Creating Pleasure in the Midst of Deprivation

Spending so much time at home sheltering in place, I’ve realized how much “stuff” we have and how little of it we put to use. Before the virus, I was too busy to spend time taking stock of what fills our closets, drawers and shelves, but these days, I have ample time to take in our entire batterie de cuisine (cooking equipment and paraphernalia), the shelves in our dining room chock full of ceramic bowls, sets of wine glasses and a rather large collection of serving platters; to say nothing of the assortment of vases, condiment holders, cheese boards and pitchers.

Like manny of my friends, for a while I’ve been wanting to cull our possessions, to eliminate excess and create more room to display what we retain. But as soon as I begin thinking about eliminating, I realize how little we’ve used most of what we have collected, and I decide culling is premature. Instead, I’ve decided that we should begin actually using what we have.

We’ve never hosted all that many dinner parties, but when we did, I enjoyed creating a pleasing table on which to serve the meal Stephen and I prepared. Those days the hand-painted dishes from Eastern Europe, the antique wine glasses, woven place mats, and our collection of serving plates and bowls made the journey from shelf to table at least once a month. But for the past six months, not one of these items has stirred. Wouldn’t it be lovely, I thought, if we begin using all our “best” everyday.

The simple anticipation of taking items out of the cabinets and dusting them off has enlivened me. Already, I’ve begun paying more attention—and taking more pleasure—in what’s available, right in our own dining room. Like the sleek, red Waechterssbach ceramic bowl that sits on our table, thanks to Stephen’s mother. Pre-Covid, the bowl’s place was right in the center, but since the two of us are home so much more, the table tends to become cluttered with mail and laptops, and the bowl pushed to one end. This morning, I cleared the table and slid the perfectly-formed bowl back to its rightful place, right in the middle, equidistant from the ends and sides.

And tonight, I plan to set the table with our white placements and mustard-colored napkins, serve our dinner on the hand-painted pottery, and our water in our hand-blown green Moroccan tumblers. And even though I usually leave my flowers in the garden, their rightful home, I might just cut a bouquet of Tamara roses and arrange them in one of my collection of vases to bring a bit of the outdoors in to our dining experience.

While so much of my experience of Covid is about deprivation—not going to restaurants or shopping, even for groceries; hardly seeing friends–for the next weeks Stephen and I will be enjoying just the opposite: giving ourselves permission to use the most beautiful and elegant of our possessions, usually reserved for guests and special occasions, every day of our very ordinary life.

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2 thoughts on “Creating Pleasure in the Midst of Deprivation”

  • I’ve been doing a tiny bit of the same — how beautifully you’ve described this dynamic…and it might stimulate me to actually organize and remove the piles of paper on my beautiful table. And if you did cull, where the heck would you take anything? A lot of our “normal” donation sites aren’t receiving much, if anything.

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