Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Tales of November


Wild is the music of autumnal winds amongst the faded woods. ~ William Wordsworth

I love this sweet scene of a young mother reading to her children before a warming fire.  And I love that the calendar on the wall in this illustration says November 10.  But I want to talk about November 11th.  Of course, it was Veteran's Day, a special 24 hours when we honor servicemen for serving.  A few weeks ago, I made a small donation at my grocery store and received a bright poppy in return, a paean to In Flander's Field, the poignant poem by Lt. John McCrae.  I believe McCrae and our servicemen make scenes like the one above possible.  My November 11th tale below, though poignant too, is a childish one and a little sad.  But I don't think you'll mind.  I begin:

I used to accompany my best friend to our church's cemetery so that her mother could plant flowers on their relatives' graves.  I had never been to a cemetery before so I thought it was both eerie and fascinating.  While my friend's mother tended to flowers, we would wander off reading headstones.  Often we would find the names of classmates' grandparents but one day our hearts suddenly stopped cold.  Etched on a large white marble statue of a larger-than-life angel, was my name, Donna Marie.  Buried there was a young girl who died at an age just one year older than I.  My friend and I stared and blinked at one another and being childish and foolish and prone to imaginings, we wondered if this was an omen.  I sensed that whatever had befallen Donna Marie must have been very tragic indeed because her statuary eclipsed all other stones in the cemetery.  I was in deep thought and nearly trembling as we drove home that day and both my friend and I turned to watch the large stone become smaller and smaller in the rear window.  It was almost as though the angel were nodding goodbye to us with its diminishing height.

That was the last visit to the cemetery that summer but my chum and I devised a fanciful tale in our heads.  Perhaps I would die, as Donna Marie did, in my eleventh year, but for me, it would be on the eleventh day of the eleventh month at the eleventh hour.  We both knew this was just a fairy tale but we made preparations just the same.

As luck would have it, November 11th that year was on a Saturday and my grandmother would be babysitting me.  My friend tagged along "just to see" and we spent the night waiting for the appointed hour playing games in the family room.  We both tried to be very good, letting one another win at Hearts and Monopoly.  My grandmother never knew what was going on.  We put on our pajamas and tried ever-so-hard to stay awake until 11:00 pm.  But the hour passed with both of us out cold on the sleeper couch from too much popcorn and ice cream and we didn't stir again until 7:00 am.  Barely a word was spoken about our delusion but the following spring when we visited the cemetery again, we went straight to Donna Marie's grave.

But now we felt an unexpected tender thread connecting us to the little girl who had an angel standing solemn over her.  We began to lay wildflowers and found pinecones for her grave.  We marveled at how we didn't recognize the family name and without the internet, we didn't even think about finding out who she was.  But we loved her and took care of her and every time we drove by the cemetery, we both looked over our shoulders to catch a glimpse of her receding angel guardian.

I went back there a few years ago and noticed that Donna Marie's mother had joined her and I felt very comforted about that.  Recently, thanks to the internet, I posted a query to a group of neighbors and friends who still reside in my hometown.  Within a few minutes, Donna Marie's niece responded.  "That is my family", she wrote, "She was my father's younger sister and she was hit by a car after picking apples for her horse one day.  My grandmother missed her until they day she herself died".  I learned a little bit more too.  But it doesn't really matter here... Just know that Donna Marie's niece said her grandmother cursed with tears in her eyes the day she noticed vandals had stolen the angel's hands.  And she told me that her grandmother would have loved knowing that two little girls thought enough of her daughter to glorify her grave and memory will small childish tokens that were given with only the purest reverence.

And so now...on to other November tales. This year more than ever before, I noticed that my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving, is being shown the door.  With Christmas displays edging out autumnal beauty, it's a case of "Here's your hat - what's your hurry?"  Or, as soon as our chairs are pulled up to our bountiful tables, the cornucopia is whisked away and replaced by a Christmas tree before our very eyes.

A friend seemed sad at work the other day and when I asked her why, she blurt out that Christmas is coming at her full force.  With a mother-in-law living with her and small children, she already feels the thrust of the Christmas train racing down the track toward her. But it doesn't have to be this way. I've turned off the TV and therefore the endlessly looping jewelry store ads.  I also don't listen to commercial radio on the way to work.  Soothing CD's accompany my reveries.  I will let Christmas in when I am ready.  For now, I'm doing November.

As well, it helps to have more moments like the reading mother above.  I'm sure she's not thinking about the color of her Christmas wrapping paper and ribbons yet.  Let's all take a breather and cherish the precious holiday of gratitude first.  I plan on spending it with those who love me, those who know me, those who see me.  My lists will get written I'm sure.  But not in November.  That month is for telling tales of long-gone yet still thought-of little girls, for the soldiers who fought so we could continue to read to our children.  And it's for Thanksgiving...the holiday that reminds us how lucky we really are.

***

~And for your Thanksgiving Table, my favorite side dish for bringing:


Carrot Souffle 

1 pound carrots, sliced and cooked
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup soft butter
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

In blender, combine butter, milk.  Add eggs, sugar.  Blend until smooth.  
Add cooked carrots little by little
Add flour, baking powder, salt, vanilla, cinnamon.  Blend until smooth.

Grease 1-1/2 quart casserole.  Bake 350 degrees F 45 minutes to 1 hour or until no jiggle!


Happy Thanksgiving!

~

PS:  Every comment was read and cherished on my previous post.  I'm grateful for you all.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Cold Comfort Charms




She made a promise to herself to keep her own well-being sacred.

~
A friend passed along that quote to me recently and I've been keeping it under my pillow ever since.  It really says so much about how we must protect our fragile souls from the things that want to steal our peace of mind these days.

So many times this month I wanted to write about my new autumn tablecloth, or tell you about a new fragrance I discovered or a place I visited.  But I held back because of the events that occurred recently, including last week's terror attack, which made me feel that writing about perfume or small domestic details seemed frivolous and silly.  The stuff of ordinary life pales in comparison to the innocent lives lost in horrendous hideous ways for no good reason at all.  And yet, I found the world only paused for a moment...and then marched on.  I even heard a newscaster sum up the week with "It was a good week", after having reported on the NYC attack in detail for two days straight.  "Breaking News" becomes "Old News" as quickly as a coin toss.  I don't get it.

Maybe we are numbed by it to a degree - so many random attacks and yet we are still required to go to work and the Christmas ads still have to roll out on television.  I worry about my upcoming visit to NYC to see the Downton Abbey exhibit but if I don't go then I hear that oft-said refrain over and over, "Then they win".  But carrying on is difficult and I'm more worried than ever about my nephew who lives in Brooklyn and I want to know where everybody is at every single moment.  So I decided that instead of writing about my lovely linen tablecloth, I would write about the things I do that soothe me and take the edge off when I feel unnerved.  But naturally, most of my cold comfort charms do include domesticity, beauty...and of course, perfume.

On the Homefront (it is a war out there)

Keeping my house warm at night is always a comfort.  Boosting the thermostat slightly above where I have it typically set, helps me feel safe by reminding me that I am warm inside despite the cold world we live in.  I will pay the extra expense...it's worth it.

Lighting - being a single mom all my adult life, I learned to be electrically frugal due to necessity.  But having my lights on, not just in the corner where I am perched, gives me a feeling of comfort.  It may be dark outside, but inside it is bright and warm.  I can look down the hall from my bedroom and see the small bathroom light glowing and another one in the hall too.  Ditto, the expense.

Music

I have always enjoyed background music while I am home but now I eschew anything that isn't lilting and soothing.  This often means more Mozart, Vivaldi, and Chopin.  I don't want pounding noise reaching out to grab me or bizarre and strange lyrics calling out my name.  Give me the strains of classical sounds or orchestral pieces by Montovani and Norman Luboff.  Call me a square...don't care.

My Bed

Having a beautiful supportive bed with lovely cozy blankets and pillows can never ever be underestimated.  Falling into your bed's arms every night will help you rest from any worry-overload or sadness that seizes you.  And it shouldn't cost a lot to outfit your bed with fluffy pillows and warm covers.  Home Goods, TJ Maxx, and their ilk offer affordable bed linens with an ever-changing stock.  Keep looking for the right stuff.

Beauty Routines

I step up my beauty action when I am stressed.  It reminds me that no matter what the world is dishing out, I can still take care of me.  This is not the time to stop using that foot smoother in the tub or to skip flossing.  Au contraire....it is actually the perfect time to escalate your routine.  Pick up a few envelopes of mask when you pick up your toothpaste.  Keep your nails polished and pretty with a new upbeat color.  Use your moisturizers and take care of your skin even if you don't feel like it.  Looking after ourselves with exquisite attention is one thing we can control in an upside-down world.

Books

Nothing helps with anxiety like escaping into a good book.  I just re-read Jane of Lantern Hill, an old childhood favorite by Lucy Maud Montgomery.  The story is full of marvelous advice that has stood the test of time and by allowing myself to surrender to the story, my fears and concerns were eased. Libraries are filled with shelves of fiction that nobody reads anymore.  Some of my library's stacks contain real gems and it is where I first became acquainted with Barbara Pym and Elizabeth Gaskell.  Some terrific innocent fiction was written by now-forgotten authors in the 40's and 50's.  Find a novel you can drown in.  At least for a few hours.

Scent

Good smells are mood changers.  Favorite perfumes are comforting, especially if they remind you of someone beloved.  Make sure that your home has a scent imprint.  I like lavender in my upstairs rooms and lemon or oranges in the kitchen.  Bake brownies or make stew.  Fill your house with happy scents.  We need it more than ever.

And finally...my new tablecloth.  Always looking for the Holy Grail, I happened upon a linen embossed cloth for a round table.  Round cloths are very hard to find and to stumble upon such a fine one in a beautiful fall-like color had me handing over my credit card -  I knew I couldn't walk away from it.  Now on  my table, with autumnal candles and a bowl of fruit, the vignette I created has become the sentinel of my fall.  I didn't want to spend the money but it was money well-spent - it is an heirloom.  But more importantly, it is one of those small things that remind me that despite all the vagaries of our world, we just have to continue making our little corners worth coming home to.  We can make ourselves worth coming home to as well.  And in the process, we keep our well-being sacred, despite what's going on out there.

What are your Cold Comfort Charms?


Note:  My tablecloth above (but round).

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

She Shred

It all started with a seemingly innocuous idea...
Tired of the lack of closet space in my small home, I asked a friend if I could borrow his paper shredder. I had known for a while that I wanted to dispose of some old employment papers associated with my long and varied career. Why would I need to keep the performance review that was done just before I left for maternity leave - the one where my boss recorded that I went to the doctor too much? Twenty-five years ago, even I knew that comment didn’t belong there. So why had I been holding onto it for so long?
The shredder was bigger than I had anticipated (not to mention louder), and shredding at first was a task I couldn’t wait to finish just so I could get the electric behemoth out of my house as quickly as possible. But after shredding the trail of papers that represented my stop-and-start career, I found myself taking a gimlet eye to something else — my files of divorce papers.

I knew that the evidence of my long-ago marriage, which ended abruptly and with deep pain, had been serving as a silent monument of look-what-he-did-to-me.  Somehow, I had always thought that my daughter would surely want to read these papers.  Of course, this was based on the cherished fantasy that she would understand what I had been through for her.  But after lugging around the files from move to move, I slowly came to the realization that the documents didn't really represent the best of my life, and I wondered if, in the end, I really wanted to leave a mass of harshly-corded paperwork behind.
Opening the massive divorce file gingerly, I began at the beginning: The Separation Agreement. Here is where every detail of single-parenting is laid out. Who would take our daughter on holidays, who would pay for her braces and college, who would drive her to school. I held it over the shredder for a few seconds. Then, it was gone.
Shredding the agreement gave me a sudden surge of confidence, and I found that the more I shredded, the lighter I felt inside. It was as though I was at last unhooking the past and letting it trail off behind me. Out went my budget book from the early divorce years that outlined what I spent on diapers and daycare. Out went the letters from HIS attorney fighting to pay less child support than his salary dictated. Out went my attorney’s final bill. Before long, I was shredding the marital household bills and tax returns. Even the receipt for our bed — the last document with both our names written together.
It was almost as though I were obliterating an entire decade of my life. But instead of feeling sad, I felt liberated from the past and hopeful for the future. And I realized something else, too — that a silly form of magical thinking had been engulfing me all these years and forcing me to keep all these old documents. I had been wondering if something happened in the past and there were no papers to document it, did it really happen?
The shredder answered that question with its constant whirring. Yes, the events occurred - even the dotty boss I worked for all those years ago existed (although he's long gone now). But I also realized that one does not always need to have tangible evidence to prove a life existed. I also just couldn’t imagine my daughter sitting on the floor outside my closet going through each file, page by page. And is that really how I want her to remember me — through a collection of cold, legal documents? Certainly, my life has been more multi-dimensional than a mass of paper, no matter how painstakingly chronological they are.
The entire shredding process took no more than three days, and getting rid of my old papers left a wonderful space in my closet which I have already filled with a small trunk. But new papers and documents won’t be going into that trunk. Instead, I will be filling it with a soft baby blanket of my daughter’s that is now freshly laundered and folded. Also, a stash of favorite books left behind from what turned out to be a very happy childhood.
I’m sure I’ll be picking up a few other newer baby trinkets along the way, as well. I’m going to be a grandmother, and that’s a role I won’t need any papers for.
~
This piece originally published on a website I contribute to occasionally.  

https://fairygodboss.com/articles/my-past-in-shreds-how-shredding-gave-me-a-fresh-start


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

A Story of Tea Cups


As my grandmother climbed into her 80’s, I think she recognized that time was winding down.  And though it hurts to remember, I wasn’t too surprised the day she announced, “Your grandfather and I are going back to Canada next spring for one last time”.  She and “Puppy” took a trip to Nova Scotia every couple of years to visit Pictou and Prince Edward Island.  Although it was the place where my grandfather spent his childhood, it was a world much more fully embraced by “Nana Mac” who found inspiration in the craggy landscape and especially in my grandfather’s rich Scottish heritage.

I tried to visit my grandparents weekly, making trips from rural Western Massachusetts to their Boston apartment.  One afternoon, soon after my grandmother’s proclamation, I found that she had laid a cloth over the leather card table she kept folded in the living room.  But instead of our customary lunch of chicken salad sandwiches and iced tea, she had strewn twelve tea cups with matching saucers across the snowy cloth.  Oh was I ever familiar with those beautiful cups – each one a different eye-catching pattern.  They were all dainty and delicate as bone china is, but the varying motifs and colors had been deeply alluring to my young self.  Of course, my sister and I were never allowed to play with the cups but they were regularly brought down from the hutch in the dining room and put into service for Nana Mac’s bewitching afternoon tea parties for us.  We learned the value of fine things at her knee and loved the uniquely individual cups and saucers.

“Pick six!” Nana Mac directed me as she gleefully clapped her hands together.  I didn’t have to think too long – I already knew which of the beautiful cups were my favorites.  I shyly pointed to the two rose-sprigged cups first – one in coral pink and one in baby blue, then the very unusual harlequin cup, and at last, the three etched in gold.  Nana Mac carefully wrapped my selections in newspaper and then placed them in a brown paper bag.  When she finished, she leaned into me with a conspiratorial wink and whisper, “You selected all my favorites”.  I was delighted when after that chicken salad and iced tea lunch, the plain paper bag with its fragile treasures was thrust into my arms with a kiss.

Nana Mac never did make that final journey to her beloved Nova Scotia with my grandfather. She died unexpectedly on a clear cold morning in early winter.  And it wasn’t until spring that year when my sister finally opened her own bundle of cups and saucers.  As we poured hot tea into two of the precious bestowals, I noticed my sister’s voice becoming thick and soft with emotion. “Nana said she saved her favorites for me”.  Or so I thought I heard her whisper…

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

On the Eve of A Birthday


Tomorrow is my birthday.  Again.  They sure do come fast and furious now - like contractions.  And yet, I still get a little secret thrill from them although I would not admit that out loud to anybody.  Nevertheless, like a child, I will probably have a delighted feeling inside all day.  I'm too adult (or too old) to expect presents and cake but what I've discovered through the years is that I need neither to feel loved on my day.

I recall nearly all my birthdays.  Shout out an age and I could probably tell you how I celebrated. 9!  Oh that was the birthday my older brother ripped up his leg on an old standing pipe in the backyard and my party had to disband for a bloody trip to the ER - we never even lit the candles on the cake.  17!  How could I forget the first birthday I received a present from a boy - a way-too-sophisticated-for-me gold watch with black Roman numerals I could barely read.  23!  That birthday occurred in the middle of my bridal year and the evening sparkled more than the diamond on my finger.  30!  A sad little birthday alone with my baby in a big house - but her kisses and pats saw me through.  40!, 47!, 53!...and so it goes.  And goes...

What I love most about my birthdays now are the cards I receive.  For two days I let them stand like soldiers on my bookshelf.  I'm tempted to take a picture of them and unabashedly show them off but it's what's written inside that slays me the most.  Winsome phrases and words that make me feel cherished.  A friend from far away who tells me that she misses me or even better - that she thinks of me.  Imagine that.  Thank you, Carol, I think of you, too.

I am always charmed as well, when a well-wisher's card depicts something meaningful to me.  Such was the card I received yesterday from my sister - knowing how much I adore blue and white china and orchids, she somehow found a card with both!  Cards like my sister's say more than Happy Birthday...they say "I know you".  It's always nice to read, "I saw this and thought of you", as Judy's card did today when she sent one with a lovely woman on her bed with a laptop.  Yep, that's me, even now as I write for you here.  Judy knows.  Karen knows too with all the marvelous fairy dust cards she finds just for me.  "The more glitter, the better", we both agree.  Dear Karen, I feel the sparkling love.

I expect birthday greetings from my beautiful niece who always nails it with particularly thoughtful cards, my daughter who finds just the right words to tug at her mother's heart.  And my mother, whose cards I deem especially sacred now - her prim handwriting is still the same as the notes she wrote to my school teachers long ago, but the pretty script  belies the passage of time...

And so, on my birthday's eve, I ask you - why should I not feel a secret little thrill?

Sunday, October 1, 2017

An Heiress' Perfume


I hadn't tried L'Air du Temps in a long time.  Even though it is considered a classic fragrance, it's always been a loyal drugstore brand although I haven't seen it at my local CVS in a while.

For many years, there was a small independent pharmacy in the village where I live.  At the back counter, past all the remedies, were several bottles of L'air du Temps in creamy white boxes.  One dark night - a very rainy one, I happened to see a slender hooded figure walk to the back of the pharmacy and in a whisper, ask for a bottle of L'Air du Temps.  As if he had done it a hundred times before, the kindly old pharmacist reached for a box from the shelf behind him, opened it carefully, and then displayed in his palm, the crystalline Lalique bottle to what turned out to be our town's beautiful young heiress.  Rumor has it...

The romance of that moment - which could have taken place in the very heart of Paris - the lore, the stormy night is what I recalled when I saw this lovely ad from Seventeen '73.  And here, L'Air du Temps is called "The Romantic Perfume" and I think they've illustrated it very nicely with the young woman with long blond tresses in a simple hat who surprisingly resembles our curious young villager.

My imagination surmises that our heiress could probably purchase the most costly perfumes in the world (the family business is a very well-known hosiery empire) and yet, she shops at the local pharmacy in a small fishing village for her bottle of The Most Romantic Perfume.  But that doesn't surprise me really because although she is a rather ethereal personage, I do see her locally from time to time.

After researching the scent, I decided I wanted to sample it again.  I went to a perfume outlet that sells overstock fragrances and found a small tester.  Still being a rather inexpensive perfume, I was surprised to smell how full-bodied it is.  There is a hint of Bergamot but the peppery carnation made me sneeze.  The bottle is breathtakingly beautiful and indeed romantic, with two doves nuzzling each other in translucent glass - it must look impressive on a dresser or vanity.  The history of L'Air du Temps was interesting to read, especially that the fragrance was created after WWII and that its iconic bottle was designed with world peace in mind.

However much I reject the perfume for myself, it will always be associated with our lithe and somewhat otherworldly village heiress.  She certainly trails a storied and romantic wake...


Do you wear L'Air du Temps?  I would love to hear about it...


PS:  Thank you for all your thoughtful comments of late.  I hope to write more frequently in October.  

Sunday, September 3, 2017

The Scents of Fall


I switch my light summer fragrances to those with warmer accords when the air turns cool in September. More often than not, the perfume I reach for on chilly mornings is Chanel No. 5.  When I drive over the misty bridge that spans the cove in my town, I often shiver into my scarf or turtleneck and catch a whiff of the blanketed dusty rose that makes up part of the composition of the world's most famous perfume.

Searching for vintage Chanel No. 5 ads is so much fun that I may do a series of them here.  The copy on the ads is very sweet too.  But this one, speaks to my schoolgirl days when I too, walked to school on leaf-strewn streets.  The scents of those days are so embedded into my psyche that as soon as the calendar turns to September, I go into overdrive with nostalgia and memories, helped along by No. 5.

Also underneath the crunching sidewalks that led to school, were acorns and tiny decomposing apples that mixed with the wafting smoke from rusty barrels of burning leaves and branches.  These marvelous things blended together to create an olfactory soundtrack to fall.

Too, there were high school football games held in the old cement stadium known as Kelliher Field.  The seats were gravestone-cold but the cocoa, in perilously thin paper cups, was so searing hot that we could barely sip it for fear we would scorch our tongues.  But it smelled wonderful and deeply chocolate-y.  And somehow it went better with the fragrant buttery popcorn that assaulted us from the moment we stepped though the field's gates which compelled us to buy small red and white cardboard boxes of it.  Oh and didn't our mothers pull out the meatloaf recipes torn from Ladies Home Journal's and stuffed pork chops with sage again that filled our homes with such rich savory smells?  And cinnamon apple pie, anyone?  Back to perfume...

One golden fall, a friend's mother began to sell Avon.  That was the year I wore Sweet Honesty, Avon's answer to the 70's back-to-nature mania.  I fell for the all-natural look of the packaging which appealed to my personal style at the time:   bell-bottomed jeans and long straight hair shampooed with Herbal Essence.  Sweet Honesty came with me to school in a little roller bottle which I'm sure replaced my summer Strawberry Fields scent that year.  I liked Sweet Honesty for its peppery note that was perfect with fall's burnished colors of smokey gold and magenta.  Like autumn, it was both strong and gentle.

The following year I was away at college.  Still in New England, but housed with young women from all over the country.   And since I wanted to fit in, I wore their uniform fragrance - Revlon's Charlie.  Who can forget Shelley Hack's leggy strut across our Seventeen's centerfold in a chic plaid pantsuit?  Charlie was known as the sexy-young fragrance and "sexy" was not an adjective that graced Seventeen much before then.  It was so new and wearing it, we all felt new - and free and young.  And sexy.

I began wearing Chanel No. 5 when I was gifted a bottle from a woman who knew my father.  She thought as a young working woman, I might like a sophisticated perfume.  But I wasn't quite ready - it smelled cloyingly sweet to me.  I preferred to find my own fragrances and so for many years, I experimented with Cinnabar, Fracas, and that harlot of a perfume - Opium.  But I never did find one to settle on until I tried No. 5 again.  By then, I had read about Chanel and the origins of her iconic perfume.  At last, I was ready for it.  And it has stayed that way for over 20 years.  I always want a small bottle of  Chanel No. 5 on my dresser top come fall.  It's comforting and oddly reassuring and smells of autumn.  As when I kicked my way through fallen leaves on the way to school...

~

What are your favorite fall scents? Please share in comments...

And in keeping with back-to-school style, please read my essay on Rebecca Tuite's marvelous book, Seven Sisters Style:  
http://www.fashionstudiesjournal.org/4-reviews-3b/2017/7/28/seven-sisters-style


Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Summer's Final Bow



My town has the most charming ice cream shop.  It's painted in sherbet colors and has a rick-rack of gingerbread trim.  I don't indulge every day but enough to know the owners who winter in Florida each year.  But our conversations are all too brief during the height of summer when a line snakes out past their picnic tables into a grove of trees.  Still, the ice cream is rich and wonderful and worth the wait.

Have you noticed how some things are most beautiful just before they disappear?  Falling stars, brides who depart for exciting new lives, flowers, and of course, tender seasons that cannot last.  Right now I am enjoying summer's swan song - the air is warm and balmy and the sun is throwing stirring shadows and light;  total eclipses notwithstanding. 

Knowing that summer must soon end, I find myself holding on to it for dear life.  I love the plump native tomatoes in overflowing bins at the market.  As my mother taught me, I eat them like apples as I sit on the front stoop watching juices flow down my arm.  It's ok because the garden hose is still unraveled in the side yard just as it always is until September - I'm a lazy hose-mistress to be sure.  Every Friday, I buy a farm-style bouquet filled with sunflowers and violet asters along with spikes of golden rod and dried beach fronds.  My rustic bouquets don't last as long as the prim blush roses I bought in early summer, but the colors are as warm and bright as October sunshine.

As well, I am getting the most from my liberating wardrobe.  Making sure each morning I select knee-skimming skirts with sleeveless tops or pretty dresses with billowing potential should I still find myself still wearing it when I fetch the recycling bin at the bottom of the driveway every Wednesday night.

As for perfume, I can't stop spritzing my eau fraiche blend that I keep cool in the refrigerator.  It's light and airy and not yet too weak for summer's final bow.  My coral lipsticks, a watercolor silk scarf, and other accouterments still call out to me.  I won't rush the goodbye because the hello takes so long.  

I'm sure I will surrender when summer turns back just long enough to take a final bow.  By then, I'll be longing to light some candles against a dark sky and chilly wind.  And it will seem odd to see the dried leaves flitting and falling on my garden hose.  I'll put that to bed along with the rattan furniture and the clay pots that are holding my spectacular geraniums and begonias which have never looked more gorgeous as they do right now in their vivid hues of reds and pink.  They seem to bloom over and over and over, like the last dazzling firework on July 4th.  

I'll miss the crickets and frogs which lull me to sleep and the dove that coos from a distance late in the morning.  I'll miss the cold gazpacho I finally mastered and the watermelon and corn.  But summer will really be over when the little pastel ice cream shop finally shutters its windows and closes its doors.  They'll put out the scratchy homemade sign that reminds us they will be back next summer.  And each year...I try to believe them.



(Top image by Trent Gudmundsen)

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Paradise



"I can't stop thinking about Hawaii", I told my son-in-law a month ago.  "Oh you'll be thinking about it a lot more when you come back", he warned...

I've been missing a special place that I recently visited.  For more than two weeks I have been in Hawaii.  I never thought I would have the chance to visit this part of the world and yet, I never thought I would love it so much either.  Hawaii is very beautiful with a lovely aesthetic that is partially ancient lore and partially post-war beauty.  And unlike New England's crisp nautical sun, Hawaii's light is far-reaching and golden.

The picture above is one that I took on the Ke'anae Peninsula on the Road to Hana.  I almost wept at the breathtaking beauty and felt a deep connection to the inlet which I later read was the site of a devastating tsunami in 1946.  I sensed it was hallowed and snapped quite a number of pictures like this one with my cell phone.  There was an old church left standing and like all churches in Hawaii, the doors were wide open to anybody that happened to pass by.

In addition to the famous Road to Hana, we visited the Black Sand Beach where black-as-night lava rocks cover the shore.  We toured the volcanoes on The Big Island, careful not to take anything that wasn't ours so as not to anger Pele, the mythical Goddess of Volcanoes.  We ate fish and passion fruit, wore flowers in our hair, and shopped in small boutiques in Maui's Up Country.  And every afternoon, we raced to the shore to sit huddled in matching weathered chairs to let the Trade Winds wash over us and blow our cares out to sea.

My companions were my daughter and my son-in-law and the only mar on our adventure were the three days my daughter was ill.  On the plane to The Big Island, my only child became sick with a high fever and chills.  She also had an extreme headache that frightened me.  Upon landing, we took her to the hospital were she was admitted.  For three days, we sat by her side as fluids and antibiotics were drained into her.  And although the environs surrounding the hospital were gorgeous, the landscape lost its sparkle.  Thankfully, before too long, we were back to our vacation and all the gifts the islands had to offer.

Now I am home with a volcanic suitcase on the living room floor exploding with clothes to be washed, presents to distribute, and plenty of keepsakes, including the journal I kept on our trip.  I am missing paradise and reliving all the wonderful things we experienced and as my son-in-law predicted, I am thinking about Hawaii alot.   Of course, as I reminisce, my thoughts also race back to those three days I was frantic with worry for my daughter - those recollections are woven into the tapestry of my journey too.  When the memories come, I lean in and let them wash over me just as the winds did on the edge of Hawaii's magnificent shores.  And it is then that I realize...True Paradise is when loved ones are healthy...

~


PS:  If you have ever visited the magical isles of Hawaii, I would love to hear about it.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Find One Hundred Ways


I have always loved Quincy Jones' song (sung by James Ingram), One Hundred Ways.  The lyrics stole my heart years ago because, by God, they are true.  If it's violins she loves...well, let them play. Send her roses...just because.  And even better:  in your arms, she will reflect...she owes you the sweetest of debts...yes, let her repay.  Find one hundred ways!

But the lyrics go far beyond romance and reciprocity.  What about living a One Hundred Ways kind of life?

Recently, on a night I had a party to attend, the weather suddenly turned.  By late afternoon,  a sparkling summer day had become dark and chilly.  Rain was not in the forecast but I no longer felt like partying.  So I downplayed it by wearing a boring but comfortable dress, minimal makeup and I regrettably ate too much lunch, even though I knew it would spoil my appetite at the party.  "I'll just put in a appearance and head back home to my bed and watch Netflix", I said to myself.  And then wouldn't you know it -  the party was wonderful and festive and fun.  Our hosts moved the enchanting dinner table from the lawn to the covered porch which was decorated with pots of trailing ivy and bright begonias.  They pulled out all the stops - they found one hundred ways.

Some people naturally live this way.  One sees it in the nurse at the doctor's office who has complete pride in her job.  Her efficiency and manner offer a sense of order and reassurance.  It's the friend who makes your visits special by serving you a delectable warm treat from the oven to go with your mug of tea.  Even when she's dead tired from being sandwiched between needy children and elderly parents.  It's the co-worker with a serious illness, who shows up at the office every day with another new fetching scarf wrapped around her head.  It's the comforting lunch you pack for a loved one that's filled with nourishing food, all attractively wrapped.  It's the elderly woman who still wears lipstick and dresses with care as she sets out on her daily round.

So if flowers are what you love, buy that bouquet for heaven's sake.  If you crave tomatoes, fill the kitchen. Simmer sauce, make tomato tarts, sandwiches, salads.  Ditto watermelon, lemons - whatever it is you're passionate about.  Immerse yourself.  Roll around in it.  Let's stop saving our perfumes, the "good" dishes, and anything tucked away for "best".   "Best" is now.  Use your things. Show them off.  Share them.  Multiply them.

Quincy Jones reminds us that if it's one more star we want, go all the way.  Life is short - shorter than we sometimes realize while in the midst of it.  So, show up.  Be present.  Dress the part.  Go big. Begin today.  Begin again tomorrow.  Do it as long as you possibly can.  Find one hundred ways.


~

Find One Hundred Ways

Compliment what she does
Send her roses just because

If it's violins she loves let them play

Dedicate her fav'right song and hold

Her closer all night long

Love her today

Find one hundred ways

Don't forget there could be

An old lover in her memory

If you need her so much more

Why don't you say

Maybe she has it in her mind

That she's just wasting her time

Ask her to stay

Find one hundred ways

Bein' cool won't help you keep a love warm

You'll just blow your chance

Take the time to open up your heart

That's the secret of romance

Sacrifice if you care

Buy her some moonlight to wear

If there's one more star she wants

Go all the way

In your arms tonight

She'll reflect that she owes you

The sweetest of debts if she wants to pay

Find one hundred ways

In your arms tonight

She'll reflect that she owes you

The sweetest of debts if she wants to pay

Find one hundred ways

Ya gotta believe it whoa

Love her today

Find one hundred ways




Note:  I will be on a special vacation - a journey - for a few weeks.  I'll be finding one hundred ways and I'll share when I return.