Tea with Miss Marple

canstockphoto1542595When I was younger, I had big ideas about travel and the jet set life I would lead. My family never traveled much when I was a child, with the exception of my mother going back to England on occasion. My travel dreams started in books, where I could read about different places and times and people. When I joined the Army, I began to meet people from all walks of life and then I was stationed in Germany (West, at the time) for a couple of years, where I traveled to other European countries.

After the Army, I returned to the midwest to attend college and to get my bearings. I was still single, struggling to juggle jobs and school and some self-destructive habits/boyfriends. I would hear about my Army buddies – one worked for a while at the Pentagon, another became a diplomat, many went into law enforcement. Their lives sounded exciting – they traveled and interacted with important people or had important jobs. I felt envy and a little shame that I weren’t more ambitious or adventurous.

In truth, I’ve always been a homebody and it showed when I traveled. I liked to observe and was never happier in my travels than when I could find a good cup of tea or coffee and a park bench. I like to watch people – how they interact, how they laugh, how their self-consciousness showed or didn’t. I’ve never wanted to climb to the peak of a mountain or eat raw, squiggly things off a piece of bark. I’ve never wanted to meet movie stars or have front row seats or backstage passes. I like to go places and sit very still, unobserved and undisturbed.

One of my favorite story characters is Miss Jane Marple, written into life by Agatha Christie. Miss Marple is an elderly woman with a keen sense of observation and the ability to see the larger picture by being well-versed in all the workings of her little village, St. Mary Mead. She spends much of her time (even while vacationing in the Caribbean) sitting and knitting while she watches the world go by. Because human nature is universal, she is a sharp and skilled detective because she knows people and their behaviors. Her world appears small, but because it interests and excites her, she has a view to the world at large.

We have a small suburban yard, but it’s an entire ecosystem. We don’t use any chemicals,  so our gardens attract all manner of creatures. We have stacks of books that identify beetles and butterflies and bees and we rush excitedly to grab the guides whenever something new shows up. It thrills me when I hear my daughter excitedly say “Mom, there’s a hawk on the fence”  and she runs to grab our bird books.  The world is in our yard – life, death, pestilence and amazing examples of survival. But it’s only there for us because we are interested and curious.

I love this idea that openness and curiosity means that there are adventures, stories of interest and new things to learn around every corner, no matter where you are. I am not as good about people, since, in day-to-day life, staring at them is considered rude and there are very few good guide books. I can find an occasional park bench, but in city life, the park bench is one’s willingness to make and to listen to small talk – in the grocery store, on a bus, out in the yard as neighbors walk by. This park bench requires listening while shutting off judgment and opinions. It is staying open to another human’s experience of the world.

My envy of others’ adventures has morphed into an understanding that we are not all the same kind of travelers in this world. And we are not always the same kind of traveler throughout our lives. Sometimes our adventures happen right at home – a new career, raising children, retiring, learning a new hobby or language, stepping outside our comfort zones. For now, I have all the adventure I can handle. I am content, for the moment, to sit back in my armchair with a good cup of tea and take in the world. No knitting required.

35 Comments on “Tea with Miss Marple

  1. Well said. This month I have very little on my calendar. It will be the first time I will be doing nothing (reading, stomping through the snow, water colours). I can’t wait for the challenge to see how well I do at entertaining myself now that I am retired.

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    • It sounds wonderful! I’ve never understood people who say that they are bored – there’s so much to do and read and sometimes, just sinking into a nap for no reason at all is wonderful. I’ll look forward to hearing more about your retirement adventures!

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  2. I just completed my first international trip recently and found myself doing the same thing, that is observing the way the people interacted in their land. It is good to have some perspective about how our home country compares to the others in the very different world.

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    • I think seeing and visiting other countries is a wonderful experience and I enjoyed my travels. Sometimes, though, it’s good to stand still. I saw your posts regarding your travels – it looked like an enjoyable trip!

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  3. Tea makes every place and every occurrence home, no matter how far flung, doesn’t it?

    We had an adventure of 5 years living outside of Geneva. It was wonderful but I never regretted coming home to where I belong

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    • There is definitely nothing like a hot drink to warm and comfort, no matter where a person is. Traveling is a great way to come home with a greater appreciation.

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      • I am a firm believer in it. It expands the mind and at the same time makes you appreciate what you have at home. A great combo!

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        • Absolutely! Although I could camp in a tent 2 miles away from home and that has a similar effect. My love of warm running water overfloweth!

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  4. I have always liked Miss Marple. She was a funny bird with such wise observations. It’s true that we see the world in different ways, and enjoy it as such.
    I used to think that people who traveled were so much wiser and open-minded than others without that experience. Then I realized (while traveling) that people are people and no amount of culture or experience or opportunity is going to change some people’s minds. It’s who you are as a person more than what exotic thing you are doing.

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    • I had those same thoughts about feeling a bit small town growing up, but you’re right, it’s just as easy to be open or close minded abroad.

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    • I’m always amazed at how large and small our yard can seem to me at the same time. When I’ve spent hours gardening, it feels like a vast wilderness, since I’m focused on details. I’m a gardener at heart, so The Green Study goes well with my green thumb!

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  5. I was always a big Hercule Poirot fan. I haven’t read those books since my youth. It would be fun to re-read Christie again!!

    (There’s a great Dr. Who episode where they go back and meet Agatha Christie and solve a mystery!)

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      • Yep (the new series). I guess she was. I don’t know much about her. Was the Dr. Who episode accurate in its details?

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        • It was – she disappeared for 11 days after her husband announced an affair and wanted a divorce. There was a massive manhunt, but she was staying at a hotel. People argued about ascribing it to a nervous breakdown, but it seems like a perfectly normal reaction to me!

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  6. I love this idea of individual contentment.
    But I’ve got to be knitting while I’m at it–at least in the wintertime.

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    • I’ve tried knitting and I blame it on being a lefty, but instructions evade my comprehension. I’ve crocheted before, but again, the monstrosities that I turned out were definitely not worth the time and effort. I know my limitations now!

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  7. Travel!! It wasn’t Miss Marple, but Poirot – Agatha Christie and that Murder on the Orient Express book that gave me ideas to travel from Paris to Istanbul on that train. I have never done it – it is so expensive – but the magical sounding names of foreign places lured me.

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    • Reading can certainly fuel the imagination and hunger for travel! I can only guess at the “mileage” profiteers get out of the Orient Express. It’s been a long day when I pull out the bad puns.

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  8. Genius! As we change so does our journey it morphs into something beyond what we can imagine and sometimes it’s as simple as can be. But regards its fluid, ever-moving, ever-growing. I love this post. thank you.

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    • Thank you for reading and commenting! I am constantly amazed at how interesting life, even in the most mundane of circumstances, can be, once you stand still and listen and observe. It’s so easy to get lost in the noise and miss the details.

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      • yes, we are all divine and wonderful and beautiful if only we’d take a second to look, and listen. 🙂

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  9. Great post, Michelle. I used to travel all over the world, but now I just sit at home. I found that rather than chase after something, i found more about myself learning to appreciate what was right in front of me. I agree that adventures change, but life is always a wonderful journey.

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    • I’d still like to travel more, but it’s good to see the value of standing still, when travel can’t be front and center in my life. I hope, too, that my daughter will have many opportunities to see the world, while appreciating the wonders of her backyard.

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  10. I am so with you on this post. Unobserved and undisturbed are so wonderful for observing human nature and trying to make sense of this existence. Loved this post, especially since no knitting is required. Be well. 🙂

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    • Thanks! It’s hard to find those moments now, but it’s the dead of winter here. I do a lot of birdwatching until spring comes. I’d have to go to a mall for people watching in the winter and I’d rather run a knitting needle through my head!

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  11. I love this.
    You sound satisfied. There was not a note of bitterness or regret; instead, this came across with complete acceptance (rather than you are trying to convince yourself).

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    • I think it’s easy to reach a point of acceptance upon the understanding that the situation may change again. I may end up a world traveler in my 60s and 70s, like Alison and Don at Adventures in Wonderland or I might learn how to knit. Knowing that things are ever-changing means it’s silly to not settle into the moment and enjoy it. In theory. In practice, I have to work at it a bit!

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  12. Wow, I loved reading this post! It sounds happy. Kylie is right…so much contentment radiates in this post. => And yes, each has her own adventure. Stepping back, observing and taking all the world in…it’s an adventure in itself. =>

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