Have I ever told you that I’m a dumpster diver? Yup. Gross. I know. But considering the fact that my brother and his friends used to spend entire days at the dump digging through old electronics and discovering buried trash treasures, an occasional re-purposed item from our apartment dumpster shouldn’t surprise you. Runs in the family, I guess.
Anyways… not long ago I was throwing my trash away on a rainy morning when I spotted two shelves sitting next to the dumpster. They were only a little wet, which meant they hadn’t been there long. And they seemed to be in great condition. So, naturally, I grabbed them and threw them in the back of my car. Because if you learned anything from my Living Large series, it’s that I love shelves and creating vertical space in my tiny house.
(For the record, one of the shelves was in perfect condition and runs $49.00… at Pottery Barn. Who throws this stuff away?!)
I was trying hard to decide where to put my prized “new” shelf and decided to use it in the bedroom. When my Grandma passed away last year, I got to bring home several treasures that had belonged to her. Some are functional in my home- like the kitchen curtains, the rolling pin, and a jar of buttons- while others are merely decorative memories. I hadn’t found a good place to display them, but this shelf was going to change all of that.
I really love how it turned out. I love the combination of my grandma’s pieces (the jar of wooden spools, the flower mirror that I remember her using to curl her hair, the cross given to us by the funeral home), some new items (the framed “G” made by my sisinlaw last Christmas), and a few buys I’ve found to satisfy my occasional craving for reminders of yesterday. (the creamer) And for good measure, I added a small pink candle.
The first night that my little vignette was complete, I lit the candle and went about with bedtime duties. It was a particularly frustrating night with the Pickle. I just wanted to get it over with, she just wanted to run around and ignore me. Avoiding bedtime like the plague. I’m sure I had gotten frustrated more than once, so when I had finally wrangled her to get her PJ’s on and brush her teeth, you can imagine my frustration when she bolted out of the bathroom and headed straight for my room… instead of hers.
I jumped to my feet, chased after her, blood boiling and turned the corner just in time to see her come up short of my new shelf.
It’s as if the candle drew her.
She ran out of the bathroom, directionless, passed through the doorway, spotted a flicker of new in the corner of her eye and ran right up to it as if that’s what she had intended the whole time.
By the time I got there she was pointing up at the flame- surrounded by beauty and memories and meaning- and said with passion,
“Ooh, Mommy! That is SO PRETTY!”
And in that brief moment the stress and irritation of bedtime, the duties of life, and the urgency of now dissolved like the smoke from that pink candle. Out of her mouth came reality. And wisdom. And a reminder to stop worrying and hurrying.
“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”
In the midst of our crazy life and in-the-moment distraction, my sweet little girl saw beauty. And she spoke beauty. And by speaking beauty, she spoke life, and calm into my heart. And for a split second I stopped and I saw beauty, too. Not only the beauty of the candle, but the beauty of yesterday. Of a life well-lived. Of a legacy and sweet memories. She helped me see the big picture that I couldn’t see on my own.
And now every time I light that candle, I take a deep breath. I remember my Grandma, whose name both me and the Pickle bear, and I remember to not worry so much about the little things. I remember to embrace the beauty that is around me every day.
The perfect, beautiful shelf rescued from the trash.
The vibrant little life that fills my home (and my heart).
The reality that life is so short, there’s no need to waste energy on things or feelings or attitudes that are not beautiful.
And the reminder that in the middle of it all- the trash heap that sometimes is my life-
there is always beauty.
In Memory of a Beautiful Life:
Lela Leane Ray
October 19th, 1919 – January 30th, 2013