Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Bits of Summer Afternoons

Bits of Summer Afternoons

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

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

Taking a Break to Sit in the Clover...

Surprise in a Garden....

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

and the Real Girl at the Seaside.

A New Addition to the Sidewalk Garden...

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

The Fluffy Furry Summer Fellow...

Friday, July 25, 2014

Time Thieves

Time Thieves

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See?  It is a funny picture!

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

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Like a Room Without a Roof

Like a Room Without a Roof

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Happy Fourth of July!

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

John F. Kennedy