Have you ever noticed that when your mind is focused on a particular thing, you begin to view everything else through a new lens? A year or so ago, I read a book titled “One Thousand Gifts” by Ann Voskamp. This beautiful story chronicles how starting a gratitude list changed the author’s life. She shared that once she began the list, she saw “gifts” everywhere; a bounty. Inspired, I started my own list and yes, the gifts just appeared: the smell of jasmine when I went out for a walk, the preciousness of a little boy chasing pigeons, a friend inviting us over for soup, my husband’s sense of humor, the feel of dough as I kneaded it, my dad’s voice on the phone, the smell of apples in barrels, and being able to laugh at myself (I was trying to show my son how fast I could run down a dune and instead I lost my balance, flew through the air and dove head first into the sand. My husband and son thought I was doing it on purpose and were amazed at how adventurous I was. After getting over the shock – I didn’t know what was happening! – I laughed hysterically at how I must have looked). My mind was so focused on gratitude and noticing the “gifts” in my life and as a result, I saw them everywhere, even in the moments I might not have considered before.
Several years ago, when my niece was little and came to California for a visit, she inspired me to see through a new lens as well. When we’d go for walks, she would collect any leaf she found interesting. They might have been crumpled, dead leaves, but to her they were beautiful. Maybe one had some red on it, or one was really big or an interesting shape. Because the huge pile of leaves wouldn’t fit in their suitcase, they had to leave them behind when they returned home to Minnesota. For Christmas that year, I decided to make her a leaf book and for the next several weeks, I gathered all the interesting leaves I could find. I hadn’t thought of California, or at least Marin, as having much in the way of fall colors (compared to the midwest), but I was amazed at how many beautiful leaves I found once my eyes were opened to seeing them. I found red Japanese Maple leaves, giant yellow Sycamore leaves, orange Live Oak leaves and a plethora of others I was sure she wouldn’t have back home; like Eucalyptus and California Bay. I was a dangerous driver at that time, looking up at the trees way more often than I looked down at the road, slamming on my brakes and pulling over on busy streets. If I saw a tree with a leaf I didn’t have, I had to stop and collect it. I pressed all the leaves I had collected and glued them into a scrapbook. I left plenty of blank pages and suggested she could fill them with her findings back home. What a gift we gave each other!
I notice a similar thing happens when I’m doing a craft, home or garden project. Suddenly a pile of old bricks look like a new path for the garden; I look at an old jar and see a beautiful vase; and when looking at an old button-up shirt, the outline of a new child’s apron appears. When I first started to renovate my dollhouse, I began to look at everything differently as well; through the dollhouse lens. I love dollhouse furnishings, but I also wanted to get creative and see what kinds of things I could find that might work in the dollhouse, things that weren’t “dollhouse things.” In my previous posts, I’ve shared some of those things: broaches become paintings and artwork, beads and kitchen skewers become curtain rods, and a handkerchief becomes a tablecloth. I once even spotted a great pair of dollhouse picture frames, hanging from my friends ears! It is fun to see what kinds of things you can find when your eyes are open to them.
Shortly after I received my dollhouse, we visited Sausalito’s Spring Yard Sale with over 60 booths of local residents selling no longer needed items. I found this beautiful little gold framed mirror and after a little clean-up, it looked grand and gorgeous. Many colonial homes (from my favorite colonial home book) had similar mirrors and the dining room seemed the perfect place to have this elegance. It also seemed that a good New England colonial home wouldn’t be complete without a large framed painting of a ship. I know I don’t live in New England, but my ancestors did, and it seemed fitting that this home would pay tribute to its own and my New England heritage. I found a picture of this painting and snapped a photo of it with my iPhone, shrunk it down and printed a color copy. The frame it’s in was a little frame meant to have a real portrait in it. It had a little flap on the back to stand it up on a desk or shelf. I took the flap off and mounted it to the wall.
I’ve mentioned generous freecyclers in several of my previous posts. For those of you who don’t know, Freecycle is a online community with local branches throughout the world where you can give and get stuff for free. When I got my dollhouse, I posted “WANTED: dollhouse furniture” and got at least two responses from some folks who each gave me a box of dollhouse items; many of it antique looking furniture and trinkets that were actually made in the U.S.A. That means that not only are the items miniature replicas of antiques, but that they are antiques themselves. When I brought the boxes home, it was like opening presents on Christmas morning. There were so many little things wrapped up in tissue paper and they were such quality pieces. A few of the things I received are here in the dining room. I felt so lucky to have gotten a piano, a violin, a music stand and a gorgeous chair and end table. One day I was sitting down with my copy of Alive Now, reading some poems, scripture and prayers. With my eyes seeing things through my dollhouse lens, I spotted some music notes amongst a collage of graphic images behind one of the poems. “This would make perfect sheet music for my piano!” I thought. I cut several sections into small rectangles, thrilled at my find.
My dollhouse dining room is shaping up to be pretty fabulous. I still have a little ways to go and a few more things to add. I always keep my eyes peeled, looking through my dollhouse lens.