friday feast: filling 2016 with kindness

“Tea is quiet and our thirst for tea is never far from our craving for beauty.” (James Norwood Pratt)

Hello Friends, Hello Brand New Year!

It’s nice to be back, breathe a sigh of relief, and settle into a winter of quiet contemplation after a busy holiday season.

I’m a hibernating homebody by nature, likely part-bear, so I thrive on days when it’s too cold to venture out. I’m perfectly content to cozy up with a good book (the towering TBR pile always in view), read, sip sip sip tea, write, and bake (one must always have homemade treats on hand in case Colin Firth or Aidan Turner drops by).πŸ™‚

Two days before Christmas, a beautiful tropical bouquet arrived on our doorstep without a signed gift card.Β The very long flower box traveled all the way to Virginia from Hilo, Hawai’i, and contained orange and pink heliconia, red and pink anthurium, red ginger, white dendrobium orchids, orange protea, and hala, ti, and monstera leaves.

Who could have sent this little bit of paradise, this lovely reminder of both my mother’s and grandmother’s gardens? This “mystery sender” baffled us for the few days it took for the florist to return my email. Was it an old school friend, a long lost relative, a secret admirer? It was fun dreaming up all kinds of scenarios.

What a joyous surprise to discover it was my Aunty Esther, who used to bake those wonderful butter cookies so many Christmases ago. I’ve been blessed with many good aunts, and Esther was always one of the kindest and most thoughtful. Out of the blue, a generous gesture — making us, so far away, feel loved and remembered.

Cornelius thinks M&Ms stands for mmmmmmmmmmm.

I’ve welcomed 2016 with this good feeling in my heart, and a renewed conviction to lead with love and kindness.

Nothing matters more in this world than how you treat other people.

Do untoΒ others as you would have them do unto you.

Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see (Mark Twain).

One on one, up close, a smile, a small gesture, a random act of kindness — at home, at work, on the street, around the corner. The world’s gone mad and things feel out of control. But being kind is wholly within our control, asΒ Michael BlumenthalΒ so eloquently states in his wonderful poem.

BE KIND
by Michael Blumenthal

Not merely because Henry James said
there were but four rules of lifeβ€”
be kind be kind be kind be kindβ€” but
because it’s good for the soul, and,
what’s more, for others; it may be
that kindness is our best audition
for a worthier world, and, despite
the vagueness and uncertainty of
its recompense, a bird may yet wander
into a bush before our very houses,
gratitude may not manifest itself in deeds
entirely equal to our own, still there’s
weather arriving from every direction,
the feasts of famine and feasts of plenty
may yet prove to be one, so why not
allow the little sacrificial squinches and
squigulas to prevail? Why not inundate
the particular world with minute particulars?
Dust’s certainly all our fate, so why not
make it the happiest possible dust,
a detritus of blessedness? Surely
the hedgehog, furling and unfurling
into its spiked little ball, knows something
that, with gentle touch and unthreatening
tone, can inure to our benefit, surely the wicked
witches of our childhood have died and,
from where they are buried, a great kindness
has eclipsed their misdeeds. Yes, of course,
in the end so much comes down to privilege
and its various penumbras, but too much
of our unruly animus has already been
wasted on reprisals, too much of the
unblessed air is filled with smoke from
undignified fires. Oh friends, take
whatever kindness you can find
and be profligate in its expenditure:
It will not drain your limited resources,
I assure you, it will not leave you vulnerable
and unfurled, with only your sweet little claws
to defend yourselves, and your wet little noses,
and your eyes to the ground, and your little feet.

~ from No Hurry: Poems 2000 – 2012, copyright Β© 2012 Etruscan Press.

*

I hope 2016 will be kind to you, and that it will be a year of good health, new adventures, inspired writing, successful endeavors, happy times with friends and family, creating and cultivating beauty, and many, many delicious meals.

Please join us for a nosh or nibble whenever you can. As always, we’ve set a special place at our table just for you (and I’m always happy to be your tea pusher!).πŸ˜€

As Mr. Carson of Downton Abbey said, “The business of life is the acquisition of memories. In the end that’s all there is.”

So, here’s to making some good memories this year!

*

poetry fridayThe lovely and talented Tabatha is hosting the Roundup at The Opposite of Indifference. Take her a handful of M&Ms and check out the full menu of poetic goodness on this week’s menu. Happy January!

P.S. This is Mr. Cornelius’s favorite Christmas gift. Should I be worried?

“Human kindness has never weakened the stamina or softened the fiber of a free people. A nation does not have to be cruel to be tough.” (Franklin D. Roosevelt)

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Copyright Β© 2016 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

55 thoughts on “friday feast: filling 2016 with kindness

  1. Happy New Year, Jama. I love that your Aunty sent you anonymous flowers that made you buzz for days. Now I’m remembering Hawai’i, too. One of the most divine places on our wonderful earth. I also love the poem. Any poem that is so serious and persuasive yet takes time out to celebrate the hedgehog and bury the scary witches has to be a keeper. I love your m&ms that celebrate your website so comprehensively. Were they a gift or did you treat yourself? Chocolate is like flowers, it blooms and then must be reborn. XOXO, Brenda

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    1. Hi Brenda,

      Didn’t realize you’ve been to Hawai’i — with your love of flowers and plants and nature in general, it makes perfect sense that you would like it.

      This is my first Michael Blumenthal poem and I definitely need to read more of his work.

      We had given my DAD some personalized M&Ms for Christmas with his picture on it, and then they had a special deal on them so I ordered some for Alphabet Soup. Haven’t eaten any of the Colin ones, though. It seems wrong. Best kind of diet candy ever.πŸ™‚

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      1. The hubby and I went to Hawai’i before we had kids, and it remains my favorite place ever, in terms of the climate, the ocean, the flowers, the mountains, the inaccessible streams, the cliffs, the raw beauty. Everything but the political issues with the US being the Evil Overlord. Nonetheless, I will always remember that trip as ideal. Lovely. I love your personalized M&Ms. They are only missing images of tea cups! LOL

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  2. I believe in bears, too, Jama–warm and cozy all winter long. A lot of good quiet. Added more words from your blog to my OLW cloud. Already had “kindness” (mmmm) and “burrow” (bear thoughts) but now have added “marks.” Thank you for the new recipes, too. Don’t know about Cornelius with his new gift. I have a 7 year old grandson named James who would love this gift. But do I dare? Happy New Year! You made mine happier!

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    1. Those body bits came from World Market. Perfect stocking stuffer. They feel very soft and rubbery. Fun to play with, actually.πŸ™‚

      Happy New Year to you. Enjoy your hibernating!

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  3. The Dalai Lama’s thoughts on kindness being the only rule resonated so much with me that I included it in a book without realizing it. I love this poem a great deal and am copying it down — thank you. Also I love those bright greeting cards! They’re beautiful! And I’m snickering at the thought of you nibbling on ol’ Colin. Heh. Just desserts, indeed…

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    1. That’s actually a little blank journal in the first pic, but The Wheatfield also makes loads of beautiful greeting cards and prints. So far I’ve resisted nibbling on Colin — aren’t you impressed with my will power?πŸ™‚

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  4. Thank you for all the new year “hugs” of your own kindness, Jama, the sweet thoughts and the good laughs, too. Mr. Cornelius’ body bits are something both funny & sweet. Love “be profligate in its expenditure” from this “needed” poem. Happy New Year to you & yours!

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    1. Profligate is such a great word. I need to use it more often.

      It will be interesting to see what Cornelius does with those body bits this year. He’s already asking about Van Gogh’s ear.πŸ˜€ Happy New Year, Linda!

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  5. Colin Firth m&m’s – nothing better. Perfect post to set the tone for the New Year, Jama. I vow to follow Blumenthal’s advice: “be profligate in its (kindness) expenditure”. Happy New Year! =)

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  6. [I would like to buy tickets to Tabatha’s band’s first concert… ]

    Very sweet post, dearest Jama, what with the surprise flowers and M&Ms and such (not sure about Mr. C’s new stretchy endeavors?!) But I’m glad you included the FDR quote at the end. Your whole post reminds is that kindness is much more than sweetness. It’s the strongest thing we’ve got, really, and not often easy. Thank you for standing up for it! There’s always “weather arriving from every direction,” isn’t there?

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    1. Happy New Year, Robyn! Being nice and being kind are so often mistaken for being weak. Must change that perception. Definitely a challenge in this day and age with conflict around every corner.

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  7. Those m&ms are to die for! I love these lines from the poem:
    it may be
    that kindness is our best audition
    for a worthier world

    Happy New Year, Jama – here’s to another year of meeting on Poetry Fridays!

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    1. I love those lines too — I keep wondering how I’ve managed to miss Blumenthal’s work all this time. This was a lovely way to “discover” him though.
      Happy New Year to you!

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  8. Michael Blumenthal is one of my favorite poets! I have two of his older books, and you have reminded me I want to go back and reread them. Of course, it would be better with a dish of Colin Firth m&ms….

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  9. I absolutely love that poem, Jama, it’s a keeper. And love the kindness quotes. So kind of you to share themπŸ™‚ My aspiration as a mother has always been that my daughters would define success in life based on whether or not they have been kind.

    I also love the Colin Firth M&Ms. Only Jama!πŸ™‚ And yes, I’m a wee bit worried about Mr. Cornelius but perhaps it’s just a passing phase.πŸ™‚

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    1. What a beautiful way to define success in life! It reminds me of what Paul McCartney once said about how he and Linda were raising their kids — ultimately what mattered most was that they have good hearts.πŸ™‚
      Happy New Year!! Hugs from Cornelius too.

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  10. Thanks for this oh so important reminder, Jama. I’m going to print out this poem and send it along to the teachers at my school. It’s such an important reminder. They really do make m and m’s like that?? I want to get them for my boys for Valentine’s Day!

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    1. Wonderful that you’re sharing the poem with your fellow teachers.πŸ™‚ Seems we can’t be reminded enough. Sometimes it’s quite a challenge to be kind when things aren’t going so well, or when we feel defensive about something.

      You can personalize M&Ms with whatever picture, words, or clip art you want (+ choose your colors). Just go to mymms (dot) com. It’s easy to customize.πŸ™‚

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  11. Jama, my part-teddy friend, what a beautiful way to welcome the new year. Thanks for greeting us with open arms, and for the kindness you stir up with every post on your blog… along with the tasty treats (which, as Cornelius knows, I can smell from here thanks to a stretchy body bit).

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  12. What a lovely post! Blumenthal’s poem is wonderful, and I agree with Tara about kindness being “our best audition/for a worthier world.” Thank you for always being a beacon of kindness, Jama. Happy New Year to you!

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  13. I love every single part of this blog post. We could do this. We could all do this. And then we’d leave “the happiest possible dust,
    a detritus of blessedness”

    (Is that a sign from above that I can continue to be relaxed about my housekeeping?!?!)

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    1. LOL. Yes, it must be a sign. There are definitely more important things to tend to than housekeeping. Here’s to making the happiest possible dust.πŸ™‚

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  14. Mary Lee & I gravitate toward the same, smile-inducing line. It’s not clutter!πŸ™‚ And to be so kind that even our dust radiates happiness … now that’s a beautiful life. Thank you for inspiring us, as always, with your joyful self. xoxo

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  15. It is always possible to be kind and I do my best to choose kindness even when I’m frustrated. There are so many nuggets in your post to remind us to live this way.
    Your words leave me feeling cozy and warm enough to melt those Colin Firth M&Ms!!!
    Mr. C’s Christmas gift is VERY interesting ;D

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    1. I hear you on the challenge of remaining kind even when frustrated or one’s first impulse is just the opposite.

      Happy New Year, Penny!! Colin sends his regards (and some extra M&Ms)!!

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