “What?” I asked. “Cut or choose?  What does that mean?”

She couldn’t believe I’d never heard of the practice. “That’s how we do it here”, she said. “When there’s just one of something to be shared, one person cuts it in two. The other person gets first choice. If one piece is bigger than the other, the person choosing gets the better deal. It motivates the cutter to be as fair as possible.”

Even at the time, I recognized the simplicity and elegance of the process. With both people involved in the outcome, each is more likely to be satisfied and recriminations are far less likely.  It’s the perfect way to divide a limited resource, like a piece of warm apple pie.

On the other hand, not all of the world’s resources are limited in the same way, and fairness isn’t always the best way to judge successful sharing.  Much of the grief in our world, much of the jealousy, bitterness, pettiness and spite comes from seeing everything around us as a last piece of pie, a slice of life waiting to be cut and distributed in ever-thinning slivers.

I once stood next to a stranger in Louise Nevelson’s Chapel of the Good Shepherd, a part of St. Peter’s Church in New York’s Citicorp Plaza and Nevelson’s only permanent New York  installation.   Looking at the exquisite assemblage, the woman said, “I hate her.”  I was so startled I couldn’t help asking why. “Look at that,” the woman said. “Look how beautiful it is.  I’ll never be able to do anything like that…”

Such a statement, of course, assumes that creativity is indistinguisable from pecan pie.  The premise seems to be that if someone gets a bigger chunk of talent, our slice is necessarily smaller.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  To paraphrase someone who knew a thing or two about life and creativity, the fault lies not in our talent, but in our metaphor.    

In an extraordinarily lovely post at her blog, whollyjeanne, Jeanne Hewell-Chambers offers a different way to understand sharing when she says,

In our journey to voice, we gather around the digital well of blogs and comments and tweets, telling our stories and speaking our truths (perhaps tentatively at first and at times), and an entrainment takes place. We find (others) with whom we resonate, (others) who inspire us, tickle us, enkindle and excite us. We gather around the digital well, knowing that encouraging, supporting, cheering on others does not diminish us in any way because this is a well of abundance.

Abundance is a word rarely heard in today’s scaled-down, pinched-up, anxiety-ridden world.  So rare is it that when I discovered artist CheyAnne Sexton closing one of her blog comments with the phrase “peace and abundance”, I was startled. And yet there are circumstances when the word is exactly right. We may run out of pie from time to time. We may have to worry about shortages of water, teachers or fuel. In a world of tightened corporate budgets, shrinking natural resources and increasingly constrained economic activity, some are forced to cut while others are made to choose.  Nevertheless, even in a world of bitter necessity, the freedom to imagine and create lives on.

The truth is that love is not limited, and does not need to be apportioned.  There is no single slice of life, no leftover spirit. Creativity is not served up on a plate and joy is not meant to be rationed. Love, creativity, boldness and joy flow freely in all seasons, fed by springs of memory and imagination. 

Droughts will come and droughts will go. From time to time, a new bucket may be needed, or new ropes for drawing. As word of abundance spreads, crowds gathering around the well may give rise to fears of diminishing supplies.  Nevertheless, no matter how difficult our days of cutting and choosing, we always will be free to lay down the knife and pick up the bucket, drawing from the well that never runs dry.

 

Comments are welcome.  To leave a comment or respond, please click below.

27 thoughts on “An End to Cutting and Choosing

  1. Hello Linda,

    I haven’t read it all … but I wondered … Is that a picture of your Mom? (Maybe not … I need to go back and read the rest of this posting). Love it already.

    Daniel

    Daniel,

    Yes, indeed. That’s me with my parents. The photo was taken at my grandparents home. I negotiated a new agreement that now allows posting of “early” photos of the family. I’m thinking maybe I could take on Israel/Palestine next, or health care reconciliation. ;-)

    Linda

  2. There are those that see life, love, the economy, roller derby as limited…a pie that must be sliced over and over in the hope that everyone gets a fair share…and there are those who see life as limitless, abundant in the glory and opportunity of God.

    Cut or choose is not so much about dividing a pie but about trust and friendship…

    burstmode,

    Exactly so. Those who understand sharing as ensuring absolute equality miss the joy of sharing as participation in the abundance of life.
    Slicing a pie into ever-thinner slivers is one possibility. Baking another pie is another ;-)

    Lovely to see you ~ thanks for stopping by.

    Linda

  3. Good morning. This is a lovely story to start my day and to encourage my thinking. The conclusion to your story has special meaning for me, a quote to pull out and reread now and then:

    “Nevertheless, no matter how difficult our days of cutting and choosing, we always will be free to lay down the knife and pick up the bucket, drawing from the well that never runs dry.”

    The second that I saw the photo I knew that the beautiful lady is your mom. I see so many of her facial features in you. I am so glad that you have permission to post photos of the family, even if they are only the ‘early ones’. Oh yes, that is one cute child!

    Maria,

    This was difficult to write, in good part because of the extraordinarily contentious and negative atmosphere we’re living in just now. You and I both know that if you put the knife in some people’s hands, they’ll forget about slicing the pie and start chasing you around the table!

    Nevertheless, encouragement was on my mind as I was writing the piece and I’m glad you drew encouragement from it.

    I was delighted to find this photo. I have very few of my dad, as we weren’t much of a photo-taking family. I need to begin the process of preserving them. As for cute ~ my prime years were early grade school. Then there was a slide into gosh-darned awkwardness, with a recently recovery to reasonably attractive. As far as I know, every photo from my fifth-grade year has been destroyed. ;-)

    Linda

  4. A lovely post. Dylan is likely to be my only child, but thankfully, due to his Dad having a son from a previous relationship, Dylan knows the value and pleasure of being able to share.

    I love your childhood photograph too :-)

    Carol,

    That’s another good way to think of it. In the beginning, we have to be taught the value of sharing. Once we begin to grasp the lesson, we begin to discover the pleasure on our own.

    And of course, the downside of being an only child becomes more apparent with the passage of time. Today, caring for my mom, I sometimes think how nice it would be to have someone to share the responsibilities, even though I’m well aware that the simple presence of siblings doesn’t always mean they’re ready to pitch in. :-)

    I wish I’d had you around to photograph my childhood. Dylan’s going to realize some day how lucky he is!

    Linda

  5. Blast you, Linda…I have things to do, people to see and places to go in order to get ready for my move to Panama and you come up with a new, long post. I hate leaving it for later but I guess I’ll just have to.

    Richard,

    Let’s see. On the one hand, Panama, exotic life, new adventure. On the other hand, reading my blog. Hmmmmmm….

    Glad to see the excitement hasn’t affected your ability to make wise choices! ;-)

    Linda

  6. Perfect timing – LOL – I LOVE when a new essay appears on my running morning – the miles just zip by while I mentally review your essay. Good thing it’s a long run today, *smile* because you certainly have provided much food for thought, and as always, awaken perspectives I understand –but haven’t explored.

    The “well of abundance” – oh my goodness – do I just love that. – Laugh, cry, flinch, think, your writing always give us so much Linda, but most importantly, I always leave your blog with an overflowing pocket of Hope. More after my run.

    Evy,

    You’re so much like me. I love finding something in my reading that gives me that sense of excitement, the sudden glimpse of connections I’ve not seen before. Granted, I carry my treasures down to the dock rather than to the running path, but I ponder them with the same pleasure.

    It seems to me that abundance isn’t well understood these days. It can be confused with having 47 pair of shoes in the closet or a fully funded retirement plan. Not to say those things aren’t good (well, maybe, in the case of the shoes) but they don’t quite get at the heart of abundance. I could be wrong, but I tend to think of it as a word grounded in the natural world: the abundance of spring wildflowers, an abundant harvest in the fall. Abundant is more than a “lot” of something, it’s a “lot” that’s somehow unexpected, unpredictable but sustaining when it appears.

    I’m a little late with this response because I’ve been digging for something Annie Dillard said about abundance – it wasn’t in the quotation collections, so I had to sit up with “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek” to find it. Here’s what she says, in her chapter on “Intricacy”:

    The wonder is…that all the forms (of life) are not monsters, that there is beauty at all, grace, gratuitous, pennies found, like the mockingbird’s free fall. Beauty itself is the fruit of the creator’s exuberance that grew such a tangle, and the grotesques and horrors bloom from that same free growth, that intricate scramble and twine up and down the conditions of time.

    This, then, is the extravagant landscape of the world, given, given with pizazz, given in good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over.

    Thanks so much for stopping by and especially for sending me back to Dillard again, who knows more about hope than most people.

    Linda

  7. Cut or choose…what a wonderful concept.

    Though I’m the oldest of seven sons, (no sisters) for seven of those years I was, essentially an only child. But being that much older than my closest brother I really didn’t have to share much other than the fact that the quantity of Christmas presents decreased with each addition to the family.

    Richard,

    Isn’t it true that some of the best tips for living are the simplest? This morning I was trying to think of some parallels to “cut or choose”. I couldn’t come up with one that had such practical application, but I did think of “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all”. Perhaps I’ve been listening to a bit too much debate over health care issues. ;-)

    Seven brothers – your mom had her hands full, I should say! I had a sudden vision of the whole lot of you packed into the car that night of the foggy drive home. Probably not true that you all were there, but it’s a great picture and increases my admiration for your mother exponentially!

    Linda

  8. Good morning, Linda.

    I have read your post. Alas, like oldsalt before me, I must pack and travel today. That means I can’t allocate as much time for this comment as I might wish. Herewith I present a list of notes and impressions, willy-nilly.

    * Your fixtures and furnishings — the family portrait, sandy bus, pie and Bozo lamp — are utterly irresistible. I envy you the experience of having grown up with that lamp by your bedside. :o)

    * I, too, am an only child. This is something we share. At the age of 58 I’m still learning how to share, to accommodate, to care about others. Sometimes I backslide. My wife, one of four sisters, strives to help me with that.

    * Time is one of the things that we are obliged to cut and choose. I must take a rain check on your invitation to a world of digital abundance. If I follow all your excellent linkage, I may exponentially fragment my time even further.

    * You have freely given me ideas and helped refine and clarify more ideas for my own blog.

    Adieu and thanks.

    Bogon,

    I’d never thought of applying the “cut and choose” paradigm to time. That’s why you readers are so important – you draw the obvious connections I’ve missed, and fill in the missing blanks. And as one who’s an inveterate link-hopper, I do know all too well what can happen with that.

    Somewhere in a box of muddled up snapshots there’s a photo of me with my Bozo “bop-bag” – that four foot, inflatable clown that was weighted at the bottom so that, when you gave him a good smack, he popped back up. I had a couple of those red and yellow 45s with Bozo songs, too. Apparently he was quite a favorite. It’s always bothered me that “bozo” became such a perjorative term.

    I was quite interested in seeing “share” and “accomodate” next to each other in your comment. That opens a entirely new avenue of thought. One of the tasks of my own life has been to learn to be less accomodating from time to time, and to recognize that sharing and turning over what I have to someone else aren’t necessarily the same. ;-)

    Thanks for taking the time to stop by.

    Linda

  9. Well, my dear, I’m back — and I have a lot of reading to do! Shows you what a nasty schedule can do to a woman’s blog reading!

    But I’m glad I started with this one, for it resonates in so very many ways. Yes, I was an only child. No, I didn’t really have to share all that much (except there were hard rules for the neighborhood sandbox and if I was playing with my friends, my mom always gave me “the talk” before!). School was an awakening in so very many ways — I don’t think my parents spoiled me, but I had never learned to compete for attention.

    Interesting, because I think that was a challenge to me all my life — still is. I’m just not competitive in spirit. Scrabble? I’ll play to have fun, do my best, but I’m not bent out of shape if I give the triple word score to someone else. It’s the fun of the game. I find it odd that in many ways I chose professions that actively SEEK rejection — theatre, writing. Gee, in writing, you even used to send a stamped, self addressed envelope to get your no thanks note back!

    Perhaps because I’ve always had enough to spare, I’ve always had enough to share. Sure makes it easier these days. I can’t count the times I’ve had to turn loaves to fishes, and it’s all worked out all right.

    I love reading your posts. The topic of abundance — that’s another conversation! A good one!

    jeanie,

    A nasty schedule can wreak havoc with blog writing, too! I’ve never gone so long between posts, or been so far behind in my reading and commenting. The good news is that the weather’s lovely and I can work again!

    I’ve never really thought about the issue of learning to compete for attention. I suspect in the end that has been more of a problem for me throughout my life than sharing. I can remember sitting in class, knowing the answer but not raising my hand. I’ve always just thought, “Well, I was shy”, without thinking through what “shy” actually meant. Not being willing to compete comes close to describing it.

    Of course, personal tendencies in that area were supported by social expectations and mores, too. Garrison Keillor’s riffs on Ralph’s Pretty Good Grocery and the aw-shucks attitudes of Lake Woebegoners are so funny to some of us because they’re so true. Self-effacement, modesty and minimizing achievements was expected. Some of us just took it a bit far ;-) When it became a real problem was when I ended up competing in spite of myself, and ended up in places I really didn’t want to be. The reluctant winner – now there’s a title for a manuscript that would be worth having rejected!

    We’ve been so blessed in this country – but we’re losing a generation that remembers what it was like to live in a society where sharing truly was a matter of life and death. I fear we’re coming to that again, and we may need to learn to share even when we don’t have anything to spare. That’s not always a bad thing, either.

    Linda

  10. Linda,

    I finally got to come here and read this story.
    Your stories really touch me and make me smile and make me think. They are a joy to read.

    I have no idea where you find the time to write such beautiful stories but Thank you for sharing them with us.

    Catch you over at the blogs.

    Patti

    Patti,

    How nice of you to stop by! I’m glad you enjoyed it – I thought about Rylee when I added Tinkerbell to the story. That photo of her just sticks in my mind for some reason.

    Finding the time isn’t easy, but it’s such fun to do – and well worth it when I have such lovely readers as you! I know Ken must feel the same way over at the SS ~ don’t all those fears we had about the internet seem silly now when we compare them to the reality of our communities?

    Thanks again!

    Linda

  11. Linda, there are so many aspects that I’d like to respond to in this stimulating post, please allow me to just randomly blurt out, or else I’ll lose them all. First of all, what a precious family photo to be made public. I’m sure your Mom will be proud to see her lively, youthful self made known and her cutest little charmer has grown up to be a talented and inspiring writer.

    I’m not an only child, but with my two older brothers separated from me by age and distance, physical and otherwise, other than the early days of childhood, I’ve more or less grown up to be an only child from adolescent on… and I’d enjoyed every bit of it. This stays with me all the years… I love solitude, quietness, the privacy of not being bothered and the freedom to act unilaterally. Solitude has always been something I seek and treasure… even at the expense of being considered anti-social. There, to answer your question (comment on my blog), siblings or not, the most important thing is personality and what your heart desires I guess.

    So, I have no trouble bringing up an only child. My son learned early on to entertain himself, and to do things on his own. He’s in third year college now, thousands of miles from home, and sharing an apartment with three other guys. I’m glad despite his upbringing, he adapts well among groups and is fond of socializing as well as spending time alone. There you go, answering your question again.

    Finally, I totally appreciate your insight about the boundless servings of love, joy, creativity, and goodness in life. We need not fear losing our portion if we give away… and so what if we don’t get back exactly the amount we give out, I believe the axiom, it’s more blessed to give than to receive. Although I admit it’ll be a lesson to learn a whole life long, regardless of how many siblings we have.

    Arti,

    I’m glad Mom has agreed to have some of those early photos published. And I do love this photo of the three of us. As I look at it, my only regret is that my dad died so early. We would have liked each other even more as the years passed. :-)

    Your comments about privacy and freedom resonate. Mom and I have talked about the possibility of living together if some of the unhappier economic scenarios predicted for the future come to pass. It would be an eminently practical thing to do, but of all the downsides I can see, loss of privacy is the largest. As I told her, we’d have to balance the savings in rent against the cost of the psychiatrist! Sometimes what the heart desires must be balanced against the needs of others, I suppose.

    And I do love this: so what if we don’t get back exactly the amount we give out? How many years have I watched people fret about that issue in so many ways. The first, silly thing that came to mind was Christmas card lists. Back in the day, when the sending of cards was a much bigger deal, woe to you if you received a card from someone you hadn’t sent to. There was a mad dash to “even things out”. There was a strong sense that someone, somewhere, was keeping score. It’s not a good way to deal with greetings, and even less a good way to deal with life.

    I didn’t realize your son was so far away ~ no wonder you’re so happy when he comes home!

    Linda

  12. Linda,
    I’d still like to know why I can’t have cake for breakfast, and I really miss Dick and Jane. I loved those illustrations.

    I can’t believe it, but this is the first time I’ve heard of cut or choose. I wonder if that would have worked with my brother. He was always stronger, and could take the larger piece if he wanted it.

    I guess that’s one of the problems we’ll face as resources become more scarce. The wealthier and more powerful nations will be at an advantage. They will be doing the cutting. We’ll see if they allow others to do the choosing. Challenging times ahead.

    Another wonderful piece that challenges us to think of things in a different way. You’re so good at this, Linda.
    Bella

    Bella,

    I’m thrilled! I’d hoped I could introduce someone to “cut or choose”, and I’m glad it was you! You bring up a good point ~ both people have to agree to the protocol. Asking “cut or choose”, and then still grabbing the bigger piece and running off would be very bad form. I guess you’d have to be sure to always be the cutter. That way, it wouldn’t matter which piece he snatched!

    I spent some time thinking about “larger issues” while writing this. I suspect a good part of the uproar over health care reform is that people are realizing there’s going to be a lot more cutting and a lot less choosing. Mom and I both have been impacted already. By the time I finished spending four hours going through the bill and the timelines last night… Well, enough of that. My own opinion is there were much better solutions, but time will tell.

    Thanks so much for stopping by – and tell H enough with the “cutting” already! Or, at least limit it to pie ;-)

    Linda

  13. First word of my son was What’s this?
    So to speak, we are some kind of relatives.

    Tomas,

    Curiosity knows no bounds – no nationality, no race, no gender. Like your art, it builds bridges. What a wonderful thing to share!

    Linda

  14. Linda, I have tears and chills of joy. What a wonderful post to include me in.

    I need to be getting off this computer and get on with my day but I’ve been noticing a new thing at the bottom of my stats page – it is the link to this post of yours, ‘An End to Cutting and Choosing’. So, to procrastinate a little longer, I had to see where it took me and here I am and I am here in your post. Thank you.

    What a great story, first about not having to share anything and receiving just what you needed in your young life and then the story of the boy and the bus. I grinned big time.❉ When you started talking about having enough, having abundance in all things I was just blown away that you made mention of my ???? (there is a word for this) salutation is for opening, right? but the way to end a note or letter has always had much meaning to me. To leave others with a sense of how you feel for them, I guess. I’ve even wondered on occasion if ‘peace n abundance’ would seem a little too much. But each time I leave a comment or note my fingers do the typing and I leave that little bit of wishing for them, for goodness and riches, for peace n abundance. As you say in your elegant way with words -“drawing from the well that never runs dry.”

    Now if we could only get the whole world to KNOW this there would and could be enough for everyone and Peace would reign over us all.

    Much Peace n Abundance my friend,
    CheyAnne

    ps the chores are yelling now lol

    CheyAnne,

    I’ve loved your blog so much – not just your watercolors and photography, which are beautiful, but your words as well. I envy your life a bit, you know. Some would look at it and see only privation. But living so closely with nature and literally carving out a life is also a blessing. After all, who knows about the joy of a well that never runs dry better than someone who’s had to depend on a well for their water?

    It may take a while for us to get the world to know the meaning of true abundance. But we know it, and that’s a great source of peace.

    Linda

  15. Poignant as usual, Linda. Not only do you share yourself generously with each of your posts, you invite your readers to conjure up wonderful memories. I was just thinking about Dick and Jane and my own experience of learning to read, at a time when our school systems are having such a hard time doing that. Maybe we need to bring Dick and Jane back!

    As for sharing with siblings… I have to admit I hated sharing with a sister who came one year behind me. I had to give her my bottle, my crib, and my diapers. I didn’t learn to like her until I left home! Now we are best buddies, though vastly different personalities. Last year I admitted to her that a voodoo doll I created of her is buried in the ditch of our childhood home. She immediately realized why she had health issues in various, strategic locations on her body. I had to create an anti-voodoo doll for her in the hope of counteracting my deviousness.

    And do you notice a theme to the comments? Everyone is rushing off. I am trying to slow down on my rushing, but haven’t figured out what should go. Maybe cleaning the house?

    (I am so glad that mom relented…. keep working on that – the old photos are a wonderful peek into your world!)

    qugrainne,

    I had to go a-googling. I couldn’t remember the name of Dick and Jane’s cat! (Puff, of course. Everyone knows Spot, but poor Puff got fairly well lost in the shuffle of time.)

    That’s truly funny about the voodoo doll, in a creepy kind of way. One early spring I found a wax candle in the form of a woman on a Texas beach. It was inscribed all over in French. We had a Haitian maintenance man where I worked, and I brought the doll in to show him, to ask if it might be related to voodoo. He wouldn’t touch it, and he didn’t much want to be around it. He gave me explicit instructions on how to dispose of it in order not to have any of the spell attach to me. I can’t remember much of the message now, but I knew enough French to know someone was plenty unhappy with someone else!

    As for the rushing – one of my friends said a while back she felt her life was overflowing, but not in any romantic, lovely way. She thought it was more like the bathtub she let flood two rooms last year because she got involved on the phone, and then someone knocked on the door, and then….
    I know that the trick is partly focus, but I’m not so good at that, yet.

    I do know where your focus is right now – as it should be. Another nuzzle’s sent along for baby Teagan, and best wishes for all!

    Linda

  16. “Cut or choose”. Maybe our contentious congress critters could do “write or vote” – You know, let the minority party research and write the legislation and the majority party would then vote on it.

    And I’m not competitive either and an only child as well. I think I’m more self contained though and that seems to be off putting to my friends at times.

    Laura,

    I had been trying to find a way to apply “cut and choose” to the legislative process and couldn’t do it. The more I think about your suggestion, the more I like it. One thing’s for certain ~ it would be as effective and probably less contentious than what we have now.

    One of the things I know many creative bloggers deal with (book bloggers, writers, photographers, etc) isn’t exactly competiveness as much as envy. It can be pretty easy to look at a stunning blog and think “that’s SO much better than mine”. Probably not true, in the first place, but certainly dangerous because it raises the temptation to “be like” someone else.

    Excellence takes time – and it’s for sure that Monet, for example, wasn’t knocking out that garden at Giverny while painting on the side! Most of us barely find the time to strive for excellence in one field, let alone two or three!

    “Self-contained…” Raises for me an image of a beautiful water jar at the edge of the well. As long as it’s cared for and in good repair, it can safely hold that stream of creativity until time to pour it out ;-)

    Linda

  17. Linda – another great essay. I can relate to this one a lot – except for the ‘only child’ part. I had three brothers, but I was the only girl. No sharing of clothes and most toys. I, of course, enjoyed theirs, they, of course, not mine!

    Ian and Evan have a totally different perspective on sharing. They HAVE to share. They do have plenty of toys that are their ‘own’, but they share plenty. I must say, most of the time, they do a good job.

    My daughter tries to make ‘alone’ time with them as often as she can. I watch them every Wednesday, and when my daughter gets off work, she’ll come by and pick up one and take them to the library. They read a book together and then choose books to check out. I’ll take the other one to the park, or just play with them at home. It is weird, I must say!

    My girls are nearly 6 years apart, so my oldest was like an only child for her first six years. Then my youngest really had me to herself, since my older daughter was in school.

    I do get envious of someone’s particular talent. For example, your writing, my friend’s art work. My friend is our school’s art lab teacher. She is extremely talented. I need a ruler to draw a straight line. However, I have skills that she does not. I’m pretty technical (she – not so much), I plan way ahead, she’s a procrastinator to the nth degree. It’s all a trade off…..and it seems we always yearn for what we don’t have. Sort of like hair. Have curly? Want straight…and vice versa!

    Karen,

    How funny that you raise envy ~ I just mentioned that to Laura, and you can see my comment about it there. I’m surprised you didn’t mention the talent I most envy in you – your wonderful gardening! I’m just astonished when I read through the WU blogs how many people are brimming over with talent and knowledge about flowers and veggies both. And once again, time is an issue. Preparing beds, working with the soil, knowing when to thin and what to feed – all of that take time to learn. And the results, like the flowers on your dining table, are just stunning. I guess there’s a reason my cactus thrive – benign neglect can be an art, too. I have a friend who kills cactus on a regular basis by overwatering and overfeeding. Not me!

    I think it’s so good that Ian and Evan each get “their” time. It’s good for all kids, but especially twins. On the other hand, they’re obviously going to have some very special experiences. That photo you posted of them working on their space shuttles is just wonderful.

    We do tend to yearn for what we don’t have – like kids at the end of the table, watching the adults “cut and choose”. That’s when sharing is really fun – when you take those pieces and turn to the surprised kids and say, “Hey. You want these?” :-)

    Linda

  18. Okay. From questioning your early world (which you still do just as perceptively with the current one), through selfishness & envy to abundance. Whew! I think if I were presented with ‘cut or choose’ I would flee. I was raised in a place where the hostess did the cutting and always, always gave the guest the larger piece–in the delicate quadrille that forms such relations it was then the guest’s obligation to refuse, etc. etc. Simpler to just say no, thank you, and move on…

    Many chords struck here. I laughed at the bus in the sandbox story–what a wicked one you were! Dick and Jane are back, and apparently quite popular (cannot figure that out; post-boomer parents are clearly nostalgic for a past they never lived). Only child-ness will save for another time.

    The real thing is that woman’s envy of Louise Nevelson’s talent, and your threading it to abundance, which is brilliant. We all dig our wells. Some of us hit water, some oil, some bedrock. Of the last, they either move to another spot & keep digging or give up. Some have yet to hit anything, but keep trying, in hope. So I am reminded of Copland’s version of that famous Shaker hymn, Simple Gifts: ’tis a gift to be simple, ’tis a gift to be free…and then of Grover’s Corners where cut and choose would not have happened. Too much free association; the night watchman has already foretold doom once.

    But I do want to know, what did you have to cede in order to publish that wonderful photo? And when are you joining the Diplomatic Corps?

    ds,

    Oh, my goodness. I’d forgotten about “that” kind of cake-cutting. And wasn’t that just the way? There were rules of etiquette that were RULES, by gosh, and you obeyed them. No white until after Memorial Day. Handbags match shoes. Wait for your hostess to signal the evening is over before you leave. (That last is rather practical. That way they can’t talk about you once you’re gone!)

    As for that bus in the sandbox – not wicked, just eminently practical from the beginning. A couple of decades later, it seemed practical to punch a guy in the middle of the street. A girl does what a girl has to do ;-)

    I do listen to talk shows from time to time while I’m working, and yesterday there was an interesting discussion of the question: which is more common in America? Envy or greed? Envy won, hands down. And I think that’s right. “Keeping up with the Joneses” is based more on envy than greed. And it’s hard not to envy others’ talent. But the old saying has it right – if we envy other’s good fortune, we’ll never discover our own.

    I love “Simple Gifts” – as a matter of fact, it’s sitting in my files as part of something else. Serendipity strikes again!

    As for the photos – once I figured out it was vanity rather than privacy that was the issue, it was easy enough. A promise to stick to early, attractive photos. And never, ever to tell certain stories ;-)

    Linda

  19. and finally i make my way here and find my name and my words included in your exquisite post. (have been too busy and sick for too long, and consequently, am woefully out of touch.) i know the cut and choose method of food separation, pokey little puppy, mr. potato head, and cooties very well.

    i do so love and agree with these words: “The truth is that love is not limited, and does not need to be apportioned. There is no single slice of life, no leftover spirit. Creativity is not served up on a plate and joy is not meant to be rationed. Love, creativity, boldness and joy flow freely in all seasons, fed by springs of memory and imagination.” very nicely said.

    and the drawing of the woman at the well – is that something you created? love it and the photo of you and your parents. adorable.

    thanks again for including me. i am honored beyond description.

    xo

    whollyjeanne,

    It was a wonderful day when I discovered your blog. Truth to tell, I don’t even remember now how I landed there. But no matter – it’s been lovely and stimulating and if I send a few people your way, it will all be worthwhile.

    I play with illustrating, rather than creating art. The woman at the well was turned into a pencil sketch and then given a sepia tone. I know people who can sketch like that, but I’m not one! I have to depend on the photo processing programs for a helping hand.

    I understand busy and busier and out of touch – and I’m so sorry to hear sick was added to your mix. Thank you so much for stopping by, and have a blessed weekend.

    Linda

  20. Hi Linda,

    Since I too is a single child I recognized much of what you wrote. Though I didn’t mind to have my friends over at birthdays, I didn’t want them to play in my room with my things. Or even worse when when my parents filled my room with kids of *their* guests, kids I didn’t even know.

    I wanted siblings though. A big brother – kind of difficult – or a baby sister. Once I made my mother greatly embarrassed by discussing with her how she could be so sure she wasn’t pregnant – on the bus. But like most kids I wanted a playmate, not a screaming little package :-)

    I know my parents wanted more kids, but sometimes things just isn’t going as planned.

    Désirée,

    My own folks discovered things don’t always go as planned when I showed up. They’d been married for ten years and told they never would have children. Well, not so fast, Mr. Medical Expert! Here I am ;-)

    Oh, I do remember that feeling of exasperation when someone showed up with kids I didn’t know. I was perfectly happy to play outdoors with them, swinging or messing in the sandpile. And I didn’t mind doing puzzles or playing games – but they weren’t going to play with my dolls!

    I don’t remember wanting a brother of sister then. Now, I’d love to have siblings. Mom and I do all right, but sometimes the responsibility chafes a little. I have a friend whose mother rotates around among her three children. She spends a month or two with one, and then moves on. It works very nicely for them, but they have a Mama who likes to keep on the move!

    Linda

  21. I just have a feeling you do have cake for breakfast every now and again. I love the posts where you give an insight into your life, and childhood is a treat!

    Cut or choose – an excellent philosophy to enforce fair-play. Will employ it here – and, as someone else pointed out, it would work wonderfully on a broader stage.

    Jeannine,

    That’s right! You have a quite practical use for the ol’ cutting-and-choosing routine. Let me know how it works out.

    As for cake for breakfast, here’s my reasoning. If you put any cake with coffee, it’s coffe cake, right? And coffee cake is for breakfast/brunch, right? End of discussion ;-) My tendencies in that direction were nurtured by a paternal grandmother who was absolutely convinced pie was a good breakfast food. All that fruit, don’t you know… And if you put a slice of cheddar on top of apple pie, it’s nearly equivalent to pot roast. Or so her reasoning went!

    Linda

  22. That is very interesting! Your first word was “Why?”! The most annoying but wonderful question asked by a child. I have a sister and a brother and just like kids, sharing was a hard earned lesson.

    My family is blessed to be not abundant, but privileged. Beggars on the street constantly remind me of how privileged I am.

    Lex,

    I think my Mom and Dad might have enjoyed knowing something a good friend told me once. She says, “There are only two answers to the question, ‘Why?’ One is, ‘Why not…?’ and the other is ‘Because….'” Funny, but potentially useful! And there’s a bit of truth tucked in there, too.

    When I moved to West Africa, it was very hard for me to cope with the beggars – particularly the children. Later I learned that things are not always what they seem, and some people will use children to prey on the unwary. Still, it’s hard, particularly when you know there is so much genuine need.

    An interesting variant on cutting and choosing was enforced when I worked in a place that always had street people coming in, saying they were hungry and asking for money. The practice there was to say, “We won’t give you money, but we’ll go with you to the restaurant two doors down and buy you the best meal in the place.” Some people were grateful and accepted the meal. Others, not so much. If they weren’t going to get the cash, they suddenly weren’t so hungry! Giving is good. Smart giving is better.

    Linda

  23. Linda,

    Your words on creativity kept me company this week. Sometimes they would find me as I worked in the garden. Sometimes they converged with other words I’ve been reading for the on-line writing class I’m occupied with at SheWrites.com.

    The book is an old friend, one written by Brenda Ueland, titled “If You Want To Write.” Perhaps you are familiar with it.

    Ueland’s encouraging word to her readers is that we are all creative when:
    – we are original, that is, when our work comes from our true self;
    – when we really live in the present;
    – when we write out of love;
    – when we dare to be idle.

    Ueland’s words remind me of the attitude of a young child, maybe one that is just entering kindergarten, who hasn’t yet had time to adjust to the new reality of “routines, schedules and expectations.”

    Funny that your piece began with your reflections as a child and ended up with that creative “well that never runs dry.” Interestingly enough, one of Ueland’s last chapters is titled, “You Do Not Know What Is in You–and Inexhaustible Fountain of Ideas.”

    It never hurts to receive a similar message from two trusty sources.

    Easter Blessings to you and your Mom…

    Janell

    Janell,

    I haven’t heard to Ueland’s book, but I’ve never read a book on writing except Annie Dillard’s and William Zinsser’s. I do have a list now, so I’ll add hers to it!

    What’s funny is that I have the bare bones of a blog entry entitled “Words to a Young Writer”. It’s just a sketch that came about a year ago when another blogger said, “I have a nephew who wants to write. What would you tell him?” I just dug it out of the files and was amazed, both by the convergences between some of my ideas and Ueland’s, and by a few intuitive truths I came up with from – well, who knows where they came from.

    One of the most important points I see in what you quote is her suggestion that we dare to be idle. That points to time for thought and reflection – its the critical missing piece in so much writing today.

    Thanks so much for taking time out of your schedule to stop by. I do appreciate it!

    Linda

  24. Linda, I’m always so deeply moved when I read your posts…they are filled with connections for me, such as your childhood which so consistently echoes mine (the experiences we had, and the way they made us feel), and they are filled with thoughts to chew on.

    My mother always had my brother and I cut and choose, although we never called it that. But, it is a fair way to do things.

    And, you’re so right, love in it’s purest sense doesn’t run out. Although many times I’ve found myself running around trying to grab the biggest peace.

    I love the thoughts on peace and abundance. I’d add one more to that pair of words: gratefulness. I find that with a grateful heart, I can overcome anything.

    Thank you for being my friend. Thank you for remembering that last year’s read-a-thon had a lunch for me as well as this year’s. How did you do that? You amaze me in your strength and gifts.

    Gratefully, Bellezza

    Bellezza,

    Isn’t memory a funny thing? I can remember things like your luncheon with absolute clarity, but I never know where my car keys are or what year this or that happened. I suppose there are different kinds of memory, but I’ve never explored what they might be. And I probably won’t. I’ll just keep hunting for my keys and remembering tidbits about peoples’ lives!

    I like your addition of gratitude. If someone asks, “What are you grateful for?” I can come up with a list, but it never quite captures the moment of sheer gratitude that sweeps over us in the presence of life’s gifts. I also think people who never experience gratitude need to be watched very, very carefully. Sometimes they forget being human means being contingent and limited, and it warps their view of the world. (Insert vague mutterings about Washington, bureaucrats and a corrupted political process here….)

    I’m so glad you enjoyed the post – and glad to have found a real cutter and chooser!

    Linda

  25. hmmm, I wonder what made me type “peace” instead of “piece” in the love I was trying to grab…

    I wonder why I don’t proofread before I click Enter…

    B ~

    Here’s the real question – why doesn’t WordPress give us the ability to edit our comments?! Even when I proofread, it doesn’t always help ;-)

    L.

  26. Methinks the greatest item we can share is our time (time to love, listen, teach and learn) spending it with family and friends, neighbours and strangers, teachers and students, contractors and workmen, cats and dogs; the list is endless.

    In the cut or choose choice I invariably chose choose, and took the smaller piece.

    My image of abundance brings recollection of one excellent meal, years ago, while visiting an uncle on Saltspring Island. The salmon was caught from his boat and canned on the warf, fresh whole wheat bread was made with sea water (no need to add salt) and nettles were harvested from the roadside. All these items have been and will continue to be available for the taking.

    1. Rick,

      Time’s a good thing for sharing, but unlike pies, it’s limited. We always can bake another pie. Can’t make another day. I suppose that’s what makes our decisions about how to share time so important.

      I don’t believe I’ve ever known someone who’d take the smallest piece – at least not on purpose. I did have an aunt who’d turn down any pie at all, but then take the “point” from other folks’ pieces. It made us so mad – everyone knows the “point” of a piece of pie is the best part, just like the ears on a chocolate rabbit!

      Linda

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