Category Archives: play

Everyone lies naked on a bed of nettles.

I ran across this article, part of a series on education by Anthony Esolen. In the course of describing how the modern world wars against our children’s souls in ways our ancestors didn’t experience, he touches on the topics of play, and why we don’t want to be stimulated, and silence.

I think of the Lord speaking to us, in His silence that communicates so much: “Be still, and know that I am God.” And that is how I know that these issues are crucial. Some excerpts:

It is noise, rather, that is the absence, both of the significant word and of the fullness of being that silence allows us to hear.

…how petty and dreary a thing it is to be stimulated. The stimulus is the prick or spur you dig into the side of an animal. Imagine the horse, slow moving creature when he is content, with his large sad eyes. If we are to make use of him, we must apply the spur.

It is essentially a pornographic world, where everyone lies naked on a bed of nettles, and every new thing is dead before it is born.

Silence is so great a blessing to us because we cannot use it. All things truly creative, which partake of the spirit of play, send their roots deep down into silence.

Read the whole article, Life Under Compulsion: Noise.

Glorious Mud

Homeschooling Beach Babies enjoy playing in the mud. The sight of these darlings and the memory of my own children in similar settings brought to mind the song I used to sing to them. Nowadays it’s easy to find such things on YouTube, which I did.

It turns out what I had gleaned from who-knows-where was only the chorus of a long song titled “The Hippopotamus,” by Flanders and Swann, which tune and words form the soundtrack of a suitably watery video.

One can find the words of the verses online, but they aren’t really for children. The chorus alone was sufficient to spark up our family’s muddy excursions, and it goes like this:

Mud, mud, glorious mud,
Nothing quite like it for cooling the blood.
So follow me, follow,
Down to the hollow,
And there let us wallow
In glorious mud!

Have fun!

Journaling about footling

When I’m writing in Word, the program often tells me that I am spelling a word wrong, or that it doesn’t exist. So I head on over to dictionary.com and check it out for myself. Today it was journaling, which even they tell me doesn’t exist. Oh, yeah? Just look at my blog and you will see that it does indeed exist, though I of course did not invent it. Even dictionary.com can’t keep up on everything.

While I was on that page, I noticed their Word of the Day on the left sidebar, and footle seemed to me a curiously cute and appealing word (which Word also does not know), so I took the time to read about it. This is what I read:

footle \FOOT-l\ , verb: 1. To act or talk in a foolish or silly way. 

noun: 1. Nonsense; silliness.

Quotes:

Sometimes, on a good day, I would go upstairs with my duster and footle around the parlor, adjusting paintings and straightening cushions, knocking them into shape with such military precision that even my mother would have saluted them.
— Marion McGilvary, A Lost Wife’s Tale: A Novel 

“I say, Charlie, for any sake do play up tomorrow, and don’t footle.”
— Rose Macaulay, Abbots Verney; A Novel
Origin:
Footle has an uncertain origin. One candidate is the French se foutre, to care nothing.” Another possibility is the Dutch vochtig, “damp or musty.”

Not much to go on here, and it’s confusing. What the narrator in McGilvary’s book (I wonder if she is the Lost Wife…that might pertain to my discussion.) is doing doesn’t seem to me either silly or foolish. It just reads like housework, done with energy.

I don’t quite know what “play up” means, in the other quote given, so how am I to infer the meaning of what is given as the alternative behavior?

(One thing is clear, that people who add the subtitle “A Novel” to their book titles are more likely to use the word footle in the text.)

This all matters to me, because I’ve long been on a quest for a word for what some of us housewives do sometimes, on those days when I’m not under a deadline or working doggedly on a single big project. Instead, I do a little of this, a little of that, one thing leading to another; I am not in a rush, nor do I have urgent goals for the day, but I end up accomplishing quite a lot.

Do we just call this “housework”? I used to call it puttering, until I learned that there is too much of aimless, ineffective, and loiter in the definition of that word. When I am engaged in the behavior I am trying to find a word for, I am never aimless, and if I am not getting any physical work done for a few minutes, I am at least thinking hard or praying. And another question: As my computer and word processor are in my house, shouldn’t I consider the work I do using those tools “housework”?

It gets complicated. Keeping the housewife healthy and able is part of the maintenance of the house, just as taking care of tools is a necessary part of the work of a carpenter’s shop. So all those things I do that restore my soul are also housework. Voilà!

Once I was discussing this issue with my friend Herm, and told her about a word I coined to describe my style of puttering. It is serendipping. But it hasn’t proved terribly useful to me, since only two of us in the world know it. I don’t often need the word anyway, do I, if I am busy doing it?

Anyway, it appears that footle will not yet be of any help. Discovering it was part of my serendipping today, but did it accomplish anything? It gave me something to think and write about, and whether it was work or play, it was not aimless and it was fun!

Soul-nourishing gift from Mr Glad

Like Tidied Toy Shelves

When Pearl was a toddler, all her toys fit on two shelves held up by cinder blocks. Most every day, with sun streaming in through big windows of the old Victorian where we lived at the time, she would absorb herself in exploring all her belongings and scatter them around in the process.

Later in the day, or the next morning, she’d show no interest in the toys that had been removed from the organized rows. She would wander aimlessly, unhappy and bored. But as soon as I tidied up the collection of blocks and dolls and plastic pull-toys, they were fascinating again and good for another long spell of play.

My own toy shelves hadn’t been tidied in at least 20 years until last summer when I tackled the chaos. I’m speaking of the boxes and baskets that held bolts and scraps of fabric, scissors and embroidery thread and patterns. Binder paper on which I’d written the body measurements of my granddaughters’ dolls, and the design for a copy of Bird’s tattered apron. Inherited notions, thimbles & thimble keeper.

Because I was known to like to sew, people thought of me when a grandmother or aunt died and left a button box or collections of needles and zippers, and I welcomed the gifts with open arms. You would think it was I and not my parents who grew up in The Depression; I even followed the example of my foremothers and snipped the buttons off before tossing out any raggedy shirt.

My grandmother Grace’s button box at least did keep all the buttons in one place. I still can’t bring myself to throw out the cards of odd old buttons in the bottom of it, and every year or two I pore over the loose ones in the top tray and imagine what I could stitch them on to.

You can see the closed button box on the floor.

All my wealth of possibilities grew without much notice because for a long time I couldn’t decide which spot or room would be my sewing area, and sometimes I’d let a year or more go by without even opening my sewing machine. But once everything had been deposited in one room, I saw that it was a burdensome barnful.

The chosen spot is a bedroom where I can have my sewing machine near the door and while I sit at it I can face outward toward the rest of the house; I didn’t want to lose touch with what might be going on downstairs. I had tried out the great room that is far removed from everything and often too cold, and I had also tried another bedroom that was too cramped, even though it was prettier.

Once I had invested in some storage racks and containers, and put things into their places, I could jump at the chance to sew doll clothes last year, knowing that my tools and materials were where I could find them. In the process of organizing, I found some interesting antique notions. And one of the doll clothes hangers that I had made and completely forgotten about.

Now that all my pins are in one box, all the spare buttons from purchased garments are in another, and there are no boxes of Hodgepodge anymore, my needlecrafting spirits have been lifted and I feel like playing again.