Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Every Now and Then, the Bluebells Wait for You

Every Now and Then, the Bluebells Wait for You
Like most people of romantic bent, I fell headlong in love with the Merchant Ivory film interpretation of E. M. Forster’s wonderful novel, Howards End, the first time I saw it.  Every frame, whether verdant or urban, enchanted me. Vanessa Redgrave’s long white gown trailing through the evening dew in the opening scene.  The charming rooms of the Schlegel sisters' home in Wickham Place.  Poor Leonard Bast, influenced by George Meredith’s Richard Peverel, walking all night through a Spring carpet of bluebells stretched out on a forest floor, a forest that “drooped glimmeringly”.  As a child of the American South, my Springtime carpets have always been green.  The limes of new moss; the emeralds of clover.  Seeing a shady forest blanketed in blue was something straight out of fairy tale to my mind.  Could it be real? I could not empirically say.  
Though prevalent in an English spring, bluebells are early bloomers and as my plane followed the moon across the Atlantic in the middle of May, I had no hope of seeing them.  They would have already flamed and gone, remaining but one more of those memories of imagination not unlike Scrooge’s door knocker or the celestial pathway to Neverland, just a wonderful snippet that sits in one’s mind and often seems more tangible that fact.  
But my journey by plane, tube, train and car led me to a magical place.  Through a diamond shaped window in my charming bedroom, I could see an Elizabethan tower presiding over a legendary garden, a garden in which the footsteps of literary giants once pressed the grasses and climbed the tower to a room full of books and ideas.  The wind beat the windows as I slept that night, blowing any remnant of the commonplace away like the ashes of a cooled fire.  I awoke to the beckoning call of the garden, dressed quickly and headed out under a sky full of rolling clouds..
All morning long I wandered through rooms of green, along great swathes of yellow and lime.  I entered a walled garden of bridal gown white, emperor tulips nodding in the wind.  I was lost in daydream when, out of the corner of my eye, just beyond the garden wall, I spied a pathway.  Prone as I am to drift apart from the others, to duck under fences and wander away, naturally I followed it.  A grey farm dog ran past me, looking over his shoulder as he went as if to say, 
“This way.  Come this way.”  
The birds sang a lyrical welcome as I went.  Crossing meadows and rounding past ponds, I followed magpies over wooden bridges that lay like cupped hands cross rippling streams.  I strolled past the lambs of a new season and ducked under willows only recently dressed in ball gowns of green till, suddenly, tall trees closed in around me and everywhere, everywhere, I looked was blue.  It was just as I imagined, just as I dreamed.  Bluebells.  In every corner of the forest, waving in the wind a greeting of memory, imaginary and real, ancient and new.  I stood, transfixed, and laughed.
“It’s been a late Spring here”, my innkeeper told me later.  “We thought they’d never bloom.  It’s lucky for you that you came when you did.  Any earlier and I’m afraid you would’ve been disappointed”.
Sometimes the sights we dream of seeing are just outside our reach.  On the banks of a country river, we look round for Ratty and Mole, but find they’ve sailed round the bend just before we arrived.  If indeed Number 17 Cherry Tree Lane exists in a London borough, I have no confidence we’d find Mary Poppins minding the children inside if we knocked on the door, even if the wind was blowing in from the East.  But I’ve found it best not to give up hope, for every now and then the seasons and stories combine and conspire to surprise.  Every now and then, the bluebells wait for you.

I stayed here and it was wonderful!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Explore. Dream. Discover.

Explore.  Dream.  Discover.

In the upcoming days the curtains I pull back at dawn will reveal unfamiliar landscapes. 
 A tall tower standing in the middle of an ivory garden.  
A simple bedroom where the sheets are “stretched tight and the bed is narrow”  
and the lyrical language of its revered inhabitant 
still dips and swirls in the springtime light.
I shall wander through family house in the country
 in which an entire movement of art was born and nurtured.
I shall spend an evening with Peter and Alice, released now as they are from the pages of childhood.  I shall have breakfast with a Provencal princess, one who generously shares the essence of her French life with beauty and wit.  I shall wander London bookshops with a novice novelist.  
And I just might be offered a magic wand.  
This of course, I shall have to decline, for I already have one of my own.
I am off to pick up the stones on a new road,
 releasing new stories and hearing new songs.  
I shall return soon.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor .Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” 
Mark Twain

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Through the Window

Through the Window

Except for one unfortunate and blessedly brief anomaly when I was about eight, I have had long hair all of my life.  Therefore I know the value of the six week trim and follow that schedule religiously.  Upon making my latest appointment, I put the phone back in my pocket and could almost swear I heard my Mother’s voice once again. 

“You’ve made an appointment at the salon”.
“Are you going to get it styled this time?”

“Styled” was my Mother’s little euphemism - slightly snarky, but ever hopeful - for a haircut that would, finally, yank me from the brink of contumaciousness and plop me solidly down in the clover of risk-free respectability.  Really, who could blame her? When she was young hardly any woman over forty had long hair and, if they did, it usually came with some sort of iconoclastic t’shirt and often without the appropriate ladylike undergarments.  It is laughable to think of any of my schoolteachers with long and frequently windblown hair such as mine is now.  But then, I dare say few of us resemble our schoolteachers these days.

Don’t get me wrong, I know full well that I’m getting, ahem... older.  Everyone is, after all.  But I’m grateful that the oft unspoken, but still ironclad, rules that governed my Mother and her friends have for the most part been jettisoned along with eight-track tapes and girdles.  My sartorial choices have infinitely more to do with personal taste than any sort of age restriction and I never turn down any experience just because I think I’m too old.  Case in point... last week, upon returning to town from our little sabbatical whilst the floors of the cottage were being redone, I found myself barred from the bedroom because the hallway floors were not quite dry.  What to do?  The Songwriter took Edward and Apple out into the back garden to bunk down in the studio but somehow that just didn’t seem all that comfortable to me.  I was tired, I’d been driving for most of the day with two large dogs in the car and I knew my soft, lovely bed was just out of reach.  So, just as I would have done when I was sixteen... I carefully crawled inside the newly budded rose bush, jimmied a window and climbed up, up and in.  Never gave it a second thought.  Never once considered such an activity might be ill-advised till I told several people the next day who, upon hearing of my adventure, laughed just a little too loudly for my liking.  Let them laugh.  I slept soundly in my own bed and climbed out the window next morning fresh as a daisy.

(Of course the really funny aspect of this story happened following a midnight phone call from The Songwriter who informed me that Edward had no intention of sleeping away from me.  So... you guessed it, in a few moments I spied at my window the happy, grinning face of a big white furry dog, framed by pink rose buds, as Edward was hoisted up and into the very same portal I’d tumbled through earlier.  Edward, of course, acted as though this were an everyday occurrence, calmly hopping up on the bed, placing his head across my ankles as usual and falling immediately asleep.  Dogs keep us young as well, you know.) 

In speaking about her new book, Living the Good Long Life, the uber-active lifestyle doyenne, Martha Stewart, tells us that seventy is the new fifty.  Of course, she’s seventy-one, so she would say that, I suppose.  But I do appreciate her attitude and have no doubt she has some wisdom to impart in this latest publishing venture.  For myself, I never really thing about age.  When I do, it’s rather stunning to realize that it’s happening in spite of my long hair and climbing capabilities.  Ah well, I still left the salon yesterday without resorting to any sort of “style” and from her heavenly portal, I have no doubt my Mother was still shaking her head in frustration.
Maybe when I get to be Martha’s age, I’ll just wear it up.

Find it HERE

Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Low Country

The Low Country

It isn’t the light, seeping through the tops of the trees like honey,
 gathering in golden puddles here and there amongst the shady pools of the pines.
  It isn’t even the fragrance: the tea olive, the jasmine, the sea.
  No, it is the Sound that transforms this sandy pathway through the maritime forest into a transport to myth, a passage through legend.  Heralding a storm, the wind blows in, threading through the trees in blue-grey ribbons that twist the palms and palmettos into a raspy rattling orchestra, ever increasing in volume, a deafening crescendo of forest music. 
 I close my eyes and turn to meet it face to face as a gift, a blessing.
Strains of ancient melodies are heard as it passes, 
low pitched as murmurs,  lyrical notes of the Gullah and the Owl. 
We do not hear these sounds at home.
 The big white dog, his fur ruffled, stops suddenly,
 one front paw raised as a finger to his lips. 
 There, through the trees, a family of deer, wide-eyed and pure,
 stands frozen in our gaze.
  Eyes meet, chasms breach, then as suddenly as age,
 they disappear into the crowd of gnarled trunks and paper leaves.  
Just under the sand, dazzling green lizards zip away on thoroughfares only they know, 
a glimpse of emerald here, and there.
We do not see these sights at home.

They call this land the Low Country, a region that sits serenely in the palm of the earth’s hand, so close to the shallows of the sea that grasses and salt water intertwine like clasped hands.  Here, ballad and rhyme rise up through the very ground one walks upon.   Mystery becomes fable; fable becomes truth.  Almost without cognition, one senses the fragrance of the air enter the body like an idea.  It winds and flows through the soul - slowing, smoothing - till peace becomes the order of the day.  
 Our walks become longer and longer. 
 We dine on fresh raspberries and cheese.
We know we shall return to the world of tension and technology before too long.  
But not now.  
Not now.


Edward, Apple and I have just returned from a week long escape while the floors of our cottage were being re-done.  A messy business and one ill-suited to life with two big furry dogs, one of whom is recuperating from knee surgery.  Apple is doing quite well and a hearty thank you to all who have inquired about her.  I took her on prescribed therapeutic walks on sandy pathways three times a day whilst we were gone; Edward, naturally, required much longer ones.  This meant, of course, that yours truly was taking six walks a day and is now in fine fettle herself!  Below is a photo of Apple the day her stitches were removed.  Very happy girl.