01 July 2007


From England, in the 1600s, Abraham Cowley wrote, “I confess I love littleness almost in all things. A little convenient estate, a little cheerful house, a little company, and a very little feast; and if I were to fall in love again (which is a great passion, and therefore, I hope, I have done with it), it would be, I think, with prettiness, rather than with majestical beauty.”

Cowley is my kind of man. I, too, take pleasure in little things—the sweet snappy taste of orange marmalade, the smell of my husband’s work shirt, the crinkle of a baby’s laugh. If there is a secret to happiness surely it hides in one’s awareness and appreciation of small joys. 

The other night my husband Dave and I sat on the front steps of our little cheerful house eating our very little feast of egg sandwiches, watching the occasional car go by. Our hens are laying upwards of 20 eggs a day so we eat eggs. In sandwiches, tortillas, soup, casseroles. Over potatoes, toast, rice, spinach, beans. Scrambled, boiled, stir-fried, baked. Some days eggs afford very small joy indeed. But the hens haven’t given up yet and neither have we. 

As Dave and I shared our step-sitting supper,  a woodpecker rapped his own meal from the walnut tree in the yard’s northeast corner. A moth fluttered above the daffodils and hyacinth by the driveway. In the woods to our left, tiny spring wild flowers peppered the ground—pink Johnny Jump Ups, white Dutchman’s Breeches and the little yellow ones whose name escapes me. 

We heard the driver’s taste in music (loud) long before he rolled past us in his wide-bodied brown pick-up, windows down, radio blaring. He was twenty-something, beefy build, pulled down baseball cap, dark hair, bushy eyebrows. He stared straight ahead, didn’t glance our way as had other motorists. “Careful,” I wanted to shout after him. “You might catch whatever it is you think we have.”

Sure, I may have misjudged him, but I had felt the air thicken with suspicion as he passed. He fit my image of the unknown vandal who regularly visits our property. 

In our neck of the woods two men sitting on a front porch eating egg sandwiches constitutes a subversive act, as does two men weeding flower beds, two men walking out to the barn, two men painting a picket fence. Two men doing anything domestic is too much for some people. It has provoked some passerby to bash in our mailbox several times. To sprinkle white powder sprinkled in our yard at the height of the anthrax scare. To throw a burning bag of feces on our porch. To egg our house at regular intervals. 

As if we don’t have enough eggs already.

Two egg sandwiches. One simple supper. A small thing, sharing this very little feast with the man I love very much. A little risk, sitting together on the porch in front of God and everybody. A little gesture towards living into the kind of world I wish this one could be.

A world where I wouldn’t look twice before kissing my husband goodbye in the driveway. Where I wouldn’t drop his hand as we walk back from the barn if I hear a car approach. Where I wouldn’t fear epithets—or beer bottles—being hurled at me as I’m out mowing the grass along the road’s edge. Where I wouldn’t wonder, “What will they do to the house next time? Where will it stop? Will they bring guns?”

By little steps I help create such a world inside myself each time I risk showing my heart, who I am, who I love. By little acts of awareness, little choices I make in each moment that is now. To choose freedom over easy acceptance, forgiveness over bitterness. To affirm light, life within. To crack the crusty shell of societal prejudice and privilege. To call into being the world I imagine. A world not of beauty—for even majestical beauty may prove skin deep—but  a world built on little acts of justice, awareness, wholeness. For pretty is as pretty does. 

This essay appeared in The Letter, April 2007

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