Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Peek Through the Opening Door

A bit of a new look here at The House of Edward as the old door opens on the fresh green day of the infant year.
With more than the usual challenges to face in every corner of the planet, but with reasons aplenty to hope for a brighter year and lighter hearts, I am filled with admiration and gratitude for the many charming and creative new friends I have encountered through this little blog effort of mine. Having really started this as an entry for my Etsy shoppe, I found that I enjoyed writing so much the shoppe sort of took a back seat. I have always loved words, and writing, but had previously only written via long letters to certain souls during my travels. I really feel as if that is what I have continued to do through this site. Thank you all for reading my letters to you. Your comments and emails have been incredibly enjoyable, interesting and kind. I do appreciate them greatly.
And just now, as I peek through the opening door at the grand mystery of a pristine new year, this particular quotation of William Ellery Channing resonates like music with the desires of my soul.

"I will seek elegance rather than luxury, refinement rather than fashion. I will seek to be worthy more than respectable, wealthy and not rich. I will study hard, think quietly, talk gently, act frankly. I will listen to stars and birds, babes and sages, with an open heart. I will bear all things cheerfully, do all things bravely, await occasions and hurry never. In a word I will let the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious grow up through the common."

Edward and I wish you all a most Happy New Year.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Sleep At All Hours

The three big Christmas trees continue to sparkle. The music, gauzy and classical, drifts through the old house like a mist. The sheets are linen and the blankets, wool. Down pillows are fluffed like marshmallows and clothing is warm and rather eccentric. The books, oh the books.... all crisp, all new...massive, slipcased and magically illustrated or small and utterly engrossing..... are stacked in teetering towers beside me. The drinks are hot and the food.... is pie. All responsibility has been banished - flown with a whoosh out the shuttered window, not to return for at least one week. I shall venture outside my wooden door for only two good reasons..... long, bracing walks with a furry dog in the cloudy cold, or a comfortable seat in a darkened movie theatre. And I shall sleep at all hours, whenever I wish.
One of the best weeks of the year!

.....Just as the spiniest chestnut-burr
Is lined within with the finest fur,
So the stoney-walled, snow-roofed house
Of every squirrel and mole and mouse
Is lined with thistledown, sea-gull's feather,
Velvet mullein-leaf, heaped together
With balsam and juniper, dry and curled,
Sweeter than anything else in the world.

O what a warm and darksome nest
Where the wildest things are hidden to rest!
It's there that I'd love to lie and sleep,
Soft, soft, soft, and deep, deep, deep!

From the Poem, Winter Sleep by Elinor Wylie

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


Edward is a creature in possession of a myriad of magical qualities- qualities which draw people to him, friends and strangers alike, wherever we happen to go. They gather round him in outdoor cafes, follow us on our walks, roll down their windows at traffic lights to say hello to him, they get out of their cars to come squat down in front of him, they even allow their toddlers to kiss him smack on the mouth. Edward, ever patient, is consistently tolerant of these advances. So much so in fact, that last Halloween, when friends dressed their three adorable stairstep daughters as characters from Peter Pan, they asked if Edward would be willing to play Nana for a photo. He was honored, although a bit reticent about the bonnet he was supposed to wear. I realize I may be slightly prejudiced, but he really is an extraordinary dog. However, tonight and only tonight, he just may share one very special gift with every other animal on the planet. He just may speak. For tonight is Christmas Eve, and it is a tale well told that on this night of nights, the animals speak at midnight.

For those of you fortunate enough to live on a farm, take a stroll past your barn at that hour. Stop. Listen. Do you hear the whispered conversations of those enchanted creatures within? The tabby cat on the windowsill, gazing out at the frozen garden....what is he saying? Did you catch it? The Lioness on the moonlit plain, the Mountain Gorilla beneath Rwandan trees - from the Great Horned Owls at the bottom of our garden, to the ice white Polar Bear sitting alone on the top of the world, what words will they choose to speak for this, their once a year soliloquy. Words of despair, or words of hope? Of recrimination, or of praise? While I would certainly never deign to speak for Edward, I can only imagine his statement to the holy darkness will be the simple, pure words of gratitude.
On this night, what more is there to say?

Merry Christmas to All, and to All a Good Night!!

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Journey

Pull on the woolen mittens, wrap the shawl tightly. It is time for the journey into winter.
For six months now, the iridescent curtains of the earth have been slowly closing. The unseen, pale blue hand has moved them, bit by bit, an infinitesimal distance towards the center, shutting out the light in minute amounts each and every evening since the month of June. On this very weekend he stands back to admire his handiwork. With wizened hands on hips, he smiles his ancient silver smile as he observes the many hours of darkness, the iced moon hanging in a starry sky, taking up its lofty post earlier this weekend than at any other - the fewest hours of the sun - the shortest day of the year. It is complete, and he is most pleased, for he has once again fashioned Winter. White grey, silver blue, Winter.
And yet, he does not trouble us. As we make our way into his boreal creation, our provisions are sufficient. For even in the piercing cold of the bleakest of mid-winters, there is such warmth to be found. True friends, glowing fireplaces, fuzzy slippers, furry faces. Cinnamon toast, spiced tea. Days spent in cozy kitchens where copper kettles sing and savory soups simmer atop cherry red stoves - with nights burrowed snug under tartan blankets, lost inside the crisp pages of adventurous books.
Oh yes, we are quite prepared for this journey, for we have taken it before. And well we know, even now, as the old man takes his leave, rightly satisfied with his design, a smooth and tiny hand, the colour of peridot, is reaching for those curtains, ready now to pull them, bit by bit, every so slightly, open.

Painting above: Atkinson Grimshaw

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

In a Snow Globe

Long after midnight, when the silence is a sound unto itself, a soft blue blanket wrapped tightly around the house, enveloping all in the deepest quiet, I slipped out of bed. Lifting a woolen throw from off the chaise, I made my way to the biggest Christmas tree in the house and switched on the lights. Fairyland descended gently on the usual. What is it about this season that lends itself so readily to magic? Everything, it seems, conspires to wonder and amaze. The long-fingered frost on the windowpanes, the winter aroma of fir trees and hot chocolate, the ornamental colour - bells and carols, secret whispers and stolen kisses. I think of our little cottage here in the trees, bathed in moonlight and fairyglow and it almost seems as if we four are dwelling within a snow globe of our very own. A little wonderland separated from roving darkness by the clear glass dome of Christmas. It is said that Christmas is for children, but I don’t think that’s necessarily so. As the years go by and I see more of the sadness and trouble this world can parcel out, Christmas seems more of a mystery to me than ever. To think that no matter what occurs, it still settles joyously into my heart every year, retaining its full power to amaze and delight, to liberally sprinkle the enchantment of hope into every room. Merry Christmas, indeed.
I could have sat by the glimmering tree for hours, but soon I heard a soft yawn behind me and turned to see Edward, the fur atop his head mussed and askew from sleep, his thoughts nearly audible...”Come. Back. To. Bed.”... So, I did.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Being Watched

This morning, while wrapping presents at the old octagonal table in my office, I knew I was being watched. Not just by Edward, who had finally begun to abandon his enthusiastic attempts to claim the ribbons for his own - but by others, many others, just outside my window, curiously looking in at me from their place in the cold early sunlight. The Birds. Cardinals and chickadees, fat grey doves and red-winged blackbirds, titmice and towhees. Constant companions here in my little wing of the house, surrounding the cerulean glass feeder at all hours of the day, taking turns, crowding occasionally, chirping often, singing frequently. They are here in all seasons of the year, splashing around in their stone bath nestled in the holly bushes in summer, gathering twigs and pine needles for their brand new nests in spring, but oh so playful, so cheery in winter. They seem to love this time of year as much as I and it almost seems as though they themselves are filled with the happy spirit of Christmas and wish to join in the festive work they see just beyond the glass. Feathers fluffed, eyes bright, happily enjoying their breakfast, they watched me work all morning.
Like Edward, like myself, they call this cottage home.

Bird Sanctuary

Between the cliff-rise and the beach
A slip of emerald I own;
With fig and olive, almond, peach,
cherry and plum-tree overgrown;
Glad-watered by a crystal spring
That carols through the silver night,
And populous with birds who sing
Gay madrigals for my delight.

Some merchants fain would buy my land
To build a stately pleasure dome.
Poor fools! they cannot understand
how pricelessly it is my home!
So luminous with living wings,
So musical with feathered joy . . .
Not for all pleasure fortune brings,
Would I such ecstasy destroy.

A thousand birds are in my grove,
Melodious from morn to night;
My fruit trees are their treasure trove,
Their happiness is my delight.
And through the sweet and shining days
They know their lover and their friend;
So I will shield in peace and praise
My innocents unto the end.

Robert W. Service

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Beautiful Things

The world is full of beautiful things
Butterfly wings, fairy tale kings,
And each new day undoubtedly brings,
Still more beautiful things.

The world abounds with many delights,
Magical sights, fanciful flights,
And those who dream on beautiful nights,
Dream of beautiful things.

The Merchant Ivory film adaptation of Howard’s End would, to me, be a magnificent treat even if the only frame I had ever watched was the Christmas shopping scene. Set in the resplendent halls of turn of the century London’s Fortnum and Mason, Emma Thompson attempts to introduce Vanessa Redgrave to the “scientific” approach to Christmas shopping, - “the list”-, all the while wandering around the most sumptuously decorated holiday set ever created. My heart beats a bit faster every time I see it. It awakens in me the passion I possess for the enticing experience that is Christmas shopping. Given my profession I have the occasion to frequent delightfully unusual and off-the-beaten-track shops all throughout the year. Between those visits, and given the fact that Christmas presents are often a handmade affair here at The House of Edward, my holiday shopping is completed each year long before the first decorations pop up in the shops. But that does not for one second mean I don’t go Christmas shopping in December. It just means I can enjoy it a bit more. Being an inveterate observer, there is nothing I like more than strolling through the storybook decor of all the various stores... watching the holiday shoppers - bundled up and muttering- rushing to and fro....listening to the sweetly familiar holiday songs that provide the festive soundtrack... stopping to enjoy the show as one after another little gaily dressed and pressed children are plopped onto Santa’s lap to relate their deepest desires to the red-suited old man... and then finding the perfectly warm spot in the perfectly cozy cafe to enjoy a marshmallow topped hot chocolate with a good book or a good friend. Sometimes I discover something I just have to purchase, some sort of curious bauble or frippery, magically feathered, sugared or flounced. But mostly my Christmas shopping is a reconnaissance mission, meant to store up valuable inspiration for the later hours of future days. I will wrap it carefully and pack it away in its holly and tinsel and on some future frustrating or sweltering afternoon - some troublesome or mind-numbing morning, I’ll have a peek inside that memory and all the colourful flurries, carillon melodies, the hope, the happiness, the wonderment that is Christmas will swirl around my life once more.

Lyrics above by Leslie Bricusse

Saturday, December 6, 2008

With Every Christmas Card I Write

As the calendar pages turn and the years go by, it seems some long held traditions are increasingly susceptible to evaporation. Women in white gloves at Sunday services, men in dress hats and overcoats nodding to one another along busy weekday sidewalks, the far off sound of mother’s voices heard through neighborhood streets as they call their children home from outdoor play at suppertime, always adding a few more syllables than the name actually possesses. Once commonplace, I fear these sights and sounds are long gone now. One can look for them only in books, on film and in the halls of memory. Here in my own little world, I do try to keep alive meaningful customs and traditions that I sometimes fear are perilously close to the endangered list, and I think my life the richer for the effort. I still hand write thank you notes, still keep fresh flowers in my rooms, I do RSVP and I do not wear white at weddings, or after Labor Day. I take a gift when I’m invited to dinner, I attend funerals, dine by candlelight, I still even iron my sheets, God help me. And, I still send Christmas cards. In fact, one of the most delightful aspects of the entire festive season is, for me, the Christmas card. In a special wooden box, I have kept every card the Songwriter and I have sent out during the many years of our marriage. Each Christmas, as I add another, I take out all those from years past and enjoy them once more, each one reminding me of who we were then.

The hunt for the perfect card begins in the summer. For a few years in a row I had the luxury of being in Britain during the fall season when the shops were already stocked for the holidays. What bliss! No one does Christmas like the British. For three years straight, I found the perfect card there. Then the next year, naturally, I was spoiled. No card I found even approached the bar set so high by those wonderful elves in the UK. So, I decided to create my own. And lo, another tradition was born. Now it seems, everyone expects an original Christmas card from me each season and the ritual has become much more involved. But, how I do love it. With mellow strains of Perry Como, Vivaldi and Nat King Cole playing through the house, hot tea at my elbow, furry dogs under tables that are spread with papers, inks, glitters, stamps, envelopes, embossing tools...I am in complete holiday heaven. Thinking of each person as I write their name on their envelope, I am silently thankful for their friendship and wishing them well for the coming year. Yes, it is time consuming. Yes, it costs some money. But, oh is it worth it. This year I am happy to report that I am on schedule and I’ll soon be dreaming of a White Christmas once again. With every Christmas Card I write!

Above picture is my Christmas Card from 1990

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Red Flowers

My father never read to me as a child. I was reading pretty much on my own at a very early age. Instead, he told me stories. Some were his own versions of classic tales, often made a bit scarier, or funnier, by his personal renditions. I particularly liked the scary ones such as the big-big monster that lived way-way out in the ocean. I would stand, with my little feet dug into warm sand and stare and stare, as far out as I could, holding tightly to his big hand, deliciously scared but truly doubtful about any imminent danger to either of us. Santa Claus, The Easter Bunny, The Headless Horseman... all these famous folks benefited greatly from Daddy’s embellishments to their biographies. He was sweet, and he was funny, calm, steady and incredibly stubborn. He had a great laugh, red flowers were his favorites, and he always told me he loved me any and every chance he got. He adored dogs and actually cried when he met Edward for the first time. I think he couldn’t bear the thought of big sweet Edward ever having been out on the streets by himself.

I have had long hair most of my life. The only time I ever had it cut short was when I was little and my Mother and I had gone on a train trip to visit relatives. This was not an unusual thing for us. Daddy would stay in the city and meet us at the train station at the end of the week. Our favorite game was to watch for each other as the train pulled into the station. I would press my nose against the train window, looking intently at the blur of people lined up outside, while he would be watching all the faces in the train cars roll past. When we spotted each other we would wave like crazy. Except that one time my hair was short. Daddy didn’t recognize me. It doesn’t take a psychoanalyst to decipher why I have worn my hair long ever since, now does it?

Daddy slipped away a year ago today. Even though his illness was relatively brief, losing him wasn’t nearly as difficult as seeing him sick. I was an only child, and a Daddy’s girl to boot. So, watching him go was difficult to say the least. Today as I was placing red flowers on his grave I thought of this song I heard for the first time a couple of weeks ago. It is by Emmylou Harris, off her new album entitled All I Intended To Be. The song describes so sublimely the way I have felt about my father’s death. Here are the lyrics, but one should really hear Emmylou sing it to feel the truth living inside the words.

When I Go Sailing Round The Moon
by Emmylou Harris, Kate and Anna McGarrigle

One last gaze upon the sun
Bid farewell to everyone
Kicked that bucket out the door
Where I'm goin I won't need it anymore
Gonna lay my burden down
Take a birdseye look around
From the tall pines of Carolina
All the way to the Wall of China

So I go sailing round the room
Through my window, cross the silver moon
No flesh and bone to hold me
I'll finally set my soul free
When I go sailing round the room

Life may be just but a dream
Rode my boat on down the stream
To wake up on a different shore
Wind up as something I aint never been before
I could be a drop of summer rain
Fallin down on an Oklahoma plain
Gonna leave the world behind me
Look around and you will find me

So I go sailing round the room
Through my window, cross the silver moon
No flesh and bone to hold me
I'll finally set my soul free
When I go sailing round the room
In the smoke from Mauna Loa
Morning mist on the Shenandoah

I.....will be.....
Grain of sand in the Kalahari
Magnolia by the Mississippi

I.....will be.....
Bird song when the day is breaking
Words of love when your heart is aching

Blue bonnet by the highway
I'll be everywhere and always

When I go sailing round the room
Through my window, cross the silver moon
No flesh and bone to hold me
I'll finally set my soul free
When I go sailing round the room

First photo: Daddy and Me with my one and only short hairstyle.
Second Photo: Daddy and Me later after my one and only turn as the neighborhood Easter Bunny.

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Eloquence of December

From a long ago harbor on a far away shore, three splendid ships set sail. While at a bend in the road, the pathway narrows underfoot. Hemlocks and shining spruce trees move in close, linking their emerald arms overhead and scenting the wood with crystal winter. The moonlight is colder now. Having replaced its tarnished gold for sharpened silver, it illuminates a more enchanted landscape, one where snowy owls soar silently through icy air and alabaster stags raise frosted antlers to gaze in wonder at blanched and glowing stars. Wafting through ivory-tipped evergreen, gossamer glorias can barely be heard; bell-like whispers that become clearer with every muffled boot step along the pine needled pathway. The ice bear, august and all-knowing, walks alone. Forest oaks, each as unique as a fingerprint, no longer hide their true natures behind leafy raiment, but stand tall, proudly revealing their darkly graceful bone structures as they reach heavenward. The eloquence of December is everywhere. Through the mystery a cottage is just visible, its frost rimmed windowpanes painting squares of gold on the pale frozen ground.
Come inside, all are welcome. There is much to celebrate here.