Welcomed home —gain and again
Although Christmas has come and gone, I would like to say a word about the first-ever Eudora Home Tour Dec. 15. I do so especially because it benefits the upcoming American Cancer Society's Eudora Relay for Life event slated for June 6-7. The tour not only provided a jump start to our relay, but it also provided more than 80 Eudorans, a cancer survivor, Mary Higgins, and her friends from Lawrence, along with several other out-of-towners, a thoroughly enjoyable start to the Christmas holiday season.
Taking advantage of a beautiful day, those who purchased a ticket for the tour were rewarded with a variety of different themes and collections in each of the homes -- ranging from the amazing nun collectibles in Loretta Gantenbein's home to the historic features of Janet Campbell's beautiful manse to the enchanting cottage that Karen Williams has created with the Habitat for Humanity home. The homes in Meadowlark, owned and decorated by Sherri Wellborn, Lori Fritzel and Julie Stewart, while spanking new, were equally festive.
Decked out in Christmas fine china and garland and lights from every rooftop, they glittered and shone with the best "Plaza" effect to be offered short of the Country Club Plaza. On the east side of Eudora, Julie Byrne's home offered a Santa decor along with a sense of comfort and "home," complete with three children. Finally, ending up at the historic Holy Family Church that was beautifully decorated by LaDonna Ballock and Mardella Dearing and featured the Rev. Ray Burger, who wrote and gave a brief history of the old church. This historic church has long been a community treasure and provided the tour with the reverence and sacredness of Christmas as well as a nostalgic "Norman Rockwell" experience.
One of the most enjoyable features of all the homes was that they were truly just that -- homes. So often such tours take you through beautiful rooms where one comes away wondering if there was a place in any of them to sit down and comfortably read a book. Not so with the Eudora homes -- they were not houses but truly homes, which is the best compliment I can extend to all of the homeowners and all involved in decorating them (husbands included).
Now with the holidays over and all the hustle and bustle surrounding them as well, we enter into what I call ordinary time. Being a cradle Catholic, ordinary time in the Church, as I understand it, covers the days and weeks that surround the feasts of Christmas and Easter and rightly so. Without ordinary time, neither of these days we celebrate so joyously would be such significant events in our lives. To suggest the word ordinary is always to suggest something less -- something almost unnoticeable. Indeed, so many of our ordinary days drift by without anything remarkable occurring, and yet, these days make up the garment of our lives and the holidays the gold threads that provide that garment with color and contrast.
To stretch the point I would like to extend the word ordinary to our home -- the Kansas landscape. Driving through the Flint Hills as I did growing up in Emporia, one is struck by the beauty of these hills. They are remarkable in spring and summer and when covered by snow, but often in the winter they are also a picture of soft, subtle browns and grays covered as often by a sky of the same colors. I have thought that one must be a Kansan to appreciate the starkness of the Kansas landscape, which is captured so well in paintings by local artists such as Robert Sudlow and Louis Copt. And yet this starkness has a haunting beauty that lingers in the heart and often calls wanderers home from faraway places to settle once again among the ordinariness of Kansas -- as evidenced by the number of people who return here to raise families or retire. Being fond of the Kansas landscapes that fill my home, I have often been teased by my family for my love of "mud colors" as they call them. For me they provide a soothing comfort to what can often be a hectic and chaotic world.
To stretch the point to another medium, I would recommend music for "ordinary time" as well. Replacing the joyous, exuberant songs of the Christmas season, I find the quiet, simple piano music of Keith Jarrett (which was written while he was recovering from chronic fatigue syndrome) to be perfect for ordinary time. Or to name another artist I recently discovered, Eva Cassidy, who rambles through an eclectic variety of songs from blues to gospel to ballads -- most of them haunting and reflective. And yes, books. They also contribute much to ordinary time. Kathleen Norris wrote a book a few years ago titled "Dakota," which was very much focused on the ordinary and even made the grim reality of winter on the plains of that state seem almost inviting.
Perhaps what I am getting at is that we all need quiet time -- time-out. Sabbatical. Retreat. Down-time. Or whatever you choose to call it. All of these things I just mentioned are props that can lead us into that and nourish us during that time. Most of our days are spent in this time -- this very ordinary time. Funny, the idea for this column came to me while I was peeling potatoes for Christmas dinner. It reminded me that even an ordinary and unexciting chore is but one of the little domestic acts we perform each day that have a beauty of their own if we just pause to reflect and really see them. And so, dear reader, enjoy this quiet time -- this ordinary time when the landscape is subtle but elegant and the days pass without great events as we wait for the coming of spring and our next big event -- Easter.