Saturday, October 31, 2015

Contentment, A Ghost Story... Chapter Four

Chapter Four

Marietta went to bed early that night.  A strong wind was howling up from the sea, a herald of winter in this, the last week of October.  Roy followed her upstairs as though this was something he’d done every night of his life and Marietta found it strangely comforting when he jumped up on the foot of her bed and laid his head across her ankles. 

“Don’t get too comfortable”, she warned him.  “I have to find your real owner tomorrow.”  The two of them fell sound asleep almost immediately while the wind rattled the windowpanes and whistled round the cottage eaves.

But next morning, Marietta woke to a low sky, the color of steel.  She could hear the rain pounding the roof above her and one look outside the window told her she’d not be venturing into town today.  The fir trees were bending double on the hillside and an angry sea was throwing waves high up on the rocks.  

Looking down at the foot of her bed she could see Roy, the big black dog, still sound asleep on his side.  He took up half the bed.  

The two of them, woman and dog, enjoyed scrambled eggs for breakfast.  Marietta smiled down at the dog as he lapped his up from the bowl bearing his name.  “Well, I guess you used to live here, didn’t you?  That’s the only thing I can figure.  Don’t know why I didn’t notice your things in the pantry before you got here, but I must have just missed them.”  But even as she said this, Marietta knew the food and the dog bowls had not been there before Roy arrived.  She’d chosen not to think too hard about this.

A knock on the back door startled them both.  Marietta looked out to see a young woman standing on the porch in the rain.  She opened the door.

“Goodness, what a morning!”, the young woman said, laughing.  “Don’t suppose you have the kettle on.  I could use a cup of tea.”

She was bundled up against the wind in a cape the color of cherries.  A hood was pulled up over her head and she peered out at Marietta beneath a cascade of auburn hair.  Her eyes were bright green and like Marietta’s previous unexpected visitors, she wore an open and engaging smile.  There seemed to be nothing for it but to invite her in.

“Yes, yes, do come in out of the weather”, said Marietta.  “We were just finishing breakfast, but you’re more than welcome to join us if you like.”

“ I see Roy’s decided to stay this time, “ said the young woman with a laugh.  “It’s been a long time since he’s done that.  Usually he doesn’t approve of people in his house.  That speaks really well of you.”

“Oh, do you know the dog?”, Marietta asked.  “I figured he’d lived here before.  He seemed so at home.”

“Well sure, I know him.  Everyone one of us knows Roy.  He might have even lived here before, I can’t exactly remember.  He was before my time, you see.  Seems like he’s always been around though, at least to me.”

This seemed as strange an answer as the youngster Robbie’s had been.  Marietta decided to ask a few more questions.  “I’m Marietta Cline.  I don’t think I know you?”

“I’m Kendra Pierce, and no, we wouldn’t have met.  I’m fairly new,  just a  few months now.  Still getting used to the place.  But I love it, wasn’t what I expected at all.  Certainly not what I was led to believe.  We’re all tickled you’ve moved in here, by the way.  Most people wouldn’t, you know.”

“Why wouldn’t they?”  Marietta remembered now how long the cottage had been on the market and felt a odd shiver of apprehension run like a trickle of ice down the back of her neck.

“Well, the house might put some people off.  People who like privacy, I suspect.  People who don’t like visitors, you know.  Seems you do.  Robbie said you were really nice.”

“Oh, you know Robbie, do you?  Are you two related.”

Kendra Pierce laughed, her green eyes dancing.  “Lord no.  Robbie’s at least fifty years older than me.”  She opened her coat and pulled out a package, neatly wrapped up in parchment paper.  “Almost forgot this!  I brought you a cake.  Thought you seemed the sort of woman who’d appreciate chocolate. And I make the best chocolate cake around, even if I do say so myself.”

Marietta stared. “We must be talking about a different person.  The Robbie I’m referring to couldn’t be any more than eight or nine years old.  Light hair, a few freckles.”

“Yes, yes, I know him.  Really friendly little chap.  He showed me around when I first arrived.  Knows everybody, does Robbie.  Look, I hate to run off, but I’m due over at the Simenson’s later for choir practice.  I’ll stop by another day, shall I?  Robbie was right.  You’re a nice lady.  I think you’ll enjoy being here.”

Before Marietta could formulate her next question, and she had quite a few, Kendra Pierce had pulled her crimson cape back round her shoulders, pulled up her hood and left in the blowing rain.  Marietta watched her go, taking the same path down to the stormy sea that the youngster Robbie had done. 

After Kendra’s visit, the knocks on Marietta’s back door became more and more frequent.  A tiny girl, no more than three, brought her a bunch of violets and, when asked where they came from, for violets in October could only be purchased, not picked, the child merely laughed and skipped away.  A gentleman in a clerical collar arrived one evening with a stack of Agatha Christie’s in his arms.  “You’ll enjoy these on the cold nights.”  It wasn’t until after he’d left that Marietta noticed each one was a pristine first edition.  There was a plump little elderly woman named Julie who brought her some cashmere knitting wool the color of limes.  “You do knit, don’t you?  Yes, I thought so.”  Her husband, Charles, arrived at the end of the visit, bearing more firewood to replenish the dwindling pile by the door.  “Yes’m, it was me that chopped that first lot for you.  You’ll be needin’ more this winter.  You can count of me.  I’ll make sure you’ve got it.”

Looking at the frail old man, Marietta said, “Well, I’m sure you’ll both be needing some as well.  Don’t overdo it on my account.”

To her amazement, the old couple fell about laughing.  “Ah, Mrs. Cline, we don’t need firewood.  What on earth would we do with that?”  Clasping hands, they set off down the hill with Marietta staring at them from her front porch in confusion.

Final Chapter Tomorrow Night at Midnight
Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 30, 2015

Contentment, A Ghost Story - Chapter Three

Chapter Three

It was a week before the first visitor.  Marietta discovered Corinne James had certainly been correct when she’d described the house as being more than fully furnished.  The tiny cottage was like a fairytale, with everything inside seemingly chosen with care and an artist’s eye.  The beds were downy, dressed with lavender-scented linen sheets and topped with stacks of embroidered French quilts.  The old leaded glass windows sparkled and shone, each offering views of the blue grey sea.  The kitchen was already stocked with everything Marietta could think of needing, including fresh fruit and farm eggs.  There was even a stack of seasoned firewood  neatly arranged by the backdoor.  Marietta meant to phone Corinne to inquire who’d been so generous but, strangely, there wasn’t a phone in the whole of the cottage.  Marietta assumed people these days generally relied on their mobile phones, but couldn’t seem to get an adequate signal on hers.  She knew it was something she’d have to rectify soon, but the quiet so suited her, she didn’t place it high on her list of priorities.  

That morning, the sun woke her.  It streamed into her room almost audibly, like some sort of heavenly laughter, flooding every corner with pink and gold and beckoning her to the window.  She sat in her chair as she pulled on her slippers, looking out at the early sunlight dancing on the sea and once again, as she’d done often over the past week, she marveled at her good fortune.  This place was paradise.

Heading down the stairs to the kitchen, Marietta heard a knock on the back door.  She paused. Having had no contact with anyone since she’d arrived, she’d found she liked the solitude and now wasn’t sure if she wanted to have visitors.  She peered around the corner to see if she could catch a glimpse of her caller before she chose whether or not to open the door.  Finding this impossible, she decided to risk it and answer.  

“Just a second”, she called.  

“Ok”, came a small voice.  A child?  Marietta opened the door to see a tow-headed boy of about eight standing on her doorstep, wearing a red sweater and a big grin.  He had a wire basket on his arm, full of eggs.

“Some of these here are still warm”, he said proudly.  “Thought you’d like ‘em.  Figured you was about to run out by now.”

“Oh, did you bring the others?  They were so good.  I’ve had a couple every morning this week.  I had no idea who’d brought them.  I’m happy to be able to thank you!  Come inside, that’s a stiff wind out there this morning.  I’m Marietta, by the way.  What’s your name?”

Still grinning, the boy followed her inside, placing the basket of eggs on the pine kitchen table.  “My name’s Robbie.  But you don’t have to worry ‘bout thankin’ me for them others.  These here are the first ones I’ve brought you.  But if you like ‘em, I’ll bring you more when you need ‘em.  Won’t be no trouble.”

“You’re very kind, Robbie.  Thank your Mother for me, too, will you?  And do you have any idea who did bring the others.  They were here the day I moved in.”

“Well, no ma’am, I don’t know who might’ve brought those.  “Spose it was one of us, though.”

“I see”, said Marietta, as one by one she placed the warm eggs into a large bowl.  This was confusing, but she didn’t want to hit the boy with too many questions.  He was just doing her a kindness, after all.  “Where do you live, Robbie?  I’d love to come thank your Mother in person.”

“Oh, you can’t do that, Mrs.  She ain’t come yet.  Might not be a long time now before she does, though.  I left pretty early, you see.”  His grin was wider than ever even though Marietta was sure the expression she was returning to him was odd and questioning.

“Um, well… can I get you a biscuit, Robbie?  Maybe some hot chocolate?  It’s had to have been a pretty chilly walk up the hill this morning.”

“Oh, no ma’am.  Ain’t got time today.  Maybe another mornin’?”

“Certainly, Robbie.  Come by anytime.”  Marietta couldn’t help but be taken by the little fellow.  That grin was infectious.  She waved him goodbye, expecting him to head back down the road.  Instead, he took the pathway that led down to the sea, his empty egg basket still swinging on his arm.


It was later that afternoon when the dog showed up.  Marietta had spent the day on the fat floral sofa writing letters, attempting to explain her choice to move away to several friends to whom she knew she owed some sort of clarification.  She’d also written Macon, anticipating his irritation at her seemingly rash decision as well as his resentment at being handed the duty of selling her house.   It was in the middle of this letter that she decided not to get a phone line put in.  

She'd put the last stamp on the last letter and was considering getting up to put the kettle on when she heard a snuffling sound coming from the front porch.  Leaning out over the back of the sofa she craned her neck to see out and spied a large black dog sitting in front of the door.  He had a white star on his furry chest and a plumed tail that was wagging as if he was home.  And sure enough, when she opened the door, the big dog ran in, jumping and leaping as though she were his long lost love.

“Whoa there, boy”, she said as she danced out from the circle of his exuberance.  “We don’t know each other that well.”  

But the dog didn’t seem to agree with her.  He romped from room to room, with Marietta chasing after him, before finally racing up the stairs to the tiny back bedroom under the eaves.  There he stopped in front of the closet door, turned to Marietta and barked, loudly.

“For pity’s sake!  You don’t live here, you know.”  Marietta paused, winded, at the door to the room.  “This has been fun, but you have got to get on home now, boy.”  But, continuing to bark, the dog had now started pawing at the closet door, turning occasionally to look Marietta square in the eyes.

“Oh Lord, ok then.  I’ll show you there’s nothing in there for you.”  

Crossing the room, she grabbed hold of the old brass doorknob and pulled.  With a  crack the door swung open, revealing a large padded dog bed covered in red and black tartan squeezed inside on the floor.  Marietta stared.  She slowly turned to look at the dog.  He was now sitting calmly on the floor behind her, and she could swear he was smiling.   She pulled the bed out of the closet and headed back downstairs with it bumping along behind her.  When she dropped it by the front door, the big dog sat for a moment, then got up, placed a corner of the bed in his mouth and pulled it resolutely to a spot just to the right of the fireplace.  He then climbed inside, circled a couple of times, and lay down with a sigh.  

“Well, I’ve always liked dogs”, she said out loud.  “But you have to belong to somebody.  You’re too pretty not to.  You can stay here tonight, but I’ll have to get out tomorrow and find out who your owners are.  Till then, you’re probably hungry.  I’ll see what I can find you. “ Marietta went into the kitchen to get something for the big dog to eat, but when she opened the pantry door she felt her knees go a bit weak.  She felt around behind her for a kitchen chair and sat down with a plop.  

There on the pantry floor sat a large bag of dog food and a bowl.   The name Roy was painted on the side in gold letters.  After a moment or two, Marietta called out in a weak and watery voice, “Roy?”

The big dog bounded into the room and gave her his paw.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Contentment, A Ghost Story.... Chapter Two

Chapter Two

Crossing over from golden New Hampshire into the state of Maine, Marietta rolled the car windows down.  All four of them.  She’d been lucky with the weather the whole way up.  Skies the exact colour of the blue crayons that bore their name.  The air smelled just as she’d imagined it would.  Spicy and clean.  Salt spray.  Autumn leaves.  She’d driven slower than those behind her would have wished, letting them pass her at will, finding the indignant expressions on their faces amusing.  She wanted to look at the sea.  Except for the occasional August week on the panhandle when she was little, she’d never seen much of the ocean.  And just as she’d expected, Florida oceans bore no resemblance to the wildly nonchalant waters now smacking the rocks by the road beside her; rising up, racing out.  Florida seas seemed to know they were only there to show tourists a good time.  Here they seemed more than decorative; these were waters to take seriously.

Turning off Highway 1 Marietta drove past fields that stretched across to the pink horizon, rarely seeing a house, never spotting a person.  Scarlet maples and emerald firs, as dramatically lush as theatre curtains, lined both sides of the road as it began to descend downwards, inching closer and closer to the sea.  Marietta breathed in the unfamiliar scents, sweeter than any perfume captured in glass. 

The village of Hancock consisted of seven shops which formed parallel lines on either side of a narrow road that dove like a gannet straight down to blue water.  Marietta drove slowly down the small hill, her sun-tired eyes scanning the shops till she found the one she was looking for.  Peter James and Sons, General Store.  Corrine James, wife of Peter’s second son, Mark, was supposed to be holding the keys to her new cottage.  Corrine had handled the sale for an owner Marietta had never spoken with.  Thinking about that now as she pulled her little blue Toyota into the parking place in front of the store, it dawned on her that she didn’t even know the owner’s name.  It had just been listed as “Owner” on the contract she’d sighed on her kitchen table and mailed back with her check.  It hadn’t struck her as particularly strange at the time, but now, as she stood on the sidewalk stretching her tired back and looking around, it did a bit.  Jasper had always made Marietta read the fine print on any contract they’d signed.  Who does that?  

She locked the car and turned round to look down the deeply sloping street.  The sky was darkening into colours straight from the paint box of Maxfield Parrish.  Indigo and teal, deep and soft as old velvet, streaked with a splashing of fairytale pink.  Marietta sighed.  It was all just as she’d imagined, each new sight was an affirmation of her decision.

Turning to her left she faced the store she’d been seeking. From the look of things,  James and Sons was pretty much a one stop shop.  The windows held everything from a display of artfully arranged kitchen and baking utensils: wooden spoons, fat, shiny tea kettles, and an assortment of large red pots that seemed to call out their desire to be filled to the brim with hearty soups and stews. There were stacks of plaid blankets, knitted hot water bottle covers, flannel shirts and fair isle sweaters, all speaking louder than any weatherman about the likelihood for a harsh winter.  Here and there, grinning malevolently at passersby sat the bright orange jack-o-lanterns that seemed to populate the windows of most New England establishments this week before Halloween.

The bell above the wooden door jangled as Marietta stepped inside.  The last rays of the setting sun fell through the half open shutters the covered the windows,  painting ribbons of gold on the old plank floors. Dust motes danced in the light.  A forest fragrance threaded the air, like the inside of a cedar chest.

“Hello?”, Marietta thought her voice sounded weak.  She cleared her throat and tried again.  “Hello!  Is anyone there?”

Sounds came from the back of the store:  a drawer closing, some papers ruffling, then a chair scraping back as someone got up.  The footsteps were brisk as they came towards her, heels clicking on the old pine floors.  A few seconds later, Marietta saw a tall, thin woman emerge into the setting sunlight.

In her grade school days, Marietta’s family had owned a mynah bird named Mr. Smith.  Sleek and dark, with eyes like ebony beads, he’d sat for years in a Victorian birdcage in the sunroom, observing the family with a resentful, nearly sinister, air.  She’d hated passing by that bird’s cage, though her brother Macon seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time with the thing.  The family found out the reason for Macon’s inexplicable devotion one springtime afternoon, when Mr. Smith began yelling out unspeakable words during a Sunday dinner, each expletive worse than the last, and each uttered in the unmistakable Southern drawl of her brother.  Mr. Smith was gone the next day.

Marietta now felt she was in the presence of that mynah bird once again, so great was the resemblance between the woman standing before her and Mr. Smith.  She could feel herself once again being scrutinized by two small dark eyes peering out from a face that was tiny and tight.  The woman was dressed in a black woolen skirt that fell just below her knees.  Black stockings, black pumps, black turtleneck sweater.  A fairly extravagant shawl the colour of fire was draped around her neck, its points nearly reaching the hem of her skirt.  She was an arresting figure.  Marietta swallowed.

“Hello.  I’m Marietta Cline.  Here to pick up the keys to the cottage on Sea Street.  I’m the new owner.”

The woman’s tiny eyes widened as much as they could given the paucity of their size and she smiled.  “Ah.  Yes.  I’ve been expecting you.  Come back to the office, won’t you.  I’ve got everything ready for you there.”

She turned on a black heel and headed back into the shop at a clip.  Marietta followed.

In total contrast with the homespun shop in front, the office Marietta entered was unexpectedly bright and contemporary.  All straight lines and right angles.  A razor sharp sofa sat idling along a large picture window that took full advantage of the day’s remaining sunlight and an impressively large, and obviously well-tended, white orchid sat atop a glass table so clear and clean it could have doubled as a mirror. The only colour came from a perfectly arranged stack of brightly-hued file folders lying atop the shiny black desk.

“Here we go”, said the woman, briskly.  “I’m Corrine James, by the way.  Seems I already know you, but we’ve never met face to face, have we? Only on the phone.  Yes.   I’m Mark James’ wife.  Well, I was.  Been his widow now for a few years.  Still not quite used to that.  I’m sorry about your husband.  Accident, was it?  Well, at least I was prepared a bit.  Mark was sick for a good while.  Let’s see….”.  She lifted a hot pink file from the stack on her desk. It amused Marietta to see she’d been assigned that colour. 

“Yes, here we are.  I think everything’s all in order.  Here are the keys.  The house is furnished, you know.  And I think you’ll be pleased with how fully furnished it is, too.  Nothing missing in that cottage, I can tell you.”  She looked up suddenly, peering into Marietta’s face with almost medical focus.  “Have you ever lived alone?”, she asked.

Taken aback, Marietta said, “Well, not completely.  My husband went out of town occasionally.  Well, once a year.  Fishing trips with his two best friends.  I stayed by myself then.  I did just fine.”  She wondered why she felt the need to reassure this stranger about her abilities to handle her newly single situation.

“Of course.  Of course.  You’ll be fine, I’m sure.  Here’s the directions to the cottage.  You won’t need them.  Just head down to the sea and turn right.  Follow that till the road starts to climb.  You’ll see a turn off to the left in about a mile.  That’s your road.  The cottage is about a half mile down.  Pretty place.”

She placed the keys and the folder in Marietta’s hand and gave her an oddly searching smile.  “I am correct in assuming you found nothing in the contract to give you pause?”

“Well, no.  I didn’t.”  Marietta could almost see Jasper’s disapproving face.  “It all was pretty straight forward, I guess.  The cottage is mine now anyway, right?”  She laughed in what she hoped was a carefree, confident manner.

Corrine James stared at her for a long while before she spoke, turning Marietta’s slight defensiveness into irritation. “Remember your dream of living by the sea”, she said.  “You have what you’ve always wanted now.  You can be content forever, if you wish to be.”  Corrine James turned back to her desk. and, feeling as though she’d been dismissed from the principal’s office with a warning, Marietta turned to go. 

As its name indicated, Sea Street ran parallel to the rocky coastline of the Atlantic Ocean, now glimmering in the dying rays of the sun.  Large clapboard houses stood like sentries along its west side, their windows staring out at the incoming tides, perhaps recalling the bygone days when sea captains dwelled within them, eager to return to the sea.  These statuesque structures became fewer and fewer as Marietta left the village behind her and soon the road began climbing up towards the sunset, its last rays so bright she almost missed the turnoff.  Backing up a bit, Marietta pointed her car off to the left and began bumping along an obviously rarely traveled track, holding tightly to the steering wheel with her eyes straight ahead.  The road fell off dramatically on the left side.  Though she didn’t dare look, she could hear the sea crashing below and was glad of last bits of remaining light.  When road began to level a bit, Marietta could see its end just ahead.  She stopped the car.  Looking up to the right, on the crest of a hill, there it was.  Old stone, old wood.    Wide windows, wide porches.  The cottage by the sea she’d always wanted.  Now her very own home.  Marietta’s heart soared as she pulled into the drive.

To Be Continued ... Chapter Three- Thursday Midnight....

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Contentment.... A Ghost Story... Chapter One

Chapter One

Jasper Cline had been dead exactly eight days when his widow, Marietta, loaded two heavy suitcases into the back of the car, hammered a For Sale sign into the red clay under the apple tree in the front yard, and left.  Without informing him, she’d neatly printed her brother Macon’s phone number on the For Sale sign.  He’d figure it out later and by the time the calls started coming in, she’d be long gone.  Too far away to hear his incredulity clearly.  Too far away to care.

Always in possession of uncanny foresight, Jasper’s old spaniel, Marvel-Ann, had dropped dead two weeks before her master.  Of old age, the vet said.  Privately, Marietta thought the dog simply wanted a head start.  Southern born and bred, just like Jasper, Marvel-Ann would have had no intention of accompanying Marietta to a cliffside cottage above the storm-tossed shores of the northernmost state on the east coast.  So for the first time in her entire life, Marietta Warrington Cline was alone, unfettered.  At sixty-seven, she didn’t know how many years she had left, but she planned to live them as she pleased.  In a cottage by the sea.

As fate would have it, she’d been eyeing this property in Maine for months.  It had long been her habit, after Jasper and Marvel-Ann had turned in for the night, to slip out of bed and peruse Maine real estate websites on the computer in the den.  Truth was, the furtherest north she’d ever been was up to Virginia when she was six, for the funeral of her great-uncle Henry who’d died of colon cancer.  She’d always found it a bit strange that the only thing she knew about that great-uncle was what he’d died of, but because of him she had to check the box on the doctor’s forms that indicated colon cancer ran in her family.  She always imagined great-uncle Henry waving at her from across  the waiting room each time she filled one of those things out.  Families are irritating things sometimes.  They glom onto you even if you’ve never been properly introduced.

She didn’t remember anything about the scenery of Virginia save for the flocked wallpaper of the funeral home on Formosa Street.  She’d never even known anyone from Maine.  But when the photographs of the cottage in Hancock slowly loaded onto her screen one hot July night, incrementally revealing horizontal lines of wood, stone, and sea, her heart had leapt like Christmas.  She’d scrolled down to the price.  Being the one who’d always kept their bank accounts, Marietta knew that amount was doable, even without the sale of their Colonial.  She’d watched that website for months, expecting each time she went there the house would be sold, and feeling unexpected relief each time it wasn’t.  It was a folly, she knew that. She knew Jasper would never consider it.  And she knew she’d never leave Jasper.

But then, in a span of two short weeks, it was Marvel-Ann and old age;  Jasper and the ladder.  He’d never pay the money to hire that red-headed neighbor boy to clean his gutters like the rest of the men on the street.  She’d told him.  Well, at least it was quick.  His head hit the corner of the window box on the way down and that was that.  There’d been a wren’s nest in that window box.  Not a one of the tiny blue eggs had been broken.

The funeral was on Tuesday and Marietta bought the cottage on Wednesday.  She packed up all her books and CD’s, her Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn movies, her mother’s china, the photographs and the paintings, and left it all  in large boxes in the entry hall for the movers to pick up the next week.  The furniture could stay; Macon could throw the lot of it in the dumpster down at the Piggly Wiggly for all she cared. She didn’t need as much as she’d had, and besides, the cottage on the coast was furnished.  From what she could tell in the pictures, the rooms had a nautical look.  Weatherbeaten wood, overstuffed chairs in faded floral linen, old four-posters sitting high off the floor between windows opening out to the sea.  All this suited Marietta Cline perfectly.  She was smiling as she pulled onto the interstate and didn’t look in the rear view mirror once.

To Be Continued...

Friday, October 23, 2015

A List for October....

Fall, leaves, fall; die, flowers, away;
Lengthen night and shorten day!
Every leaf speaks bliss to me,
Fluttering from the autumn tree...
Emily Brontë

A List for October.....

1. Skin Care
The dining room was empty save for the beautiful lady in the painting over the sideboard.  The Songwriter was still sleepily lacing up his hiking boots, so I’d come down to breakfast first.  I made for the table with the view across the meadow to the Scottish sea, and poured myself some hot coffee.  Before long, I heard the door to the kitchen swing open and the sound of little feet pattering on the dark wooden floor.  The innkeeper’s small boy had joined me, unnoticed by the watchful adults making breakfast, and almost immediately he’d dived under my table because, as he informed me with grave seriousness, he was, in all fact, “a spy”.  “Well then, I feel quite safe now”, I told him.

After a few minutes intense surveillance at the large window, he popped up at my elbow.  My phone was lying beside my breakfast plate (see above) and he looked at the case long and hard. 

“Who is that?”, he asked. 

“That's Queen Elizabeth the First”, I replied.  There was a long pause while he considered this tidbit of information.

“Why is her face so white?” 

“Well, because she used to put white powder all over it to make it white.  That’s pretty weird, isn’t it?”

The little fellowed nodded and with a comic’s perfect timing
 he raised his eyes and asked, 
“Why is your face so white?”

The little goober.  Of course I couldn’t help but fall over laughing.  He was right, of course.  I am incredibly fair-skinned, something I tried to rectify in my teens with help from the sun, but to no avail.  So very early on I chose to value my skin over what was for me the ever-elusive tan so prized by my friends, and now that I’m … ahem… more mature, I’m happy that I did.  I sometimes get asked what products I use these days.  Here are a few I rely on in the winter months 
when I’m frequently out in the cold with Edward…

Mario Badescu Chamomile Cream
Wonderful Stuff.
I slather it on every night.
Find it HERE

Mario Badescu Peptide Renewal Serum
My skin seems to love this.
Find it HERE

SKII Masks
I've heard Cate Blanchett wears one of these every time she's on a plane.  I asked The Songwriter if he'd mind if I did that when we fly and by the look of utter horror that flew over his face, I presumed that, yes, he did mind quite a bit.  Truth is, it does make you look like the lead in a spooky movie, until you take it off, that is.  Then I swear you'll have the skin of an eight year old. 
 Marvelous things.
Find them HERE.

2.  Hobbs Jacket
Please somebody stop me.
I don’t need this.
But I am sorely tempted.
With grey wool trousers, grey cashmere turtleneck….
Find it HERE

3.  New, Antique Pillows in the Shop!
I went wild this time.
These are so gorgeous.  And yes, I did steal one for myself.
But you can have any one of these you wish.
Find them HERE
Update:  The red ones are gone, the blue ones remain!

4.  Luna’s Hat for Halloween
When dear Luna Lovegood first appeared in Harry Potter
 wearing this Gryfindor Lion hat, I nearly died.  
What fun it would be to wear this for Halloween.

Find it HERE

5.  Coastal Quilts
A reader was kind enough to send me this link. 
Handmade quilts featuring the coastline maps of many beloved destinations.
Aren’t they beautiful?  And what a special gift.
Imagine giving one to a couple featuring their honeymoon spot.
Find Them HERE

6.  Apron
When I’m in the kitchen in summertime, I’m usually barefoot with my hair up and I’m cooking fast and easy - tossing fresh salads, slicing up big bowls of fruit, snapping beans or shucking corn.  But come October, I’m into some serious cooking.  Gingerbread cakes and whole-grain breads are filling the house with aromas of fall.  Hearty soups and stews bubble away in red pots.  We are heading into holiday season, the pinnacle of the cook’s year, and for that, I need a new apron befitting the spirit I feel when I’m at the stove on a holiday morning.  
This one fits the bill perfectly.
Find It HERE

7.  Return Address Labels
I’ve been making our Christmas cards for years now.  It’s something I love to do, (even though, yes, it’s time-consuming and frequently finished at three in the morning).  If that’s too daunting a task to consider this year, think about these personalized return address labels for your cards.  This company has so many choices, there’s surely one that will fit your family perfectly.  And think of all the time you’ll save if you don’t have to write your return address on every envelope!
Find them HERE

8.  Kites
The Songwriter always takes a kite to the beach.
But this one I’d hang up in a room inside.
Preferably over a bed where someone could stare at it and dream of celestial journeys.
I’ve always adored the art of Ann Wood.
Now I can make one of her magical ships for myself.
Please Lord, can you possibly create more hours in the day??
Find It HERE

9.  The Book for a Dark October Night
I just finished this.
With the light on.
Wow.  Now this is a book for Halloween!
Find it HERE.
By the way.... I’ve got a Halloween story of my own to share.
A little gift for my readers to, hopefully, enjoy…
Chapter One starts Tuesday at midnight!

10.  And Speaking of Books….
A BIG, BIG, Surprise
Is Coming November 1st!
Please Stay Tuned!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

A Visitation of Beauty

A Visitation of Beauty

It was the last thing I expected.  The day had been busy to the point of chaos; so many questions I had to answer, so many places I needed to be.  Now it was after midnight and I sat curled up in my favourite spot, a skein of wonderful wool flowing through my fingers as I knit a new shawl.  With each stitch I wove, another of the day’s irritations unhooked its claws from my soul and flew, grumbling, up the cold chimney and I became lost in the rhythm of knitting.  

 The television was on.  Stephen Colbert’s Late Show -  I often tune in for a bit of his intelligent wit before bedtime.  But this evening, the sound was down low and I was paying him little attention, until I glanced up to see prima ballerina, Misty Copeland, standing on one side of the stage, clearly about to dance to the music of cellist, Yo Yo Ma, who sat waiting on the other side.  I turned up the sound.

  Two human beings doing what they do best in the world, creating a moment of beauty.  My knitting needles dropped from my hands as I watched and listened and by the close, two fat tears had rolled down my cheeks.  I was filled to the brim with the sort of joy beauty bestows and I went to bed - peaceful, hopeful and full of gratitude.

It is often dismaying to see how little we value beauty today, particularly in the light of its importance.  We insure our school sports programs are always well-funded even as we slash art and music away as though they were mere trivialities. If only we realized how much richer the soul becomes by learning to recognize beauty.  How expansive the mind and how happy the heart of the person who learns this early in life, for by making the soul a harbor for beauty one is guaranteed a life that rewards all the days with wonder.

 Some of us are born with an innate ability to see beauty. We seem to be aware of its holy power the first time we encounter it.  However, it is a skill that can be learned as well.   It can start by opening the window at midnight to sit and gaze at the stars.  Finding the perfect fragrant flower to place in a vase by your bed. Stopping on a walk to feel the autumn wind on your face.  Or, by putting down your knitting to watch someone at the height of their powers perform a lyrical, joyful dance. 

 The more you begin to revere the transforming power of beauty, the more beauty you see,  for it seems to reveal itself in direct proportion to how much it is appreciated. You have to pay attention, for beauty is so often ephemeral; like a soap bubble in a breeze.   But oh, what a delightful gift it can be.  How it does lift the soul to soar.

The marvelous Irish writer, John O’Donohue, (one of my favorites)
 puts it much better than I when he writes: 

 "Beauty does not linger; it only visits.
 Yet beauty's visitation affects us and invites us into its rhythm; 
it calls us to feel, think and act beautifully in the world:
 to create and live a life that awakens the Beautiful. 
A life without delight is only half a life."

Stop a moment and watch Misty Copeland and Yo Yo Ma.
I wish you all such beauty in your lives.