Monday, May 31, 2010

A garden of memories

My garden, much like my house,
is a place where memories become fused with dreams.

Each plant and shrub has a story connected with it,
relating to where I may have gotten it,
who may have given it to me,
and my own personal associations.

This Annabelle hydrangea was a gift from
my dear friend, Country Bob.

I have gardened here for almost 15 years,
and much life has passed
in that time.
When we first moved here,
there were some common
lavender-colored irises in front
and a swath of orange daylilies along the back.

It has grown significantly since then.

The large central bed in the back was established in 1998.

Even when nothing is in bloom,
it is a study in form and texture.

This Forever and Ever hydrangea was added last year
and is quickly becoming a favorite of mine.

These shade-loving hostas and ferns

found their home here in 2000.

We built the garage in 1998
and the garden sprung up around it.
Shortly before he died, my son helped me
build the central bed in the front.
After his death, we planted oodles
of perennials
to round it out
and to remain connected to life.

Gardening is good therapy.

The patio is sited in a spot that held a swimming pool
for our children when they were young.
Their squeals of joy still echo from here sometimes;
if you listen closely you can hear them.

An Americana climber is coming to embrace

its new home in the front, central bed.

This one is my daughter's favorite rose.

My garden dreams include:

more roses, more shrubbery, stone paths,

additional iron fencing, and a water feature.

Then I might be able to say that the garden is finished.

Who am I kidding? No garden is ever complete.

On this Memorial day, I wish you some time

for reflection and for reverie---

a time to remember and a time to dream.

Until next time...


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Old house obsession

My obsession with old houses began long ago.
Having been born into a family of old house dwellers,
it was bound to happen. My earliest memories are of places I have lived.
They are snippets of time and space. I remember the gray paint
of the wood floor in my upstairs bedroom. I remember the three-paneled
front door with a window in the upper half. I remember hardwood floors
and ornate window and door casings. All the architectural details
that add pizzaz are embedded in my memory.

My heart longs for a home with a storied past. It does not have to be grand,
like many of the ones shown here. But it does have to have soul.
I need to feel its friendly presence upon entering through the front door.

I need to hear it call my name as I walk the halls and turn the corners.

There must be details that suggest it was built as a labor of love.

And it must have porches that span the front and sides to allow

for afternoons of leisure and nights where candlelight and whispers

beckon visitors up the wide steps.

And there must be lots of windows with gorgeous trim, both inside and out.

The ceilings must be high and the spaces bright.

And it must have a presence that suggests this place has seen and heard it all,

that it holds secrets deep in its bosom which will be slowly revealed

to those who take the time to listen.

Lately I can't seem to get this longing out of my mind. I love my house,

but there is one out there, over the hills and around the bend that calls to me.

It has had a hold on me for several months now.

In going through old family photographs over the weekend, I came across

a photo of the house that my great-great grandfather built

after emmigrating from Germany

in the late 1880's. Do you want to know a funny thing?

It looks remarkably like the one in my area I am obsessed with.

The porch railings and columns are the same.

The bay window in the dining room is the same.

The gables at the front and sides are the same.

Pretty strange, huh?

So this old house fever is in my blood. And sadly, there is no cure.

Perhaps I can talk my husband into selling our house and moving.

That would do the trick.

Until next time...


All images courtesy of Flickr.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Thoughts on change and individuality

I am a person who craves change.
It is not something I fear or run from,
but embrace each time it comes around.
Perhaps it is because I am easily bored.
Or maybe it is because I am always
on the lookout for ways to improve things.
Whatever the reason,
change is always a factor in whatever I do.
Take these images of my living room, for example.

Early May 2010

Those of you who have been reading
for a short while may not be aware,
but I am always making changes around here.
The pictures on the side bar get replaced
each time some new and or better photos are taken.
I play around with text, spacing of images
and text, subject matter, themes, narrative tone.
It all gets messed with.
For those of you who like things
to be predictable and certain,
this may be unnerving.
Some of these changes
depend on my mood
at the time the post is written.
Others depend on the available raw materials
(i.e. pictures of my own or in my files)
I have to work with.

Late April 2010

In our society, we are bombarded with

information and auditory and visual stimuli.

This database of images, words and sounds

gets logged in our brains.

It comes to the point where one may begin to quesition

if any thought, idea or creative impulse

is original anymore.

We may think it is at the time it flows through our brains,

but come to realize that we were

unknowingly inspired

by all the sensory stimuli we have taken in.

We tend to emulate what we admire.

Mid-April 2010

In my striving to bring originality to this format,
I try on different approaches
like trying on different hats.
This is only natural for someone who craves change
and is a visual sponge.
Some of these changes may be lasting,
some may be fleeting.
Some may resemble things I have
taken in and played with
in attempt to make them my own.
When it comes to writing,
the words that flow are all my own.
Pictures and quotes may be borrowed
from others sources with credit being given.
Format and special features
can be individualized to some extent,
with the available options and resources at hand.
These qualities, however,
seem to me to be like spec houses.
Each on is a bit different on the surface,
but underneath they are all the same.

Late March 2010

How do you bring uniqueness to a cookie-cutter world?
How do you find a style that represents
who you are without offending someone?
How do you merge the things you find "out there"
that appeal to you
with the things that originate "in here"?
And what do you do if the things you think
are true to you
are perceived to have been
borrowed from someone else,
and you have inadvertently stepped on toes?

Early March 2010

I guess the only answer is
to make changes once again.
As Delores S. Williams wrote,
"I tell my story so that other women
can share and participate."
I write this blog for the same reasons.
And so there will be some changes around here
as I play around with what suits me
at any given moment.
If I have caused offense to someone, I apologize.
No harm was ever intended.

Until next time..

P.S. Pardon the goofy spacing of text.
As you all know, blogger sometimes
has a mind of its own and will not cooperate,
no matter how sweetly you ask.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The bliss of a bath

Bath time equates with
escape, healing, and relaxation.
It is a time to let one's cares seep out of the body
and merge with the waters.
It is a time to feel the weightlessness
that comes with immersion.
It is a time to shut the door
on the rest of the world
and just be.
When I am in the bath,
nothing else matters.
The doorbell may ring,
the dogs may bark,
a storm may brew outside,
and I am in my own little world
where none of that can reach me.

Part of the pleasure of taking a bath
is the preparation involved.
For me there is
an entire ritual
that surrounds it.
I have to choose
proper reading material,
sometimes the novel
I am working on,
others, a book of poetry.
There are candles
to arrange and light,
until the deck of the tub is
aglow in firelight.
There is the choosing
of aromatics and additives
for the bath water.
Sometimes I crave bubbles,
big, thick mounds of them.
Or perhaps scented bath salts.
Or a sachet of herbs
gathered from the garden.
Or maybe a splash of rose water.
When no one else is home,
I play some mood music
from the stereo in the adjoining room
-- perhaps my favorite
romantic classical music
or Emmy Lou Harris or Damien Rice.
If I am lucky enough
to have a soft rain
falling outside,
I crack open the casements
and just listen.
The tub fills slowly.
It is quite large and deep
-- perfect for soaking.
Steam billows around me.
I breathe it in.

When the tub is full, I
gingerly swipe the surface
of the water with my toes,
testing to see how hot it is.
Stepping into the heat
always makes me
hold my breath.
I slowly lower myself
to a sitting position
and then stretch out.
And bliss ensues!
All these gorgeous images are from Marie Claire Maison.
Of all the simple pleasure this life has to offer, taking a bath must surely be among the most blissful.
May you take time to allow a little bliss to enhance your life.
Until next time...

Monday, May 17, 2010

the art of attention, the fading of memories

Life's most precious moments seem to
pass so quickly.
In the blink of an eye things change. No two moments are the same.
There are many teachings that encourage us
to stay in the present because that is
where living actually happens.
Oftentimes we vacillate between residing in the past
or spring boarding off into the future, neglecting what is really happening
in the now as a result.
Nature provides lessons along these lines.
In the life of a gardener there is a
constant pull toward the future.
We daydream and plan and imagine what it will be like
when our plans come to fruition.
We see infinite possibilities,
always looking toward what could be. The same is true
with a renovator/decorator/restorer of houses.
We look at something and see it as it could become
with hard work and resourcefulness.
This is all part of the fun
of the process of tending to spaces, both indoor and outdoor.
But once in awhile we must take the time
to stop and celebrate the beauty
that comprises our present reality. In doing this,
we cannot help but cultivate a sense of gratitude for what is.
Gratitude is at the root of all spiritual practices,
a common denominator among all traditions.
That bucketful of peonies
gleaned from my neighbor's farm
is now gone,
their blooms and fragrance,
a faded memory.
I had filled pitchers and containers of peony blossoms and placed them
all around the house.
They adorned nearly every available surface.
When I walked into a room,
I encountered that heady fragrance,
and sometimes it nearly
knocked my socks off.
Now, all the blossoms have faded.
The containers have been washed and put back in their rightful places.
The memory lingers
simply because I focused my attention
on the moments I lived with their grace in my house.
Paying attention has allowed me
to carry that memory in my heart.
I paid homage to their loveliness each time I was reminded of their presence,
and now I pay homage by celebrating the memory.
For this I am grateful.
I encourage you to cultivate some mindfulness
of the grace and beauty in your own life.
Your memory and peace of mind will thank you for it.
Until next time...

Thursday, May 13, 2010

A sweet award

Thank you Charlotta!

My dear friend, Charlotta, at Space for Inspiration has passed on an award to me. Charlotta has infinitely good taste, a discerning eye, and a way with words. She comes to blogland from Sydney but has a variety of influences, which comes from having lived in so many parts of the world. She draws upon her Swedish heritage for design inspiration but mixes things up in a way that is always fresh. Charlotta is also a talented artist who creates whimsical works for children. She runs a blog for her art as well: . She is one of those people with whom I felt an immediate connection. It always mystifies me when this happens, whether in person or in this virtual world. I try not to over-analyze it, but take it for what it is and just enjoy the relationship. Please stop by her blog: . You will be so glad you did!

One of the rules with these awards is that the recipient has to share 10 things about herself so that others may get to know her better. Last night in the middle of the night, I kept being reminded that I had to come up with these things to tell you about me. It's not that it caused any anxiety, it's just that I want to make them good ones. So, here goes:

image: google images

1. Right now I am on a moratorium from spending money on non-essentials. This means no trips to Pier 1, Big Lots, Hobby Lobby, Goodwill or yard sales (my favorite local sources for household stuff). I get my fix for vintage goods via other bloggers who post about their great finds and also by using what I have already collected. This is partly due to a tight budget, but mostly due to a desire to simplify my life. More stuff means needing more space to put it, more cleaning to keep things in order, and more time involved with both of those tasks. At this stage in my life, simple is better, less is more.

image: Britt, on right, and a close friend.

2. I have a daughter, Britt, who just completed high school. She will be heading off to art school in Boston to study at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts (smfa) She is a talented photographer, working in black and white film, who has labored hard to master her craft. The cost of higher education is insane, but as she is our only child, we are sacrificing to launch her on the path of her dreams.

images of Ryan from his self-portrait series

3. As many of you read in my post a couple of weeks ago, I lost my son, Ryan, in 2008 to suicide at age 18. He was a beautiful soul, who lost his way and found life too much for him to bear. I miss him everyday, but am not angry at what he did. He is at peace now, and I am finding peace without his physical presence in my daily life.


4. I am a mental health therapist who has been in practice for 10 years. I work part time at a group psychiatry practice and deeply love my job. As much as I adore design, and consider a career change, I am doing professionally what I was put here on Earth to do. Being a therapist is in my blood.

image: google images

5. I come from a family of tall, strong, beautiful women, thanks to our German-Dutch heritage. I celebrate the sacred feminine in all women and find the connections I have to other women to be the most meaningful in my life. I believe we all have so much to offer one another and I try to do my part in this.

image: Steve on a bright fall day

6. My husband, Steve, is a daily source of joy. He is energetic (sometimes too much) and funny. He never fails to make me laugh. We have been married 18 years and it has been a wild ride! We have learned a lot from one another, though of course there have been challenges.

image: google images

7. I read books only by women authors. My husband teases me about this, but women writers were unacknowledged for so long, I feel they deserve recognition. My favorite author is the British writer, Jeanette Winterson. Her words and stories resonate in my soul.

image: my male tabby cat, Max

8. Cats are my favorite animals. I don't care if I become the "crazy cat lady" when I am old. So be it. I share my home with 4 sweet felines, and I love them to death. We have 2 dogs also, but in my eyes, the cats are supreme.

image: google images

9. I have some on-going health issues, which is why, at the young age of 40, I only work part-time. For the past 4 years I have struggled with auto-immune disease. I have been diagnosed with Sjogren's Syndrome and Lupus. They are still unsure, however if it is Lupus or something similar. The diagnmostic process alone is taxing and frustrating. That doesn't include the actual living with the disease. This has prevented me from getting out as much as I would like and from traveling. There are some good days and some not-so-good days. I am finding a way to live peacefully within these limitaions.

image: google images

10. I have undertaken many sorts of creative endeavors (poetry, short stories, essays, painting, mixed media art, photography, sewing, gardening, decorating). The need to create is fundamental to my survival. When I am inspired, there is nothing better to me. It surpasses all other emotions and experiences (better even than food or imtimacy).

Wow, I have really shared myself here. For someone who is the quiet type, I sure have a lot to say!!

Now I must pass on this award to other beautiful blog friends. These women have made my life richer through their posts and their thoughtful comments on my posts. They are now a part of my daily routine, and I find myself looking for them each time I sign on. Please visit them and say that I sent you. In no particular order, I present this award to the following:

1. Janet at the Gardener's Cottage :

2. A Perfect Gray:

3. Janice at Canadian Cottage:

4. Suzanne at Privet and Holly:

5. Kerrie (aka fairmaiden) at Sea Cottage:

6. Karen at Strictly Simple Style:

7. Lara at Fresh + Simple:

8. Kelley at the Polished Pebble:

9. Jackie at Home:

10. Kathy at Kate's Place:

11. Carrie at the Vintage Wren:

Thanks to all you who have brightened my days and made my life more full and complete. I appreciate you all more than you know.

Until next time...


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Portraits in sepia

Like many artists of days past, I am infinitely fascinated with the faces of flowers. Their petals house mysteries deep inside the whorls. I see in them the infinite possibilities that abound in the universe. Each one is unique, and they hold within them the seeds of creation, in a very literal sense. Flowers are inherently sensual. There is no way around it. They pull at the strings of memory and even speak a language all their own. A single bloom can draw us in with its luscious fragrance, its supple petal, its genteel visage, and even, its exotic taste.

The most sensual experiences in my life have involved flowers. I have bathed by candlelight in waters strewn with rose petals and scented with rose water. I have drunk champagne sweetened with syrup from spring blooming violets. I have closed my eyes and inhaled the scent of moonflowers beneath a darkened sky. I have eaten honeyed orange blossom whipped cream atop a steaming cup of hot chocolate. I have walked through the woods in May when the air is thick with the scent of honeysuckle. And so in shooting pictures of flowers I come to feel the wonder they inspire in me and the thirst for sensuality in my life.

Today I share with you the latest in my series of flower portraits. I think of them as photographic odes to my favorite blooms. Many of them are of peonies, as they are ultimately photogenic.

A family of peonies in shades of white and pale pink. This image shows the diversity in form. Some are exposed to the world; others are closed and secretive.

A 'heritage' rose with many buds, soon to burst into bloom.

A rose slowly reveals itself to the elements-- wind, water, air and sun.

No other bloom puts forth such an abundance of petals, combined with so lovely a scent.

A single blossom, with tattered edges, amid a sea of foliage.

A peony in profile-- handsome at any angle.

May you allow some of wonder and appreciation to seep into your awareness today. May you open yourself to the sensual experiences lying in wait to be discovered all around you, yours for the taking, for these things provide a celebration of soul.

Until next time...


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