Three Augusts ago a niece of mine was getting married. When she and her fiancé began planning the rehearsal dinner, I was able to offer them the use of one of the public rooms where I work.
The morning of the dinner I worked with the gentlemen from facilities in setting up eight round tables. Tablecloths hung neatly over the seats of the metal chairs.
I did not remember hearing anything from my niece or my brother and his wife about flowers for the tables. Amid all the wedding planning that they had been doing on their own, how easy it might have been to let something minor like that slip.
I got into my car and drove to a local market that had an extensive outdoor nursery. Eight hanging baskets of white impatiens fit into my hatchback for the short ride back to work.
Wicker baskets could effectively hide the clay-colored plastic pots, I thought. I headed to a nearby bargain basement. Before I could find eight identical wicker baskets deep enough for the impatiens, I came across a stack of ceramic serving bowls, each the same deep red orange.
In a short while I was back at work. I had placed each of the eight plants in its own bowl. The line of orange bowls, the row of white blooms made me stop. The calm regularity touched something inside. They might possibly prove unnecessary for the evening's tables, but I recognized that I had done something that provided me a distinctive pleasure.
I walked into my apartment yesterday after work. Twenty-four hours after Hurricane Irene, the windows were open and sun filled the quiet rooms. The previous week I had used one of the red orange bowls from three years back for flowers to celebrate the successful completion of a work deadline.
The bowl of flowers made me stop. The calm and regularity touched something inside. Three years of conscientiously building a new life, and I have learned to recognize more surely the things that provide me that distinctive pleasure.