Monday, March 30, 2009

Wide Open Windows

Too cool to be hot, to warm to be cold, it was a day for which Spring is justly famous. A day for Aaron Copland’s celebratory composition of the season, and we listened to his melodic photograph at full volume, with windchimes and honeybees keeping rhythm by the wide open windows. The curtains blew in, welcoming the sweet fragrance of Carolina Jessamine as it shyly crept inside our winter weary rooms, drifting past the big white dog dozing on a dark wood floor and wafting out to the back garden where a New Dawn rose was just beginning to remember how to bloom. It was a day when the bluebirds were out in perfectly matched pairs, shopping for new houses as seriously as any newlywed couple with a down payment from Daddy. A day when a gamboling March wind sprinkled showers of bridal white blossoms onto our pathway as we strolled to a park of rolling hills newly covered in daffodils. A day to look to the trees above, now engaged in their yearly celebration of verdant individuality as they busily don wardrobes worthy of Oz... chartreuse and lime, kelly and many colours of green. A day for taking deep, deep breaths of gratitude, for the cloudless sky high above our heads, the warmth of the Spring sun on our shoulders, the soft, fresh carpet beneath our feet.
Too early to plant, to late to harvest, this was a day made only to enjoy.
And, oh how we did.

Special note:... Edward would like to announce that he has been assisting in the creation of lots and lots of Easter Keepsake boxes over the past week. Most are already spoken for, but a few have been placed in our etsy shoppe!

Vintage Bunny Box sold!

Saturday, March 28, 2009


With a black fedora cocked to one side of his head and a plaid scarf knotted round his neck, he sat by the side of the road, playing a trumpet. Years of laughter were crosshatched round his closed eyes and his espresso hands held the glowing gold trumpet with the easy familiarity of one who had long ago mastered his art. No pedestrians on this stretch of road, no coins to be thrown his way, he played full out for no one but himself. Red changed to green and I drove away, but the sight of him wove ribbons of wonder through my thoughts all afternoon, tying up a memory of this favourite poem.


Who are without mercy,
Who confide in trumpet flowers,
Who carry loose change in their pockets,
Who dress in black velvet,
Who wince and fidget like bats,
Who balance their haloes on hatracks,
Who watch reruns of famine,
Who powder their noses with pollen,
Who laugh and unleash earthquakes,
Who sidle in and out of our dreams

Like magicians, like childhood friends,
Who practice their smiles like pirates,
Who exercise by walking to Zion,
Who live on the edge of doubt,
Who cause vertigo but ease migraines,
Who weep milky tears when troubled,
Whose night sweats engender the plague,
Who pinion their arms to chandeliers,
Who speak in riddles and slant rhymes,
Who love the weak and foolhardy,
Who lust for unripe persimmons,
Who scavenge the fields for lost souls,
Who hover near lighthouses,
Who pray at railroad crossings,
Who supervise the study of rainbows,
Who cannot blush but try,
Who curl their hair with corkscrews,
Who honeymoon with Orion,
Who are not wise but pure,
Who behave with impious propriety,
Who hourly scour our faces with hope,
Whose own faces glow like radium,

Whom we've created in our own form,
Who are without mercy, seek and yearn
To return us like fossilized roses
To the wholeness of our original bloom.
by Maurya Simon

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A Pink Hydrangea

There are fifty-two hydrangeas that surround our cottage. They are a delightful source of beauty during the spring and summer months when they are in full blue, pink, or white bloom, and in the autumn when their flowers turn an amazing shade of green, they are perfect for creating ravishing wreaths and arrangements that last the long winter through. With fifty-two of these gracious ladies around me, I rarely feel the need to purchase fresh flowers once they decide to commence their seasonal show. However, there used to be fifty-three of them.

Our very first hydrangea was planted by my father. It was a vivid pink mophead and he placed it directly beside the front stairs. Being a methodical perfectionist with his own unique set of ideas and techniques, the planting process took a bit of a while. Peat moss was brought in, along with cottonseed meal, the hole was dug and re-dug to a specific depth, fertilizer was added, lime was sprinkled into the mix, mulch carefully placed round the plant like a stole. Wiping his hands on his trousers when finally done, he declared it to be planted “just perfect”. His efforts were amply rewarded as that pink hydrangea continued to thrive year after year, growing ever larger each season, its dinner plate size blooms drooping low over the front porch stairs and shining a fuschia light in the summer sun. Indeed, its beauty was so seductive, it enticed us to continue planting hydrangeas in the garden each and every spring until every spot was taken and we were known as the Hydrangea House.

Daddy passed away a year and a half ago and, in a tale worthy of the fairies, his pink hydrangea, our very first one, the one standing strong and tall for so many years, left with him. I thought last season it might have just been damaged a bit by a early spring frost, but this year it is clear that the lovely old lady is no more. As I plant a new pink one in the same place this year, I shall think of Daddy in his heavenly home, his resplendent garden adorned with a familiar, ever-blooming, pink hydrangea by the front door.
I know it will have been planted just perfect.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Best of Friends

It was an wayward baseball, launched, no doubt, from the bat of a too-eager Little Leaguer, up high over the fence and out into the wild world where it rolled and it rolled till it came to a stop on a bed of lenten roses in the garden of an elderly neighbor. And there it lay, unnoticed and undisturbed, till the sunny afternoon last week when Edward came by, nonchalantly prancing along in the midst of his lunchtime walk. Pulling up short, he sniffed the air, looked down to his left, and spied the ball. An unexpected treasure ... the very best kind! Gingerly, he picked it up and carried it with him, all the way back to his own drive, up the stairs, through the kitchen and out the back door, with Apple on his heels. What a treat! What a find! The two friends could not wait to see what this round leather thing could do!

Edward rolled it to Apple, she rolled it back. He batted it with his polar bear paws across the lawn in true Beckham fashion. She impishly stole it and ran teasingly over the stone wall and through the hydrangea border. He bent low by the climbing rose, patiently waiting to pounce when she emerged from the other side of the birdbath. And pounce he did, igniting a rolling, tumbling festival that continued all over the garden till they both became so tickled with themselves there was nothing left but to run full out, cutting figure eights all through the trees. When they couldn’t run a minute more, they flopped, out of breath and grinning as only the best of friends can grin on a sunny day after playing with a baseball for the very first time. I watched them from the window, laughing, and wondered what dogless people do in the middle of the afternoon for entertainment.

Painting above: Best of Friends by Abel Hold

Best of Friends in the Flesh

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Wild Life

Today marks the end of National Wildlife Week. Therefore, I thought it timely to relate a rather heart-stopping wildlife adventure Edward escorted me on last Spring.

It was a year ago this month, a perfectly ordinary evening at the end of a perfectly ordinary week. The Songwriter had just returned from out of town and was in the process of bringing in his bags. I was preparing dinner and had opened the back door for Edward and Apple to go outside for a run in the garden whilst the Songwriter unloaded the car. The dogs ran out but, per usual, immediately ran back in so as not to miss out on any homecoming activities of potential grand interest. Both sat down just behind me as I stood chopping carrots at the kitchen counter, the three of us forming a classic contented picture of quiet domesticity.

All of a sudden our quiet was shattered as I heard the Songwriter scream out in piercing notes of a most unnatural pitch. I wheeled around to see Edward, sitting calmly at my feet, holding on to an extremely large opossum, its horrid, hairless tail reaching almost to the floor. I asked no question, I made no sound. I simply threw carrots into the air and ran like a girl for the door. Edward, of course, sensed a game was afoot and had no intention of being left out of the fun. He followed me full stop, but not before setting down his magnificent prize in the middle of the kitchen floor. Apple retreated fast on Edward’s heels, leaving the Songwriter all alone, holding his bags and staring down in horror at the full grown opossum lying supine at his feet.

Now the wonderful thing about a possum is that he is genetically programmed to play dead whenever he is in a precarious situation, and that was just what our dreadful little friend was doing now - on his side like a corpse in my kitchen. As I paced the back garden chanting ohnoohnoohno like a mantra with Edward following my every step as if to ask, what? what? what?.... man and beast were left together in paralyzed silence for what seemed like an eternity. Suddenly, the door flew open and I saw the Songwriter sprinting for the back of the garden. In the darkness, I couldn’t see what he was doing and wondered briefly if he had jumped the fence and was making for the airport on foot. But no, soon he came running back, muttering unintelligibly, with a shovel in one hand and a bucket in the other. His unknown, and hastily crafted, plan did not bear thinking about.

Upon his return to the kitchen he could see that our creepy wee visitor, realizing that his clever genetic coping mechanism had once again rescued him from certain disaster, was now sitting bolt upright, comfortably surveying his new circumstance. Fortunately, one nudge with the aforementioned shovel, and he flopped over “dead” once more which rendered him, most mercifully for all concerned, quite easy to maneuver into the bucket and out to the car where, luckily for him, he was taken on a short drive and eventually set free in a densely wooded park where, no doubt, he lives happily to this very day.

Given the unrealistic calm they both exhibited during this harrowing encounter, I do believe neither Edward nor Apple realized exactly what they had. Edward has several large stuffed toys that he frequently carries around, the same size and roughly the same colour as our hairy little houseguest. I truly think he simply walked out onto the porch in the dark, and picked up the opossum who was lying limp in the overwhelming presence of a large dog, and carried him inside as one of his stuffed toys.

Needless to say, it was a wildlife encounter none of us shall ever forget and one I fervently hope will never occur again.

Painting above: Noah's Ark by Francis Hamel

Note: It seems as if the opossum has neglected to travel to other parts of the globe and therefore some of you are unaware of exactly what he looks like. I thought this photo might be of help.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Some Of My Favourite Things This Week Before Spring

The scent of white lilies in vases all over the house
Planting Candytuft and Rosemary bushes

The Songwriter’s new proud!

The taste of Organic Strawberries, perfectly, sweetly, in season
Shepherd’s Pie on a rainy Saturday night
The pink and white striped cotton shirt I stole from the Songwriter
Mario Badescu
products, just the best stuff ever
Fleet Foxes singing White Winter Hymnal
Reading The Elegance of the Hedgehog, by Muriel Barbery
Watching Driving Lessons - wonderful, quirky film with Julie Walters and Rupert Grint

This cake stand by
William Yeoward...

The colour of Edward’s fur and the hat I knitted to match it
The scent of my hands after planting rosemary bushes
Lemon Ginger Herbal Tea by Stash

This gorgeous new silk from
Designers Guild....


This verse:

"For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone;
The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come
and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.
The fig tree puts forth its figs, and the vines are in blossom;
they give forth fragrance.
Arise my love, my fair one,
and come away."

The Song of Solomon, 2:11-13

...And I have a late addition to my list of early Spring favourites....
just today I received some lovely notecards from Karen, the charming artist at
Moonlight and Hares! Do pop over and see her beautiful work!! Thank you, Karen!

Two Emerald Celebrations

The Isle Of Innisfree

I’ve met some folks who say that I’m a dreamer
And I’ve no doubt there’s truth in what they say
But sure a body’s bound to be a dreamer
When all the things he loves are far away.
And precious things are dreams onto an exile
They take him o’er the land across the sea
Especially when it happens he’s an exile
From that dear lovely Isle of Innisfree.

And when the moonlight peeps across the rooftops
Of this great city wondrous tho’ it be
I scarcely feel its wonder or its laughter
I’m once again back home in Innisfree.

I wander o’er green hills thro’ dreamy valleys
And find a peace no other land could know
I hear the birds make music fit for angels
And watch the rivers laughing as they flow.
And then into a humble shack I wander
My dear old home, and tenderly behold
The folks I love around the turf fire gathered
On bended knees their rosary is told.

But dreams don’t last
Tho’ dreams are not forgotten
And soon I’m back to stern reality
But tho’ they paved the footways here with gold dust
I still would choose the Isle of Innisfree.

by Richard Farrelly

and.... Happy Birthday, PVE!

Not only is this emerald green day a celebration for the Irish, but it is also the birthday of the delightful Patricia van Essche of
PVE Design. A wonderful painter and illustrator, Patricia is also a kind and generous soul who has surprised many a fortunate blogger with art done specifically with them in mind. I was never so tickled as the morning I awoke to find this lovely portrait of Edward up on her blog. And then, she actually sent it to me! It now presides proudly over my library and is a true treasure to us all. On this St. Patrick’s Day, do join Edward and me as we travel over to PVE Design and wish lovely Patricia a most Happy Birthday!!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Pure Fiction

It may sound contradictory, but I find such truth in fiction. In noting last week’s passing of one of America’s most truthful dramatists, Horton Foote, NY Times columnist Frank Rich compared his work to that of Faulkner “in its ability to make his own corner of America stand for the whole.” So true. Mr. Foote called out characters from the cloud of witnesses that populated his life, shone a golden light on them and rendered them wholly recognizable to human beings everywhere.

That is the enormous challenge as well as the invaluable gift of fiction, to illuminate the human condition in such a way as to give the reader a glimpse into his or her own soul. When successful, such fiction can plant the seed of wisdom, it can provide a visceral recognition of oneself in the feelings and experiences of others, a holy realization that we are all the same, we are all valuable, we are all human.

One can read reams about the Gilded Age in history books, but the words of Edith Wharton can take one’s hand and lead the way right inside it. Read The Age Of Innocence or The House of Mirth and see what I mean. Or dig beneath the surface of Flannery O’Connor’s outrageous stories to find the grace cleverly hidden within. Feast at the banquet of glorious words concocted by Virginia Woolf in Mrs. Dalloway; words that resonate in the deepest parts of the soul, providing vital nourishment to those who did not even realize they were hungry. Or perhaps, try an amazingly lucid book I’ve just recently finished, Olive Kitteridge, by Elizabeth Strout. Creative in its very form, it is a series of stories that consider the quiet existence of a few people in a coastal Maine village as the prickly character of Olive moves through their individual lives, sometimes directly, often on the periphery. I found it both compassionate and wise, a remarkable two way mirror allowing insight into the lives of others and into myself as well.

By the way, the late Horton Foote also penned the screenplay for Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. And really, I have always felt that pretty much everything worth knowing can be found between the covers of that wondrous book.

“Fiction reveals truth that reality obscures”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Five Needles at Once

On a warm evening a few summers ago, the Songwriter and I stood talking outside our favourite Mexican restaurant whilst we waited for our table. My eyes kept wandering over to young girl seated nearby who happened to be knitting. With five needles at once. Now, I am no stranger to needlework - my needlepoint pillows adorn our upholstery and we sleep every night under quilts handmade by yours truly - but this seemed the most outrageously medieval activity I had ever witnessed at close range. Standing there, I progressed from furtive glances to outright stares, but could make no sense out of what she was doing. And once again, I kicked myself for never really learning to knit, and once again, I resolved afresh to learn.
Well, as I reported a few postings ago, after some expert teaching I have discovered that knitting with five needles is neither outrageous nor medieval. In fact... it’s downright fun. I have now conquered hats and cabled scarves and these days my head is often swimming with rainbows of cashmere, mohair, merino, cotton and silk, all for creations yet to be.
I can highly recommend learning something new.

As the photo shows, Edward agreed to model one of my first creations. He seems to like this particular chapeau quite a lot, but has just a bit of difficulty keeping it on!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

To Pay Attention

“That big dog looks so happy”, the man called out over his shoulder as he cycled past and out of sight. Edward paid him no mind as he continued his jaunty pace through the trees.
The winding forest pathway, snowcovered only days before, was now lined with the chartreuse velvet of new moss, transformed as a greystone bridge over leprechaun
seas that flowed all the way to the clearing. Edward stopped to listen. The old forest fairly crackled with the expectation of Spring. How long now? Days? Minutes?

The March sun, happily unhindered by cloud, took full afternoon dominion and draped sheets of tinsel across the lake; such shimmering silver, it hurt the eyes. Edward flopped down to rest on a grass carpet which still remained reluctant to remove its winter coat of gold, not yet ready to unveil the lemon emerald dress of Spring. Ancient windchimes performed nonchalant overhead tunes and a clumsy bumblebee tested out his new Spring wings for the very first time. The big dog dozed while the wind gently played with his fur.

To pay attention at the arrival of a new season. To spend a quiet extra hour in the perfection that is Nature. These are the halcyon moments.
That big dog was indeed happy.

"One attraction in coming to the woods to live was that I should have leisure and opportunity to see the spring come in."
Henry David Thoreau

Saturday, March 7, 2009

A Birthday Memory

I had come to Britain some years back to observe the occasion of my fortieth birthday with the half hearted hope that by not being in the actual country of my birth on the actual date, perhaps it wouldn’t really count, or even, by some magical quirk in the time- space continuum, the numbers attributed to my age account might happily begin to reverse. I was not exactly certain what I was supposed to be feeling. It seemed as though this particular age I was facing was meant to serve as a milestone of sorts, especially for a woman. After all, there were specialized magazines for “women over forty”, women in the public eye seemed to have careers divided into before - and after - forty, and it seemed as though everything from fashion to health care moved into separate categories at this advanced age, categories heretofore uncharted and not exactly welcoming. Was I supposed to feel differently now? Was a cultural shroud being fashioned for me at this very moment; my very own cloak of invisibility that was the requisite uniform for antediluvian women like myself? I had never before defined myself by any sort of category. Would I be forced to now?

I sat in a cafe in Bath pondering all this one damp and chilly afternoon, when the door suddenly blew open and I turned to see a quite beautiful lady of a certain age enter. She was an exquisite creature, clad in an exotic ensemble of black and grey, complete with a most fetching hat worn over enviable blonde hair, and followed closely by a tweedy gentleman, obviously younger, and obviously besotted. She arranged herself at the table next to mine thereby providing me with a observation point that I took full advantage of. Indeed it was difficult to take my eyes off her. Laughing frequently, with twinkling eyes, she seemed both enormously interesting and interested at the same time. I wanted nothing more than to scoot my chair up to her table and l talk to her all afternoon. I wanted to follow her home. As I watched her I realized, that although obviously older than myself, I could not begin to pinpoint her exact age, nor was that even remotely of interest where this woman was concerned.

And, as I sat there sipping Darjeeling and studying her, I began to feel like myself again, realizing afresh that age is of no matter in the true world. Life was a gift, pure and simple; a sublime journey of learning, giving and love, and it was meant to be lived, full tilt, for as long we are blessed to be here. In short, I got over myself, and went on to enjoy quite a jolly holiday.

I have often wondered who that lady was and where she might be now. She gave me quite a marvelous birthday present that day.
I can still hear her laughter.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


I heard the owl at midnight. Not the fairy trill of the Screech, but the oracular notes of the Great Horned that frequently spends his evenings in the invisible branches of the nighttime trees. He often calls to us of other worlds; his low, mysterious voice imparting wisdom we mere humans cannot yet comprehend. But in the morning, upon looking out the window at breakfast time, I understood the message he had perhaps been foretelling. For there outside, falling slowly from the skies like heavenly cotton... Snow. For the first time this year. Each delicious flake drifting down so casually, one’s eye could pick one out and follow it all the long way from grey sky to brown earth, never losing it in the crowd of its ivory brethren. Within an hour our world was iced like a birthday cake by the wizardry of a snowfall and our little cottage now sat squarely on the pages of a storybook. Winter laughed at Spring as we pulled on newly knitted hats and scarves and rushed out to play our parts in this pageantry of snow.

For after all, no one enjoys snow more than