Wednesday, August 20, 2014

I Must.... I Simply Must..

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking, 

I must go down to the seas again for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying, 
And the flung spray and the brown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life, 
To the gulls’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover, 
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.
by John Masefield

As you can see from the photo above, 
I am off this week, feeding my soul.
I shall return with merry yarns, soon.

Monday, August 11, 2014

The White Feather

The White Feather

If the afternoon had not been so hot, with a sun so relentless, then perhaps I would not have chosen the hat with the widest brim.   I might even have gone hatless, preferring instead to let the wind blow my hair as I took in the expansive green vistas of an early August day.  Maybe I would have been looking up. 
Up through the trees to the blue sky beyond.
 Up where the mockingbirds chase the red-shouldered hawks away from their nests.
 Up where the  clouds draw grand pictures at the gates of  heaven.   
I would have been studying those pictures perhaps, trying to decide what they were -
 A castle? A dragon?  
Spinning wheel?  
But I wore the wide-brimmed hat to hide from the sun and my view winnowed down to the earth at my feet.  
Focused, sharpened, my eyes wrapped around the smaller things:
 the acorns, the pebbles - blue violets, green moss.  
And then, there it was,
 pinned to the ground by a shaft of sunlight falling hard through the trees,
 white as bone, light as the air. 
A feather.
I bent to pick it up.
Stronger than it looked at first sight, each tiny white strand clasped together along the quill, like hands.
 So sadly grounded, still ready for flight.  
Too small for a wren, a robin, or thrush.
Had it dropped from the wing of a gull, or an owl?
Or perhaps from my guardian angel, in an effort to prove that she’s there.

Now it sits in a vase on my desk.
I run my fingers down the ruffled edge at least once a day.
Not to remind myself of flight that has ended, 
but flight that has yet to be.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Votes For Edward

Garden and Gun magazine is having a dog photo contest, 
and Edward has entered!
Help him show the world that a rescue dog can be a winner!
Vote for him HERE and tell your friends!
(PS.... you can vote once every 24 hours!)

Edward thanks you so much!

Heads up.... the contest has now ended.
Edward thanks you all heartily for your votes!
Fingers crossed!!

The wonderful author of Forever Chic, Tish Jett,
has written a delightful piece on dogs and
has generously featured Edward,
who now feels like he's already won.
Visit her HERE.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Bits of Summer Afternoons

Bits of Summer Afternoons

When it comes to my writing, discipline is a garment I’ve rarely worn, preferring instead to rely on the less weightier components of creativity:  inspiration and caprice.    But I’ve been trying discipline on this summer and have found it to be, to my surprise, much less scratchy and uncomfortable than I’d originally thought.  My muse, forever flighty and untamed, has proven jealous of my new flirtation with discipline and has chosen to land on my shoulders whenever I give myself over to this sturdy friend, which has been both productive and delightful.  So I’ve spent a lot of this summer inside my own head which, as they share my reluctance to enthusiastically embrace the weather in July, has been just fine with Edward and Apple.  They have been happy to doze at my feet for hour on end, taking breaks occasionally to cut figure eights through the garden lest the chipmunks and squirrels take advantage in their absence. 

One cannot ignore a summer afternoon every day, however.  So we have ventured out on occasion and have found magical sights in every corner.  I thought I’d share a few of these with you.  So here’s a bit of our summer afternoons so far. 
We hope you are enjoying your days as much as we are.

Taking a Break to Sit in the Clover...

Surprise in a Garden....

A Blessedly Cool Day at the Beach...
A Huge Topiary Apple.....

and the Real Girl at the Seaside.

A New Addition to the Sidewalk Garden...

Giuseppe Arcimboldo Jumps Off the Canvas and Lands in a Garden...

The Fluffy Furry Summer Fellow...

Friday, July 25, 2014

Time Thieves

Time Thieves

Those of us fortunate to be children in the sixties saw a lot of changes happen on our watch.  I still remember the first day girls were allowed to wear trousers to school.  I, of course, remained clad in a dress but eagerly watched out of the school bus window as we pulled up that inaugural morning to see which of us was to be the first one to boldly step across the sartorial threshold.  There stood Kathryn, the only girl in a pair of trousers, looking both proudly rebellious and extraordinary comfortable as she maintained her status as class iconoclast with enormous dignity and flair.  Times had changed.  

We saw a  man walk on the moon.  Well, I fell asleep on the sofa before those first historic steps, but “collectively” we saw a man walk on the moon.  We’ve watched as computers took over the world, ever shrinking in physical size even as their domination of the culture grew.  There are no record stores anymore.  No more waiting for our holiday photos to be developed.  No more running from store to store: we can order everything, from underwear to Bartlett Pears, online.  

All this technology makes our lives easier, right?  A to do list can be knocked out in short order, right?  So what do I do with this amazing gift of additional hours afforded me by electronic progress?  I waste time on the internet.  Great grey masses of minutes - enormous, air-filled hours.  I fall down the rabbit hole at Pinterest and get hopelessly lost in a world of dreamy pictures, knitting patterns, and recipes.  Or I wander over to Twitter and find articles I’ve missed, following the links to read them all.  There are the new photos of Prince George to see and new videos to watch.  (I’m still in love with this one.) I check the weather in Lerwick; discover a funny picture of Prince Charles. 
And then, Lord help me, I find the quizzes.

Now I’m not thrilled to admit this, but I’m a total sucker for quizzes and questionnaires.  The Proust one is my favourite part of every Vanity Fair magazine.  I answer each question and compare my answers with everyone from Maureen O’Hara to Tom Jones.   I mean, how great is it that Catherine Denueve answered the question, “What do you dislike most about your appearance” by saying, “My left ear”?

Unfortunately for me, there is an alarming number of these little time thieves scuttling across my screen these days.   Purely for fun and hardly scientific, they are hard to resist all the same.  I blame Downton Abbey.  “Which Downton Abbey character are you?”  That was the first one I saw and of course, I  just had to participate.  Actually, there were several of these little tests on Downton Abbey and I took every one, finding out at the close of each that I was, indeed, the Dowager Countess.  No lovely Lady Mary, no stalwart Mrs. Hughes.  No, I was the Countess, always the Countess. 
I spoke to  several friends who all said, “Oh, yeah.  I can see that”.

This was so revealing that I began to take more and more of these little personality tests. So far I’ve learned that my spirit animal is an Owl and the colour of my aura is blue.  I will, apparently, be reincarnated as a dove and my mental age is twenty-five.  (Really??)
Which Shakespearean character am I?  Ariel. 
Which Wizard of Oz character am I?  Glinda.
And though, with her long legs and impeccable style, I was hoping to get the Duchess of Cambridge when I took the “Which Member of the Royal Family Are You” quiz, I was instead informed that I am, in fact,  The Queen. 
 I am now seriously afraid a pattern is emerging.

At this moment, I should be making coconut cupcakes for book club.  I should be scheduling a couple of train trips and finishing Chapter Eight.  There are linen shirts that need ironing and a shawl I am determined to finish knitting before a big journey in the fall.  Some birthday presents to wrap.  Dinner to plan.  And finishing Chapter Eight!  
But wait! 
 I need to find out which Dr. Seuss character I am before I do anything else!  

See?  It is a funny picture!

(and oh, by the way,  I am The Cat in the Hat!)

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Like a Room Without a Roof

Like a Room Without a Roof

When one reaches adulthood, it is difficult, if not impossible, to replicate the excitement, the sheer giddiness, once engendered by the last day of school.   On that day, summer glittered before us, an uncharted land of unimagined delights just waiting to be explored and the fact that we were being  released to do precisely that, from sunup to sundown, was known to flood us with the feeling best described as pure happiness.  With our responsibilities winnowed down to the most rudimentary - making our beds, brushing our teeth - we were set loose upon a sunny world; a world devoid of schedules; a world  in which our only concern was making sure we had the adequate amount of coinage when the lilting song of the ice cream truck drifted enticingly down our street.  We played outside.  We ate cold watermelon and fresh corn.  We slept soundly.  Summer made us happy.

Happiness is a word difficult to define. I have always found it interesting that the learned men who penned our constitution declared the pursuit of happiness to be our unalienable right but didn’t, funnily enough, give any hint as to whether or not they expected us to attain that which we could so rightfully pursue.   If the standard for happiness is the feeling we felt on that long ago last day of school, then no doubt as adults we all fall a bit short.  

But on an afternoon last week, when the temperature soared and the air hung heavy as glue, I was in my car with a list of errands on the seat beside me.  The news of the day had been bleak enough for me to turn off the radio and plug in the iPod.  And that’s when I heard the new hit song, “Happy”.  These days it’s rare that I am a fan of any song popular enough to reach the number one slot on the charts.  I still miss The Beatles.  But I had downloaded this one because I was curious and now here it was, taking its place in the rotation, ready to win me over.  Without even being cognizant of the spell it cast, I soon found myself  tapping my foot and nodding my head with a big goofy grin on my face. 

One cannot expect to be “happy” as a usual state, can one?  Happiness, elusive and momentary, is a goal perhaps best replaced by contentment.  We can reside in contentment and even, diving deeper, find joy, a state unaffected by circumstance or time.  Still,  mercurial, even whimsical, happiness can surprise us when we least expect it and we ignore it at our peril.  I myself sit ready to welcome it heartily whenever it chooses to visit me, in whatever form it chooses to take.   So on this hot afternoon, I rolled down the window of my little green Fiat and let the wind tangle my hair as I sang along, happy as a lark.

I often think summers are so different now from the carefree ones of my childhood.  But really, that’s not exactly true.  If I’m honest, happiness (described so delightfully in that new hit song as “feeling like a room without a roof”) visits me frequently.  I often dance alone in the kitchen, Edward and Apple bouncing at my ankles in a similar mood.  Though I have infinitely more responsibilities than I did as a child, summer is still a wonderful time.  I still manage to play outside.  I still enjoy cold watermelon and fresh corn.  I still sleep soundly.  And Summer still makes me, more often than not, downright happy. 
How about you?

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Happy Fourth of July!

I am certain that after the dust of centuries has passed over our cities
We, too, will be remembered
Not for our victories or defeats in battle or in politics
But for our contribution to the human spirit.

John F. Kennedy

Saturday, June 28, 2014

On An Ordinary Night

On An Ordinary Night

It was an ordinary night, even the most imaginative of souls could have only described it as such.  There were no extremes of weather; no clattering of rain on the roof; no wild wind to disturb the nests of baby robins asleep in the holly bushes beneath the darkened windows.  The crescent moon, thin as an eyelash, could only muster a watery light that struggled, and failed, to pierce the heavy air.   It was quiet, save for the hooting of the owl in the bottom of the garden, who is such a regular visitor that his calls are hardly to be taken for omens of any portent.  The minutes ticked by in quotidian fashion, as if even  time itself expected nothing unusual to occur on this, a most ordinary of ordinary nights.

The Songwriter was out of town and, as usual, Edward had been more than happy to take his place next to me in bed.  I had drifted off to the sound of the big dog’s steady breathing and was now tucked deep inside a dreamless sleep.  Way past midnight, yet long before dawn, I sensed someone trying to wake me up.  Though inaudible, someone was calling my name as loud as a bell.   Opening my eyes, I found myself nose to nose with Edward.  His big head nudged my side.  Then he pawed at my shoulder.  Then he turned round and round and flopped down on the bed with his head on my tummy.  Then, jumping up, he began to paw at me again, insistent, persistent,  and obviously worried.  

Sitting up in bed, I tried to ascertain what was wrong but nothing I could say or do seemed to calm him.  Then, suddenly, what only can be described as a strong gust of wind blew past me - a warm wind, forceful enough to ruffle my hair. The very second after this happened Edward turned, lay down at the foot of the bed, sighed a contented sigh and went right back to sleep, leaving me sitting up with my mind, quite naturally, awhirl.  There was no window open; nothing that could have logically caused a gust of warm wind.  What had just happened?

Relating this story to several people has been entertaining as I’ve watched their eyes grow wider and wider and heard wildly varying possibilities as to the nature of my experience.    Suffice it to say, all who have heard my account have expressed more that a bit of fright.  But I can honestly say that I felt no fear, indeed I went right back to sleep along with Edward.  

But I do admit to wondering what it could have been,
 and Edward’s not talking.
So, any ideas?

Painting above by Konstantin Kalynovych

Tuesday, June 24, 2014


The Songwriter often complains that I walk too fast.  I suppose he’s right, I do tend to bob and weave through crowds like a racehorse on a Derby track -  but only through crowds.  I think I’m always subconsciously attempting to escape them, so I go faster and faster until I’m nothing more than a pale blur.   Otherwise, I’m decidedly a stroller.   But my stride was lengthening on a morning last week as I made my way through the overstuffed cosmetic department of Bloomingdales on a birthday present expedition.  I had just spotted daylight and was heading for the door when my speed was slowed  by a lady offering a sadly unwanted perfume sample of Acqua di Parma.   Reed thin and bejeweled, she was a woman of an indeterminate age with lips an impossible red and a French accent as thick as bouillabaisse.   I smiled as I passed, gently refusing her gift of a heady spritz and that’s when I heard it:  “Oh, my dear!" she exclaimed.  "You are zo cute!”

Cute?  Cute!  I almost stopped cold, grabbed her by her St. John lapels and demanded she elaborate.  Cute?  One might be grateful for a compliment of “cute” when one is a toddler. One might even welcome it as far up as sixteen. But to be called “cute” at this stage of the game was downright unsettling.  I indulged in a sideways glance at the mirrored wall alongside me.  Black and white espadrilles, wide-legged white linen trousers, long black linen shirt, one lone strand of pearls, big white vintage earrings, hair up.  I had been going for “unstudied elegance” and all I got was “cute”.  In a French accent, no less.

“Cute”, in my definition, is a word dangerously akin to “twee”, an adjective that calls to mind lace doilies, grosgrain ribbon, and kittens.  But apparently, “twee” has become a thing now. Who knew?  There is an entire movement of “twee” happening at the moment; a possible reaction against the “hipsters”, those aficionados of white belts, mismatched plaids and the razor-thin moustache.   It’s rather disconcerting to read a list of things considered to be  twee as quite a few of them veer too closely to my own tastes.

Let’s see now, according to the Chicago Tribune, cats are twee.  (Edward gallantly guarantees I’m safe there.)  So are cupcakes, mittens and scarves.  (As a knitter, those last two are worrisome.  Come to think of it, knitting is probably as twee as it gets.  This is not looking good.)  The state of Connecticut is twee. (What?  The entire state?)  Also, Wes Anderson movies, indie rock, and Paul Simon.  (Uh oh... I adored Wes Anderson’s, Moonrise Kingdom, which is supposedly the twee-est movie out there.)   Otters are twee, bless them.  (Photo above.)  Happily though, after mentally perusing my other favourites, I came up with a highly un-twee list.  Virginia and Vita, Leonard Cohen, Glencoe?   Certainly not twee.  Saint-Saens, Seamus Heaney, Great-Horned Owls?  Hardly.  By the time I got to Alexander MacQueen and Isabella Blow I was feeling much better. So thankfully, it seems in totality my tastes are not quite twee enough to demand my automatic inclusion in that camp.  

Having always shunned categories of any kind, I am naturally reluctant to label myself as either twee or un-twee.  I have to admit, the French perfume lady did cause a momentary wrinkle in an otherwise smooth morning despite the fact that I quickly decided her use of the word “cute” was undoubtedly due to the unfortunate paucity of her American vocabulary. Nevertheless, in response, I did what any normal woman would do.  I bought I pair of shoes.  Black with gold flowers.  Very Elizabethan.  Very elegant.  In no way twee.  In absolutely no way “cute”.   

I wonder.... how would you react to being called “cute”?
Would you happily embrace “twee”?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

A Friend Indeed

A Friend Indeed

Jury duty is just that, a duty.  If you happen to open your mailbox to find an official looking letter summoning you to a week of jury duty, be aware:  this is not an invitation to be weighed; it is a requirement.  Therefore, when I received such a summons for jury duty back in March, my mood clouded over as I saw my service was set to begin on the one day out of three hundred and sixty five that happened to be the very day I was born.    To spend my birthday on jury duty seemed cruel and unnecessary at best, particularly since I was already booked into my favourite inn at the beach for that week.  So I wrote a  very nice letter, and lo and behold the very nice people at the very nice courthouse postponed my service until June, which was how I found myself up much earlier than usual on a morning last week, stifling a yawn as I waited in the security line for my handbag to be searched.

Having heard there was a lot of waiting around when one serves as a juror, I’d brought along a fat and wordy book as well as the crossword puzzles from the morning papers and a freshly sharpened pencil.  Turns out I didn’t get very far in either diversion, for I was called to a courtroom within the hour of my arrival.  This just might be interesting, I thought, as I followed my fellow potential jurors into the courtroom.   A great opportunity for observation and character study.  My heart fell to my espadrilles, however, when I heard the judge announce that she was beginning jury selection for a criminal trial involving charges that made me shudder just to hear them read.  Forty-two potential jurors had to be interviewed which, much to my amazement, required them to speak at intrusive length about horrors in their own lives.  I had no idea this happened in jury selection and felt the weight of sadness growing heavier as I listened to seemingly ordinary people recount parts of their past that were painful to hear and no doubt excruciating to relate.  Hours passed.  We were finally released at six o’clock and I drove home feeling quite low.
There were dark clouds moving in from the west as I pulled into the drive, indicating the approach of a summer storm.   The house was still.  Obviously the dogs were out in the studio with The Songwriter.  But just then I heard a familiar thump on the back door and it swung open wide as Edward bounded in.  Being of excellent hearing, and having recently mastered the art of opening the screened porch door of the studio to let himself out when needed (something Apple has yet to work out), he came running when he heard my car.  

Too dispirited to manage an effusive greeting, I merely patted him on the head and fell across the bed in a heap.  Thunder rolled in the distance as the first fistfuls of rain began to hit the roof.  The curtains over the window seat blew in and out as the wind whipped up and the room grew dim.  Edward sat watching me; I could feel his brown-eyed stare on the back of my neck.  After a long minute he jumped lightly up on top of the bed.  Snuggling up as close as he could get, he placed his big head on my shoulders and sighed a heavy sigh.  

For those unfortunate enough to have never known the comfort a dog can bring, I can only say it is unsurpassed on the earth.  Words are superfluous; explanations, irrelevant.  I lay there for a good while - listening to the rain pound the garden as the wind blew sweet scents of wet honeysuckle into my room, all the while with Edward never moving from my side, his breathing slow and steady.  One of my favourite quotes is by C. S. Lewis who said, “Man with dog closes a gap in the universe”.  I felt that gap gently close that afternoon as  once again, I felt a measureless gratitude for my good furry friend.  I can only hope I make his life a fraction as sweet as he makes mine.  

Next morning, I was not selected to serve on that jury.  It was probably because the detective is a neighbour of mine, but I didn’t stop to ask questions as I scurried out the door, feeling somewhat guilty over the relief rushing through my veins. I drove home quickly and took Edward for a long, long walk in the sunshine.  I needed it, and goodness knows, he deserved it.  

If you don’t have a dog of your own, go get one! 
 Or as Edward and Apple would suggest, go rescue one!
You will never regret it.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Summer Reading 2014

Summer Reading 2014
When I was a child growing up in the South I spent a lot of time in the summer trying to get cool.  Southern summers are hot but like most people on our street my parents considered air-conditioning to be an affectation for the less than hardy Southerner, so our rooms were cooled at night by the stalwart efforts of an oscillating fan placed strategically in the hallway between my bedroom and theirs. This method, while completely fair, was often sadly ineffectual.  How well I remember lying in my bed in the humid heat, listening to the crickets in the woods outside my window as I waited for that fan to finally swivel my way.  

But every summer, as soon as school holidays began, we would visit a building unlike any other I knew; blessedly cool, quiet, and entirely magical.  The main branch of our public library was a colossal grey stone edifice that presided, cathedral-holy, over the busiest street downtown.  Approaching it on a hot June day when steam rose up like an unnatural fog from the blistering streets and everyone wore the damp, listless expressions of the truly miserable as they plowed their way through the heavy air was akin to nearing an oasis in the middle of a inhabitable land; a land that vanished as though it had never existed as soon as I pushed open that library door.  It was not only a place where, amazingly,  you were allowed to take as many books as you wanted home with you but full as it was of fat, comfortable chairs, it was a cool and utterly delightful place to read the afternoon away.  

In summer, where one reads has always been sweetly tied to what one reads.  Hence the description, Beach Book, I suppose.  More than any other season, summer holds out handfuls of tempting places to read: windswept beaches, coastal cottages, fragrant gardens.  In this, my annual Summer Reading list, I decided to pair books with places as beautiful as they are inviting.  Each looks like the most wonderful place to read on a summer's day.  And thanks to the National Trust of Britain, they all can be rented!   Just click on the photograph and you’ll be whisked away for all the details.  Same goes with the books, just click the picture of each to find out more.  Also, a marvelous children’s book closes out each separate list.  

The months of summer are brief, I know that now.  When I was a child, of course, they stretched out before me like an unbroken ribbon of carnival candy creating enough delicious memories to last a lifetime.   I’m glad those memories include books and I hope you’ll make some wonderful new literary memories of your own this summer.  As I was writing this post it occurred to me that it was six years ago this month that I began writing here at From the House of Edward.  I can’t think of a lovelier way to celebrate than with a passel of tempting new books, can you?  Remember now, do leave comments to tell me what you’re planning to read this summer.
  Love to you all,
 Pamela, and Edward too, of course.

Doyden Castle, Cornwall

The Sea House
by Elizabeth Gifford

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry
by Gabrielle Zevin
by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore

The Night Gardener
by Jonathan Auxier
Helston Lodge, Cornwall

My Brilliant Friend
by Elena Ferrante

The Girls at the Kingfisher Club
by Genevieve Valentine

What Are People For 
by Wendell Berry

Three Bears in a Boat
by David Soman

Tan y Bwlch, Wales

This House is Haunted
by John Boyne

All the Light We Cannot See
by Anthony Doerr

The Silkworm
by Robert Galbraith

Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes
by Jonathan Auxier
Tintinhull House, Somerset

The Romanov Sisters
by Helen Rappaport

by Vita Sackville-West and Sarah Raven

One Man’s Folly:  The Exceptional Houses of Furlow Gatewood
by Julia Reed

The Minpins
by Roald Dahl

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Summer Pictures

Summer Pictures

It is a small picture album, containing only ten or so images. Each one features the same character - a big white furry dog - and each one is uniquely precious for it was captured at the precise moment that dog turned to grin at me - fur flying, eyes bright - as  we ran together side by side on the edge of the sea.  A moment of unabashed joy, frozen forever in time.  Not one of these images has been altered in the usual ways by age - not a crease nor a wrinkle; the corners still crisp as the day they were made.  As if deprived of its usual tricks, time has instead chosen to create a bit of magic over each, for in some I can clearly hear the surf crashing at our feet as we run; I feel the wind in my face in others.  This album, although worth more to me than gold, is not one I would have to run into a burning house to save, for it exists in my memory alone.  More valuable for being intangible; each image represents a moment fully lived and so, fully remembered.

The beach is one of Edward’s favourite places and we have been fortunate enough to take him there throughout his life.  I can close my eyes and flip through this album of memories and smile as I see him running beside me.  Though I’d love to share a photograph of that experience with you - for it would elicit a guaranteed smile - I cannot.  To have trusted such an experience to the limitations of a camera would have cheapened, if not ruined, the moment entirely.  It is mine alone.  And Edward’s, of course.

These day so many of us seem one step removed from our lives as we hold our cameras aloft in a feeble attempt to document experiences rather than simply stand still and live them.  Everything from the ruins of the Colosseum to the Grand Canyon must be reduced to fit inside a three by four screen.   I have followed along behind people as they walked through the whole of Westminster Abbey looking through their cell phones.  Were they able to see the way the light changed colours as it drifted down through the stained glass?  Did they notice the way the ceiling in the Lady’s Chapel looks so much like lace or feel the cold marble of William Wordsworth’s statue as they perhaps recalled the close of one of his poems...”
Enough of Science and of Art;
Close up those barren leaves;
Come forth, and bring with you a heart
That watches and receives. 

A couple of weeks ago, just as the sun was setting, I took a bike ride through an paradisiacal corner of the south, through marshland and forest not far from the sea.  No one was about; I could have been the only person on earth.  As I pedaled over a wooden bridge I stopped in amazement to see a tree trembling with apparent white leaves as hundreds of wood storks gathered there for a bit of  evening conversation.  Their sound filled the air and made me feel utterly insignificant.  Like any other modern day numpty I took out my cell phone and snapped a photo, thinking I had preserved the moment to enjoy later.  Then I looked at the result.  Why, I couldn’t even tell what it was.  And I’d wasted precious time in the effort; time that would have been so much better spent watching and listening.   Shaking my head at my foolishness, I pedaled on into the shadowy darkness of the woods.  I hadn’t gone very far before I felt wild eyes watching me.  Slowing to a stop I peered into the trees; straight into the eyes of a deer.  For a long lovely moment we two stood face to face, eye to eye, breathing the same sweetly scented air and I felt inexplicably connected to the magnificent glory of life.  How remarkable it is.  What a gift.  My cell phone stayed in my pocket.

The Vacation
by Wendell Berry
Once there was a man who filmed his vacation.
He went flying down the river in his boat
with his video camera to his eye, making
a moving picture of the moving river
upon which his sleek boat moved swiftly
toward the end of his vacation.  He showed
his vacation to his camera, which pictured it, 
preserving it forever; the river, the trees, 
the sky, the light, the bow of his rushing boat
behind which he stood with his camera
preserving the vacation even as he was having it
so that after he had had it he would still
have it.  It would be there.  With a flick
of a switch, there it would be.  But he
would not be in it.  He would never be in it.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

A List For May, Before She Goes

A List for May, Before She Goes
Looking back now, it’s easy for me to see that the movie Camelot was a bonafide product of the sixties.  Everything from the hairstyles to the set design echoed the bohemian look of that decade (though one could certainly argue that medieval England was no doubt blessed with more than it’s share of bohemian touches, so perhaps the movie was more accurate than was readily apparent at the time).  But when I was a little girl, I wasn’t parsing scenes with a critical eye towards design styles and influences.  All I saw was unrivaled beauty and romance and I simply adored every single thing about that movie, except the detestable Mordred, of course. When Queen Guinevere and her court picnicked in the forest in the “lusty month of May” I knew that May had to be the prettiest month of them all.  

This particular May has done nothing whatsoever to water down that  long held belief.  The earth seems to sigh in breezes that fill the air with the fragrance of tea olive and jasmine, invoking sweet memory and unguarded hope.  Not yet the uniform green of summer, each tree sports different shades of this  same colour - emerald, apple, lemon-lime - weaving a tapestry worthy of dreams.  There are tiny shamrock-coloured cucumbers on the vines in the garden.  The strawberries are red, all the way through.

Like October, May hangs in the sweet spot between seasons, sheltered from the extremes of weather that demand our attention and cause us to bend to their will. She makes me think of all good things.  And a few ones, simply fun.  Here’s a short list of some of those. 
 Enjoy the few remaining days of May!   
1.  Setting a Whimsical Dinner Table
It’s probably a good thing that I live in an old house with limitations of storage.  Otherwise I would be prone to indulge my passionate love of whimsical china and pottery even more than I already do.  As it is, I never set the same table twice.  I love to mix old with new, conservative with outlandish.   A centerpiece of artichokes and white roses?  Transferware and art deco?  Or a piece of art pottery with a medieval looking lady peering out from the center?  Well, why not.
This pitcher by Amanda Popham totally captures my heart.  
I can see the entire table in my head, right down to the napkin rings of wound ivy. 
Find more of Ms. Popham’s amazing work HERE.
2.  New Old Pillows
If you’re like me, spring cleaning is not a fictional activity.  In May, everything outside my windows is so fresh, so new, I want everything inside  to feel precisely the same.  So windows are washed and floors are waxed.  Closets are cleaned, drawers are straightened.  And often, new things are found to spruce things up a bit.  Or to be honest, it’s usually old things that are new to my house.  To that end.... new/old pillows have just landed in my etsy shoppe. 
Find them HERE..
3.  Maps
There are maps in my head. Whenever I’m trapped someplace where it’s difficult or ill-advised to read or knit - in traffic, for instance, or the security line at the airport - I often play a mental game in which I retrace the ones that wind through a particularly beloved journey from time past, recalling every detail, every bend in the road, from arrival to departure. 
 I remember the way the road curved down to the left
 the first time I spied Ailsa Craig. 
The blackness of the night on the unlit road through Acadia National Park
 that time we were scared out of our wits by the
 glowing eyes of a herd of deer on the verge.
 A woolen fog in the hills above Oban;
 fog that covered our path and rendered us hopelessly, happily, lost. 
 They are maps unique to my life; not of much interest to others
  Imagine how delicious it would be to have a map such as this in reality.  A document of a personal journey of your own, one that you wish to remember forever; one you often follow along again in your dreams.  

Well this is precisely what is created by artist, Connie Stone, at Redstone Studios.  Maps that look as though they were fashioned by wizards; maps that document special, personal, journeys as individual as each person who commissions one.  Just wonderful, don’t you think.  See more HERE.
 4.  Nell’s Pattern
It was a yarn shop on the Isle of Skye that made me a knitter. 
 Perched on a cliff above the sea - its shelves full of soft colourful yarns provided by the sheep right outside its windows and dyed with the herbs from the dye garden at the edge of the hill - it was the most beautiful spot in the world, at least to my eyes, and I vowed to learn to knit, and knit well, as I reluctantly drove away.  Coming home I knew I needed to find a really good, really patient, really talented, teacher.  And I did, in Nell Ziroli.  Wonderfully inventive and amazingly knowledgable, she led me into the knitting world with the enthusiasm of a life long knitter and I’ve never looked back.
  Nell is a brilliant pattern designer and it was such a delight to open the brand-new look book from the renown knitting company, Brooklyn Tweed, and find one of Nell’s new sweater patterns.   On a very famous model, no less!  If you are a knitter, and I know from my letters quite a few of my readers are just that, you simply must pick up this pattern.  
I know Nell’s designs to be both flattering and fun to knit. 
 I’m so proud of her!  
Find the pattern HERE.
 5. Key Lime Yogurt
I can’t tell you how often I forget to eat lunch.  I’m not sure what it is, but I’ll get busy and by the time my tummy tells me its hungry, the hands on the clock say 4:30 or 5.  Too late for lunch, too early for dinner.  We eat a lot of early dinners because of this.  Our schedule just might normalize this summer, though, because I’ve discovered this new Key Lime flavour of Chobani yogurt.  I wake up thinking about it.  It’s destined to be my summer lunch every day this year.  You must try it.
6. Radios
When the end of May rolls around and summer knocks on my windows with its fists full of kites and beach towels, I think of these.  
Old-fashioned radios playing crackly AM stations. 
 Listening to The Drifters, The Beatles - Bobby Darin, Petula Clark.  Maybe a baseball game.
 And they are even MP3 compatible. 
Find them HERE.
7.  Tree Swings
I mean, really.
Under the oak trees, just left of the croquet court?
Anyone wish to join me?
Wait till you see what they’re made of.
Find them HERE

8.  Naps
Like my father before me, I have a great affinity for naptime. 
 The health benefits of naps are, to me, undeniable. 
 Although I have never been able to convince The Songwriter of this,
 a twenty minute escape before an open window, eyes closed,
thoughts adrift until they evaporate into brief sleep,
 is a blissful way to recharge and reboot. 
 And now that I’ve found this new chart I feel completely validated 
in my devotion to the practice. 
 See it HERE.

9.  Library Wallpaper
Even with the weather rapidly dialing up to HOT,
 I always have a little bit of autumn tucked inside my soul. 
 When I spied this new wallpaper from House of Hackney in London,
 I couldn’t help myself. 
 I could see an autumn library, complete with dark woods and a roaring fire.  
A little dash of brandy in a crystal glass.
  A big white dog on an Axminster.
  Can’t you just see it?  Or is it just me?
  Find it HERE.
10.  Espadrilles
The only thing that can take away the sting of having to package up my favourite boots till fall is the total delight in wearing espadrilles all summer long.  My toes are in heaven.
These are the best espadrilles in the world.
I bought the peach ones this year.
Find them HERE 

10.  Recipes for Life, Love and Art
Last year, May found me in the land of Bloomsbury. I was in heaven wandering the rooms of Charleston Farmhouse... a private tour no less. I adored Monk’s House and Berwick Church, where we were again fortunate to be the only ones present in that beautiful place. We even stayed right at Sissinghurst Garden, an experience I highly recommend. 
This May, instead of boarding a plane, I went back to Bloomsbury via this marvelous new book. Ostensibly a cookbook, but so, so much more, The Bloomsbury Cookbook is chock full of wonderful photographs, delightful selections from writings and letters, little snippets of remembrances from various and sundry Bloomsbury members, and yes, even recipes from those heady, creative days; 
recipes with charming names such as Meat Bobbity and Bunga Bunga.
 You’ll find Dora Carrington’s Sloe Gin and Roger Fry’s Orange Marmalade. 

Just take a look at this quote from a letter 
to Virginia Woolf from T.S. Eliot, dated June 2, 1927:
“I am free for tea on Wednesday or Thursday or for dinner on Wednesday.
 And if any of those times suited you, I should be very glad to show you
 what little I know about The Grizzly Bear, or the Chicken Strut”

Trust me, this book is a treasure.
Find it HERE.
Summer Reading Post Coming Soon!