Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

I recently saw this movie for the first time the, not really knowing much about it other than that it was quite well-received by critics and fans alike.  

The Warner Brothers film, starring Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock, Max Von Sydow, and Thomas Horn, was directed by Stephen Daldry, who also directed The Hours.  

It is based on the novel by Johnathan Safran Foer, which I have not yet read.

  It is about a young boy named Oskar Schell, played by Thomas Horn, who is a bit different from other people in the ways he both sees and interacts with the world.

His father, played by Tom Hanks, has a way of drawing him out and building upon his strengths of intelligence, focus, and sensitivity. 

Oskar and his father go on elaborate treasure hunts through Central Park, a strategy developed by  Oskar's father to get him out into the world, instead of shrinking from it.

A disaster befalls the family, and Oskar is left without his dad.  He struggles to hold onto his father in any way he can, and this desire leads him on a quest of his own to uncover a mystery left behind by his dad.

He meets and is aided by hundreds of people along the way, including a friend of his grandmother's "from the old country," played by Max Von Sydow.  

Sandra Bullock, as the mother, does what many mothers find hardest to do-- giving their children freedom to go and discover what lies beyond the sheltering walls of home and family, while still providing the safety net they need should they stumble and fall.

His adventures bring them close together as they both grapple with the worst loss either of them can imagine.

My own experiences with loss are deep and on-going, as my long-time readers are aware, which is why this film impacted me so dramatically.  There is one scene where Oskar talks about the days since his father's passing slipping away and his dread as this occurs, as if the march of time could further the disconnect between the living and the dead.  I remember being in this mindset after my son, Ryan's death.  Each day, then week, then month, then year was another jab to the heart, drawing him further away from me.  Now, four and a half years, and additional losses, later, I realize that time was not the enemy.  I have since stopped fighting it.  The clock ticks, the days roll, the seasons turn, and my life has gone on. 

By the end of the film, Oskar finds a way to keep living with this loss, partly by losing his self-imposed isolation and enriching his connections to others, partly through forgiveness of himself and those around him.  About four months after my son died, I remember consciously choosing to live.  There is a difference between existing, which involves taking up oxygen and space; and living, which involves a conscious engagement with one's life.  Just because Ryan's life had ended, did not mean mine was over.  I had other people, including my daughter, whom I continued to love; things I wanted to experience; places I wanted to see; poems and stories I wanted to write; art I wanted to create; gardens I wanted to plant; houses I wanted to revive.  Those needs and wants compelled me into this life I have now.  My eyes are open to the life I have chosen, my heart is open to the pain and the beauty that surrounds me, my mind is open to all there is to learn.  Oskar goes through the same process on his wild-goose chase.  In the end, his own life is affirmed.

Some works of art resonate so deeply within the psyche, we are forever enriched by having experienced them.  For me, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close was one such piece of art. 

Until next time...


Sunday, August 26, 2012

Summer into Fall

"Departing summer hath assumed an aspect tenderly illumed..."
~ William Wordsworth

As the summer light is changing and nights are coming on more quickly, my cottage decor is transitioning to fall.  All the pale blues that made up my summer color scheme have been replaced with warmer reds and tiny bursts of goldenrod.

The beauty of decorating with neutrals is that a simple change of throw pillows and accessories, such as the bowl of apples, yields a completely different mood.

The items on the shelf above the sofa, which is my substitute for a mantel, have become darker and more mysterious, in anticipation of the coming of autumn.  Mercury glass accents remain a constant, however.

This is the view from the front door looking toward the back door.  The house is open feels spacious, with the abundance of light and high ceilings.

The vignette on the dining room buffet still whispers of summer dreams, with the pond sailboat, starfish, driftwood, and large sea shell.  The photograph was taken by my dear artist friend,  JoAnna Johnson, whose 30 dresses series of photographs is simple haunting and evocative of dreams.

This is what you see as you look back toward the front door.  At some point I would like to acquire some black windsor dining chairs, but for now, the white pressback ones I have had for 20 years will suffice.

Tibetan prayer flags hang in the dining room doorway.  A air conditioning duct is close by, and they flutter in the man-made breeze.  These flags represent the five elements and are hung where they will be stirred by breezes.  The belief is that prayers will be blown by the wind and spread compassion and goodwill into the nearby spaces.  They bring a tiny burst of color into the creamy white spaces of my home.

Wishing you and opportunity to get outside and enjoy the late summer light, as it bathes the landscape in gold.

Until next time...

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Spending Sunday in the Kitchen

Late summer is apple season in my part of the world.  
The crisp color and taste of Granny Smith apples make me smile.

Here they are, prepped for apple pie.

The completed pie, a request from my daughter in honor of her birthday. 

My white galley kitchen has loads of open shelves for displaying everyday dishes and glassware, along with a few treasures.

In addition to pie-baking, I tackled the stained porcelain of the kitchen sink.  This sink was probably installed in the 1950's, judging by the pattern on the formica that surrounds it.  It has seen many years of abuse and neglect, leaving some stains deeply etched into the porcelain.  

This was the sink after cleaning it out with regular dish soap.

My first round of serious stain treatment involved making a paste of baking soda and peroxide, scrubbing it into the basin, and letting it sit for about 15 minutes.

Some improvement was made.

The next phase involved using oxy clean and letting it sit on the surface for 15 minutes.

The final product, while not perfect is certainly a major improvement. I can live with it if or until we decide to replace it.  My fondness for old porcelain over cast iron fixtures runs deep-- they feel so solid and timeless.
 I used the same approach on the cast iron bathtub, which was not as badly worn, and all the stains disappeared.

After traveling earlier in the month, this is what I have been up to.  This week I started back to work.  How are you enjoying the last weeks of summer?


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