Saturday, June 25, 2016
Twelve years ago this summer, I was very sick. Hospital sick. Life was reduced to what is really important: people. Plain and simple. I didn't give a hoot about clothes and makeup and I certainly didn't care what my hair was doing. I only cared about the loved ones who came to be with me and hold my hand.
I knew I was feeling better when a kind young x-ray tech leaned over me one morning and I smelled her perfume. The real world had been so far out there, beyond the brick walls for so long, that just a whiff of her soft fragrance made me remember that I might need a comb. And a lipstick. Soon I longed to be sprung free and felt strong enough to handle life on the outside again. A nutritionist was dispatched to explain my new diet - the one that would help keep me from getting sick again.
But once home, I felt sad and fragile. There were so many medicines to take and follow-up appointments to keep. And so many of my favorite foods were off-limits and I didn't really have the energy to cook the meals I was now supposed to eat. My family had given up their own lives for 6 weeks and I didn't want to bother them after they had just breathed their collective sighs of relief.
One night I sat at the kitchen table contemplating the food choices on the take-away sheets from the hospital. As I was trying to decide what would be easiest to make, I glanced up and saw my daughter's prom dress hanging on the door of the laundry closet. It had been placed there awaiting a good ironing. Instead of cooking dinner, I found myself setting up the ironing board and then lovingly pressing out the wrinkles on the lovely dress. I ironed each pleat from hem to the edge of the waist, twirling the skirt around the ironing board while trying not to re-wrinkle the fabric. Then I worked the bodice, gently stretching the delicate fabric and attaching it to the board with dressmaker pins, until every edge and crevice was smooth and perfect. Next I flattened the dress's straps with the hot iron until crisp and identically even. When I was finished, I hung it back on its silky padded hanger where it now appeared suspended in floating layered pleats of rosy pink organdy.
The simple act of ironing that dress put me right back in the present - just where I needed to be. A sense of peace and calm washed over me as I let go of future concerns and mindfully stayed in the moment. Soon my woe-is-me blues walked out the door and my psyche recovered a sense of order. I felt proud and so glad to at last be doing something for someone else. I was taking care of "me and mine" in the best way I knew how at that moment.
Call it zen, being in the zone or just mindfulness, but it was only when I finished ironing the dress and returned the board and iron back to their rightful places, that I was finally able to make an uncomplicated and healthy meal to begin nourishing myself back to wholeness.
Sunday, June 12, 2016
I did something I have never done before - I watched a Bond film. I caught Casino Royale on a recent rainy Sunday. Violent, bloody and for me, hard to completely follow, I was still able to enjoy the luxurious locations, gorgeous sets and wardrobes. I was especially taken with Bond Girl Vesper Lynd, played by Eva Green. And as I read after watching the movie, this was the only film where James Bond (Daniel Craig) actually falls in love with his leading lady.
I was struck by a poignant scene when Bond's large masculine hand plucked a tiny seashell among a tumble of belongings from Vesper's handbag. By this time, Vesper had been killed and Bond had been unable to save her. The items in her purse formed a lovely and wistful composition on top of her black embroidered purse. The shell represented the untroubled but fleeting days of their love affair when they tarried on sandy Italian beaches embracing and kissing. Along with the shell was Vesper's sleek camera and chic white cell phone, a linen handkerchief, a book of poetry, a fine black wallet, and a rather large bottle of scent. A quick internet search netted the name of Vesper's perfume: Santa Maria Novella's Melograno, which by all accounts is a worldly fragrance with a trailing feminine heart - much like the way I would describe her strong yet fragile nature which was endlessly fascinating. It's no wonder that she stole and then softened the heart of the cruel and callous Bond.
I am certain the contents of Vesper's handbag were selected very carefully by filmmakers to represent her unique personality and to trigger Bond's grief - his sad face as he examines the lone shell says it all. The scene is very brief but Vesper's belongings are a delightful allegory into her psyche and a clever visual haiku for romantic types like me.
The innards of a female handbag remain a secret garden - it's quite rare to be privy to what women carry, even the handbags of close friends. Certainly most men seem immune or at the least, confused by what's in them. A hungry boyfriend once asked me hopefully, "Do you have any food in there?" But to see what a woman carries is to gain a most private perspective. I remember how I felt when I saw a strange man holding my open handbag and rifling through it looking for my ID after he found it in the parking lot of a hotel. I had foolishly left it on top of my car after I loaded my suitcase and blithely drove away. When I returned a few minutes later, the kind man was holding it with one hand while his other hand groped inside for my license. I remember noticing how small my bag seemed in his possession. And it was strangely intimate.
French artist Nathalie LeCroc has made a career creating watercolors of the items found in women's handbags. She prefers an un-edited handbag - no removing gum wrappers or baby pacifiers in the taxi on the way to her studio. Her works of art will one day be a book of 1,001 handbags and their secrets. The prints are as charming and varied as the women they belong too.
I have a friend who stores her deceased mother's handbag wrapped in layers of plastic. She says that when opened, it still retains the smell of her mother and she wants to preserve that sacred imprint as long as she can. Could it not be said that a piece of our very souls are found within the jumble of our handbags?
Below, is mine. Unedited. Like Vesper, I too, carry a large bottle of scent.
If you carry a talisman that is special or want to disclose what your handbag holds, I'ld love to hear.
Friday, June 3, 2016
Some weeks have personalities of their own. And so do some weekends. Last Friday night while driving home from dinner with my daughter, I received a call on my bluetooth. When I said hello the policeman on the other end asked me to identify myself. They found my number on the cell phone of a friend who was unresponsive in an ambulance and I was the last person he had called.
Fast forward to Monday where I sat across from my friend as spring twilight flooded my upstairs sitting room with the grainy other-worldly light that comes just before dark - both of us a bit shell-shocked and misty-eyed. You just never know. Fortunately, he is ok but for 24 hours, no one was quite sure. Apparently, a seizure will do that to a person.
As we waited for our dinner to finish cooking in the oven, the conversation drifted to other things and I began telling him about an article I recently read regarding the real-life island that J.M. Barrie visited while writing Peter Pan. I wondered if the island had been used as the setting for the lost boys' sanctuary, as was so magically depicted in the enduring tale. Barrie visited the place over and over and once said that the call of the island can only be heard by those for whom it was meant...
I felt compelled to stay by my friend's hospital bed all weekend. I also felt that if I could speak to him up close, somehow I could make him wake up because in my heart, I believed he was not having a stroke but perhaps a seizure. When they finally allowed me to approach, I leaned in and told him I was there and that everything was going to be ok. My words did the trick because he immediately turned his face towards mine and with his eyes still closed, smiled widely. I heard one of the doctor's murmur, "That was a pretty good response".
Our weekend was a lost one although blessedly, one with a happy ending. And Barrie's observation has stayed with me all this week long ... sometimes words too, can really only be heard by those for whom they are meant.