Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Hawk

The Hawk

The old Methodist church has stood across from our neighborhood for longer than anyone can remember, its spire reaching heights unhoped for by any other building in town.  Quietly beautiful in its classical architecture, it sits serenely behind a row of maple trees that glow as orange as flame each and every autumn, and casts a benevolent eye right down the middle of our street.  More observer than participant, it watches our comings and goings with a serene detachment almost as though it longs to whisper to us all...”sshhhhh”. One could never imagine its door painted red.

I was leaving the neighborhood on a sultry evening last week when something about the old church caught my eye.  I looked up, and up, to the tip-top of the steeple, glowing silver in the just setting sun, and there, on the point where the spire scrapes the sky, sat a hawk.  Almost too large to seem real, for even from my vantage point so far down below, he appeared enormous, a glorious feathered finial no architect could have imagined in his loftiest dreams. The hawk’s stare was piercing, his finely honed eye missing nothing below as his regal head shone white in the last of the sun’s sinking rays - so white I had to look away.  

For those on the lookout for omens and auguries, this was too vivid to ignore.
  Fresh from my despair over the environmental tragedy in the waters of the Gulf, it was so easy for me to interpret this sight as a harsh warning to man for his complacent disregard of the magical world entrusted to his care.  
But then, the long ago words of Emily Dickinson wafted softly into my mind.....
  “Hope is a thing with feathers”...
So, maybe it isn’t too late for wisdom, for differences to be set aside and restorative action to be taken?  Maybe there is hope for us all even yet?
 I  lifted my eyes to meet the inscrutable gaze of the hawk sitting like a revelation atop the old church, and I knew - I would be interpreting this vision for a long time to come.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Too Hot To Eat

Too Hot To Eat

At present, we are enduring a smothering spell of hot, humid weather that has chased us all back into our houses, where we send up prayers of great thanks for Willis Haviland Carrier, the genius who invented the air-conditioner.  When the morning air slams into our faces like a wet velvet curtain, whatever buoyancy we might normally possess evaporates like ice on the sidewalk.  As this is happening so close to the solstice, one can only suppose that the new season is eager to announce its arrival by pulling out the most convincing weapons in its grand arsenal.  We get the message.  Summer is here.

Air-conditioning was a luxury few of us had when I was growing up, even though I did that growing up right here, in this same city. How well I remember jockeying for a desk close to the big fan that sat churning away in each of the classrooms at school.  It wasn’t all that long ago, but can you even imagine a school without air-conditioning today?  It would no doubt be considered child abuse worthy of protests, petitions and lawsuits.  Were we that much hardier when we were young, or is it, in fact, that much hotter?

 I love to cook, but when weather such as this is slinking and slithering all round the house, it’s the last thing on my mind.  I barely want to eat - and when I do, my diet of choice usually revolves around salad and fresh fruit.  Some fish.  Lots of San Pellegrino with lime.   
As any of my close friends will tell you, one of my favourite foods is salmon.  I adore it prepared all kinds of ways, and I swear it is great for the skin.  There used to be a wonderful showroom here in the city where I purchased quite a bit of furniture for my design clients. One of my favourite salesmen there once gave me a recipe for the tastiest, and easiest, salmon marinades I have ever tried. ( I think he wrote it down for me one scorching summer afternoon after I had collapsed like a rag doll in his office, whinging away about what to cook for dinner.)
I still have the original copy, in his whirly handwriting, and it bears all the splash marks and food stains of a well-loved and often used recipe.  Indeed, it is a staple at my house in summertime and I thought I would share it with you.  Serve this salmon, baked,  atop a raw spinach salad with a little bit of goat cheese, some sliced strawberries and a teensy bit of fresh vinaigrette and you’ll be in summertime heaven!

Tom’s Salmon Marinade

1/3 Cup Fresh Orange Juice
1/3 Cup Soy Sauce
2 Tablespoons Italian Parsley
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Clove Garlic, minced
1/2 Teaspoon dry Basil

Mix together, pour over salmon
 and allow to marinate in the refrigerator for 4 to 6 hours. 


Also, Giveaway Winner!!

Also.... I am thrilled to announce that the winner of the birthday giveaway is....
Thanks to all of you for entering, and for your many sweet and encouraging blog birthday wishes.  With so many entries, I cheated and used the random number generator thingy, rather than place all those names in a hat! 
 I wish everyone of you could have won, but we'll do another fun giveaway soon!!

Photo above by Annie Leibovitz

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Girls And Their Fathers

Girls and Their Fathers

My father always got teary when he opened his cards on Father's Day.  Every single year, he would look at the picture on the front, or read the sentiment inside, or see my “I love you, Daddy” inscription and his eyes would water, he’d cough a little and say “I love you too, honey” in a thick, slightly embarrassed voice.  It used to make me feel bad.  I didn’t want to upset him.  But The Songwriter always told me not to worry, that Daddy’s tears constituted a “good” cry, not a bad one. I suppose I understand that, for I myself rarely cry tears of sadness, but can weep buckets whenever I’m touched.  Grief tends to bring an awful silence to my soul, as if every corpuscle has been wrung dry, leaving me fragile and easily torn - like a piece of old parchment.  But beauty and goodness, kindness and love - those can make me weep.

I was fortunate in the gift of my father.  Though I’ve heard it is sometimes unusual for men of his generation to be so forthcoming, Daddy was never shy about telling me he loved me.  At the end of every phone call or visit, from the time I was little to the last day he lived, he would let me know how he felt about me.  I never once doubted his love.  If a girl is lucky enough to have a loving father, it makes it so much easier to find a good man to marry.  We have seen the template.  We have been valued too much to settle for someone who doesn’t adore us as much as our Dad.  

This past Sunday, Father’s Day rolled around again and, as I placed red flowers on Daddy’s grave, I remembered.  I remembered his laugh.  How he loved homemade ice cream in summer.  I remembered our trips to the beach when I was little and how he could never put up a Christmas tree without getting mad at his inability to make it stand straight.  I remembered how proud he was of his gardens and how he considered it to be the ultimate compliment when a well-dressed neighbor once stopped her car and waved him over to see if she could hire him.  (Due to his muddy appearance, she took him for the gardener, a mistake that totally mortified my mother and delighted my father no end.)  I remembered how much he used to love to hear The Songwriter in concert, and how crazy he was about Edward and Apple.
And there on the hot, sunny hillside, it was now my turn to get teary. 
 But it was a “good” cry.

"There's something like a line of gold thread running through a man's words when he talks to his daughter, and gradually over the years it gets to be long enough for you to  pick up in your hands and weave into a cloth that feels like love itself."
John Gregory Brown
From,  Decorations in a Ruined Cemetery, 1994

*** Don’t miss out on the birthday giveaway. 
Leave a comment on the post below! 
Drawing is the 25th!***

Monday, June 21, 2010

Birthday Giveaway!

For All My Readers, A Very Special Giveaway!

As difficult as it is for me to believe, From The House of Edward is two years old this month!  I guess it’s no joke...time really does fly when you’re having fun.  Starting this blog felt a bit experimental.  I remember thinking it might last only a few months or so, and indeed, with each post, I thought, “Well that’s it.  I’ll never have another idea”.   But, it seems that when one pays attention, life is rather like a Chinese box, revealing treasure upon colourful treasure each and every day.  So far, the ideas have kept coming, encouraged greatly, no doubt, by all the kind comments and thoughtful emails from my wonderful readers.  Whether several paragraphs, a few sentences, or just a word, each and every one is a delight to me and I thank you all very much.

So strange it could almost be an idea sprung from the imagination of a fifties science fiction writer, but I feel such a connection, a real friendship in fact, with so many people all over the planet - all through this glowing computer screen that sits on my desk by the window.  It fascinates me to think of you all, reading my words in your various places - your cottages and castles, your flats and pied-a terres.  I imagine you in your gardens, walking your dogs.  I see you clearly in your kitchens, at your windows, behind your desks and curled up on your sofas with your laptops and mugs of tea.  I see Alice with her feet up, writing, as her houseboat drifts lazily down an English river.  I see Angus at the French cafe, enjoying an early morning coffee with Wilf ‘s furry white head sticking out from underneath the table.  I see Joni in her Houston courtyard, a book of French design in her hands.  Weaver is writing poetry on her beautiful farm in Yorkshire, whilst Vicki tends to her magnificent garden in Provence.  There’s Rima in her cottage in Dartmoor, creating entire worlds of magic -  and Holly hard at work on her new Southern house.  I see Tish with her camera on the old streets of Paris and Brooke planting strawberries with her daughter in their new kitchen garden in LA.  So, so many others, I consider real friends. You all are incredible and you all make me smile.

 I am so grateful for my readers, and in that spirit of gratitude, I am celebrating this personal blog birthday with a very special giveaway!   As some of you read in my last post, I am crazy about Dominique Browning’s new book, Slow Love.  Well, I’m tickled to say that Ms. Browning has generously agreed to personalize a copy of this wonderful book, just for the winner of the “From The House of Edward” birthday giveaway. All you have to do is leave a comment here on this birthday post and you’re entered.  Become a follower, or let me know if you’re already one, and you’ll be entered twice!!
The drawing will be at 11:30 pm on Friday the 25st... six months till Christmas Day... a perfect night for something special to happen, don’t you think?
Again, Edward and I thank you all, and we wish each of you luck!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Slow Love

Slow Love

No matter how much we hear about its beneficial effects, few of us willingly invite change into our lives.  But it comes anyway.  An uninvited guest, it shows up to spoil our comfortable existence, usually when we least expect it and often accompanied by its cohorts of upheaval, anxiety and fear.  And oh, how we resent it.  Too easily creatures of habit, we stand shocked in the face of any alteration to our well ordered days, unsure of which way to turn when the lane we have followed for so long has disappeared in the mist.  But as Edith Wharton once wrote, “Habit is necessary; it is the habit of having habits, of turning a trail into a rut, that must be incessantly fought against if one is to remain alive”.   So, we change.

Many of you are familiar with Dominique Browning.  As the editor of House and Garden during its most creative years, her beautifully written monthly columns were reason enough to subscribe to that magazine.  I, along with many, looked forward to its appearance in my mailbox each month, until one month, it was gone.  No previous issue held any hint of its impending demise, there were no warnings or rumours - it was there, and then it was not.  I, again along with many, was shocked at its loss.  And if I was shocked, just imagine how Ms. Browning felt.  Suddenly unemployed, and with the magazine she had led now vanished like an early morning dream, she found herself, not unlike so many others over these last fitful years, forced into a solitary reevaluation of her life, and one that she had neither requested nor planned for.

Happily for all of us, she has written an account of this slippery period in her new book, Slow Love - How I Lost My Job, Put On My Pajamas and Found Happiness.  It is a book with an honest bravery on every page, and one I cannot recommend highly enough.  
We follow Ms. Browning through her often rather amusing stages of grief at the loss of who she once thought she was - from her three am piano playing, her new found addiction to cookies, her love of the perfectly designed pair of pajamas (drawstrings are the key here), and finally, to her painful decision to sell her house and begin a new, less cloudy, life.  As someone who loves my house with a passion, I nodded with recognition over her wretched first meeting with the realtor who was selling her home of many years, knowing full well that the words coming out of that woman’s mouth would be the same she would utter to me in that  situation...”Have you actually read all these books?  What an unusual colour on the walls.  What would you call that?". 
Fact is, I found my head nodding throughout this book.  How can I not feel a connection with a woman who, even though being at the pinnacle of professional design for years still says that her “basic decorating rule of thumb is to create as many lovely places in which to sit and read as possible.”   I found it more difficult to relate to her mercurial love of many years, called Stroller in the book, for his irritatingly constant tendency to stroll out of her life.  (He apparently objected to the name Walker, which was originally slated to be his nom de plume.  Personally, I would have christened him Slinker. ) 

I suppose the main reason this book resonated with me in such a warm way, can be found in the conclusions Ms. Browning reaches in her journey, for they are the ones I have championed most of my life.  The ones that qualify most as Slow Love.  It is no surprise to me that her equilibrium returns through the creation of a new garden, for it has always been in the midst of the natural world that I myself have found the beauty and meaning in life.  The hand of God in the trees. 
 This little book is so replete with wisdom, words that burrow into one’s heart and take root, words to turn over and over in one’s hand like a talisman.  When the skies begin to clear for Ms. Browning, we know they are skies washed clean by a storm.  A storm of unexpected change.

 In my mother’s generation, women held onto a book called A Gift From The Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh.  It spoke to them of their place in the shifting sands of their lives - they could see themselves on its pages.  Slow Love seems rightfully destined to become that for this generation of women caught as so many of us are in these often confusing, and changeable, days.  
Do yourself a favour and read it. 
 Then give it to somebody else.

You can find the book HERE.
I am also happy to report that Dominique Browning has joined the world of blogging, with her delightful blog, SlowLoveLife.  Pay her a visit!

Painting above by Pierre Bonnard
Edith Wharton quotation from her autobiography, A Backward Glance

Saturday, June 12, 2010

And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven. 
And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good. 
And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
Genesis 1:20-21, 26

The Pelicans

In the flipbook of images that accompanies my memory, there is one that keeps rising to the forefront in these recent days.....

Sometimes, when the days get too cluttered and time seems too short, I escape all alone to the beach.  To a small island where the rowdy Atlantic crashes right underneath my window, I decamp with a straw bag stuffed with intriguing books and one unsullied notebook.  I subsist on chicken salad and honeydew melon.  I go to bed early by an open window, lulled to deep sleep by the sound of the waves.  In a couple of days, I return home with calm sea breezes blowing through my formerly crowded thoughts.  I am a new woman.
It was on such a trip that I saw them, one February morning, just after dawn.  With my shawl wrapped around me, I had come down to the porch to read in the early morning light.  There was a mist hanging low on the shoreline, a gauzy confection that bewitched the scene into a impressionistic masterpiece.  They entered from out of the fog, a sight grandly prehistoric and one I felt privileged to see.  Seven large pelicans.  Like oracles from another age, they stood together on the sand, staring off over the water, a conclave of wonderment.  They were magnificent and rendered me utterly trivial.

This anamnesis now causes me pain, recurring over and over as it has in the light of the horror unfolding in the waters of the Gulf.  The images of these astonishing creatures now drenched and gasping, covered in oil, is too terrible even to imagine.  But it is happening at this very moment.

When God gave man dominion over the seas, did He realize what we would do with that power?  Did He know it was even possible for us to lose all respect for the Earth and its beauty?  That our selfishness and greed could usurp our desire to care for the creation he entrusted to our hands?

If, like me,  you are grieved over this tragedy and what it means for these grand birds of the sea, I urge you to go to this site and do what you can to help.

Painting by John James Audubon

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Refuse To Laugh?

The exhibit had been publicized for months.  Now on this winter afternoon, its galleries were jammed with visitors eager to see this once in a lifetime collection of masterpieces.  There were the regulars, the ones who visit the same day each week to commune with those paintings they consider old friends.  There were the groups of school children, pushing and pointing their way through the lines, their surprising lack of commentary a happy result of black eyed threats from their teachers.  There were the art students standing back with their sketchpads. The stiletto shod ladies lost in deep admiration, their sleekly coiffed heads cocked to one side.

For so many people pressed so closely together, the room was remarkably quiet, the great works obviously doing what they always do best, bestowing wonder and awe on those who looked upon them.   I wandered around at the back of the crowd until I finally came to the The Scream, the very famous work by Edvard Munch.  A moving depiction of searing anxiety, it is the artist’s portrait of a fearful world, shown through the silent scream of one man.  An image both raw and disturbing.  
 Standing right in front of the canvas was a man holding hands with his son, who looked to be about seven.  Both of them clad in khaki shorts, they stood there silently sipping Cokes through a straw, immobile and staring at the painting before them.  Suddenly the father slapped his forehead and said in a thunderous whisper, “Home Alone!  That’s what this reminds me of!  I knew I’d get it!”.  The son nodded enthusiastically in recognition of the reference and they both moved away with satisfied grins on their faces, leaving me with the unfortunately indelible image of the precocious child actor, Macauley Culkin, with his hands on either side of his face, from a movie poster once ubiquitous and one I would rather forget.  
And it was one of those laughs that arrive without warning, unbidden and usually occurring in a most unwanted locale.  I clamped my gloved hand over my mouth in an attempt to contain it and hurriedly slipped from the room.  Leaning against a wall in the corridor I laughed till my eyes watered and my side ached. 
 I still chuckle, even now, at that memory. 
 Let’s face it - life is so often just funny.

However, in the Sunday edition of The Guardian newspaper, I now read that the peals of laughter I had on that day may have instead been discordant bells ringing out the end of my youthful appearance.  For, in an interview with anti-aging guru, Dr. Neetu Nirdosh, I learn not only that aging is a “disease” in her opinion, but my hopelessly chronic habit of laughing is giving me wrinkles.  To quote Dr. Nirdosh’s assessment of her interviewer’s face...”You laugh a lot, and that’s why you are getting wrinkles.  All repetitive movements give you wrinkles.  You have to change the way you move your face, otherwise you will age faster”

Really now, isn’t laughter the only appropriate response to such a statement? 
Refuse to laugh?
I’d much prefer the wrinkles, thanks.

Painting above entitled:  Touch and Go, To Laugh or No
By Sophie Anderson

Saturday, June 5, 2010

From The Tree To The Garden

At the edge of the forest, behind my childhood home, there was an old sweetgum tree that was perfectly made for climbing.   On each and every summer day, I could be found there, about three limbs up, balanced comfortably with a book on my knee, my dog resting on the lawn down below, dozing, with her head on her paws and her brown ears twitching at the occasional fly.  It was second nature to me then, but I realize looking back that it was really no small feat to scale such a tree with a hardback copy of Jane Eyre in my arms.  I can still remember how it felt to be hidden away in a secret world of green leaves, unseen by anyone but my dog, lost deep inside the world of a book.

Just the merest thought of summer conjures up so many different images to us all. Strawberry ice cream and lazy days by the sea,  baseball, bare feet and surfboards -watermelon, beach music, and lemonade.  But for me, summertime will always mean books.  When school closed for the year, we would head to the big downtown library to fill our arms with books for the hot summer months.  How well I remember ascending the stairs of that imposing old structure.  It loomed up before me with its stone facade glowing silver in the sweltering heat, set apart from all the other buildings in the city by a dignified bearing that declared it to be a southern temple of thought and ideas, a bethel that sheltered a holy treasure of books.  No longer bound to the required reading of the school year, I was now free to follow my curiosity down every mysterious aisle of that library, pulling out books I had never heard of, books with covers that captured my imagination in colourful nets of faraway places and landscapes unknown.

Some of these books I can no longer remember, but some left such an impression I have no doubt they became part of my soul.  Such is the way with art.  The English art critic, John Ruskin, once said “Books are divided into two classes, the books of the hour and the books of all time.”  That was true when I was little, and I know it remains so now.  I have read a lot of books so far this year, some I barely remember, but some have remained - I am thinking about them still.

I no longer do my summer reading in the treetops, preferring the garden instead.  But I still regard this time of the year as a special time for reading. I wait impatiently for those recommended lists of summer books, hungry for tempting new titles, knowing each one is a possible passport to lands ripe for visiting in summer, searching as I did when I was little, for that one special book that will carry me away on a holiday of the mind.

For those like me who love lists of summer reading suggestions, here are five of mine, along with an enticing quote from each one.  The last book on the list is one I’ve just finished, and one I know will be with me for a long, long time.


1.  “Prejudices, it is well known, are most difficult to eradicate from the heart whose soil has never been loosened or fertilised by education: they grow there, firm as weeds among stones."
from Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte

2.  "The Mole was bewitched, entranced, fascinated. By the side of the river he trotted as one trots, when very small, by the side of a man who holds one spell-bound by exciting stories; and when tired at last, he sat on the bank, while the river still chattered on to him, a babbling procession of the best stories in the world, sent from the heart of the earth to be told at last to the insatiable sea."
from The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame.

3.  “It would presently be his task to take the bandage from this young woman's eyes, and bid her look forth on the world. But how many generations of the women who had gone to her making had descended bandaged to the family vault? He shivered a little, remembering some of the new ideas in his scientific books, and the much-cited instance of the Kentucky cave-fish, which had ceased to develop eyes because they had no use for them. What if, when he had bidden May Welland to open hers, they could only look out blankly at blankness?"
from The Age of Innocence, by Edith Wharton

4.  "I am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice. Not because of his voice, or because he was the smallest person I ever knew, or even because he was the instrument of my mother's death, but because he is the reason I believe in God. I am a christian because of Owen Meany. "
from A Prayer For Owen Meany, by John Irving

5.  “When our mother, a nun of the Diocesan Carmelite Order of Madras, unexpectedly went into labor that September morning, the big rain in Ethiopia had ended, its rattle on the corrugated tin roofs of Missing ceasing abruptly like a chatterbox cut off in midsentence.”
from Cutting For Stone, by Abraham Verghese

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Flowers In Our Hair

With a nod of apology to my gentlemen readers, I have to say that being a girl in the month of June is such a delightful thing.  Our bubble baths are scented with jasmine now -  we paint our toenails pink.  We can smell like Lily of the Valley all the day long if we wish and sometimes, just sometimes,
we wear flowers in our hair. 
Which dress to wear, whether high heels or flats, hair worn up or down - all these feminine decisions seem lighter than air during the sparkling month of June.  
And, whilst I may be well past the age required to properly appreciate the charms of Justin Bieber, I can still get a girly thrill over the discovery of the perfect grey eyeshadow or that one divine lotion that smells like the sea.  
So, I thought I would share with you a top ten of my favourite beauty tips for the summer months.  And I would love to hear some of your own. 
(Sorry all you fellows out there, I’ll be back to more inclusive posts later!)  
Here goes:

1.  Vincent Longo Gel Stain - A fabulous alternative to the heavier look of lipstick, this lipstain lasts all day and looks like you just happened to wake up with the ruby red lips of Snow White.  I often put it on as a base for a darker lip.  It comes in several lovely shades, and is perfect for the summer months.


2.  C. O. Bigelow’s Lemon Hand Wash - I keep this by my kitchen sink all summer.  It smells like freshly sliced lemons and makes my hands extra soft.  Love, love it! 
So reasonably priced, too.


3.  Mario Badescu Facial Spray - After a long walk with Edward in the morning humidity, I head straight for this!  Unbeliveably refreshing, this facial spray is full of wonderful ingredients like aloe, herbs and rosewater.  I simply close my eyes and spray!  Instantly cool, instantly fresh, and good for your skin to boot.


4.  Rahua Shampoo - Those of us with long hair know that not all shampoos are equal.   I am always looking for something better.  I like to alternate shampoos every few months or so  - Philip B and Terax are favourites - but I recently started using Rahua Shampoo and I adore it. Organic, with a subtle fragrance, it seems to really nourish my hair and it will be my summer shampoo.


5.  Benefit Eye Gel - This stuff is great.  Just a teensy little dab under your eyes in the morning and you are instantly depuffed!  It feels wonderful - cool and tingly - and is full of good things like chamomile and raspberry extract.  And whilst it may not give me the eyes of a twelve year old, I can certainly tell the difference.  I keep mine in the refrigerator for a bit of extra coolness.  It feels marvelous.


6.  L’Aromarine Bubble Bath - I suppose I would buy from this company for their beautiful glass jars alone, so it is a bonus that the fragrances of L’Aromarine products are so delicious.  Of course, long after the bubble bath is gone, the lovely decorated jars remain.  They have a fabulous ocean scent - my favourite.


7.  Neutrogena Sun Block - Yes, I am serious about sun protection and wear sun block every day of my life.  This is a great one by Neutrogena.  With an SPF of 110, it also has a built-in moisturizer.  Every day, every single day.


8.  Fresh Fruit and Vegetables - They are everywhere now... no excuses for crummy diets!


9.  Sleep - Studies continue to say we do not get nearly enough.  
Why do we feel guilty about sleeping longer? 
We need it!


10.  And of course.... sometimes, just sometimes, partiularly in June, 
Flowers in my hair.  

And remember....

"Lipstick is not just for looking glamorous;it can be used to signal for help on windows and other surfaces." 
 Nancy Drew