Not Just for Pretty

blogxbeachxresortI think I’ve mentioned the Rat Park Experiments at some point on this blog, but allow me summarize: Accepted science for decades has been that addiction to substances changes our brain chemistry, such that we’ll consume our substance of choice until it kills us. To prove this, some heartless soul (who has racked up a whole lotta bad karma) put a bunch of rats in a cage and gave them a choice: drink regular water, or take a hit off the water that’s laced with morphine.

Little beasts morphine-watered themselves to death in very short order.

blogxbeautifulxflowersAlong comes another scientist, maybe one who’d been living in his parents’ basement, and reasons, “Well, if all I had to do was stare at the walls or do morphine, I’d do morphine too. What if….” He set up what he called a Rat Park, with room to roam, raise little rat babies, hang out, work out, do the equivalent of rat-karaoke, solve little rat-puzzles, and otherwise, live the rat-life of Riley. These rats also had a choice of morphine water or the regular stuff, to go with their haute rat-cuisine.

No addicted rats at the Rat Park. Some of them would occasionally do a hit of the joy juice, but none became addicted.  Not any. None. Zero. We’re good.

blogxsevresxteaxpotIn other words, the difference between life and death for these rats, was not the availability of a powerfully addicting substance, but rather, the environment the rats lived in. When their environment was fit for kings, the rats eschewed the behavior of their brethren trapped in a world of crowding and boredom.

Malcolm Gladwell in, “The Tipping Point,” wrote about something called the Broken Window theory.

If a window is broken and left unrepaired, people walking by will conclude that no one cares and no one is in charge. Soon, more windows will be broken, and the sense of anarchy will spread from the building to the street on which it faces, sending a signal that anything goes.

blogxbeautifulxcatThe idea here is that nobody comes along and whispers in a kid’s ear, “Hey, let’s break some more windows.” The simple fact that the environment includes one broken window will result in more vandalism.

Environment matters in ways we probably don’t understand. If you go out to eat, you’ll make fewer trips to the buffet if you simply sit so your back is to the buffet itself.  What we see, hear, smell, taste, and tactilely encounter affects how we act and feel. Beauty, rest, recreation, and social pleasures aren’t selfish indulgences, at least in moderation. They are necessary for our wellbeing.

This is why, when you drive up to my house, you will see FLOWERS in my yard. Why I sleep on the lovely flannel sheets my sister gave me last Christmas, why I finish many of my days writing in my journal with a purring cat in my lap. I want loveliness around me, so I have more loveliness inside me.

How do you put a little loveliness in your day? To one commenter, I’ll send a Scotland With Grace dram glass–just for pretty.








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28 comments on “Not Just for Pretty

  1. I have pumpkins and mums on my front porch, my fall table runner with mini pumpkins and the hallway and a bouquet of sunflowers on my kitchen table. A splash of fall adds color and fun to the house. And makes me happy!

    I have dug out my trusty LLbean yard shoes, sweat shirts and jackets because it’s cooler. I add a scarf to an outfit to brighter it up. My daughter noticed that my scarves have a floral theme! I buy fun socks ( no one sees them but me!) and wear them to work.

    And Celeste…patting my corgi at the end of the day makes me happy. She’s a bundle of energy and has a lot to say…and she makes me happy.

  2. I put of bit of Wimsey in my wardrobe all the time. I purposely do something unexpected just because it makes me feel like me. I wear a business white blouse and black pants with a pair of tapestry pumps. I wear funky cowboy boots (not too often, they pinch!)with jeans when I go about my errands. I pair some odd piece of jewelry (costume or real)with conservative wear if I am called to be the *doctor’s wife* for an event. And, like the first poster, I wear fun socks too!

    I decided about 20 years ago to dress to please me. It puts loveliness in my life, come to think of it, and it helps me be able to do what I have to do.

    • There must be a gene for expressive socks. I not only wear my Maggie Moo organic tie-dyed socks with most outfits, I give socks away as a hostess gift, usually very thick organic wool toasties. What are the chances that three sock-hounds will end up on the same blog?

  3. I used to love to walk, but my world has gotten a lot smaller since I cannot do that anymore. My “communing with nature” now consists of sitting on my front porch among my flowers watching the birds, bees (they don’t scare me) and squirrels doing what comes natural to them. The rabbit population has decreased considerably due to a couple of hawks that have visited the neighborhood this summer. But I’m sure they will make a comeback – they always do (smile).

    But winter is coming, so it will be back inside for me. I have a lot of flowers in my house. Because I have two cats, they have to be artificial. But I love the color they provide. They make me happy.

    Hey, job well done with ASHTON. That Helen is a pistol!

    • My mom knew how to bring colors inside, from brilliant abstract art to orchids, to woven South American table runners. She could make orange, purple and green look perfect together, and had a great eye for light.

      I’ve wondered if she created such a cheerful, welcoming place in part because it’s such an effective anti-depressant, and those were the tools she had. I fall far, far short of her in this regard, but there’s time to make progress in the direction of more cheer.

  4. Absolutely wonderful post.
    Since there are no flowers blooming in this heat except my pretty Hoya blossoms, I put out some pretties in my writing den. A new lavender wire Eiffel tower, an aqua (because it’s such a good peaceful color) shelf with mirror, and my blue and white ivy tea cup with a dragon tea ball and chain hanging so the light catches the crystal beads. That and Scottish music in the background. Makes a delightful difference to be surrounded by beauty.

    • You remind me: Pretty is not just for the eye, but for all the senses. I tend not to listen to music while I’m writing (because I LISTEN to it), but I often edit with a purring cat in my lap. I can’t be stressed when Chloe puts on her turbo-chargers. Just can’t.

  5. I love to finish my day with down time. That’s takes many different forms: reading, knitting, embroidery, or just coloring. I can tell I’m not taking that time right now. I’m too pulled by my jobs. And I’m not taking time to wind down at the end if the day. And until I do, the eye twitch is not going away.

    School has taken so much more time the last year and I’ve had it. And the part time gig sucks hours away at the worst times. I want to my reading and creating again. My nephew is almost a year old and his baby blanket still needs to be finished. I have embroidery at would make great gifts….if I would ever finish it. Fall break is in a week. It’s all changing during the break.

    • I think the level of discourse we’re seeing in the current election ballyhoo is a reflection of what happens when teachers and learning are not respected or funded as they deserve to be. Half of all teachers in Maryland quit in the first five years. Those are people who aimed their entire education, maybe up to a master’s degree, at earning that certification. They studied and worked hard to get into a classroom, and they can’t last five years.

      You are not alone in your frustration, and nobody would blame you for saying, “Enough.” Except… nobody in my family, not my friends, not my employers, nobody ever told me I wrote well–except my junior high English teacher.

      What you do makes an important difference.

  6. I took to heart the idea that the bedroom should be a place makes you feel mellow & relaxed – a comfy bed, smooth sheets, not a lot of things around, dark & cool when it’s time to sleep (I even block the light from my clock radio).

  7. Unfortunately, I am a brown thumb so no gardens for me, but I try to keep beauty focused in my heart, mind, and soul with a thankfulness journal, keeping up in letter writing, reading good books and trying to be friendly and appreciative to everyone I encounter. Have a blessed week! Thank you for writing so many wonderful books.

    • I do the gratitudes at the end of every day too. I’ve always tried to be mindful of my blessings, but in the current media environment, I’ve had to become relentless about the gratitude. It’s a good habit to keep near.

  8. I have an office upstairs, but I write in the living room near the bay window. There I can nurture my soul by looking up and out at the hillside covered with saguaros or the grandfather clock nearby.

    • I write where I can see out a window to my immediate left, but also where–when the neighbor’s horses are on my end of the pasture, I can hear then chomp-chomp-chomping that fall grass. I LOVE that sound.

  9. Hmm… sometimes I will buy myself flowers. I have Christmas lights all year long inside my house. I love to plug them in at night time. I enjoy lighting a candle or lavender bath salts.

    • I know Mary Balogh keeps scented candles in her writing space. She lights the candles, gets to work. Lights the candles, gets to work. I tend to do more of that in winter, but I have been known to use citronella candles in summer, too.

  10. Helen MUST have her own story! Maybe she runs an underground railroad for
    battered wives of the peerage. It will take a peer to show her not all men with titles are bad.

    • That’s actually a brilliant premise, Edith, and it does fit Helen’s character. She’s what happens when I tuck myself in each night reading “Grose’s Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue” (1811 edition). I also wanted to make the point that Regency society trained women to be vulnerable from little up… some women. Not sure what that guy Tyburn was all about though. He Interests me.

  11. It’s very difficult for me to make my physical environment “pretty”. Too much stuff with too many people and too many other things to do. But I knit with beautiful yarn every day. I make beautiful things with beautiful string for my family. I make soft, warm socks for my mom, who has poor circulation in her feet and who adores my making her cashmere handknit socks. My sons enjoy the ski sweaters that I make for them every year and they wear them everywhere. My husband wears his soft scarfs. My daughter and my niece love the crazy, silly hats and gloves. And my granddaughters love the sweaters, hats, mittens and scarfs that I make them (they’re small, it doesn’t take as long 🙂

    • I feel cozier just reading the list of all the goodies your create! I’m a sock-hound myself, maybe because I live in an old log cabin where bare feet in summer are not advised, and bare feet in winter are freezing. I also think that when we make something, whether it’s a sammich for somebody’s lunch box, a pair of socks, or a novel, how we’re feeling as we create gets into the product. If you’re knitting with love, then that’s wrapped around your mother’s feet along with the socks.

  12. I was raised to not expect much and save everything just in case. It’s a hard habit to stop and I admit I’m a pack rat who saves too much for just in case. I’m really happy in a cluttered environment even though others are always telling me otherwise. Don’t know if it’s my nature or because I grew up where it was quite the opposite. I love surrounding myself with books and mementos and a bit of this and that. And animals 🙂

    • I’m not a pack rat, so much as my brain is visual. If I can see it, I can keep track of it. If you shove it in a filing cabinet, my brain no longer remains aware of it. My house is actually pretty empty–lots of empty cupboards, nothing in the attic–but the stuff is all where I can see it. This is not Martha Stewart, alas, but I can manage better this way.

      And animals. Yes!