bag lady May 18, 2011
Do the difficult things while they are easy and do the great things while they are small. A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step. Lao Tzu
Setting Goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible. Albert Schweitzer
The picture above of the late and very intrepid Kitty Couch was sent to me last week by her long time friend and partner in many things creative, Pinky Bass. As you can see, Clara (aka Kitty) Couch was way ahead of her time recycling wise. While most of us were just getting used to having home recycling, Kitty was out there with the “reduce” idea, using her own bags long before this was a common activity. It has taken me many years to act on this concept and I just love that Kitty was out there early on doing the remember to reuse thing! Plus, as you can see from the newspaper photo she was clearly having a good time with it. And I mean a GOOD time!
In 1989 Kitty and I were part of a group of 9 women selected to represent the state of North Carolina at the then new National Museum of Women in Washington DC. It was then that I began to love Clara Couch’s amazing ceramic works which seemed live, large, unglazed, almost abstract, always evocative, not to mention Kitty herself, who was direct and joyful, attuned to the world around her.
I have just returned from an event in the North Carolina Mountains full of lots of artists of all sorts from many parts of the world. I had been thinking of Kitty a lot because a while back at an earlier iteration of this same event for some reason I went with her to visit her home in the NC Mountains. One of the things I remember most about that day was Kitty telling me about her firewood. It was stacked at the bottom of her road and every day as she took her morning walk or went out to check the mail she would bring back a log. Bit by bit, piece by piece she was moving a stack of firewood up the hill to her home, to be burned in the cold of Winter. It was a ritual. She took what could have been a hard job and gave it joy–simple and everyday. I can imagine her looking at each piece of wood as she carried it up the hill. She had made this task, easily done in one quick dump by a guy with a truck into a daily ritual.
Going back to Black Mountain where I had last visited with Kitty it was natural to remember her. And meeting her friend Pinky helped as well. What I became aware of is how the story that Kitty told me maybe 20 years ago about her firewood has become a part of my life. Each day as I move from room to room, I usually take something that belongs where I am going. When I weed the garden, I do it in bits and pieces, on the way to the trash can or just out to the car. Bit by bit I care for my world. Step by step, I shift and shape, and always I have been thinking of Kitty moving her wood pile from down below to up above, piece by piece, each year only to begin again as winter’s warmth required it.
In a way, life is a string of small seemingly unimportant tasks. Ritual. Continuity. Repetition. Continuity again. We must have faith that our small actions count. We must believe in them. And if we are fortunate, we discover ways to find joy in these day-to-day tasks. The small acts of our lives are as important to us as leaves are to a tree. And all of them, whether we are carrying firewood, caring for loved ones or sorting our socks add up to the tree that is our life. Bit by bit we become who we are. Everything we do counts. All of it. Remembering Kitty I am pretty sure this is true.