Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Perils of the Medieval Age

Perils of the Medieval Age

When I was little I loved my pediatrician.  Dr. Sandy Matthews was a white haired fellow with penchant for speaking his mind.  The bonus of this character trait was that he would occasionally rate my opinions higher than those of my Mother.  This was a rare event, and from my vantage point on the examining table it was an event I thoroughly enjoyed observing.  “She is too young to shave her legs”, my Mother would state with conviction.  “Oh, don’t be silly.  No she’s not.”, came the astonishing professional reply.  Needless to say, I loved Dr. Matthews and rather hated eventually growing too old to visit him. 

My dentist, on the other hand, was not my favourite.  His office was in a rambling old house on Peachtree Street with cavernous rooms, dark wooden floors and ceilings as high as church and he possessed the rather unfortunate name of Dr. Funkhouser.  This moniker sounded entirely too much like a mad scientist to me particularly when combined with his small squinty stature, his crisp white coat and his tray of lethal-looking dental instruments.  Who can possibly look upon those needle-sharp tools and not be unnerved?

I would approach each appointment with Dr. Funkhouser with as much trepidation as a child can muster, certain that this visit would be the visit he would find the dreaded cavity and therefore have the opportunity to use those brier-sharp weapons on me.  I would sit in that strangely tilted chair with my little head held back, mouth open, eyes shut tight, with that bright interrogation light shining hot in my face and I would wait for the inevitable.  But no luck for Dr. Funkhouser; he never found a cavity in my mouth.  After the perilous experience was over he would instruct me to go to a large drawer in his desk and take a treat.  Inside that drawer were lollypops and suckers, jawbreakers and gum - a smorgasbord of sugar that told me just how badly he hoped to find a cavity next time out.  So I would avoid the candy entirely and choose a tiny puzzle instead.  Then I would throw him a knowing look of triumph and leave as fast as I could.  Terrified of that tray of dental instruments, so shiny and so sharp, I brushed and flossed religiously all through my cavity-free childhood.

Dentists will no doubt refute this assessment of their profession, but for someone as phobic about dentistry as myself, the whole thing does not seem to have progressed too far past the medieval age.   As far as I’m concerned there might as well still be pigs on straw in the waiting rooms.  Those instruments of torture are still on display, as polished and keenly honed as ever.  And I am still, frankly, terrified.  So when a diabolically dense peppercorn found the one weak spot in one of my upper back molars and cracked it decisively in two, I knew it wasn’t going to be pretty.  What I did not expect was to hear that the tooth was beyond hope, would, in fact, need to be pulled and I would have to have an implant installed.  I received this disturbing news after I had been given novocaine which, as you may know, involves injections in my mouth.  Needles.  In My Mouth. See what I mean?  Medieval. 
The removal of my tooth was a horrid experience, one I was not sufficiently prepared for, and one I shall not soon forget.  No, I did not feel pain as I was numb up past my eyeballs.  Instead I felt as though my head were collapsing in on itself, turning me inside out like a sock.  I left my dentist’s office that day determined never to darken his door again.  I would not get an implant.  No.  I would simply be minus one tooth.  That wasn’t so awfully bad, was it?  Who knows, I thought, maybe I can learn to squirt water out the side of my mouth like a clown and thus have a hilarious, albeit unexpected, party trick with which to entertain my friends and relations.  

Of course cooler heads (namely The Songwriter’s) prevailed and last week saw the black letter day roll round.  (The procedure was to involve, I was informed, even though I tried not to be, the placement of a steel post into my bone.  Immediately, a mental picture of medieval torture flashed into my head and I asked not to be told anything further.)    It was also the day when it was confirmed that one anxiety pill makes me relaxed but two knocks me clear into next week.  The dentist recommended this dosage and he probably knew what he was doing because the two hour ordeal seemed like fifteen minutes to me. Upon returning home, I fell into bed and slept till morning at which time I was told by The Songwriter that Edward had pushed him right out of bed during the night in his utter insistence on keeping watch over me.  The big white dog slept all night with his head on my tummy.  Edward, who once broke his own back molar and had to have it removed, knows about dentistry.

I do regret the loss of my newly acquired party trick.
I suppose it’s back to interpretive dance. 


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Werewolves and Candy Bars

Werewolves and Candy Bars

My parents told me not to be afraid of thunder.  They told me it was merely the sound of the angels moving their furniture around.  So I lay in bed on stormy nights imagining the houses of the holy being redecorated.  Angels with their halos slightly askew as they shoved painted wardrobes into corners and four-posters nearer to diamond-paned windows to take better advantage of the heavenly views.  The thunder would roll and I would see a large red ottoman being dragged across a golden floor.  My head still fills with damask and toile in every storm that blows.

They told me Santa would not stop at my house if I stayed awake.  So I lay in bed with my eyes scrunched up tight in concentrated effort, certain I would never fall asleep.  But of course, I did and, of course, he stopped.  I still feel the need to go to bed early on Christmas Eve.

The tooth fairy flew into my window every night I lost a tooth, slipping her dainty green arm beneath my pillow as I slept to leave me a shiny new quarter.   The Easter bunny, white as snow with out-sized ears, hopped unseen down my street every night before Easter.  I know because he left a basket on our dining room table for me and me alone.  

Magic was a part of my life and I never questioned its reality.  No one ever told me my life was populated with creatures who, in fact, did not exist;  I was supposed to figure that out for myself and indeed, that is what happened to most of my friends.  But I was, I suppose, an anomaly, for those doors in my soul through which I wandered and discovered the unseen to be as true as the seen, never closed.  They remain open even now, years later.  I know it is possible, if you know what to look for, to actually marry a prince.  Animals can speak volumes if you remember how to listen and you are never alone in an empty room.  I know there are extravagant worlds just beyond the realm of my own understanding and after years of practice I know how to spin straw into gold.

On the eve of my first ever journey to the Scottish Hebrides, my father took me aside and with a slight mischievous grin told me to keep an eye out for werewolves and to always have a candy bar in my pocket.  We laughed and hugged but as I walked away I noticed something half-serious in the glint of his eye.   
Things things are inherited, you know. 

“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you 
because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. 
Those who don't believe in magic will never find it.” 
Roald Dahl

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

A List For Summer

A List for Summer

Where I live, the months of Spring are enchanted.  After the bleak greys of February, March bursts on the scene with more green than the liveliest imagination could conjure.  And it seems to happen so suddenly - one night we close the door on a black and white world and awaken the next morning to all the magic of Spring, much like Dorothy opening the door of her fallen farmhouse to Oz.  

In these iridescent months I am to be found in the garden, or the nursery, or driving between the two.  I’m planting window boxes, moving old plants around, gently welcoming new ones.  I hurry outside in the morning to water.  I wander around in the evening and admire.  I consider myself a gardener.  But then comes the middle of June.

Where I live, the months of Summer are trying.  Heat seems to fall down from the skies and rise up from the earth in equal measure.  The air is irriguous; you feel as if you could gather a chunk of it up in your hands, form it into a ball and throw it against a pine tree where it would burst open in rainbows of water.   When the white sun finally sinks into the ground it leaves behind a night so heat-exhausted it barely moves.  We fall asleep to the macabre music of the cicadas, thankful for air-conditioning and iced tea.

In these sweltering months, I pray for rain to water my garden, or sweetly ask The Songwriter to do so.  (Don’t you love that photograph of Eudora Welty attempting to water her Jackson, Mississippi garden in summer?  Believe me, there’s no place hotter than Mississippi.) I sit by the window and nibble strawberries.  I read fat books and watch old movies set in cold climates.  I plan autumnal journeys.  Occasionally, I peek out at my garden to make sure it isn’t bleaching in the heat.  A gardener?  Ummm, hardly.

We are smack in the middle of summer at present, and the weather is behaving accordingly.  Edward’s walks are late in the day, and shorter.  Some mornings he flatly refuses to go outside and no amount of coaxing will persuade him.  But the days are not void of their pleasures.  There’s cold watermelon, for instance.  And espadrilles.  Straw hats with wide brims.  Flowers, so many flowers.  Honeydew melons and peaches. Fresh corn.  Good music.  A whole batch of new programs on Masterpiece Theatre.  Late afternoon naps on cool linen sheets.  Life is good here in summer.

Here’s a summer list of good things!
I hope you enjoy it.

1. Wolf Hall Soundtrack
I have this CD on constant play this summer.
So atmospheric, it sounds like cool stone castle walls.
Find it HERE

2. Seasalt Jute Bags
I have several of these kinds of bags.
For flowers and groceries, yarn and books.
These are especially charming, don’t you think?
Find them HERE

3. George and Charlotte
I cannot help it.
I adore these two.

4. Mario Badescu Facial Spray
The best thing for my skin in the summer.
Rosewater, Herbs and Aloe. 
So refreshing.
Find it HERE

5. Arcadia Britannica
Well, this made me grin.
It also made me want to don a green gown, place an extravagant crown on my head 
and go dance around in the forest, but that’s another story.
Find it HERE

6. Summer Pajamas
White cotton pajamas are simply a must for summer.
These are the ones I bought this year.
Love, love them.
Find them HERE

  7. Morris Wallpaper
William Morris is a favourite of mine and I am so in love with this new wallpaper.
I keep wandering through my house trying to find a place for it.
Find it HERE

8. Little Pitchers
Being lucky enough to have neighbours who keep miniature goats, 
I fell hard for these whimsical little pitchers.
Milk for tea or cream for strawberries.
Maple syrup for pancakes on Saturday morning.
Raspberry coulis for homemade ice cream.
These are perfect.
Find them HERE

9. Instagram
I am having so much fun on Instagram.  
So many inspiring people to follow.
Check out Ros Byam Shaw.
And do come visit Edward and me!  You’ll find oodles of photos of our travels, our garden, our cottage and the ever illustrious, ever mysterious, Apple.  She detests having her photograph taken, but I catch her out occasionally.  Like this photo above, when she was entirely focused on chipmunk watch.
Don't you love her extravagant ears?   
Find us all on Instagram HERE

10. Holidays
If you haven’t already booked your summer holiday, 
may I suggest this one?
Yes, that's the sea outside your door.
Find it HERE

And finally, 
This has been a momentous month here in the States.
Issues have been decided and for as many of us happy about things, there are those who are decidedly not.  As I write this, South Carolina is debating whether or not to remove the Confederate flag from its State House, the arguments rising and falling with the emotions.
I read these words recently and think them most apropos for our country this summer.
They were written on the wall in Mother Teresa’s Home for Children in Calcutta.
It pays, I think, to hold them close. 

"People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway. If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway. If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway. What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway. The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway. Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.  In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway."


Sunday, July 5, 2015


“You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence every July 4, not with a parade of guns, tanks, and soldiers who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle, but with family picnics where kids throw Frisbees, the potato salad gets iffy, and the flies die from happiness. You may think you have overeaten, but it is patriotism.”

Erma Bombeck

And from my Father’s favourite tv show….


Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Old Times There Are Not Forgotten

Old Times There Are Not Forgotten

No matter what movie she saw, my Mother generally expressed the same frustrating, yet humorous, review.  If the guy got the girl, she liked it.  If he did not, then she did not.  This cinematic peccadillo of hers was rigid and it applied to any and every movie she saw, including those in which it was difficult to conceive of any characters paired up in a satisfactory way. ( I’m thinking of E.T. and Driving Miss Daisy here.)  I blamed this rather skewed way of viewing film on Gone With the Wind.  That moment when Rhett finally walks out on Scarlett has greatly affected Southern women for ages.  The film ends with Scarlett determined to “get him back” and no Southern woman ever doubted that she would.

To be honest, I’ve never revered the fabled Gone With the Wind as much as other born and bred Southerners.  The movie never made me nostalgic.  I could never manage to work up a wistfulness for what the opening credits declared to be “this pretty world” where “gallantry took its last bow”.  Instead of seeing Scarlett as resourceful and tenacious, I always found her manipulative and mean.  Melanie’s legendary “goodness” was too saccharine for my taste and, to the bewilderment of some of my girlfriends, I never could fathom the knee-buckling attractiveness of Rhett Butler. But more importantly, no matter how many red petticoats Cap’n Butler gave Mammy, I always saw her for what she was.  A slave.  

On the sunniest day the shadow of slavery still colours the South.   We have come so very far out into the light but that shadow still lurks.  It can still lie between the lines of a politician’s speech.  It can still crouch behind the eyes of a darkly closed mind.     This polluted shadow of our region’s past shows up all the darker when it is thrust into the light of the world as it was last week in Charleston, South Carolina.  In the horrific glare that bore down on that murderous scene we can easily see racism for what it is:  pure evil. And as the inevitable selfie images of the murderer surfaced, the eyes of the world saw the symmetry of symbols:  the same flag he celebrated was flying over the capitols of many Southern states, including South Carolina itself.

There are some white southerners who will tell you that the confederate flag is a symbol of loyalty and honour that speaks to the attributes of our heritage.  Some will tell you that our nation’s only civil war was fought solely to preserve state’s rights.  I have always found  both assertions to be delusional at best, disingenuous at worst.   While a lot of us have forefathers who indeed fought, and died, in that hideous war, I have never found it disloyal to say that they fought on the wrong side and that, thankfully, they lost.  I have also never found it difficult to imagine what my black brothers and sisters must feel when they see that flag flying today.

It is just as impossible to defend the South’s moral history as it is a mistake to let that history define it.  The South is full of graciousness and kindness.  It teems with a beauty and a mystery impossible to duplicate anywhere else on the planet.  But the Confederacy was not the lovely “Old South” of Gone With the Wind.  It was a ugly place of well-documented cruelty and horror.  We should not venerate its symbols.  Take that flag down.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Stopping To Think

Stopping To Think

Every frame of the recently aired television production of Hilary Mantel’s, Wolf Hall, was magnificent; I cannot recommend it highly enough.  But one scene in particular has stayed with me.  It occurs when Cromwell is wandering the netherworld of fever dreams.  His beautiful dead wife is suddenly sitting beside him on the bed in a shaft of morning light, her hands moving, fast and fluid, as she weaves.  “Stop”, Cromwell says.  “Show me how you do it.”  Never looking up, his wife replies, “If I stop to think how I’m doing it, I won’t be able to do it.”

So much meaning in that one statement, at least for me.  In turning it over in my head  I’ve begun to see the many feats I perform on autopilot.  Cooking.  Knitting.  Occasionally, driving… God help me.  So for the past few days I have decelerated and considered every single moment in an attempt to give each the attention a good life deserves.  

I’ve slowed my knitting to better enjoy how the pattern forms beneath my fingers and I’ve turned off the radio and television to knit in the quiet.   Before I even taste the sweetness of the strawberry, I’ve stopped to admire the brilliance of its redness.  I’ve put down the newspaper to watch a robin in the birdbath as she splashes about in exhilarating dance, noticing how she dips her head beneath the water before every splash.  I’ve watched as she cleans her orange beak on the side of the bath when she’s done.  One side, then the other.  Rapid fire.  I’ve delighted in the crisp coolness of  freshly laundered linen as I slip between the sheets at bedtime.  I’ve sniffed the fragrance of the pages when I’ve opened the book I’m reading, felt the texture of each as I’ve lifted and turned it onward.  I’ve marveled at the mink-softness of Edward’s fur as I’ve run my hand over the top of his head.  I’ve listened to the wind.  I’ve walked outside in the rain.  I’ve opened the casement window at midnight to sit and stare at the moon.  I’ve relished the smell of rising yeast bread; marveled at the green of the ferns as I water them in the evening. 
Not only have I stopped to think about what I’m doing, 
I feel I’m doing it all just a wee bit better.

**That scene in Wolf Hall was played out for real when a neighbour called and asked me to teach her two girls how to knit.  Our first lesson was last week, and both parents decided to learn as well.  The youngest was a promising student even if she did turn somersaults around the room after each row.  The father, oddly enough, was a natural.**

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Books and Beaches... The Annual Summer Reading List

Books and Beaches
The Annual Summer Reading List

I’ve always admired women who carry clutch bags, those exquisite, tiny creations that fit  so neatly under the arm.  They look so professional, so put together, so … unfettered.  I once spied one of these lovely envelope bags in a shop.  It was gorgeous and my heart went out to it immediately.  Fortunately I was seized by a rare moment of wisdom and before I pulled out my dollars to purchase this treat, I decided to take the “essentials” out of the handbag I was carrying and attempt to fit them into this sleek new temptation.  Out came my wallet, my phone and my lipstick, followed by my knitting, several dog biscuits, a green fan, a writing journal, several pencils….  By the time I pulled out the ever present book, the saleslady had seized to smile politely and was laughing out loud.  

There is always a book in my bag, which is one of the reasons I love summer.  In summer it is much more sartorially acceptable to carry a huge handbag.  It can easily be a beach bag, after all.  I may be on my way to the beach. I may have just returned.  Who's to know?  My current handbag is green straw, with a curved wooden handle and it's delightfully capable of holding not just one, but several books.  It's also ready and waiting to accompany me to the beach should the rigors of city life become too taxing as they frequently do in the summertime.  Right? 

Happily, I can read just about anywhere.  The airport, the dentist, on line at the bank… the restaurant, the park, the hairdressers, you name it.  But is there anyplace more divinely suited for reading than the beach?  Perhaps it’s the soundtrack of waves and wind.  Perhaps it’s the soft warm sand beneath bare feet.  Whatever the reason, I would choose the beach above all other summer locales to read this list of books.  Warm beach, cool beach, cold beach.  Sandy shore, rocky shore.  Doesn’t matter.   As long as the ocean stretches out before you as far as the eye can see, as long as a fat, full moon paints its ribbon of light across the rolling darkness, as long as waves crash against the shoreline in constant, comforting music, it’s completely perfect.   

Here are a few of my suggestions for the perfect summer books, along with a few of my favourite beaches to read them.  Please do share some of the books you’re planning to read this summer, and where you’re planning to read them!
As usual, click on the book to see more.
And, enjoy! 

Tintagel, Cornwall
The Green Road
by Anne Enright

Reunion of Ghosts
by Judith Claire Mitchell

A Memory of Violets
by Hazel Gaynor

Portpatrick, Scotland
The Shepherd’s Life
by James Redbanks

Small Blessings
by Martha Woodroof

The Love Object
Selected Stories
by Edna O’Brien
Amelia Island, Florida
The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared
by Jonas Jonasson

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You a Story
by Fredrik Backman

Man at the Helm
by Nina Stibbe

Elgol, Isle of Skye, Scotland
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell
by Susanna Clarke

Burning Down George Orwell’s House
by Andrew Ervin

Dancing at the Edge of the World
Thoughts on Words, Women, Places
by Ursula K. Le Guin

Hunting Island, South Carolina

Hold Still
by Sally Mann

The Music of the Swamp
by Lewis Nordan

by Edith Pearlman

Daytona Beach, Florida

Me… Jane
by Patrick McDonnell

Pride and Prejudice
A Baby-Lit Counting Primer

Swallows and Amazons
by Arthur Ransome

Happy Reading!
Happy Summer!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Cannes Not

Cannes Not

No matter how hard we try, it is almost impossible to escape the culture of celebrity.   Even the casual observers -those enlightened few who, rightly, see it as nothing more than  trivial piffle more akin to cartoon than reality - should take heed for they are not immune to its influence.   No, wander deep into some uncharted rainforest, where the native people run free of clothing, prejudice and electricity, and I’d bet you a nickel they’d know at least one of the ample-bottomed Kardashian sisters.  One can find this total saturation of inanity amusing at a distance, but that’s the insidious thing about it:  it rarely stays at the distance it deserves.  Instead, it slyly stretches its fuzzy tentacles into certain unused corners of our consciousness, pushing aside those dusty remnants of our past no longer needed for ready recall - things like pay phones, VCR’s and vinyl records - to take up residence, unnoticed, yet alive.  

This fascination with celebrity has existed for centuries, of course.  Georgiana, the Duchess of Devonshire.  Evelyn Nesbit.  Lady Caroline Lamb.  Each could readily attest to the insatiability of the public’s interest in their doings.  But it seems that today we literally hold the world in the palm of our hands and these ubiquitous devices we cradle give power to the most insignificant crumbs of foolishness rendering them not only available, but unavoidable.  Is it any wonder the culture is affected?

While I know I’m walking the rapier edge of crankdom as I say it, just try to find something unique and wonderful on a popular radio station.  Stroll through the women’s clothing department of your local store and try to choose something gorgeous that doesn’t make you look as though you’re auditioning for a rap video.  Stand in the mainstream and strike a chord for individuality, and you sing alone.

Like many other women I was a bit irritated by the fashion kerfuffle that boiled up during last month’s Cannes Film Festival.  Seems a decree went forth that women would not be allowed on the red carpet unless they were wearing heels.  No, I am not joking.  Flats-wearing women were actually turned away, deemed unacceptable by their appearance.  This caused me to wonder…. would the exquisite Audrey Hepburn have been banished if she’d dared show up in those delicious ballet flats she wore?  Would Dame Judi Dench, brilliant, beautiful and eighty years old, been required to wear Sex and the City heels?  Have we been so thoroughly indoctrinated in the celebrity dictum of mile-high, toe-crushing footwear that this is now a requirement for the modern-day, well-dressed woman?  

While it’s true that I came into the world with a prickly sense of outrage at being told what to do or how to think, this fashion fiat made me see red.  In fact, it made me want to fly to France and crash that red carpet in my peach espadrilles. 
There are nights when I love to wear heels. 
 Just don’t tell me I have to.
Opinions, please?

“Fashion should be a form of escapism, and not a form of imprisonment.”
Alexander McQueen 

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

So Much Younger Now

So Much Younger Now

The pattern on the tablecloth was subtle but I was certain I could now draw it unaided, the result of staring down at its weave for what seemed an eternity.  Across the table from me sat a young man, not yet twenty, who had spent the last half hour or so stating his opinions on a wide variety of subjects.   I agreed with him on practically nothing, but that was not the troublesome thing.  It was his unwavering certainty, his rigid, relentless grip on the conclusions he’d reached after so few years in the world, that I found so regrettable.     Several of those in my party attempted to challenge him but his thoughts were stacked, brick upon brick, forming an unassailable wall so high he could no longer peer over to gaze and consider.   My eyes kept focus on the tablecloth.  I didn't dare lift them, lest the young man see the pity I knew was there.  But then I had to smile at my forgetfulness; I was no doubt much like him when I was young, comfortable that the knowledge I’d gained would be sufficient to carry me along on a calm breeze of surety for the rest of my days.  I thought I would never face an unsolvable puzzle, an unanswerable question, an unsurpassable grief.  But as Bob Dylan once so sagely observed, “I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.”

Days are long when we are young.  They stretch out before us, uncharted, holding their myriad possibilities in a nonchalant hand.  We gather these days like the flowers of summer till one year we notice how quickly they’ve passed.  They fly past our window - spring night upon winter day, autumn day upon summer night - till they seem a blur of color and light.  Beautiful, but ephemeral.  We reach out to grab them by fistfuls and they slip through our fingers like rain.   The world spins faster the older one becomes.  That’s something they don’t tell you when you’re young.  You wouldn’t believe them if they did.  

I have heard it said that the opposite of faith is not doubt, it is certainty.  This thought resonates with me the longer I skip cross the planet.  My curiosity has only deepened, but I am not as sure as I once was.  I have seen too much to rest in my own understanding.  I know there is mystery and I find this fact immensely freeing.  We struggle against this knowledge when we’re young; we want to believe every question has an answer just waiting to be discovered, like a gemstone in a desert full of sand.  We want to know we are right.  How much time we all waste.  There is wisdom in the mystery.  Wisdom, beauty and truth.  Untroubled sleep and open-hearted love.  

Last weekend I accompanied a young friend on a wander around her soon-to-be new college campus.  A gorgeous place with a library straight out of Hogwarts.  (I’m visiting again in the fall, she'd better count on it.)  Beyond those stained glass windows lay Shakespeare and fractals, neuroscience and astrophysics, Bach, law, history, theatre.  A kaleidoscopic world of knowledge and possibility awaits her. Her excitement is infectious and I wish her all good things, for I know there is so much good to be found.  From the perch on which I now sit, I still see a realm of choice and prospect.  There is so much I still want to learn - skills I wish to master, horizons I wish to view.  I feel no need to convince anyone of anything for I know I haven’t the answers to life in my pocket.   And that’s ok.
 I’m joyful in the mystery.
I'm so much younger now.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Thunderstorm Companion

The Thunderstorm Companion
The afternoon cracked open and the air turned white with rain.
The old cottage winced under cannonades of thunder and lightning burst through the windows, jagged and unnatural.  In other words, the perfect afternoon to cast aside all responsibilities, curl up on the chaise, and knit.  
The big dog watched me, a tiny flicker of unease crossing his furry face with every shudder of thunder.  
“Perhaps she is scared”, he thought. “Yes.  She needs me close.  That’s what I’m here for.” 
So he jumped up to share my seat.

He is a big dog.  A very big dog.  
And, after a few of my wiggles and squirms to get comfortable….

“What do you mean, you don’t have enough room??”
I just love life with this dog.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

One Place Understood

One Place Understood
There wasn’t much to do in Jackson, Mississippi in the years between the wars.  Nights were quiet and the heady concoction of gardenia and jasmine that had steeped in the afternoon heat now hung, almost liquid, in the humid air.  Spared the robotic roar of air-conditioners, the houses that lined Pinehurst Street shared snippets of conversation, music, and laughter through their opened windows.  As the fragrant night darkened to velvet, a crowd began to gather at No. 1119, a gracious Tudor with an arched front door.  Summoned by an advertisement in the local paper, these lucky souls were there to witness, and to celebrate, a lovely event.  A night flower was about to bloom.

The night-blooming cereus is a strange plant; a rather ugly one, if I am completely honest.  A member of the cactus family, it has but one attribute worth noting, but that one attribute is a doozy.  Once a year and only in the dead of night, it produces a spectacular flower - snow white, spidery, magnificent.  Such a sight to behold, it prompted a group of its fans to form a club in Jackson, Mississippi in the 30’s.  The Night Blooming Cereus Club took its name from the popular song of the time… “Life is just a bowl of cherries.  Don’t take it ‘cereus’, life’s too mysterious”….. and the wonderful writer, Eudora Welty, was a founding member.  Whenever one of the club members had a night-blooming cereus about to do what its name suggests, they would take out an ad to announce it and members would flock to their home for a grand, all-night party.  As I write this, I am looking at one of the ancestors of Miss Welty’s night-blooming cereus, something that tickles me no end.

It was the creation of my new back garden that led me to visit Mississippi.  Having read that there was to be a plant sale featuring plants from the garden of one of my favourite authors, how could I stay home?  It was my first visit to Miss Welty’s home and stepping inside felt both revelatory and divinely familiar.  

There is a scent in the air of all well-mannered Southern houses, a melange of lemons, garden roses and old paper.  This perfume met me as soon as I walked through the door, so evocative that I almost looked around for my great-aunt.  The house has been saved as it was when Eudora lived there.  It’s almost as though she’s just stepped out to go to the store.  Books, oh my soul, books on every available surface - a significant sight that assuaged a boat load of housekeeper’s guilt for me.   Miss Welty’s writing desk sits by the large double window in her bedroom.  From here she could hear the music from the choral classes of Belhaven College across the street as it wafted through that open window.  I could almost see her - could almost hear the song.  

Her famous garden was so recognizable I felt as though I’d walked back into my own childhood.  Here were the old roses, the violets, the buckeye trees, fragrant and unbowed in the face of a promised early morning thunderstorm. Here were the camellias and the irises, serenely feminine in their spring finery. It was an unheard of luxury to gather up some of Eudora’s plants to include in my garden.  I see them now as I write, soaking up the morning sun, and I like to think a little of her remarkable spirit is now residing amongst my flowers. 

 Eudora Welty once wrote, 
“One place understood helps us understand all places better”. 
 I understood her place very well.
I’ll let you know when my night-blooming cereus is ready to bloom.  
We’ll have a party.

Sidenote:  ……In true Southern fashion, there was cake and lemonade being served on the side porch by ladies of the Welty Foundation and I sat to talk with them for a long while.  One told me of the days when her son was small and she would push his carriage past Miss Welty’s house on walks every afternoon.  Framed in that upstairs window like a painting, Eudora could be clearly heard, typing away.  She would look out as the lady passed by, spy the baby and, waving her hand out the window, she’d call out loudly…”Sweeeeet Baby” … and continue writing.  

See more photos from Eudora's garden on my Instagram Page.
And To Find Out More.....

A wonderful tour through the Welty garden. 
I adore this book.
Find it HERE

A slender volume that introduces one to Eudora.
I adore that cover photo, her high-school graduation shot.
She was sixteen.
Can you imagine looking that self-aware and intelligent at sixteen?!
Find it HERE

A delightful collection of gardening letters, 
something I can never get enough of.
Find it HERE