A Rooted Simplicity Table: Longing for "Em-bell-ish-ment"

Some various journal-y ramblings on rooting, simplicity, and where perhaps the two can meet in "embell-ish-ment"....


Remember a bit back, studying Jeremiah? That really shifted something, can't quite explain it. And one part of that is something that wasn’t mentioned much, the whole "circumcise the heart/ear" thing there. The thing is, before reading Jeremiah, before even knowing i was going to be doing so, the area of circumcision was popping my head earlier that day, which i thought was pretty odd. But then when i read Jeremiah later and came across the circumcise your heart/ear passages it made sense.

So then time went on. Day to day life went on. And there's something i'm really struggling with, have been for a long time...a buzzing in my left ear that keeps getting stronger. Now i know a buzzing in the ear isn’t uncommon, i know there are many who deal with it. But somehow that doesn’t take away the torrent of feelings it brings up. For someone who is by nature more of a contemplative, the need for silence is just huge.m But now, in a sense there is never silence because there is always the buzz in my ear. Its always been there, but as time goes on its gotten louder, too loud to ignore. For some reason, in an odd way that bothers me almost more than any of the other physical problems i have, even though the others are far more serious. This buzz bothers me so deeply because silence means so much.

So i started praying about this. At the same time, had been listening to Stepping Heavenward (yay audio books: ) ) , and what had struck me there was her strong trust that whatever God sent He did so out of love. Finally, i started thinking just maybe that was the case with the buzzing. And at that point i'd been reading Luke and happened to be at the place there where Christ first prays for his cup to be removed, but also says not my will but thine be done. So i started praying the same for my ear....sharing how much i deeply want the silence, want that healed, but that in the end may it be His will that is done. I was pretty afraid praying this i have to admit, afraid what would happen if God might say "accept that there will never be silence" or something like that, because i wasn’t sure how i could handle something like that. But the response surprised me. It was instead "Why don’t you meet me halfway?"


Well, what i heard in "meeting Him halfway" was removing myself any "buzzing” i could from life, any unnecessary noise. Since i try to live a quiet life anyway, i didn’t think it would make much difference honestly to pare back anymore noisewise...i thought, what good does it do to take away the other buzzes around me when my ear is still buzzing? But i was wrong. I've been turning off the radio more, turning off the computer more, and it really does make a differnce. Been walking around looking at what appliances buzz and seriously looking at switching to off grid. I do after all live in a vintage trailer, if i can get the propane stuff fixed (and well ventilated) this little home is designed to be off grid. But even before that happens i've been seeing there is so much noisewise i do have control over that i didn’t realize. I’ve stopped sleeping with earplugs too for instance (they keep out other noise but they amplify the buzz). And stopped covering noise with other noise too (covering the neighbors yard work with radio or fan etc), because in the end that just seems to make things worse. Lots of little things. God’s asking to "meet Him halfway" has been the slow opening of a gift. Geesh, now why couldn’t i have trusted that earlier?

At one point in this stuff, woke up with a "clue" to read about the four temperaments in the middle ages (see
here). My temperament is Melancholy (the earth element) and i was shocked to see that in Mediaeval writings, even back then, it was noted that this type especially often has problems with a buzzing in the left ear ("His eare (the left especiall) euer humming"). Wow! Something about that woke something up about the INNER buzzing. The Melancholy temperaments, they are the ponderers. So they have a lot going on in their heads...sometimes WAAAY too much. Mind clutter, Buzzing. Definitely time to circumcise the ear!

I think this is part of why i haven’t been writing as much either, because too much of my own voice, inner and outer, has been a real part of the "buzz", the part of the buzz i can change. And the voices that come IN are part of the buzz too....the radio programs, the blogs, the books. I'm finding slowly that its not just about minding the quality there (custody of the senses), its also about minding the quantity (temperance).

And boy do i have quantity to deal with! Its so funny, i’m pretty ruthless really about not gathering tangible "stuff"/clutter in the home, and about not cluttering the schedule with busyness and all that. But yet at the same time, my computer is just cluttered beyond belief with ideas and files and all ,and more importantly so is my head.

When one has physical clutter, one :
sorts it and gets rid of stuff,
and then takes good care of what one keeps
and takes more care from now on with what one lets in,
is more selective from now on.

So i'm trying to do the same with this mental clutter. It will affect things here, as i'll be "sorting" the writing and only keeping that which feels it wants to be “kept”. Am also sorting through my computer files and such and gathering the "gems" i love the most so i can release much of the rest, and many of those gems i'll link to here in the library. Then i hope in the future to be more selective rather than get so "cluttered' again. Anyway, i hope, i hope, i hope. For i long so much for this to be a little gathering place for the gems, rather than a place for mental clutter... as it too often has been.


The “gem” thing feels important. I had this dream back on Candlemas of “em-bell-ish-ment”. In it, there was this stick i have in real life on my mantle, and in the dream i went over to it and saw it had now intricate beautiful carvings on it, and a shoot growing out of it. It was like the rod of Jesse (and also later reminded me of the rod of Joseph of Arimithea too (see here), hello Avalon again).

In the dream i remembered hearing the word “em-bell-ish-ment “ inside, and thinking...so this is why we simplify, because it will all get embellished, so its best to just have the few beloved things. That enables focus, calm, devotion.

Later (after the dream) i kept thinking of the “bell” in embellishments, how bells were part of that rich simplicity in earlier times, bells structured the day by calling folks to prayer at certain points in the day (see
here and here). And also thinking of the whole beauty part of simplicity (embellishment is “ornamentation” after all (can’t help but think of the angel in the home again, who is accused so much of being “merely ornamental”). There is a fine line between being simple and crossing over into being puritan, and that line is beauty. I just love this quote from an interview with the lovely hermitess and art historian Sister Wendy, from here:

“"My own definition of beauty is that which perpetually satisfies us. You look at it again and again and there is more of it to satisfy us. I would say that beauty is very much an attribute of God - He is essential beauty. But only those of us who have been fortunate enough to have faith know where beauty comes from. For the others, they are responding to beauty and responding to Him, though they mightn't be aware of that - they are responding to the pure, free, strong, loving spirit of God."

Asked about those Christians who reject beauty in a puritanical fashion, the hermit is philosophical. "Puritanism is very attractive. It tempts because it narrows the world, which means you can deal with it better. Beauty makes you vulnerable, you can't protect yourself against it." Lest there be any misapprehension that beauty constitutes the airbrushed images that adorn glossy magazines, she explains: "Beauty comes from all parts of the compass. It comes in the sunrise and it comes in the sunset, it comes in the people you meet and it doesn't just come in art - beauty is everywhere.

"I think the temptation to narrow God down either to the 'religious' or to the intellectual is what Puritanism is really all about - confining God. We fear vulnerability, we want to control things, which of course is exactly what religion is supposed to be against. The whole faith is about surrendering to God, let God be in control. If you want to be open to God, to let God love you, then Puritanism just isn't possible because you have to be open to all the ways He comes - in your neighbour, in your job, in what you eat and in what you see and read.""

Also struck recently by this qoute:

“The longer I live the more beautiful life becomes. If you foolishly ignore beauty, you will soon find yourself without it. Your life will be impoverished. But if you invest in beauty, it will remain with you all the days of your life.”-- Frank Lloyd Wright


Simplicity is delicate. Opening space for God is one thing, becoming puritanical and limiting Him quite another. Discerning what you "keep" is one thing, refusing to keep is too quite another. To "keep" is to bond, to love, to care for, to appreciate, to adorn and beautify...and this is core stuff. I’ve been looking much at the whole area of detachment lately, the line between what is harmful and healing there. The line that comes up, right along with beauty, is "living sacramentally". Can't resist another qoute here, from Genivieve Kineke from The Authentic Catholic Woman:

"What we have to focus on is the sacramental richness hidden behind the veil of everyday life"

Here's how i've been seeing this lately. When you live like things are a sacrament (and they are), you are "keeping them", loving them, living more prayerfully."Keeping" them like "keeping at home", its the same principle really. So its not an aloof uncaring thing, its devotion. Yet at the same time, we know there is an even deeper sacramentalness waiting (whatever changes God calls us to in this life, and heaven awaiting later), and so we are at the same time not afriad to leave what we have. For really, it doesnt really leave us anyway in a sense. Its not a loss, this leaving, only a DEEPENING of our living sacramentally. That flowering rod in the dream, that em-bell-ish-ment, that was somehow part of this i feel. Can't quite explain it. But that our bonding with "things of the world" isnt wrong if its done right, that what we have loved will flower in the other world, become more and more sacramental.

To explain a bit better, i wonder if folks have had this same experience....letting go of something, then regretting it so much, only to find that the bond you had with it had been rooted enough that it never really left, only flowered into something deeper? Something comes to mind that happened recently. I got to thinking about this scapula i had accidentally put in the outbox (long story) when i was releasing some things years ago, and when i realized my mistakenly putting it there it was too late. Thinking on that recently i was really upset. That scapula was from my maternal grandmother, and i can remember when she gave it to me. I was in junor high, 11 or 12, and there was a Marion group in school that i had joined. Not many others joined it, and the few that had were dropping out. It wasnt the Marion-ness they were leaving because of, it was the way the group was going about it, giving these little simplistic assignments (think post Vatican two to the max, the group was structured by the diocese).

I remember when i was thinking of quitting, both my Mom and Grandmother talked to me together telling me not to. They said this was really important, that we were forgetting Our Blessed Mother more and more today and that folks needed to remember, that this was very critical stuff. I remember something they said in particular, that i may not realize just how important this is yet, but when i'm older i will. And they were so right. For we ARE forgetting Mary more and more as time goes on, and to say thats important is an understatement. I hadnt noticed it so much growing up becuase i went to Catholic school and in my family my Mother and Grandmother at least were fairly traditional in their devotion. It wasnt till i was "out in the world" for so many years, wandering around so much in faith, that i saw just how right they had been about the coreness of Our Lady and just how much the world is losing their devotion there.

Back to the group, i explained that i loved that it was a Marion group, but the way the assignments were was just so simplistic and silly (fill in the blank answers of obvious religious questions, writing out common prayers i already knew, dot dot dot). And i'll never forget what my Mom and Grandmother said, they said to do it beautifully then, that i didnt need to keep it silly and simplistic i could add art to things, and calligraphy, and embellishments, and paste in special holy cards and things. And so not only was it Marion, it was also my first taste of "scrapbooking" lol, and i just loved it, i really got into it. And when the group was ending and we were to turn in our Marion books to get looked at, my grandmother gave me this special white satin hand painted scapula that had been given to her when she herself was in school, for me to put inside.

And now the scapula, such a precious gift, is gone. I was so depresssed over this lately. But then something happened. I realized that that day my Mother and Grandmother had talked to me to so honestly about Mary, something had been rooted inside. The scapula may be gone, but the impact sure isnt. I look atound my home and surprisingly find its full of just the sort of things i loved putting in that Marion book so many years ago, and more importantly that keeping Mary at the forefront is not something thats ever going to go away. The "scapula" never really left because it led to living life a bit more sacramentally somehow, led to some em-bell-ishment. Does that make any sense at all?


Anyway i've been looking at it stuff like this, and especially the whole detachment line, more than ever since St Boniface was drawn as this year's patron saint. Soon after drawing him two things happened. One, this raven landed outside the window, perched on a tree stump so above other things, with a huge piece of bread in its mouth. He stayed there quite awhile and it was just so striking, i kept thinking “raven’s bread” (as in Elijah being fed with raven’s bread in his hermit life), and it woke up so much my monastic longings. I’ve really been realizing they likely aren’t going to be going away, and are also a big part of how i long to live more simply. Well, that will have to unfold over time i guess.

But there is the whole detachment thing, something i really struggle with. Around the same time as the “raven’s bread”, i came across that part in Luke where a demon was exorcized, the man’s body now “swept and adorned”, and the demon then came back with more friends into the poor man’s body since it was more cleared out now. THAT is part of my fear of detachment. But i kept getting an image. When you ready a house, you don’t just clean and adorn, as sacred and critical as those things are. Its just that you can’t stop there, you must also be bringing in the light (hearth, candle, sun), that’s core. I kept wondering if things would have been different if the man who had been exorcized would have not just swept and adorned alone but also lit that candle. That "candle" of course is the light of God. Was thinking of this the same day as saw the raven, and as thinking about it a folk song “I saw the light” came on the radio, felt like nice an affirmation. Now though, to do that in concrete life here, that’s the thing.

But i keep getting an image. I see someone sorting their things out in a kind of anxiety or standoffishness, desperate to be rid of their “mere things”. Then i see someone sorting things calmly, with a candle burning and a softness in the air of the room and person alike, letting things go lovingly, calmly, kindly. Releasing doesn’t have to be about pretending things don’t matter, it can be about simplifying in order to let the “em-bell-ish-ment” happen, which feels so different. Something about that latter image has just been guiding lately.

And it funny, yesterday there was a co-in-see-dance. I was going back over the original blog, and sadly, instead of simply releasing posts there and keeping the gems, i found myself wasting a bunch of time and energy trying to rewrite some things instead, it was just crazy. And then something happened. I started clearing out my draft posts, starting at the beginning. And at the beginning of my blogging (He must have know how much i was going to need this!) i had drafted in a post i'd found on “a rooted, limited life”. What a co-in-see-dance, what a precious gift : ) Here is some of that post, it is from Tonia's (formerly of The Sacred Everyday) old blog Study in Brown:

(Having) too much stuff takes time: time to sort it, use it, dust it, look at it, and time to decide if it goes in the hefty bag.

The past few days my mind has felt cluttered like this. An hour's reading on the internet yields a lot of stuff to think about. My bookshelves are lined with books waiting to be opened and digested. Phone calls from friends and family reveal needs that require attention, thought and prayer: magazine articles, homeschool schedules and lesson plans, gardening books, recipes, nutrition information, Bible studies, correspondence, conversations and blogs: I can hardly string together a clear thought.

Because there is so much information and opportunity instantly available, it is easy to want to make myself responsible for it. The truth is, I can't... As Susan Schaeffer Macauley says, I need to "choose wisely, and leave time for the daily rhythms"... (But instead, ) somewhere in the midst of my pursuit of stuff, I began to neglect the daily rhythms of attention and thoroughness. My house is as disorganized as my mind....

"When we recognize the upside-down trend of thought and action in our cultures now, perhaps we will begin to see how the opposite view was able to produce in so many people's lives contentment, joy, fun, enjoyment, and a proper pride in the worth of their lives. When people generally accepted their everyday rooted life with its limitations, responsibilities, and challenges, they actually ended up much happier and fruitful people. Such rooted acceptance and active response still works today.

God's commands are the way to life and goodness. In them are love, safety, and satisfaction. People who try to follow His commands and fit into His design aren't constantly whining, "This is not what I want!" Satisfaction means carrying through with the situation that is our life, just where we are." "--For the Family's Sake

Rootedness and limitation, in a land of infinite possibilities, seems foolish, even wasteful. (But it is the one thing needful). I need my mind renewed; to embrace the focus and deliberate action of Christ; to let go of seeking to build myself up through material and intellectual gain.

Lord, give me grace to be a "tree, planted" , bringing forth abundance and life in this place."

(Top image from
here, bottom image from here; the rest i think were from a google image search on vintage holy cards some time back)

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