Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Princess

This week, no doubt, a lot of people around the world will remember this lovely lady. I shall be one of them. On the day of her wedding I, like so many others, got up in the middle of the night and sat with my tea and toast to watch the splendor unfold in real time. Newly married myself, the pageantry seemed to me the very essence of fairy tale romance. When I travelled to London for the first time, only six weeks later, the old city still wore the wedding banners and congratulatory signs in its shop windows. In those early halcyon days, no one knew or could have even conceived that her fairy tale was doomed from the beginning. So well I remember that last weekend of August eleven years ago, coming in from a late dinner with friends and standing transfixed in the face of those dreadful words marching cruelly across the television screen announcing to the world, with a horrible, terse finality, that she was gone.
Much has been written and discussed about the feelings expressed during that last painfully sad week, concerning the nature of celebrity, the authenticity of collective mourning, and the stratospheric price of fame. I’ll gladly leave all that to the pundits. No one can dismiss the fact that this was a woman who brought joy into people’s lives, through her spirit, her kindness and yes, her beauty. And as her brother so eloquently stated in his eulogy on that sunny, sorrowful September day, she was taken at her most beautiful. A bright light forever frozen in a shining, bittersweet moment in time.
In her cloudless climes and starry skies, may she rest in peace.

Monday, August 25, 2008

And Then The Rain Came

It came hurtling down, pounding the roof with a purpose, as if determined to erase the long drought in one afternoon. The birds took refuge in the generous magnolia tree, grateful for its leafy harbor, peering out through the fat emerald leaves at the torrent with curiosity, knowing that this was not a rain for splashing about in puddles. This was a rain for hiding away, watching from a safe distance. This was a serious, straight down rain, with worried skies and somber stillness. Even the thunder knew to hold his tongue, the lightning to still her fire. This was the rain’s performance, he ruled the day. On and on it came, as if from the depths of some unfathomable, vast lake high up behind the clouds, a cosmic lake whose dam had burst with its unending supply seemingly set to fall unhindered and relentless on our little garden alone, turning the stone pathways into rivers and bending the fir trees into submission to its drowned and infinite power. We listened, Edward and I, from our cozy spots with our good books and dry feet, cloistered within our softly lit sanctuary, as it poured on into the night, past tea time, past suppertime, past bedtime. We snuggled down a little deeper and were beholden, once again, to the stalwart bricks and mortar, the steadfast stone and wood standing strong and brave around us against the turbulent niagara outside our door. We said a prayer for those not so fortunate as we, and we slept.

Painting above:
"Rain, August in the Lake District 1898"
by Beatrix Potter

Friday, August 22, 2008


It’s happened twice this week. On our evening walk, just as the heavy day was sleepily handing itself over to the soft golden night, on the wind, we could hear them coming. Far off yet, but distinct, the strange, celestial sound of the geese. Getting closer, ever closer, until the leader topped the tallest trees followed by the entire glorious flock in flawless formation, calling lustily to each other with glee. Transfixed by the sight and the sound of them, Edward and I stopped to gaze upward. Edward’s brown eyes watched them fly, appearing to silently recognize a holy affiliation with these wondrous creatures at which I, clad in my wardrobe of human imperfection, could only guess. Not for the first time, I marveled at how truly little we know, how small we really are, and how dark indeed is the glass through which we see. The beautiful mystery that is all around us, seen and unseen, must be infinite.

Edward looked up at me and smiled. We walked on. I felt only gratitude.

“....Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting -
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.”

by Mary Oliver from her poem “Wild Geese”

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Little Girls and Horses

What is it about little girls and horses? I had a meeting today with a good friend of mine who spends every spare moment of her time just as she has since she was old enough to walk.... with her horse. Oh, the horses have changed over the years, with names such as Wookie and Dixie Dan, Mr. Mischief and Drumbuie. But, her devotion to each and every one that has cantered through her life has remained complete. They are pictured on her Christmas cards, she is most comfortable with a riding helmet on her head, and her cell phone rings with a whinny. The current love of her life is Walter, a magnificent Hanoverian bay with a white blaze down his noble face and a flowing black mane. He looks for all the world as though he trotted straight off of a Ralph Lauren ad in an October issue of British Vogue. I’ve gone to see her ride at dressage clinics and been transported by the evocative smells of fresh air and horses, sweet hay and polished leather back to my own time as a horse crazy little girl. I do understand the attraction. Growing up, while my other little friends were busy with ballet lessons, I was at riding lessons. I adored my time spent in the saddle. My passion for horses remained, but my devotion to riding became too difficult to maintain so it was placed aside for other more ardent passions and pursuits. My loss, no doubt.

It is such a exceptional thing when one’s childhood passions follow one throughout life. My husband knew what he wanted to do with his whole life from that one visceral moment on a Sunday evening when he was a child and saw The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show for the very first time. No questions, no doubts. It would be music for him. He has been a songwriter and musician his entire life. Such a remarkable, happy achievement. At reunions, I see the wistful looks of the people with whom he grew up when they find out he has been successful in realizing his childhood dreams. I know it’s a rare and precious thing to be allowed to do what you love every day of your life, to truly live out your dreams. It just doesn’t happen that frequently. Dreams must be tended and sometimes sacrifices must be made to tend them well.
I have such admiration for both my friend, and my husband, for they have indeed tended their dreams so well throughout their lives.
Little girls and horses, little boys and guitars.
For some, some things thankfully never change.

The above etching is by Louis Icart and is aptly entitled “Youth”.
It hangs in my home as a happy reminder of one of my own youthful passions.

Monday, August 18, 2008

"I am so honored"

I was so tickled to receive this beautiful likeness of Edward done by
Patricia van Essche of
PVE Design. Doesn't he look handsome?
Thank you so much, Patricia. You made our day!

Friday, August 15, 2008

“I have been a mental traveler”
Isak Dinesen

One of my wishes as a little girl was to sleep in a canopied bed, a wish that was granted after my husband and I built onto our magical cottage two years after we married. He found our bed, a dark wood jewel of a creation with exquisite wooden spider-web fretwork all around and a paneled back just made for leaning against with a fine book on a dark and stormy night. It is draped in a faded floral linen lined with mossy green and it makes me feel like a fairy princess each night when I crawl inside its feathery arms. However, when I do go to bed at night, I don’t always stay put. Sometimes my mind takes me to other favorite bedrooms in which I have been fortunate to sleep, and dream, while on my travels.

If it’s summertime, I may drift off to my favorite beach bedroom, with its wide wooden floors and the lace curtains that billow out from the three tall, open windows, where the sound of the sea is my lullaby. When the moon is full I can lie in this room and drift away to sleep while gazing at a moonlit golden pathway leading out to sea, and beyond. Or perhaps I will choose that fairy tale tower room in the northwest of England, high up in the old manor house, with the casement window that opens out onto the green hills, dotted with sheep, that roll down, down to the misty blue lake. Oh, I do love that room. I have slept there during a howling gale when rain lashed the window like artillery, and then again on crystal clear nights when I could open that old window and look up to see the entire Milky Way shimmering back at me like diamonds in the sky.

That’s the fascinating and valuable thing about travel. The memories are always in your head to call up whenever you choose. Which is, I think, what William Wordsworth, with whom I share a birthday, was thinking about when he wrote of “the bliss of solitude”. Travel gifts me with lovely memories of lovely places and later when I am home once more, I have only to close my eyes and return anywhere my heart desires. And, of course, a wonderful thing about this sort of bedtime mental travel? Edward can sleep at the foot of any bed I choose!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

In A New Light

It was subtle, but it was there. Walking past the dining room windows one morning this past weekend, I saw it. Unmistakable. A change in the light. Sharper, clearer, the sun came through the lace in a different way. Not the languid, hazy summer sun that usually drapes the house in August. But the brilliant, incandescent light of autumn. Trying to make it stay, I opened all the windows so the blessed wind could race through the house, from my office in the back where the birds were happily feasting on their breakfast at the blue glass feeder, all the way down the main hallway, through the coffee fragrant kitchen, past the unmade bed, and out past the vases of lilies in the library. It was glorious. Oh, do not question, it is coming! Fall. Cinderella pumpkins and witches hats. Crisp apples and cold mornings. Long and longer walks in the wind. Warm furry dogs on my feet by the fire. Yes, it’s on the way. Already one can see the unscuffed little shoes standing at the bus stops on their way once more to school.

I have always felt that the powers that be made a dreadful mistake when they declared January as the start of a new year. Oh, it should be September, shouldn’t it? Forever, that has seemed the month of new beginnings to me. My heart beats a happier rhythm whenever I see the rows of new school supplies lining store shelves. All those unwritten pages, all those still-sharp pencils. All those fresh starts.

Oh, I know there’s yet a bit of summer left. I will experience a few more heavy, humid days. But, I cannot be fooled. It’s coming. Just like in Mary Poppins, one morning, very soon, the wind will change. It will blow the weathervane around to a completely different direction and I will rise to a luminous, unspoiled beginning, with new roads to take, new pages to turn. In preparation, I’m off to buy a sparkling handfull of brand-new colored pencils.

by Brendan Kennelly.

Begin again to the summoning birds
to the sight of light at the window,
begin to the roar of morning traffic
all along Pembroke Road.
Every beginning is a promise
born in light and dying in dark
determination and exaltation of springtime
flowering the way to work.
Begin to the pageant of queuing girls
the arrogant loneliness of swans in the canal
bridges linking the past and the future
old friends passing though with us still.
Begin to the loneliness that cannot end
since it perhaps is what makes us begin,
begin to wonder at unknown faces
at crying birds in the sudden rain
at branches stark in the willing sunlight
at seagulls foraging for bread
at couples sharing a sunny secret
alone together while making good.
Though we live in a world that dreams of ending
that always seems about to give in
something that will not acknowledge conclusion
insists that we forever begin.

Painting above : Autumn Light by Martin Decent

Monday, August 11, 2008

Lyoobov by Rima Staines

Talent Abounds

Since I started this little blog adventure, I have frequently been amazed at all the talent out there in the air. I’ve loved seeing Gretel Parker's charming illustrations and delightful toy creatures over at Middle of Nowhere and I visit there regularly to be inspired by her latest creations. Sandra’s artworks found at her blog Sandra Evertson are wonderful,
Patricia van Essche's illustrations at
PVE Design are so lovely and Constance Muller at Rochambeau makes the most exquisite things.

Occasionally I meet someone that, like the above artists I’ve mentioned, I feel compelled to share. I am a trifle late to the party, as some of you already know about her, but I simply could not resist featuring Rima Staines and her captivatingly original artwork . Rima can be found at
The Hermitage and you owe it to yourself to pay her a visit. Rarely, an artist lives their work in such a way as to erase away any distinction between artist and art. I feel Rima is such a person and it is such a privilege for me to be allowed, through her magically imaginative blog, just a teeny glimpse into the world that she inhabits. Through her wonderful writings and photos of her work I understand a little more about the demands and the joys of the creative process. And of course, Rima dwells in Scotland which is, to me, the most enchanted place on the planet. She recently began fashioning beautiful, bewitching clocks that are truly a delight for the senses and, with the holidays closer than we think, I can imagine no better Christmas gift than one of Rima’s creations. Wander around her site and see if you don’t agree.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Too Many Hats

Stress. If you’re human, you have some. But how do we know when we’ve got too much of it? By way of personal example, here’s a clue. Once after leaving a home that I was working on, I was driving down the road with my mind a crowded muddle when I suddenly had this panicky feeling that I had misplaced an important item. I called my painter back at the house in progress and asked him, probably a bit shrilly....

”Did I leave my car keys anywhere around there??”.
He responded, all too calmly I thought, with a rather amused, “Pamela, where are you?”
“Well, I’m about a mile down the road, although I don’t see why that matters”.
Again, oozing serenity, which was really irritating me no end.....”Are you driving?’
“Well, I’m not on my broom, if that’s what you mean, of course, I'm driving...uh, I'm, oh, gee...never mind."

Sigh. Too much stress. When one is worried that one has left one’s car keys behind, and one is driving down the road at the time, one can safely bet one is under just a wee bit of stress.

My painter proceeded to tell me that, in his opinion, I was wearing too many hats at the moment and that perhaps I should remove one or two for the evening. How right he was, and is. In my closet, figuratively speaking, there’s the business woman hat - most likely some sort of chic hunter green fedora, perhaps with a feather in the brim. There’s the artist hat - a chartreuse beret, no doubt. The wife and doggie-mother hat - which is, oh, something akin to a wizard’s hat, soft and bejeweled, with embroidered stars, a pom-pom and the magical ability to light up unexpectedly. The running of the household hat - more like a helmet really, bright silver, only slightly tarnished. The appealingly horned Brunhilde hat, straight out of Wagner, just the thing for facing down recalcitrant clients and wearisome workmen. Then there’s the sun hat for gardening, the chef’s hat for cooking, the visor for running,... you get the idea. I know full well, when I attempt to wear all these at once, I’ve got to look a sight. It’s a balancing act that’s hard to maintain. That’s why, after these recent days when so many ideas have been banging round through my mind like bumper cars, and because like all good boys, Edward has had his prayers for cooler weather answered, I am taking off some of these blasted hats for the entire weekend.

Nothing but that wizard hat till Monday. It’s my favorite one anyway.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

"I don't like it when it's hot.
When is summer over?"

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Enigmatic Inspiration

A guest visited my home for the first time last week and as she wandered around she suddenly stopped, turned to me and asked, “where on earth do you get your ideas?”. Her question brought me up rather short. Where DO I find ideas? Where exactly do ideas come from? This set me to pondering that most elusive of enigmas... inspiration.

Everyone knows the old chestnut about creativity being one part inspiration and nine parts perspiration, and I suppose that is somewhat true. I would certainly never negate the necessity of that ninety percent. But, how about the mysterious ten percent? Obviously, minus the idea, all the perspiration in the world will not create a work of art. For all that I do not know about inspiration, there is one thing I do know. One cannot demand its appearance. No scrunching up the face, stamping the foot, and commanding it to materialize. It wafts in the window when one is not waiting for it. Open eyes, open mind, and open heart seem to help, however. Over the years I’ve learned that the excitement of starting a new project for a client lies partly in the knowledge that, at the outset, I am completely oblivious to just what will be the inspiration for this new creation. Will it be a lovely piece of fabric, an evocative painting, the color of the setting sunlight as it slowly slides down the bedroom wall, the varied shades of garnet worn by a tree seen from the study window in autumn? I have often thought how lovely a room would be done all in the champagne colors of Edward’s glossy fur. Soft whites, taupes, warm browns... I can just see it. There will always be a jumping off point for each new project, but it will be a hidden secret awaiting my discovery. That’s what makes it fun.

There is currently a buzz in the air around the new movie Mamma Mia. Understandably, people seem to be besotted with the sun-drenched Grecian setting. The whitewashed walls, pure sea blues, and happy bright colors will no doubt all be catalysts for innovative rooms and fashions in the months to come. Art direction in film is often so gorgeously inventive and can be a wondrous addition to the bubbling cauldron of one’s ideas. I once designed a favorite dining room for a client only to discover when I finished that its concept had obviously been born when I saw the dining room in the film, Gosford Park, the colors were so similar. From the Griffindor common room at Hogwarts to the boreal ice palace in Dr. Zhivago, film feeds the artistic imagination. And for me, other exceptional wonder boxes of inspiration are the atmospheric old inns in which I love to stay when on holiday . I never know when a notion I’ve unconsciously tucked away while rambling around one of these magnificent places will suddenly swim to the forefront of my mind just when it needs to. And books, of course, offer a marvelous well from which to draw, providing technicolor mental pictures that are unique to each reader. Pure inspiration.

Considering my visitor’s question eventually led me to believe that I know of no firm answer. Inspiration, ideas, visions, are like fireflies. They are out there, in the night, one catches a glimpse every now and then. But they make themselves seen in their own good time. I just keep my eyes open, for like the astonished lady in the Arthur Rackham painting above, I never know when the next door I prise open may release true magic.

Friday, August 1, 2008

The House of Edward in High Summer

"Our house was not insentient matter - it had a heart and a soul, and eyes to see with; and approvals and solicitudes and deep sympathies; it was of us, and we were in its confidence and lived in its grace and in the peace of its benedictions. We never came home from an absence that its face did not light up and speak out in eloquent welcome - and we could not enter it unmoved."

Quotation by Samuel Clemens
Painting by Kevin Nichols