Monday, May 31, 2010

Juliet’s Question

It was the one hour in the long twenty-four that stands off alone to itself, far away from midnight, not the least bit close to the dawn. 
 The very dead of night.  
Three am.
I alone was awake in the house.  I alone heard the song.  An eerie tune, almost macabre, that rose up out of the trees in the garden, so unexpected, so strange, a concerto performed by a feathered musician hitherto unheard in these parts.
Singing full tilt at the top of his lungs, like a sentinel warning of battle, his shrill voice split through the night like an arrow.  I slipped out of bed and went to the window.  The Flower moon, so full in the sky, illuminated all her white subjects - Annabelle's and impatiens, gardenia and rose.  They shone like a gargantuan strand of Mother Nature’s best pearls, broken and scattered cross a navy blue floor.
The anonymous bird sang his song on and on, with barely a stop between stanzas, more urgent than joyful, a song for the night.  
“Who is he?”, I thought, as a shudder ran its finger along my shoulders.
 A raven herald of myth, or a starling in the midst of a dream?  A phoenix rising from the ashes of the moon, or a firebird in search of the sun’s golden fruit?
 So I wondered as Juliet had long before me,
 was it the Lark or the Nightingale that sang in my garden,
 long after midnight, too early for dawn?

 Wilt thou be gone? it is not yet near day: 
    It was the nightingale, and not the lark, 
    That pierced the fearful hollow of thine ear; 
    Nightly she sings on yon pomegranate-tree: 
    Believe me, love, it was the nightingale. 

It was the lark, the herald of the morn, 
    No nightingale: look, love, what envious streaks 
    Do lace the severing clouds in yonder east: 
    Night's candles are burnt out, and jocund day 
    Stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops. 
    I must be gone and live, or stay and die. 

Romeo and Juliet
Act 3, Scene 5
by William Shakespeare

Friday, May 28, 2010

A Folly On The Hillside

The sky had changed completely during our leisurely lunch.   My friend and I had met beneath the bluest of blues, but said goodbye under a most threatening grey.  I closed the car’s sunroof and pointed towards home and, as those grey skies foretold, I was soon making my way through a histrionic thunderstorm.  With the air white with sheets of straight down rain, I inched along a winding road where towering trees bent and bowed around me, genuflecting to the strength of the storm.  The Saint-Saens concerto streaming out from my iPod was punctuated quite appropriately with the booming notes of heavy thunder.
I marveled a bit that I was moving along through all this drama, quite dry and comfy in my little green car.  And for some reason, I thought about this blog and what I desire it to be for my readers.

 With so much wrong in the world today, it is my wish for The House of Edward to be a soft place to land for those who stop by to read my words, or to say hello to Edward.  This blog is really just an extension of my view of the world, I suppose.  Yes, I am aware of the ugliness  and that is precisely the reason I tend to focus on the beautiful and the good, to celebrate the pure exquisiteness of the everyday.  For beauty truly exists in the eye of the beholder; we all can see it if we try.  
Each of us makes a choice everyday to be compassionate or dismissive, intolerant or kind, to focus on ourselves or on others, to look for the good or prowl around for the wicked.  And it seems we usually find what we look for, doesn’t it?

So although my opinions are impassioned and wide-ranging - from politics to plastic surgery, oil spills to tea parties, fox hunting to reality shows - don’t look for me to rant about them here.  For just like I drove along through a dark storm today, sheltered and safe,  it is my hope that this blog will always be a harbour of sorts for those who drift in from whatever storms they might know. 
A folly on the hillside, a hermitage on the rutted path -  a warm place for a nod or a sigh, a haven for wonder and thought.
 Or maybe just a happy smile from a big, white dog.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Without Sight

It was the gardenias who woke me this morning. 
Drifting deep inside my dream, their sweet fragrance took gentle hold of my hand and led me away from a land where the trees were dressed in leaves of blue and robed choirs of border collies sang sea shanties in Gaelic.   
The gardenias brought me back to my feather bed and quietly returned to their vase on the table.  But they could entice me to open my eyes,  for my other senses were telling a story of Spring in languages so lyrical I needed no sight to clarify or embellish their beautiful tale.
The roses that gallivant up over my window sent waves of sweet perfume into my room. I could see them clearly in my mind, a pink ballgown of Spring.
Cut only last night and placed in a majolica bowl on a table in the hallway, the magnolia blossom baptized every room with the clean, fresh aroma of lemons.  The bouquet reached my bedroom and I saw white dresses in sunlight.
I heard the faint sound of the robins as they splashed about in the birdbath, the hydrangea blooms gently shaking as each red-breasted bird hopped a bit closer, waiting his turn to dive in.  I could make them out perfectly from behind my closed lids.
Off in the distance, the faint roar of a lawn mower, from an early rising neighbor keen to outwit the heat of the day -  as visible to me as a painting.
A soft breeze played a vernal melody on the windchimes at the window and Edward sighed a contented sigh.
I could have been Frodo awakening in Rivendell, or Princess Aurora in her tower of stone. 
 But then, down the hallway, came the incense of morning, a cologne of a much different kind.  An invigorating smell, calling out to me from the world of schedules and lists, of tasks I must finish, and tasks yet to start.  
Black coffee.
  As only The Songwriter makes.  
My eyes popped open. 
I saw the morning sun had painted the bedroom with brushes dipped in pink and in gold. 
I saw Edward’s happy, smiling face.
  I bounded out of bed.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Dog Who Loves To Fly

Apple had a lot to learn when she first came to live with us.  Edward, whom she adored with a blazing devotion from the very first moment she saw him, taught her most of the basics, such as what time dinner was served and what would happen to her if she attempted to steal food from his bowl.
But some things a puppy just has to learn for herself.  For example... 

1. Even though one is in possession of four nimble paws, trees are, quite frustratingly, impossible to climb.  
 2. Bumblebees are best left to their own devices, no matter how slowly, and enticingly, they buzz along.  
3. There are vents conveniently located in the floor in various rooms of the cottage and during the hottest of weather, these send out waves of ice cold air. If one lays directly atop them, one’s tummy becomes cool and comfortable in no time at all.
4.  There is a panoramic view of the garden from the big bedroom windowseat, making it the best place to be on a rainy day.
5.  Squirrels are pure evil.

There are countless joys in Apple’s life, and she spends her days in the happy discovery of them all.  One particular joy became apparent to us all quite early on.  Apple loves to fly.  She is one of those dogs who, as soon as she hops in the car for a ride, longs to stick her head out the window as far as it will go, and feel the wind whip round her as she speeds along in the pure elation of canine flight.  Edward, on the other hand, hates to have his fur blown in such a raucous fashion and prefers to sit, dignified and calm, in the back seat, gazing out the window like Hercule Poirot on the Orient Express.

Apple has often been denied her love of flight however, due to the fact that neither The Songwriter nor myself were too keen on the idea, thinking it couldn’t possibly be good for her eyes.  Who knew what sort of unsavoury bug might fly into them at a high speed?  So we would often drive along with Apple sitting beside her closed car window, peeved and squirmy. 
Until one day when The Songwriter announced that he had ordered our girl a pair of goggles.

Me:  “Goggles?  You must be joking”.
Him:  “No, they’ll be great.  She’ll love them.  You’ll see”.
Me:  “There is no way on earth she will wear those things”.
Him:  “They’re ice blue.  They’ll look great with her black fur.”
Me:  “Ice blue?  Really?  Well, maybe.”

The goggles arrived within a week and, almost immediately,  I officially admitted to being totally wrong in my assertion that Apple would refuse to wear them. 
 She loves them. 
She flies everywhere now, ears flapping in the wind, oblivious to the snapping of car phone cameras everywhere we go, bringing smiles, and some outright hoots, to every passerby in the land. 

She doesn’t care.
Apple loves to fly.

You can read more about Apple HERE
And you can hear her on Track #5 of The Songwriter’s latest CD .  Really.

Painting above by Louis Icart

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Shoes

Pulling back the heavy door, I leave a cheerful sun behind me as I step into the chilly darkness of the museum.  As my eyes adjust to the dimness of the lighting, I notice the other visitors are all about my age.  And all female.  With total accuracy, I have no doubt I could tell each of them where they were on the early morning of July 29, 1981.  For without question they, like me, were certainly in front of their televisions, watching the fabled wedding of Lady Diana Spencer unfold in all its magnificent splendour.  And no doubt we are all here today for the same reason - to see the dress that she wore on that day.

For a newlywed myself, with the memory of my own beautiful wedding so fresh in my mind, that July pageant of long ago was such a rhapsodic spectacle, filled with a magic that seemed to leap off the very pages of both history books and fairy tales.  The entire world seemed giddily focused in happy anticipation of this very British ceremony and the conviviality generated by this event seemed to linger in the air like a sweet fragrance for such a long time.  I traveled to London the very next month, and remember fondly the boisterous good will that still reverberated from every shop window, every hotel lobby, every restaurant.  That wedding, and the hope of true love it represented, had painted a smile on the face of every waiter, thrown a genial cloak of exuberance over every taxi driver in the old city. It was a wonderful time to be there.

But in the same way that an iridescent bubble will burst when it touches your hand, life has a way of evaporating some fairy tales, especially if they are not what they appear to be even as they are taking shape before our very eyes.  So it is a bittersweet wander I am taking through this exhibit today, gazing through the glass at mementos of Diana’s star-crossed childhood - the naive diaries, the monogramed school trunk - the home movies, the ballet shoes.

The exhibit winds round and I silently follow until I turn a sharp corner and enter a long quiet room.  And there it is.  That wedding dress.  There’s the impossibly long train that I watched unfolding like an prophet’s scroll from that glass carriage, unfurling in the wind like the wings of a million doves down the wide, wide stairs of St. Paul’s.  There’s the sleeping beauty sleeves, the paper thin silk dotted with a multitude of sequins and pearls that sparkle like fairy eyes even here in this dull place, so far away across an ocean of events none of us can change, no matter how much we would wish to.  

I make my way round the length of the 25 foot train, and then I come to the shoes.
Handmade, with 542 hand-knotted, mother-of-pearl sequins on each pair, and lovely hand-painted soles, these are works of art to be sure.  But there is something else about them that brings me up cold.  They seem, in their humbleness of purpose, to conjure the woman that was Diana more than all the other articles combined.  For there are scuffs on the soles, scuffs that were made from the stone stairs of St. Paul’s, that were created on a palace balcony overlooking a multicoloured ocean of smiling faces - scuffs that make it all so ordinary, so real.   These are the shoes that took a pretty woman from a quiet life of a nursery school teacher into one of soul shuddering fame.  These shoes climbed into that golden coach on that bright morning in July, made their way up the steps of the old stone cathedral, and walked down that endless carpet of red, into a life none of us, including their wearer, could have ever foreseen.  I stare at them, transfixed.

Suddenly I feel a chill, like the icy fingers of regret reaching out to grasp my memories, and I am grateful that a happy May sun awaits me outside. I weave my way through the whispering crowd and back out into the light. 
But on the way home I find my mind roaming the corridors of deep thought, where the doors are emblazoned with words such as Fate, Destiny, and Choice. 
And I  wonder.
If Diana had known what the ending would be,
 would she still have agreed to her part in the play?  
Would she still have slipped her feet inside those lovely shoes?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Two of Us

I had left the party and wandered alone, down to the garden. Following a path where the rhododenrons linked their arms of fuschia overhead, I came to a clearing where the mock orange grew.   
And that’s when I saw him, his cottonball of a tail shining diamond white in the sinking shadows of the Spring night.  
We looked at each other for the longest time, the baby rabbit and I.  His pink nose twitching, his little foot tap-tapping like a card player wondering which card to play next.   The two of us, he so wild, me fairly domesticated, locking eyes in our curiousity and wonder. 
I spoke to him gently but he scampered away, under the border and off into the wood.   
 What would he say to his family about me? 
That I was so strange, far too tall, and too pale? 
Or perhaps, just perhaps, that he recognized something within me - something kindred, something free.  
That he wondered about the bonds that held me in my place. 
That he wondered why I did not follow him.

The wonderful rabbit painting above is by artist, Amber Alexander.  Along with many other marvelous creatures, he is available in her Etsy shop, HERE.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


The winsome face in the photograph above does not belong to Edward, although the resemblance is uncanny. 
No, the furry boy sitting beneath the tree in his garden in France is Digby.
Digby, along with his brother, Wilf, is a Polish Lowland Sheepdog whose daily adventures are charmingly chronicled by his master, Angus, in a blog entitled Wilf and Digby Discover France.  Both brothers share enough of Edward’s valuable DNA that they have felt like family from the moment of my very first visit.  Their delightful blog is my first stop each and every morning.  Shockingly, Digby passed away today, the result of a voracious tick bite disease, and I now find myself grieving for a dog I never even met.  

There is a soul connection one makes with one’s dog.  It is as if they hand you a lifeline to another world, a world of goodness and understanding, full of comfort, acceptance and joy. My favourite quotation has always been this one by C.S. Lewis: 
 “Man with dog closes a gap in the universe”.  
I have heart knowledge of what he means.  And I know Angus does as well.
But dogs, it seems, are born to break our hearts.  If only their boundless love, always unconditional, always pure, could be matched in kind with the years they are alotted here on this earth. Such precious few years, flying by like the wind.
I have followed Digby’s short, and horribly sudden, illness these past two weeks, seeing his furry face in my head every hour, getting up in the middle of the night to check and see if perhaps there was a welcome update, hoping and praying for the sweet chap to pull through.  I was heartbroken to learn he had not. So I hug Edward a bit tighter today, I encourage him to hop up beside me, to place his big furry head in my lap.  The depth of feeling that I have for him is worth the pain eventually to come.

There are those who think the notion of heaven is nothing more than a fantasy to soothe a fearful soul.  I am not one of those people.  I believe in an afterlife of goodness and peace.  But my heart does not long for a heavenly mansion.  I have no desire to travel down avenues cobbled in bricks of pure gold.  All I wish for is a small little cottage, perhaps one near to the sea, where I might eternally dwell with all the dogs who have shared my time here on earth, from the devoted little terrier of my childhood, to big, kind, wonderful Edward, each one at play on flower filled hillsides, each one resting beside me beneath the gentle rays of a holy sun.
And I believe Digby is there at this moment, waiting on his family, waiting on Wilf.

It is a unique pain to lose a dog, a visceral pain like none other I have experienced.  It is because I am well acquainted with what Digby’s passing has brought to Angus and his wife, that I find myself grieving alongside them through so many miles, wishing there was something I could do, some small comfort I could give.
I know my readers to be a kind and generous group.  Please take the time to go over HERE and see what a marvelous fellow Digby was, meet his big brother, and send your love to the family.

This is one of the sweetest poems that I know.  
I send it out to my friend Angus, with my love and deepest sympathy.     

Man and Dog

Who's this—alone with stone and sky?
It's only my old dog and I—
It's only him; it's only me;
Alone with stone and grass and tree.

What share we most—we two together?
Smells, and awareness of the weather.
What is it makes us more than dust?
My trust in him; in me his trust.

Here's anyhow one decent thing
That life to man and dog can bring;
One decent thing, remultiplied
Till earth's last dog and man have died.

by Siegfried Sassoon

Thursday, May 6, 2010

A List of Spring Magic

Here in the South, for about ten days every Spring, we are trapped like a flies in a yellow jar.  Like a duststorm of dry mustard, pollen descends from the pine trees, coating everything, everything, with a dusty layer of brassy powder.
We close our houses up tight, we brush the dogs every night.  Apple’s black coat still turns rather green, so baths are more frequent.  All the cars become the same undesirable colour, and exhuberant sneezes are heard in every quarter.
And then one day, the rains come.  On a still afternoon we hear it, that sudden crack of thunder, the bugle call from a calvary of raindrops that fall from the skies to wash away all our gloom.  Windows are flung open, happy sighs are heard, the dogs shake off and smile.  It is now well and truly Spring and we walk down fresh streets newly bathed and glistening with all the primary colours of May.

There is newness all around us.   The garden is a avian nursery,  baby wrens are just waking in the pink birdhouse on the porch,  and a pair of ruby-feathered cardinals are tending to their brand new brood in the rose bush.  The Songwriter rescued, and relocated, seven baby opossum from the eager curiousity of Edward only last week... a drama that took up an entire day... and at dusk the garden is wiggly with baby rabbits.  And, in the really true spirit of Spring, friends had a brand new baby only last week.

So, I decided it was high time for a new favourites list.  Ten little bits of magic and wonder to compliment the season, to bring smiles and set imaginations aglow.


1.  Garden  Statuary
There is a large stone frog that guards a flowerbed in my front garden, seated like a prince beneath blue sage and pink foxgloves. Whist deep in the back garden, a large copper frog the size of a boy scout nestles under ancient oaks and poplars, seated on a stone toadstool, reading a book he’ll never finish.  Every garden should have such creatures.  Here are some truly magical ones.  They're by artist, David Goode.  
Aren't they wonderful?


2.  The Whimsy of a Finger Puppet
I thought this would be perfect for a child.  But the more I consider it, I think an adult, like myself perhaps, might love it even more.


3.  Jewelry
In the movie To Catch A Thief, Grace Kelly’s character said she never wore jewelry, explaining, “I don’t like the feel of something cold against my skin”.   
 I say this necklace is worth the risk.


4.  Sunhats 
I always were sunscreen, with the highest SPF I can find.  It’s the best skincare advice I can give.  But to be safe, I also wear hats in the sun.  Big, floppy hats worthy of Cannes.  
This one is divine, don’t you think?


5.  Happy Books
There is something about May that makes me want to read books that make me smile.  Or perhaps to reread old favourites from days gone by.  
Here’s two of the best.


6.  Frocks
I adore the clothing of wintertime.  The suits, the shawls, the boots, the gloves.  I feel more inclined to dress like an adult, more polished, more sedate.  But with the warm weather I find that I dress mostly in play clothes.  Linen shirts, pink trousers, a strand of pearls and bare feet.  When I do have to dress up, I want to wear somthing floaty, something enchanting, something more apt to be called a frock.  Like this dress by David Ellwand.  I can just imagine it, with flowers in my hair and ten bare toes, perfectly polished in red.  Sadly, Mr. Ellwand only designs clothes for the wee folk amongst us.  But his work is marvelous.


7.  Tiny Purses
I tend to carry large handbags.  In summer they are ususally woven straw bags that I have to confess, I adore.  I’ve tried to fit everything into tiny bags, really I have.  But between wallets and lipstick, journals and dog biscuits, a hardcover book and a wee bit of knitting, it just never seems to work.   However, these lovely handmade purses make me want to give it another go.  I think they are perfect for an elegant spring dinner at an outside cafe.


 8Ships and Birds
Every now and then I come across an artist that rocks me back on my heels.  Someone with a unique eye, who creates things marvelous to behold.  Take a look at this chap.  Handmade by artist, Ann Wood, he and his fellow owls sell out the moment she places them into her shop.  I know, I’ve tried to get there before they’re gone.  I am partial to this diabolical black gentleman, but here are owls of all colours, as well as magnificent handmade ships that you just have to see to believe. Wander around her shop and her enchanting blog and see if you don’t agree that she’s a real find.


9. Fairy Shoes
Years ago, in one of my favourite antique haunts, I spied a pair of tiny little shoes.   Very old, covered in green suede, their tiny toes pointed upwards with feathers on the end.  Entranced, I asked the proprieitess about them.  She was as intrigued as I.  Were they for a child, or an elf?  An infant, or a fairy?  All I knew was that they had to be mine.  They have rested atop a stack of books on a table near my fireplace ever since, a source of wonderment each time I gaze on them.  Below is their photograph, and I’m so pleased to say that now I just might be able to create a similar pair - brand-new,  for someone special.  Artist and blogger Annette Emms has provided a pattern for the enchanting fairy shoes that she makes.
  What a treat!  I’ve ordered mine. 
 Go get yours HERE.


10.  Babies in Fairy Hats
As I stated above, a couple of friends such had a brand-new baby daughter. 
 The ultimate celebration of Spring.  
Here she is, just a few days old, modeling the knitted hat I made for her. 
 Doesn’t she look like a little fairy herself?


What are your favourite things this spring? 
Do share!