Sunday, March 31, 2013

A Happy Easter Weekend

“But friendship is precious, not only in shade,
but in the sunshine of life;
and thanks to a benevolent arrangement of things, 
the greater part of life is sunshine.”
Thomas Jefferson

Edward and I wish you all a very Happy Easter weekend!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A List For Spring.... Has Anyone Seen It?

A List for Spring....
Has Anyone Seen It?

Today I wore a coat the colour of a Springtime sky.  In this part of the country, in any other year, this final week of March would call for a coat made of linen. But not this year.  Though its colour said Spring, the coat I wore today was made of warmest wool and sported a flamboyant fur collar (faux fur, naturally).  I paired it with a grey turtleneck sweater and grey woolen trousers, grey socks and grey oxfords.   And I still shivered as I ran from place to place.  For though the calendar emphatically tells us it’s Spring, the weather declares it a liar.  
In any other year, the trees would already be wearing the golden green dresses of Spring.
Azaleas would be blooming; windows open wide. 
 But not this year.  
Outside the wind is howling; the temperature dropping like a stone.
  There is a roaring fire in the fireplace; a mug of hot cocoa by my side.  
There is a forecast for a dusting of snow; an extra blanket on the bed.
Tell me.  
Has anyone seen Spring?
If you, like me, are clad in flannel and snuggled down for another cold and wintry night...
If you think Spring is nothing more than a myth...
Here’s some new favourite finds to, hopefully, make you smile.
Bundle up, and Enjoy!

1. Garden
Normally the stone urns in the back garden would already be overflowing with blowsy new ferns. 
 There would be alyssum in the window boxes and the hydrangea bushes lining the drive would be full of new green leaves. 
 Instead, the palette of winter still colours the land.
  Grey trees, grey ground. 
 No matter - I’m using these extra cold days to dream up new ideas for
 the Spring that will surely come soon.  
Ideas like the one above.
Don’t you just love that?

2. Hats
A couple of years ago Macy’s closed their hat department here in town.  A lot of women were simply appalled.  I counted myself in that number, even though I have to admit that I rarely wear a dressy hat, something I find regrettable. (I do wear sun hats, of course, big wide-brimmed numbers that I love.  Strangely enough, I find these at my dermatologist’s office.  She has the best hats.)  I adore hats, especially extravagant ones with feathers and such, but really, where would I wear one?  In my dreams I wake every morning and place a delightfully bizarre hat on my head like the one above, one designed by the milliner extraordinaire, Philip Treacy.  Has there ever been anyone more creative?  Treacy’s hats always seemed so perfectly suited to the designs of Alexander McQueen.  They have that same ability to push the boundaries of fanciful right off the mountain of spectacular.  Perhaps I couldn’t get away with donning one of Philip Treacy’s creations for a run to the farmer’s market, but now at least I can have an entire collection within the boards of a glorious new book of his work.
(Oh, and it’s worth noting that the complaints of local women convinced Macy’s to reopen their hat department last Spring.  So maybe I’ll be a hat wearer yet.)
Find the new book ... HERE

3. Amazing Handbags
It seems a rare thing these days to find something unique. 
 Something you’ve not seen before; something beautiful, something extraordinary.
  When I saw these new handbag creations by designer, Kristine Johannes, my heart stopped. 
 Each one is a work of art. 
 Not only would they be a joy to carry,
 but I can see a collection of them lined up on an antique table, 
reflecting sunlight and candlelight like prisms.  
Utterly modern, with a timeless beauty, they could easily become a passion.
They are all so gorgeous, I had the hardest time choosing one to feature.
See the collection for yourself, HERE.
See Kristine's brand-new video for Barney's HERE

4. Keeping Time
It goes so fast, as we all know.
Shouldn’t we keep it as magically as we can?
Watch time fly with this lovely carousel clock.
Find it HERE

5. Bob and Sophie
Like me, a lot of my readers are well acquainted with two very special, very furry, sheepdogs who used to reside in the deepest part of France.  The adventures of Wilf and Digby were faithfully recorded on a daily basis by their witty and devoted master, Angus on his popular blog.  It was always my first stop every morning.  When they left us, Digby first, and the gallant Wilf a couple of years later, I along with many others felt their loss in a significant way. Such is the power of friendship between the like-minded within the blogosphere.  Fortunately, Angus continued his delightful writing at a new blog entitled The Rickety Old Farmhouse, giving us a window into his wonderfully quirky French village.  And now I am so happy to report that two new Polish Lowland Sheepdog puppies are scheduled to arrive at The Rickety Old Farmhouse on the seventh of April, something that makes me endlessly happy, particularly as that happens to be my own birthday!   These two are brother and sister, christened Bob and Sophie.  If you are followers of Angus, this news will tickle you as much as it does me, I’m sure.  
If you’ve never visited before, now is the perfect time. 
 Set your watches for April 7!
You can find Bob and Sophie at their brand-new blog.
Find Them HERE

6. Good Ol’ Freda
A couple of weeks ago, on a balmy Saturday night around ten pm, if you happened to drive down one of my city’s more eccentric streets, you would have seen yours truly sitting cross-legged atop a stone wall outside a fairly grand church, an unusual sight to be sure.  The Songwriter and I were there waiting to see an entry in the city’s annual Film Festival.  The schedule was running late, but I’m so happy we waited, for the movie, Good Ol’ Freda, was a wonderful experience.
  Good Ol’ Freda is the story of Freda Kelly who, at age sixteen, was often in the crowd of girls watching The Beatles’ lunchtime concerts at The Cavern in Liverpool.  One year later she was employed by the band.  For eleven years, Freda ran their fan club, acted as their personal assistant and secretary and became as trusted as family.  Though this is a fascinating tale of a halcyon time in our culture, it is ultimately a portrait of a woman who refused to sell her story for fame and fortune, choosing instead to hold her secrets close and remain loyal to the members of a band she worked for and loved.   The movie, like Freda Kelly herself, is joyous and uplifting.  I cannot recommend it enough and encourage you to see it if it comes to your town.
Read More HERE.

7. Poems to Learn by Heart
When you were little, did you memorize poems?  I know I did.  Isn’t it odd that the words we memorize as a child seem to stay with us forever, floating back whenever we have need of them? Perhaps that’s why we say we know them “by heart”, for they do seem to reside there, in the deepest part of ourselves.  
Whenever my Father was complimented on the beauty of his garden he would respond with “A thing of beauty is a joy forever”, calling forth the words of Keats into the springtime air.  And just last night, as the March winds blew the wind chimes into wild crescendos and sent the thorny branches of the rose bush to clawing the windowpanes, the words of Robert Louis Stevenson traveled the long distance from my childhood to the forefront of my mind...
 Whenever the moon and starts are set 
Whenever the wind is high, 
All night long in the dark and wet, 
A man goes riding by.
Late in the night when the fires are out, 
Why does he gallop and gallop about?

Caroline Kennedy has published some delightful poetry compilations over the years and I’m happy to say she has a new volume just out this week.  Poems to Learn by Heart is a collection of wonderful poems perfectly suited for memory.
Find it HERE.

  For the child in your life, or for yourself, 
wouldn’t it be nice to know this one by heart....?

I’d Love to Be a Fairy’s Child
by Robert Graves

Children born of fairy stock
Never need for shirt or frock,
Never want for food or fire, 
Always get their heart’s desire:
Jingle pockets full of gold,
Marry when they’re seven years old.
Every fairy child can keep
Two strong ponies and ten sheep;
All have houses, each his own
Built of brick or granite stone
They live on cherries, they run wild -
I’d love to be a fairy’s child.

Happy Spring to you all!
I'm sure it will be here soon.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Ballet for Martha

Ballet For Martha

The Appalachian Trail traverses over two thousand miles of the eastern United States, criss-crossing quiescent mountains who hold their secrets close, revealing little of their history save a melancholic beauty that settles on the mind like the mist that drapes their pines.  The threshold of the trail is not far from us; we stop there nearly every Autumn on our annual foray to the mountains.  Much like Dorothy with one ruby-slippered foot poised above a yellow road, Edward and I have stood staring down this mysterious leafy tunnel as far as our eyes can travel, till all its scarlet gold coalesces in the distance to a fiery, beckoning gem.  Occasionally hikers pass us, all freshly pressed and smelling of soap.  I can only imagine the adventures they will encounter before, and if, they manage to arrive atop Maine’s Mount Katahdin at the end of the trail.

Being somewhat familiar with this part of the country that bears the name Appalachia, it is difficult for me to conjure up a piece of music that more accurately illustrates a landscape than Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring.  I have often imagined Copland wandering this very same trail in the months of March or April when all around him drifts the golden green of spring.  Did he transcribe the bird song?  Did he hear the mountains sing in chorus?  He must have done, for to hear this work is to see, and experience, the countryside for which it is named.
Or so I thought.

Truth is, Copland wrote this piece of music never knowing the title at all.  He wasn’t thinking of Appalachia, he was merely composing a ballet for his friend, Martha Graham.  Indeed, his title for the work was Ballet for Martha - he only found out the name of the ballet the night before its opening.  It was to his great amusement that for years and years afterwards, he continued to be praised for so accurately capturing the spirit of a land he never gave thought to while composing his Appalachian Spring.  Call it serendipity, call it the Unseen Hand.  Call it the shenanigans of fate.  It is difficult to ignore the invisible assemblage that often orchestrates our days.  How little we see.  How little we know.

Just last week, a favourite neighbour came over for a visit and long chat.  Over tea and brownies, we discussed a cornucopia of subjects.  Being fifteen, her views and opinions were of delightful interest to me and I was tickled to see how closely entwined our conclusions were.  She shared with me how so often, when circumstances change or delay her plans, she wonders if perhaps there is a reason.  Was she spared an accident by being a few seconds late?  Did she happen upon a new friend by a slight altering of her schedule?  I loved it that she considers ideas such as these for it means she is living life with open eyes; open eyes that know, without seeing, that there is a benevolence surrounding us, orchestrating our lives for the good.  

If you’ve never been to Appalachia in springtime, 
close your eyes when you listen to this.
You’ll see it plain as day.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Easter Shoes

Easter Shoes
Although The Songwriter is currently in the market for a new car, this does not mean the purchase of one is in anyway imminent.  At present, there is not one rolling the roads here in the states that he actually cares for.  We sit at traffic lights watching the current crop fly past, utterly disenchanted.  He says that they all look the same.  He’s right, it’s quite a homogenized bunch.  For me, the woefully uninspired choices in colour  are the most frustrating.  Silver, silver, champagne, white.  Occasionally a red one floats by, but then we’re back to silver, silver, champagne, white.  One might as well be colour blind, my pistachio green Fiat notwithstanding.  

Colour works a particular sort of magic in my soul,  perhaps because I’ve always been one who thinks in pictures.  There’s a wonderful quirk of brain chemistry called synesthesia in which humans tend to involuntarily assign colour to numbers and, while I don’t consider myself one who is afflicted/blessed with this condition, I must admit the number five has always been as yellow as an egg yolk to me.  More than scent, more than sound, colour illuminates my memory as effectively as a time machine.  A special shade of brown conveys me back to the creaky wooden floors of my elementary school as I stand looking down at them in the lunchroom line.  There is also a certain shade of pink and honey that, even if I encounter it in an autumn sunset, forever speaks of Easter.

These evocative Easter colours are shyly emerging all around me at present and were obviously in my mind last week when one of my favourite bloggers, Vicki Archer, did a delightful post on white pumps which are, apparently, the shoe du jour.  Gazing at that charming white footwear, I was immediately transported back, back to a little shoe shop in my childhood.  It is the Saturday before Easter and as my mother pulls back the wooden door, a little bell signals our entrance.  We are on our annual foray to buy Easter Shoes, a tradition as aeonian as chocolate bunnies and church.  My dress is white this year and we are here to purchase white shoes to match.  The salesman is young, even to my eight year old eyes.  I stand in a little metal contraption that measures my foot, then sit as he places said foot inside a white, pointed-toe, kitten-heeled shoe.  Now let me admit right off.... I have always had long and slender (alright, skinny) feet.  Even so, I do not appreciate the laughter that ensues when this upstart of a shoe salesman sees my foot in that long white creation.
 “Wow!  Looks like she’s wearing skis!”, he roars.
  To this day, I’m slightly peeved at my mother for joining in the giggles
 and I remain a lady who steers well clear of white pumps.

Whatever our education or exalted station in life, are we all still shadowed by words spoken in childhood, words that retain their power to unconsciously provoke pavlovian responses and alter our behaviour without our concert or consent?  I fear this happens more often than we realize.  When I see a reed thin lady choosing clothes to cover non-existent thighs, I know she was a chubby child.  Whenever I’m around someone whose reticence to share their ideas borders on the fearful, I know those ideas were not cherished, were perhaps even denigrated, when they were small.  Those of us who arrive at the station of adulthood without this type of baggage should kiss the ground upon disembarking, for I believe it’s a rare thing indeed.

To be honest, I quite like my feet these days. High arched and bunion free,
 they work exceptionally well with rarely a complaint and look quite nice 
when freshly pedicured and painted. 
 My height has finally reached a point where their length makes sense.
  But still... I cannot shake my aversion to white pumps. 
 Especially at Easter.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Wanderlust, Featuring an Edward Film


There is a marvelous malady afoot in the world, particularly virulent in Spring.  One’s susceptibility is greatly increased if one is also possessed of a certain strain of curiosity, the type of curiosity that pulls one towards windows during thunderstorms and causes undo fascination with forests, rainbows and ships.   If one wishes to avoid infection, it is imperative that one refrain from all music and poetry.  Any watching of Enchanted April is strictly verboten.  Books pose a definite risk, and fairy tales must be avoided at all costs.  Keeping thoroughly apprised of the news helps, and doing one’s taxes has been known to render one totally immune.

  But be aware.  If, as the dreary grey days of Winter dissolve into all the gold greenness of Spring, you find yourself sitting in traffic, lost in a daydream of white gardens... if, when you close your eyes you can almost feel a sea breeze twirl through your hair... if your eyes start to ache for the sight of a meadow and your heart fairly breaks at the sound of an owl..  well, you my friend just may have the very first signs of Wanderlust.

As one afflicted with all the classic symptoms myself, I come to tell you that there is no cure.  It returns every Spring without fail and the only treatment is the necessary indulgence of travel.  The trip you must take need not be extravagant nor extended, but it’s a trip you need, and fast.  You must feel beach sand beneath your toes, you have to breathe fresh air.  You need to gaze at the waves of daffodils in St. James Park or stroll beneath the cherry trees in Washington DC.  You need to ride the Dumbo ride at Disney or gallop a pony down the beaches of Mull.  Trust one who knows, left untreated, Wanderlust can spread and become chronic.  Ignoring the condition will only make matters worse, leaving one at serious risk of boredom and irritability until, eventually, one loses the capacity for rational thought and becomes quite dreadful to be around.

 If you see yourself in the words I have written,
 go straight to your desk and dig out your passport.
  Call a friend, book a seat. 
 Get out of town before it’s too late.
It is almost Spring after all.

Nostalgia in reverse, the longing for yet another strange land,
 grew especially strong in spring.” 
Vladimir Nabokov

Find Edward's Book HERE.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

What Do We Know?

What Do We Know?

When I was little, one of the more exciting experiences known to happen in school was the fire drill.  We never knew when the alarm would sound;  in a morning English class, an afternoon Biology lab - or, hope upon hope, in the middle of a particularly difficult Math test.  Much like Gabriel’s trumpet, without warning it would blast forth from some unseen source, eliciting responses from every soul within earshot.  Up we would spring from our desks and out of the door we would file, one by one, as docile and obedient as a row of baby ducks.  We’d proceed out to the playground where we’d form orderly lines, presumably safe from whatever harm was afoot.  Occasionally we would participate in what our elders dubbed “Duck and Cover” drills.  These were necessitated by the what was universally perceived as the increasing threat of nuclear war.  It was determined by the experts that by merely crouching underneath our desks with our heads touching our knees we would be totally safe from a nuclear attack.  Unfathomable, I know, but we ducked and covered anyway.  So much for the elevated intelligence of human beings.  

The ads I’ve shown here are real ones, and from not that long ago.  Hilarious now, but perfectly sensible at the time.  And it’s sobering, even as we pat ourselves on the back for our culture’s great strides in knowledge, to note that only this week a well-known televangelist here in the States encouraged one of his flock to “pray over” clothes they  purchase at Goodwill stores, just in case a garment could possess demons in the warp and weft of the fabric.
 (You can read his full exhortation here.)  
One can only wonder how backward we will seem to future generations.  When the polar ice caps and the great bears who live there are only memories, will our heirs shake their heads at those amongst who today insist on refuting the science of global warming and its causes?  Will we one day discover that it wasn’t such a brilliant idea to inject
even a modicum of botulism into our foreheads in order to
paralyze wrinkles that are insignificant anyway? 

I suppose I’ve always been naturally skeptical.  I look at advertisements with a jaundiced eye and whether they flow from the lectern, the podium, or the pulpit, I’ve found it’s always beneficial to question the words I hear. I've learned it's always advisable to do my own investigation, to turn over the stones in the pathway myself in a continuing quest for the truth.

It’s disconcerting to think back on assumptions I’ve made that turned out to be entirely wrong, but little by little I move forward, step by step the light shines a bit brighter.  Someone wiser than I once said when we know better, we do better.  Such an affirming quote.  In the humbling light of history it has to be the height of hubris to think we have it all figured out.  But just as I now know that the ingestion of lard is not a guarantee of happiness or health and that DDT and babies do not make a good mix, I also know that my clothing cannot be a harbor for demons.  So I guess I'm moving forward.