Sweet Nothings

Prisms and Pollyannas

Modern chandelier bathing in shadows and light above our dining table (my mom snapped this shot on her visit to Austin last summer –  isn’t she the best?)

Sunshine poked through Texan cloud cover for the first time in weeks yesterday, which means our dining room was graced with something I’ve sorely missed – a little something I like to call the rainbow hour. Ever since my better half and I installed this sleek chandelier (our very first home-goods purchase together), our house became the hottest dance spot for prismatic glimmers every afternoon. Our walls were typically speckled with these flitting refractions about an hour before sunset, but when the sun stopped seeping through our west-facing windows this winter, the rainbow hour was no more. I had adored this hour and made a point of poking my head into the dining room at that time of day all last summer, but I must admit Joni Mitchell was right in the sense that I really wasn’t aware of how much I loved those speckled walls until they were gone. Basking in the simple pleasure of sunshine and prisms yesterday, I was struck by how happy this tiny part of life makes me and decided it’s one of the many small things in life I should make a conscious effort to be thankful for each day…

Ironically, this upbeat approach to even the saddest of hours and overcast of days already has existing literary and cinematic ties to prisms…Do you remember that Hayley Mills movie “Pollyanna” (1967)? Well then, you might also recall the scene where Mills strings up dozens of chandelier crystals throughout a shut-in’s home and teaches him to appreciate his surroundings by filling his house with rainbows. This was one of my favorite scenes from the movie, because it was not only beautiful but it also illustrated the important life lesson of finding things to be happy about each day. This outlook is often pejoratively referred to as Pollyannaism, meaning the practice of a naively optimistic life philosophy, but I think our planet would be a lot better off with more Pollyannas and less Cassandras. Sure, we need to work hard to make things better in this world and try to prevent bad things from happening, but we should never lose sight of the things that are already wonderful around us – no matter how sparse they may seem. It is this stance that gets us through the bleakest patches (yes, we all have them), and it also keeps us focused and grounded in the happiest of times. Whether you’re watching rainbows dance across walls today or tackling a tough obstacle, I hope you can channel your inner Pollyanna and enjoy all the beauty that surrounds you. I promise to never call you naively optimistic for letting your mind wander off into an hour where colorful light flits across your floorboards and fingertips.

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  • Reply Pat Oey January 18, 2011 at 8:39 pm

    So beautiful–I have one crystal prism that I gave my dad (your grampa) that always reminds me of him when I see the little rainbows in my kitchen. And a kitchen witch your wonderful mom gave me hanging over my kitchen sink. Thanks for brightening my day with this blog.

  • Reply J. R. Coté January 21, 2011 at 2:50 pm

    You know what, I think I remember getting a turtle-shaped prism from grandpa (at least I think he was the one who gave it to me). I didn’t exactly understand the concept of just letting it sit on the windowsill catching light, though, so I played storytelling games with the turtle along with all my other animal figurines. As a result of this rough-and-tumble treatment, I think I had to glue the poor guy’s legs back on more than once.

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