Miss Prim arrived at the appointed time in the early afternoon carrying a tray of freshly baked cakes. After almost three months in the village, she knew that tea, coffee, or hot chocolate, fine pastries, and a good liqueur were essential to any social gathering there.
‘It surprised me too at first, but I’ve come to see it as a mark of civilization,’ said Herminia Treamont after thanking the librarian for her edible gift and inviting her to look around the tiny newspaper premises.
‘Really? It seems like a relic to me,’ said Miss Prim. ‘Who has time nowadays for these leisurely teas?’ ~ from The Awakening of Miss Prim by Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera
The three of us tromped out into the cold, in stockinged legs and wool coats of blue and grey and Kelly green. My daughters, home from college, and I had been summoned to a post-Christmas tea at the house around the country bend. We made a merry parade, Emma toting a tea tin—dark red with an icy blue satin ribbon—and Maggie a basket of treats. As we walked single-file, trying in our good shoes to avoid the mud alongside the road, I knew what must be running through the minds of my normally zip-up fleece jacketed and leggings-wearing teenagers: Lord, don’t let anyone I know drive by.*
But Mama’s head was here: Why can’t we do this every afternoon?
Our two o’clock was precisely what the day was crying out for—a leisurely sit-down with three generations of women: my friend, her mother, our daughters. At table, for an hour and fifteen minutes, all was good and right with the world. Nothing else, save the sky falling, could interrupt what my daughters have dubbed my “house flurry” and put a hard stop to manic multitasking, delivering me from jeans to a skirt and a sweater, a uniform I much prefer.
Is it folly to want a do-over, the next day and the next? Is it greed?
Twenty-seven years ago, my husband, then beau, explained away in a letter the generous chunks of time we spent on the phone, on long walks, over meals: Sometimes, he wrote, greed is good.
Yet—we are just now wrapping up a month-long greed-fest, no? The Christmas cookies have been consumed, and the calendar has flipped to January, a season for resolutions and goal-setting, exercise and eating clean. After we vacuum up the glitter and pine, it is time to hunker down and devise a plan of attack.
I am not inclined.
Instead, I want to move to San Ireneo. Never mind that San Ireneo is a fictional town, the setting of The Awakening of Miss Prim, a “flourishing colony of exiles from the modern world seeking a simple, rural life.”
Consider the first order of business at a meeting of the San Ireneo Feminist League:
‘Our friend Amelia,’ Hortensia was saying, ‘is obliged to work hours that are unacceptable according to the principles we in San Ireneo hold dear’ … Herminia spoke in a clear, calm, and well-modulated voice. ‘… Not only is it impossible for her to have a social life while working such hours, but she has also been unable to devote time to reading and study which, as you know is one of the major principles upon which our small community is based… I still recall the morning when she entered my office, eyes shining with emotion and an old anthology of John Donne’s poetry in her hand. This was where she discovered that intelligence, this wonderful gift, grows in silence, not in noise.’
The other day, I read an article about what life coach Stacy Kim calls “The Lighthouse Method.” When she began coaching, bright but burned-out women streamed into Kim’s office, each of them wondering what in their worlds was… missing. But how do you map out a journey if you don’t know the destination?
Kim was stumped, so to stall, she advised her clients to take a break from figuring out an endpoint and spend some time doing one thing they enjoyed for a month. Lo and behold, taking pleasure proved a potent discovery route. The road less traveled—doing something that might on the surface seem frivolous or self-indulgent or eccentric—unearthed methods for melding gifts and money-making, joy and routine, delight and duty. Ideas were born. Lives were tweaked—or overhauled.
All because of a prescription for pleasure.
What would happen if we gave ourselves this kind of permission? If we stopped regarding all pleasure as guilty?
Note to self: This is what my January should look like, a quiet month of taking pleasure. Of seeing what happens. Of opening up to the notion that something as simple as pleasure could inform my goals, plans, and schemes for 2018—perhaps more intelligently than I can.
But I have formed a strange attachment to my Rifle Paper Co. planner, especially the blank pages at the back, which beckon for a blueprint. I am also fond of categories: to-do as opposed to down-time. Are my categories getting in my way? In which rigid slot does writing belong? Writing fits in the murky in-between, along with slow-braising and planting pansies.
What if self-care doesn’t always mean a hot bath or another Netflix episode? What if radical self-care can also be about being truly engaged, finding what puts us in a zone where time stands still but zooms by unnoticed?
There are, however, bills to pay, kids to carpool, refrigerators to reorganize. We are busy folk, terribly important. I wonder, though, if we have fallen on the sword of self-sacrifice, mistaking it to mean we are, as a rule, to toss out what we excel at or enjoy in favor of task piled upon task?
Have we created for ourselves idols, hard and fast identities: project manager, parent of the year, committee chair? Are the must-dos and must-haves as imperative as all that? Or are we hyper-focusing on what feels obligatory to the detriment of our imaginations, our peace, our wiring?
Six or so years ago, I was itching to do something with my hands—my fingers, specifically. We bought an old spinet from a man who kept pianos in his kitchen, and I hired a teacher so I could learn to play. Only it turns out, I was banging on the wrong keys. I had always wanted to write. One keyboard unstuck me for another.
I am miserable at the piano. It looks nice in our living room.
No one can tell you how to get unstuck, make a change, form a new habit. Ms. Prim, Ms. Kim, to whom shall we look?
But we can nudge ourselves, ever so kindly.
I have begun keeping a tea tray on the counter, at the ready. From the upper reaches of a cabinet, I rescued a jade-colored cream and sugar and my Brown Betty teapot. Here is a visual reminder to take pleasure, slow down, maybe bang on the keyboard or read a chapter of a novel.
Which brings me to the give-away. Enter to win a pristine copy of The Awakening of Miss Prim by picking this post—or any Golden Hours post you enjoy—and sharing it on Facebook. Send us a comment (below) to tell us you have done so, and you are eligible for the January 10 drawing.
*Addendum: After reading this post to Emma and Maggie, I stand corrected. The girls claim they were in no way shy about our quaint little hike to the neighbors’. And, “We don’t wear leggings everyday.”
This sounds like a fascinating book! You are right, we need more time for quiet, pleasant activity, rather than for constant work.
This is perfect, perfect, perfect. I will read or play my piano or do needlework or sit down with a pot of tea this month without guilt while I ponder the Lord’s plans for me this year.
I shared this post on my Facebook page and encouraged all of my friends to do the same. What a lovely island of serenity your blog is in this crazy busy world!
Shared this post on Facebook. I’m a recent (a month or two) reader of your blog and have loved every post I’ve read. Thank you!
Congratulations, Lorrie! Your number came up! We’ll be sending you a copy of The Awakening of Miss Prim in tomorrow morning’s mail. Lanier laughed when I saw her today, saying it’s a good thing we’re not gifting anyone with my “orajami” copy of Miss Prim. (I am a terrible page-bender.)
I just received this book in the mail. Cannot wait to read it while indulging in lots of tea. thank you for this amazing blog.
This post was the exact inspiration my mind and soul needed as I turn the page into this new year, albeit a little late. Shared on Facebook for friends to see.
Thank you so much, Laura and Lanier, for encouraging us in this space.
Hi, I love your blog, it has opened my mind, and my heart, to so many new ideas and thoughts. I shared the Jan. 5 post about having tea and reading the Ms. Prim book, on Facebook.
A wonderful read on this cold snowy January morning!!! San Ireneo sounds like a place I would love to visit! Thanks so much for setting the tone of my Friday!!!
I shared “Seeds of Love” on Facebook.
I so enjoyed reading this! It resonated with the unnamed yearnings of my inner self, buried under the January guilty to-do list. I had already decided to share your post on FB before reading of the give-away, and I have. Miss Prim sounds like a kindred spirit. Thank you!
Read and shared. This was a great reminder, a gentle hand pointing the direction.
I so enjoy your posts. I am enjoying a very quiet ,cold,but lovely January,hunkered down with the books,people,and tea I love best.It is perfectly okay to enjoy this quiet Season.Blessings,Dawn E.Brown
Shared this post on Facebook just now! I have just finished the Miss Prim book and now my daughter is reading it; I loved it! Can’t wait for a second book from this author. As an avid tea drinker, the cup and saucer is beautiful and I’d love to have tea from the cup! Thanks for the giveaway and Happy New Year!
Happy New Year! This is just what I have been thinking about–taking things more moments and looking for beauty and God in everything. I just posted this writing on my FB page. Thank you for writing the Golden Hours.
This is a new website for me. I just shared this post with my FB friends. 🙂
This is a new website for me. I just shared this post with my FB friends. 🙂
Sharing sharing sharing. Yes. The Miss Prim sounds delightful–I’m currently reading an Elizabeth Van Arnim book and will have to add Miss Prim to my book list.
Thank you for taking us with you on your therapeutic thought journey–I am inclined to concur.
I have shared this post on Facebook and hope to hear I have won the Miss Prim book. But either way, I am a winner as I always enjoy your posts. Such a gentle place to spend some time. Off to make a cuppa! Merry 12th night and a most Blessed New Year.
I’ve shared the post. Love your blog!
The Awakening of Miss Prim is one of my very favorite books. I’m so glad you posted about it!
I love this! As someone who wavers daily between DOING more and BEING more this resonates succinctly. I shared to my FB in hopes that someone else will see this beauty too.
So lovely and inspiring! Thank you! I would love to own Miss Prim. I have never read this book, but can tell she will be a new friend. If I don’t win the give away, I must order from the library.
Oh, I’ve had this on my list to read for ages! I would love to win a copy and Ive shared it on facebook!
I love this! I shared with my friends!
How I need time to sit and be refreshed.
This was so lovely. Thank you. Even blogging has now been added to that list of greedy, frivolous pleasures. We have been at it long enough (I started in 2007) that we have “modern blogging” (monetized, SEO, platform building) and “old school blogging” like this, with every bit as much purpose and also good writing, glimpses into real life and calls toward ideals. I shared the post for this reason and also because I have wanted to read this book for years!
I loved this post and shared it! I think I should add this book to my reading list. It sounds amazing!
This did my heart such good. Sharing with my FB peeps!
I borrowed this one from my local library last year – a charming read and a perfect give-away from Golden Hours as the New Year unfolds.
As I don’t have FaceBook and I’ve read the book already, no need to enter me in the draw, but I did want to acknowledge all your delightful posts this season, Laura. You are so adept at telling funny and self-depracating tales, while never missing the deeper insight of a moment.
Happy New Year!
Thank you, Judy! Bless you.
Thank you for your encouraging and affirming words:
“What if radical self care can also be about being truly engaged, finding what puts us in a zone where time stands still but zooms by unnoticed?”
“I wonder if we have fallen upon the sword of self sacrifice, mistaking it to mean, as a rule, to toss out what we excel at or enjoy in favor of task piled on task?”
These words are the shape of prayers from my heart for this New Year.
(No need to include me in the drawing. I don’t use Facebook.)
Thank you, Joan, for your kind words. You are not the only reader who mentioned they don’t use Facebook. I respect that! So to those of you who commented here but are not on FB, consider yourself entered in the drawing. I would not want to discriminate against a (probably darn smart) decision to opt out of social media. Tell you what? Tell one person about Golden Hours via good, old-fashioned word-of-mouth. 🙂
I reshared the post! Thank you!
I very much enjoyed this article! I borrowed the book from my library last year–it has such a beautiful charm to it, so much that I couldn’t put it down (except when my sisters decided to “borrow” it from my room.) I would highly recommend this novel to anyone. 🙂 I shared this with my friends on FB!
Thanks for sharing this book! I got it from my library and am enjoying it so much. I am laughing —Ten thousand women marched through the streets of London saying: “We will not be dictated to” and then went on to become stenographers. So true.
Sounds like a great book. I shared on Facebook!