The heat pump hums inside our back door. It is 37° on our back porch this morning, and I’ve decided to sit in the corner of our bedroom instead. I settle into a comfy green and red plaid armchair, a chair I am proud to say came from a thrift store.
On most mornings, I write in my royal blue Challenge Manuscript Book, number five in a series of six. I filled the first one with stories of daily life in Belize in 1997, writing with the help of a kerosene lamp. Some mornings I download flotsam, dream captures, and mental purges to a small paperback notebook that I bought for a dollar.
Caught between thoughts, my pen in mid-air, I look around the room. Although our mattress and underwear are new, very little else in our bedroom is. The bed tables, dressers, even the towering corn plant are opportunistic finds or rescues. A worn Nepalese carpet lies at the foot of our bed, a gift from Bob’s high school friend, Fran Yarbro. I try in vain to picture the silk threads when they were new. I get down on my knees and count five saber-wielding huntsmen leaning forward on their rearing steeds, nine scrambling forest creatures, and one open-mouthed tiger.
Bob and I walk pad across this carpet many times each day without giving much thought to Fran. Sitting here I take the opportunity to picture them, she and her husband Sergei, sitting across the table from us, wine glasses in hand, animated, so obviously in love. It wasn’t long after that day that they perished on the slopes of Mt. Everest doing what they loved most.
I can almost remember helping Bob assemble our bookshelf many years ago. We bought most of the Kurt Vonnegut novels new, but they are well worn now from repeated readings. Ditto for Daniel Quinn. The other books are thrift store finds and gifts. There is a copy of Dead Eye Dick, signed by the author that Nick Meyers gave us before he died. A few books away from it is a 1956 printing of Rob Roy that Bob’s mother was reading when he was born and which inspired his name. And we have a 1951 copy of Marguerite Henry’s Album of Horses, my name penciled on the flyleaf in loopy grade school sprawl.
Our sheets, line-dried in yesterday’s perfect sun, were also previously owned. I stalk the sheet rack at Pittsboro’s PTA Thrift Store for 100% cotton, Pima or Egyptian. When I discover one with the right degree of softness, I drape it over my arm and walk to the counter and, gushing with pride, and invite the clerk to run her hand over the sturdy fabric.
When I learned that my brother John, and his wife, Darla, were coming to visit, I stripped the guest room bed and hung everything in the sun. And then I made a loaf of bread, the dough so irresistibly plump I could not stop kneading. I harvested okra, figs, cherry tomatoes, squash, and peppers, thinking with each pluck how wonderful it would be to have my family here. About the walks we would take, and about how, together, we would roast chestnuts and make them into soup with sherry, onions, and squash.
Later, after putting the bed back together, I entered the guest room to place a few pieces of dark chocolate on a scuffed night table and noticed how the whole room smelled of crisp fall sunlight and golden breezes.
I don’t think you have to sit still underneath a fig tree for forty-nine days to reach nirvana. I also don’t think you can buy it. Enlightenment, for me at least, is about manifesting my values, and I am fortunate that I can do that. My nirvana is time to think my thoughts, family visits, home-grown food, thrift store scores, heirlooms, treasured books, and line-dried sheets.