On living “kind”

© Mary Garner-Mitchell. Acrylic airbrush. Editorial illustration.

Somehow I want to coral my thoughts today around a personal and heartfelt mission I’ve been considering these past few months with the hope of it becoming a habit. I’ve decided to live “kind”… really try to, at least, and already I’ve seen that it truly helps smooth life’s rough spots.

It all started one recent summer evening when my friend Absolut and I met at my favorite watering hole. (We meet in a couple of chairs in the front yard to ponder the pond and life’s mysteries more often than is healthy, I’m sure.) Our conversation wound its way beyond the week’s woes and wickedness to ways to combat the general “snarky-ness” snaking its way into my psyche of late. (I owe such malaise to yet another vice — social and broadcast media.) ANYWAY… as my ice was melting, so was my mean streak and I came to the conclusion that the remedy might just be a good dose of “kind” and that I needed to live it in order to receive it.

So I asked Absolut (btw, his last name is Truth) just what is kind, what are its origins, moreover, why has kindness become so elusive these days? I was reminded of a most cherished phrase — “I kin ye…” — from The Education of Little Tree.* “Kin” as a verb extends far beyond the noun version meaning of familial ties. More than I love you, it says I really, deeply and truly understand you. Someone, I suppose, somewhere down the page in the English lexicon decided we needed an adjective version of this word kin and added a “d.” So there’s my hypothesis as to the word’s origins, and therein lies the answer to my query regarding kind’s meaning and elusiveness. Kindness has a direct correlation to one’s ability or willingness to try to understand.

According to the Talmud, “deeds of kindness are equal in weight to all the commandments.” So, here’s my plan: Simply taking a moment to first consider and maybe kin the person who cut me off in traffic before flipping them off; to maybe hide, but not “un-kin” Facebook friends who can make my blood boil; to remember that I kin the someone who left some trivial household chore undone before I bark out my displeasure; to pay it forward at every chance; to write a handwritten thank-you note once a week; to believe the best before assuming the worst — That’s living kind.

God help me.

* Read more about “The Education of Little Tree” and “I kin ye … ” here:  http://www.fivemoreminuteswith.com/2011/03/the-real-meaning-of-kin/

White Room

© Mary Garner-Mitchell. Collection of miscellaneous white porcelain in the kitchen at Stagfield, Ashland, Virginia.

Perhaps you’ve heard the expression Like white on rice?  (You have to be Southern to say it “rite!”) Lest you wonder, it means something that’s integral, something through and through, something so stuck on something else that there is no separation.  I’m that way with old things. I don’t particularly like new, unless it’s a new car. That’s why thrift stores and junk shops are so appealing to me. And I seem to always be drawn to things that are or once were white.

I like how my collections of white objects are testament to their former purpose or previous life. Maybe with antique linens being the one exception, cracks, crazing, grease spots, the way a sugar cone has oxidized over the years earn these items  “most favored” status for they are the pieces that speak to me of memory, of time passing. Rarely do I think, “Oh, I wish this were restored to its original gloriousness, all clean and pristine.”  No, I like “50 shades of white” over the singular non color of new … “where the shadows run from themselves.”

© Mary Garner-Mitchell.

This photo deserves a bit more of a caption. Daddy made this Shaker-style table in 1975 for my first apartment from walnut he and my grandfather harvested long before I was born. If the house were to ever catch fire, I would certainly grab this piece on my way out! The reticulated bowl and platter filled with dried lichens may be one of my best thrift shop finds. It has an impressed stamp on the bottom that is hard to make out. If the Roadshow ever comes this way, I’m taking it and an early 19th century piece of French needlepoint for evaluation.The deer figurine is a yard sale find and I think I paid a whopping 5 bucks for it the year we moved into Stagfield. It moves around the house quite a bit. It is soapstone, I believe. The round plaque, a reproduction I buried in the yard for a winter so it would get mossy and gross enough to earn its spot amongst the old stuff!  The chalk urn I spotted in the barn of the same grandparents’ home when I was a little girl. When they held the estate sale many years later, I asked my mother to look for it and it was exactly where I had remembered!  It is my all-time favorite flower-arranging vessel. It holds pussy willow from the yard most of the time. The ironstone tureen is a much-treasured piece, and it, too, is on the “save list” as it has been handed down from my mother’s family for several generations and has held the centerpiece florals at numerous weddings, mine included.