Sunday, September 26, 2010

(Do you smell what I smell?)
Elizabeth Willis Barrett September 22, 2010

There are certain sounds that I love. One of my favorites is the little pop that comes when a bottle of peaches seals and you know you can keep it in the pantry for a few years. That is such a great sound. It means industry and self-sufficiency and a job well done. After pulling the jar out of the boiling water bath, you anxiously wait to hear that sound. I haven’t heard it for an awfully long time since other things have fought their way to the forefront and left bottling peaches in the far, far distance. But there are other sounds to find joy in.

One of the best is a baby’s belly laugh. That sound can pull you from the depths of melancholy and onto the plains of delight. No despair can linger within the sound of a happy baby.

Rain tap-tapping on a metal roof brings me pleasure, too. Not that there are many metal roofs around, of course. I wish there were more metal roofs and more rain drops to fall on them but Central Arizona isn’t the best place for experiencing either one. A rustic cabin in the woods would be perfect, though. Sitting around a table playing Liverpool Rummy with my girls and listening to the rain—ahhh, that would be heaven.

A cooing dove is another great sound. It reminds me of summer and being temporarily released from Emerson Elementary School. I can imagine listening to the doves while standing outside by the evaporative cooler and feeling the tepid water from its hose drizzle onto my feet. True freedom!

I like the sound of a key turning in a lock, signifying the return of a loved one and the beep of a text message that connects me to family and friends.

And silence—silence is a wonderful sound, too. I wouldn’t want to hear it all the time, but once in a while it’s very welcomed.

There are also some not so good sounds that I would rather not hear, such as an impatient mother berating her child at the grocery store or an ignorant couple talking too loudly at Wal-Mart. Bad news never has a good ring to it, of course, and neither does the buzz of a mosquito. And I’m not very fond of the sound of: “We’re sorry. It is not necessary to dial a one when calling this number.”

One of the most irritating sounds to me is someone chomping and smacking whatever happens to be in their mouth. It is especially annoying when it occurs behind me for some reason. When someone is eating loudly, I have to move. When I was little, my younger brother and sister loved to come up and smack their peanut butter sandwiches in my ear because they liked to see me get really perturbed. I don’t even like to hear myself eat!

The magnificent sense of smell brings the good and bad, too. For instance, I detest the smell of dogs. They all smell quite the same, I think. Even though my dear husband, Brad, gets his St. Bernard groomed and perfumed to please me, underneath good ol’ Buddy still smells like a dog. A wet dog smell is especially displeasing. Cats, birds, cows, horses—the animal world would have a hard time getting me to ever be fond of its smell. Sometimes people are in that category. B O is an especially bad animal smell as is stale tobacco breath. H O (house odor) is offensive, too. Thank goodness for Fry’s aisle of candles, oils, sprays and air fresheners.

If I were to choose the very best smell ever, it would be the smell of raspberries. That smell takes me back to my summers in Rexburg as I’d come through Aunt Blanche’s back door. There the smell of freshly picked raspberries would linger. I wish I could go there right now with Mom and her sisters chatting away while shelling peas on the porch and with all the cousins riding the carousel in the park. Not too far away would be the grand smell of West Yellowstone—that smoky fire smell mingled with pines. I love that smell.

Another favorite smell is Dove soap. Sometimes I buy it just so I can close my eyes and take a slow prolonged whiff and imagine that I’m at Aunt Ruth’s house with all her kids. They always used Dove soap. Smells can really conjure up great memories.

It’s hard to beat the glorious smell of bread baking in a family kitchen. Even though Mom worked as a secretary at the Arizona State Senate, she somehow found time to bake bread. That is definitely a smell of love.

And back to the rain. Not only does it sound superb, but it smells delightful, too, especially in the forest.

So, thanks nose. Thanks ears. You’ve served me well. I plan on you seeing me through to the end of my journey. I hope you’re OK with that. You make life so much better.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


Elizabeth Willis Barrett September 9, 2010

My stuff is drowning me. It seems to be in every nook and cranny of my life and it proliferates more profusely than rabbits do.

There is stuff everywhere. There are so many places for it to germinate. There is my purse, of course, filled to overflowing with receipts and shopping lists, makeup (all but what I happen to need at the moment), new and used Kleenexes and far too many pens and pencils. One thing my purse is usually short on is cash. Thank goodness I have my Southwest Visa and Wells Fargo Debit Card in there with my Café Rio frequent diner cards, half used gift cards, Mesa and Gilbert library cards, and grocery store reward cards. I even carry a Smiths Market card although I can only use it in Utah.

Unfortunately, I don’t just have one purse, but several, each with its own array of stuff. I have a huge jean bag that I take on trips and never seem to find the time to empty between our comings and goings.

Stuff even accumulates in my computer case: papers I might need, extra cords and flash drives and, again, a supply of pens and pencils. The computer itself is full of stuff, too—speeches and lessons and ideas and papers written long ago that might contain bits of wisdom worth saving. I would love to sit down and delete unnecessary material but that would take a great deal of time.

I have so many little bits of this and that around. For example, whenever we go out of town I grab a tiny Ziploc bag and fill it with Ibuprofen and Excedrin just in case leg aches or splitting headaches attack. Not that they do much but who wants to run to a hopefully nearby Circle K to buy a remedy? Not me. Pretty soon I find those little bags full of red and white pills everywhere—in my purse, in my underwear drawer, in the car’s side pocket.

Then there are spiral notebooks that contain bits of this and that. I have stacks of them that I bought at Wal-Mart’s “after school’s beginning sale” for 10 cents each. They are wonderful to have. I grab the closest one and jot down a writing idea or grab another and record a recipe or a phone number or a great thought for a talk or a list of necessary errands, or interesting facts or quotes from the book I’m listening to. At this moment I have 22 spiral notebooks stacked next to the computer. They are in varying degrees of raggedness and each has only the first few pages written on—some with profound thoughts or messages that I am anxious to transfer to appropriate places on the computer, my already stuffed computer.

My guitar case is not immune to stuff with its papers from lessons and notes on chord progressions. My voice class notebook could use some editing and so could my writing notebook that is filled with our writing group’s journalistic gems. There are also several camera cases swollen with their own miscellany.

The file drawers are bulging with articles and warranties and bank papers and ideas for this and that. They should be sorted through too. Every drawer in the house, in fact, needs to be put on a stringent diet along with the closets.

Some people are just magnets for stuff. You should see the cupboards that hold the scrapbooks! No, never mind. It’s not a pretty sight. And I’m not even an official “scrap-booker.” Heaven help us if I ever got into that. I have plenty of pictures and papers to save without the embellishments and cutesy artwork so many find necessary to show off their treasures.

I have tons of music in a four-drawer file that one day I’m going to have to acknowledge has never been looked at in a good 10 years. The refrigerator has too much stuff—inside and out. And then there’s my head. It is also filled with stuff—ideas and books and songs and thoughts and ambitions and goals and worries and hopes.

On a trip to Argentina, we were having a delicious dinner in a very humble home. I foolishly asked if they had any second-hand stores around. Our sweet hostess looked at me a little strangely after my son had translated my question into Spanish. “No,” she answered. “We don’t have extra things to take to a second-hand store.” I, unfortunately, could open up my own second-hand store just with the stuff in my house—unnecessary and unneeded stuff. Well, I might need to add the stuff from a friend or two to really get started.

Maybe if I quit doing all the stuff that adds to my stuff, I would finally have time to get rid of the stuff that doesn’t matter. Hmmm, no, I’m not ready to quit doing all I’m doing yet.

But I really do want to clean up and out. I’ll actually love doing it. It will take weeks and weeks but I’m gearing up for a thorough and complete cleansing. I’m ready to rid myself of sentimentality and arm myself with the realization that if I haven’t used the article called “WAIT” in the last 20 years, I’m probably not going to use it in the next 20.

My stuff has brought me a measure of joy but it’s time to be done with a lot of it. And when I finally become stuff-free, it will feel wonderful!