Thursday, July 28, 2011

Edward At The Holiday House

Edward At The Holiday House

Me: "Edward, do you want to go down to the dock and watch the sunset?"
Edward: "Um, not yet. I'm telling you, there's something up this fireplace!"

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Black Gate

The Black Gate

It has been years since I strolled down this pathway. All around and above me the muscular arms of live oaks are frozen in ballet poses no dancer could achieve. Their gnarled and bony roots, perhaps curious about life above ground, have broken through the pavement - I tread carefully over rolling waves of concrete. From the secret gardens of storybook homes the trees call out to be noticed, waving dusty hankies of moss as I pass.
 But I will not be distracted today.
Just as I put out my hand to hold back a gregarious palm frond, I see it. The black gate. But what’s this? It’s open? And where is the handwritten sign that usually swings from from the burnt rusted lock ?
Curious, I allow my eye to trespass beyond the gate and into the overgrown garden, curving and winding till it reaches the rickety porch. No one there. The house, long past its once glorious prime, sits forlorn in this sweltering heat of July - no hand to slap open its rusty screen door, no breeze to dance with the porch swing. And no sign of the lady who once serenely presided over this shaded Southern veranda.
Well really, what did I expect? She must have been nearly ninety the last time I saw her, when we’d smiled to each other as I passed under the oaks. The colour of the richest chocolate, she was clad in a white linen dress, and the sign that swung on her painted black gate read,
“Porch Conversations. $1.00”.

I always planned to push that gate open one hot afternoon, put down my dollar and settle in for a chat. We would eschew the usual topics of weather and politics, and talk only of butterflies, cloud castles and pie. I might discover she’d descended from kings. She might find out all my secrets.
But it always happened that each time I passed by, I seemed to be wandering off elsewhere - to lunch, to the beach, to the antique shop on the corner. So we simply smiled and nodded as I made my way past, never knowing my path would lead to the day of no second chances, to the morning of the vacant porch.
I sigh.
I rather think we would have liked each other.

So perhaps as a tribute to the friend I might have known, I’ll hang a similar sign on my front gate when I’m old:

“Porch Conversations. $1.00.
Come talk to me now.
 I won’t be here for long.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A List For a Hot July

A List For A Hot July

They say it’s hot enough to fry an egg on the pavement. I’ll take their word for it. To actually conduct the experiment myself seems to require too much effort for too small a return. Besides, the air feels like chicken broth and no doubt I would falter just carrying my sacrificial egg down the drive to conduct the experiment. No, I planned to just stay inside counting the days until fall. But then I looked at poor Edward’s sad furry face - too long had he been bored by the heat, too long trapped inside the cool house.
So I grabbed one Songwriter and two furry dogs, two large sun hats and one ukulele and we all headed off to more salubrious climes.
Here I shall stay for awhile, working my way through this stack of new books.
Perhaps I’ll pour myself another glass of cold Pellegrino with lime.
Perhaps I’ll eat a peach.
Or two.
Perhaps I’ll write a fairy tale.
Or whip up a new fun list for this hot, hot month.
Yes, a list. That’s what I’ll do!


1. Dog Nose Necklace
As I sit here writing this list, the wind is playing through trees dressed in tattered grey dresses of moss. A ceiling fan slowly twirls overhead, its mahogany blades listlessly chasing each other round and round and round, stirring up a soft breeze that ruffles the fur of the big white dog asleep at my side. Edward is such a good traveler - always up for an adventure, always happy to have a new experience - we like to take him with us whenever we can. But sometimes I have to be away and when I am I wear a lovely locket around my neck that holds photos of those dear to me. Of course Edward’s photo is safely inside. But I recently discovered a delightful new bauble that might just be even better. Handmade by Florida artist Jackie Kaufman, these pet nose pendants are created from actual molds taken of your pet’s nose. Made in solid sterling silver, they can be engraved on the back with your pet’s name. Can you imagine?
See them HERE.


2. Beach Toys
He doesn’t know it yet, but Edward will be running on the beach this evening.
Summer just isn’t summer without being barefoot on beach sand at least once.
These little guys seem to capture that happy beach experience just perfectly.
Handmade by Pogoshop, you can find them HERE.


3. Jo Rowling
I possess an innate distrust of anything wildly popular, a personality quirk that usually serves me well but, occasionally, just occasionally, causes me to miss something truly wonderful. This was the path I was on when the first Harry Potter books came on the scene.
I’m not really interested”, was my reply each time a friend encouraged me to read one. Finally The Songwriter, who had already succumbed to Harry’s considerable charms, brought home the first book, put it into my hands and said, “Sit down. Read. Just the first chapter. I know without a doubt you’ll love it and who knows you better than I do?”.
He was right of course, and I merrily joined the throngs around the globe who impatiently waited for each new book and saw each new film on its opening day. With the recent release of the very last movie, I find myself rather wistful. I will miss them terribly, but am so grateful they were written in the first place. What Jo Rowling accomplished was monumental. Clinically depressed, practically destitute, with a baby daughter to care for and support - any one of these could strip a writer of creative vision and motivation. The fact that Ms. Rowling was able to hold fast to her story and write her book in spite of her problems is more than remarkable. I cheer her success - each pound that she earns makes me smile. Her books have given so much to so many. I rather envy those who’ve not yet read them. What a treat they have in store.


4. Movie Lullaby
Last month, when I was ill with bronchitis, there were several nights when I simply could not sleep. This, as we all know, is a most uncomfortable state to be in. I flipped and I flopped for a long while, coughing all the while. I punched my pillow and turned it over to the cool side. I straightened my sheets, folding my hands across my chest just so. I took a deep, cleansing breath. Then flipped and flopped some more. Finally, I remembered that my good friend was on holiday in Hawaii, and although it was two in the morning here in my miserable bed, it was only eight in the evening on the shores of the 50th state. So I grabbed my iPhone from the bedside table and texted her.
Are you there”, I asked.
“Of course!”, came the reply.
And for the next few nights, from her spot by the ocean, she would film a movie of the sunset to help me get to sleep. I would lie there in bed watching her view, listening to the waves lapping outside her door, grateful for the magic of friendship. And of the magic of technology.
Here’s one of my lullaby movies.
Divine, isn’t it?


5. Bicycle Basket
It seems to me that the best mode of transportation in summer is the same one we used when we were little. A bicycle. Mine was always was equipped with a basket that usually contained a book, a banana, dog biscuits and lemonade. I was here by the marshes in May and took a bike down through an old maritime forest to a secluded little sun-drenched cove where I gathered armloads of oyster shells - enough to line my new flower garden back at home. How did I carry all those shells back? A bicycle basket, of course.
A must have for summer.
I am in love with this one.
Find it HERE.


6. Ship Chess Set
I have always thought that Maine would be the best place to spend the summer months. Those bright blue skies and rocky coves seem to retain just enough of winter’s chill to make the summer oh, so comfortable. I love a summer’s day that requires a shawl round one’s shoulders after the sun dips down. Imagine an old beach house in Maine, lit by candlelight that dances on the weathered wooden walls. A summer storm is brewing out to sea and you’ve just sat down at a round table by the window where, in the center sits a chess set.
What would it look like?
Why, just like this one, of course.
Find it HERE.


7. Fox Coat
Of course, if you are like me and find yourself a bit tired of summer's heat already... if you long for the first brisk wind of autumn - the gold's of September, October's burnt orange.... well.... take heart.
It won't be too long now till we'll be wearing clothes like this.
If we're lucky.
Find it HERE.


7. Dr. Crusher and the Poem
Some years ago, I was standing in the concession line at a Loreena McKennitt concert when I felt someone staring at me. I cautiously turned to see a young man studying my profile with intensity.
Oh, my gosh! I thought you were her!! I’m sorry”, he said.
But has anyone ever told you that you look exactly like Dr. Crusher on Star Trek?
Well, gee. No woman minds being told they look like a star, I suppose, but I don’t know of many women whose egos would back flip with joy at the mention of their resemblance to a Star Trek character, and as I’d never seen the show, my mind immediately filled up with images of aliens and monsters rendering me decidedly less than flattered. Dr. Crusher? The name did not sound promising. I paid for my Diet Coke and slunk back to my seat. I did later see the lady in question and, sigh, I do rather look like her. The Songwriter even found a candy bar with her image emblazoned on the side and brought it home to me. It still resides in my kitchen and never fails to bring a smile.

I don’t suppose we ever see ourselves the way others do. Even our mirrored reflection isn’t capable of showing us our true visage, the way we are seen by others. And maybe that’s a good thing. Although occasionally, when we get a glimpse of ourselves in another’s eye, it can be an interesting sight. For example, just last week I received a phone call from an old, good friend from childhood, one of those few treasured people who has known me since I was twelve. He phoned from the car where he’d just heard a poem read aloud on the radio. “It reminded me of you! So I called to see what you’re up to.” We had a fun chat, as we always do, making plans to get together soon and catch up. Later in the day, I remembered about that poem and went online to hear it for myself, to perhaps decipher what about it reminded him of me.
I listened.
And I smiled.

On the 747

As soon as I sat down
the seven year old girl
offered me gum
and showed me a postcard
of the airplane we were in.
She was writing her mother
whom she had left at the gate,
smearing her love
in blue magic marker.
Then she pulled out a drawing
she had made of the wind
and one of a cloud
and a man who had ladders
for legs and eight arms
extending eight hands.
After the heavy body of the plane
lifted off the ground,
she held my hand and talked
about her flute teacher's birds
and the eels she had bought
in a bait store and let loose
on the beach, each one
slithering into the dark
of the green waves,
returning to what she said
she could not imagine.

by Malena Morling


I wonder.
What poem might remind someone of you?


Oh, and this just in.....
A heartfelt thanks to artist Tina Steele Lindsey for the
wonderful mention last week!
I am incredibly honored!
See it HERE

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Bastille Day

"If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man,
then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you,
for Paris is a moveable feast."
Ernest Hemingway

Happy Bastille Day to all my friends in France!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Edward's Dream

Edward’s Dream

It was the lyrical sound of the wren that awoke him. From her spot in the deep end of the birdbath, lost in her sunrise ablutions, she could not resist a song. Her notes flooded the air like the scent of a rose - a high summer carol that seeped right through the window glass and into the big white dog’s dream of snow. It took him a moment to know where he was. Grudgingly, he opened his eyes to see the sun had once again risen before him. Already it beamed wide awake into the quiet room, scintillas of colour agleam in its rays. Already it warmed his nose. So insistent and determined, this sun of July, to lay heavy on the air and trap him inside the cool house.

Oh how he longer to re-enter his dream..... Snow, beautiful snow, drifting down on his white fur - so much falling that it was difficult to tell where he ended and a snowdrift began.

He shook his fur and snowmen appeared all around him with top hatted heads and orange carrot noses.

They followed along as he trotted unleashed through the neighborhood streets, a button-eyed battalion of cold.

He could see his breath on the air as he ran.

The trees of December shone from each house, painting the snow covered gardens with flowers of light.

And there wasn’t a cat or a squirrel to be seen.

Then drifting in from far off in the distance, he thought he heard music. Carolers? Angels? He couldn’t tell which. Stopping for a second, he cocked his head to listen, the sound growing louder with each frosted breath. Slowly, reluctantly, he began to follow the song of the wren, icy snow melting beneath his paws as he went, till, with a sigh of regret, he found himself, not racing through the bracing air of a December afternoon with a merry band of snowmen following along, but half-asleep in the sultry light of a hot July dawn.

He sighed.

He stretched.

He sighed again.

Hearing the lady stir, the big dog rose and went to her side of the bed. Leaning over, she patted his head reassuringly. “Don’t worry, Edward”, she said. “Summer is brief, you know. Just a season, then it’s gone. Even now, though you can’t tell it, the days are getting shorter and the nights just a little bit longer. It’s only about eight weeks till we’ll feel that sweet change in the wind. Besides, there’s eggs and cheese for breakfast, and honeydew for lunch, and naps all day in your favourite chair. Things could always be worse.

The big white dog smiled.

Gosh, she could always make him feel better.

Eight weeks is not so very long after all.

Maybe his afternoon nap will once again bring snow.

And honeydew melon for lunch!

He was more than ready to meet the day.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Tree of Life

Tree of Life
"The nuns taught us there were two ways through life - the way of nature and the way of grace. You have to choose which one you'll follow.

Grace doesn't try to please itself. Accepts being slighted, forgotten, disliked. Accepts insults and injuries.

Nature only wants to please itself. Get others to please it too. Likes to lord it over them. To have its own way. It finds reasons to be unhappy when all the world is shining around it. And love is smiling through all things."

Opening lines from the movie, Tree of Life

When I was little, my father’s favourite singer was Eddy Arnold. Though known primarily as a country singer, in the sixties Mr. Arnold decided to expand his musical horizons a bit and began to both record and perform with symphony orchestras. This move was rather unpopular with some of his more rabid fans, but Daddy loved it, and when the tour came to our town he purchased tickets for us to go. I well remember sitting in the audience in my best dress, watching the conductor lead our local symphony in the opening music. Having never heard a live symphony before, I was enchanted. But there happened to be a fellow seated just behind us who, apparently, was not. First came the theatrical sighs, then the exaggerated shifting in his seat. Then a few rather vociferous groans until finally his irritation could no longer be contained. He stood to his feet and yelled out for all to hear....”Get the guy in the monkey suit off the stage!”. Mother was offended. Daddy laughed. And I learned an interesting lesson that day - some people simply cannot abide stepping outside the realm of their experience, even for something as wonderful as the symphony.
I was reminded of this last weekend while watching the film Tree of Life. A couple at the end of the aisle could not seem to rein in their displeasure at what they were seeing on the screen and voiced their feelings through various groans and sighs, peppered with the occasional guffaw. Blessedly, less than a third of the way through the film, they left the theatre.
Now granted, this is not a typical summer movie. A remarkable work from director Terence Malick, Tree of Life unabashedly asks the hard questions, those we hear asked by the soul in the dead of night. It is a film that questions God about death as well as life, about our connection to each other, about our place in the world. It is non-linear and impressionistic. It is sincere. It is beautiful. Yes, it is a cerebral work that requires both thought and sensitivity from the viewer, but its rewards are great. I have turned it over in my mind for days, gleaning something new each time that I do.
Thinking about the fellow from that long ago concert as well as the movie couple of this past week has made me wonder. What is it about beauty that makes some of us so uncomfortable, even angry? Why do some of us ridicule the unfamiliar while others embrace the new with open hearts and minds? The elegiac words found at the very top of this post are heard at the opening of Tree of Life and they are the fabric on which each subsequent scene is embroidered.
I rather think they represent the ultimate question for mankind.
Which will it be?
Nature or grace?
When Tree of Life was shown at Cannes in May, some in the audience jeered.
The film went on to win the Palme d’Or, the highest prize of the festival.
Obviously it is a universal question.

Photo above: Trees in my back garden

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Summer Swimming

Summer Swimming

Every year here in the states, on fourth day of the seventh month, fireworks slice the humid air and splatter the night sky with the colours of summer.
Sunflower golds and watermelon reds.
Cut grass greens and ocean blues.
Each propellant rainbow a reminder of the pleasures of the season.
Family cars are now fully packed for the annual trip to the seaside.
Alongside every cobra twisting roller coaster, lines of tourists wait in the scorching sun, their lips stained cherry red from cold popsicle juice.
Flags fly on front porches and in shady back gardens long wooden tables are laden with fresh corn and tomatoes, peach cobbler and iced tea.
And over at the local swimming pool, the hot sun dances atop the blue water. The diving board waves up and down, up and down, as one by one, laughing children bounce, jump and plunge down through the searing heat of the afternoon air to the chilly depths of the water below. It is clear to anyone watching that this is well considered the ultimate in summertime fun.
Clear to most people, I suppose, but not, I confess, to me.

Because my mother couldn’t swim, she was bound and determined that I should learn. To that end, for at least four weeks out of every summer holiday, I was enrolled in swimming lessons. The unfathomable depths of the English language do not contain adequate words to describe how much I hated these lessons. To me, summer mornings were best spent on long solitary walks with my dog, library book under my arm. Having waited all school year for this sweet freedom, to sacrifice even a small portion of it to swimming lessons was a bitter pill for me to swallow. For in all of history, I doubt if there was ever a child less suited to this activity. I hated the way a wet swimsuit felt on my white little body, all squishy and clingy and cold. I hated the way the July sun smashed into the white concrete surrounding the pool, causing my light eyes to squint and sting. I simply couldn’t grasp the appeal of standing shoulder to shoulder with strangers in a pool of chlorinated water. Opening my eyes under that water was a nightmare and I positively loathed the feeling of it rushing into my ears. Goggles, nose-clips, ear plugs, bathing cap - all were tried at one time or another, and believe me, these are accoutrements guaranteed to make one stand out at the pool. But, I didn’t care. I would have done anything to make the experience more palatable, but really, nothing ever did. The only part I ever mastered was floating on my back with my head far enough out of the water to keep it from finding my ears. I can’t remember if I passed the final exam. Surely I didn’t, for I can’t swim a stroke even today.

To be truthful, my aquatic ignorance hasn’t caused me one ounce of trouble in my life. Well, there was the time The Songwriter refused to let go of the back of my coat during a midnight crossing of the English channel, thus severely restricting my ability to hang over the side and marvel at the dark, expansive view, and that was certainly irritating. (Of course, come to think of it, he did the exact same thing on a violently windy mountaintop in Cumbria, so my inability to swim may have had nothing whatsoever to do with it. He might just possess a fear of seeing me hurtle from a high place.)

Now please don’t misunderstand me and think that I hate the water. Nothing could be further from the truth. I am delightfully at home by the sea. Few places on earth help me place the oddly shaped puzzle piece of my life back into the big picture like the seaside does. An evening stroll on the shore with Edward is one of life's purest joys, although Edward, being of sheepdog ancestry, shares my total lack of enthusiasm for water. He is, like me, perfectly content to spend time by the sea, not  in it.

So don’t look for my face in the crowd at the pool this summer. But don’t for a minute think I feel left out or deprived. I know full well what I’m missing and am happy to be doing so. My summer holidays are now spent on dry land, doing precisely as I wish. Such are the joys of adulthood.
 Now where did I put that library book?

Friday, July 1, 2011

Celebration, and Something Special

This sunny month of June marks three whole years since I first began writing From The House of Edward. That summer I was utterly convinced each post would be my last - certain that each idea was the final idea, each inspiration the concluding one. When I started, as you can easily tell from my profile photo, I hid behind Edward. Even if visitors were ambivalent towards me, I reasoned, they would all love him without question. But my readers were kind, and soon, surprisingly plentiful. Bit by bit, I began to feel more confident in sharing my writing with those I could not see - something I’d rarely done up until then. At first, I found your comments fairly startling. Not only did each one represent someone who was reading my work, but someone who cared enough about what they’d read to actually take the time to respond. And then the emails began. More detailed and more personal, I read each one of these with immense appreciation and gratitude. I still do.

Upon embarking on this journey, with Edward leading the way, little did I know what a sweet experience it would be. I had no idea that inspiration begets inspiration. I did not realize that by acknowledging and celebrating the wonders of everyday life, those wonders would gladly continue to reveal themselves to me - their words becoming clearer, their tunes much easier to hear. I would never have dreamed, three years ago, that through this blog that I write by my window, I would meet gracious and fascinating people from London to LA - people who would feel like old friends from the first moment we said hello. I would have giggled at the idea of perfect strangers sending me gifts through the mail, or someone in Paris thinking they’d seen Edward on the street and writing to make certain we were not in that city at the moment! But this blog has allowed all of this joy into my life.

I no longer fear each post will be my last. And I no longer hide behind Edward - we happily sit side by side, which is what he most prefers anyway. I am working on other forms of writing now, and there is even talk about publishing some of this blog in gift book form, both of which hold exciting, and a bit scary, possibilities. It has always been my attention to have From The House of Edward be a soft place to land for my readers - a place where you all could find beauty and a bit of the truth it affords. Honestly though, my readers have returned the favour a hundred fold by gifting me with a safe place to write and work out my ideas. Your kindness and enthusiasm has afforded me the freedom to do what I love to do, without fear and with increasing confidence. I owe you all my heartfelt thanks and hope you will continue on the journey with Edward and me.

As a token our our gratitude and in celebration of our anniversary,
Edward and I invite you into a bit of The House of Edward!
Turn the sound up,
and Enjoy!