Friday, December 31, 2010

A Year and a Word

For a long time New Year's Eve felt like an empty holiday to me.  So much of its sparkle and glamour is borrowed from the leftovers of Christmas, like some hand-me-down of a once-fabulous party dress that's been worn a few too many times.  Of course I understood the symbolism of the holiday; I got the idea of starting fresh. Resolutions are important, even if we abandon them a few weeks later when the three-layer chocolate & raspberry cake is hauled out on a bier at some cousin's birthday party. The thought that we can make serious changes for the better in our lives is profound, indeed, but I've always felt like I make such changes better in a quiet way, without the hoopla.  After all, every day is the eve of a new year, if we choose to make it so.   

When I was a girl, my parents and their friends took turns hosting New Year's parties, complete with canapes, streamers, and champagne.  We kids would be shooed upstairs to play Twister and drink punch with Dick Clark's Rockin' New Year's Eve blaring on an old TV in the background.  Periodically throughout the night, we'd sneak downstairs to restock our supply of chips and onion dip.  I remember running back up the grand staircase in the elegant old sea captain's home of some friends, cupping a napkinful of cheese cubes in my hands.  Glancing down into the living room, I suddenly felt positively tipsy from the laughter of the grown ups, the pipe tobacco of the men, and the flashing costume jewelry of the women.  The whole world was a film reel that had been speeded up, clicking faster and faster, and so I ran as quickly as I could to keep up with it, rushing headlong into the next year, making myself stay up all the way until midnight to see the great glittering ball drop on TV and all those people in Times Square hugging and kissing and singing "Auld Lang Syne."

Around me at the party the other kids who had managed to stay awake were watching the ball, too.  We didn't hug and kiss.  It was a strangely passive moment watching other people celebrate in a city far away, accompanied by the sound of our parents' cheers drifting up the stairs.  What exactly were they celebrating, I wondered?  Before I could even begin to answer that question for myself, we were bundling into our heavy coats and hats and scarves and gloves, and heading back out into the crisp, cold night.  The rest is a blur until morning, when I awoke with the knowledge that I had stayed up later than ever before.  Not much else had changed.  I was too young to make resolutions, because I didn't have any truly bad habits yet (little did I know that those would come soon enough), and the only thing different was that I would have to start training myself to write 1975 instead of 1974 on papers and quizzes at school.

All that noise and cheer had felt a little bit hollow to me.  Years later, when I was old enough to drink champagne, it felt even more hollow--fun, but hollow.  New Year's possessed none of the delicious fright of Halloween, none of the romance of Valentine's Day, no stirs of the patriotism I felt on July Fourth, and definitely none of the joy I felt at Christmas--that one holiday that can make even a small child wax nostalgic.

My cold regard for the holiday was reinforced when I was a teenager and my father died a few days into a new year. Nearly two decades later, my grandfather died on that very same day.  Last year, on the 26th anniversary of my father's passing, I received news that turned 2010 into one of the most difficult years of my life.  Honestly, I've come to dread January.  And yet . . . there is a part of me that is happy to mark another year alive and the chance to make the coming year a better one.

Each New Year, several of my friends choose a word for the year that lies ahead.  I've never done this before, but I've decided that I want to this year.  I thought the word would just come to me, maybe just fly in through a crack in the window frame or land softly on my head like a snowflake when I was out walking.  No such luck.  I've had to really think on this.  After much searching, I've found my word: grace.  Now that it's here with me, it feels like a perfect fit.

Here's to the new year, to health, to peace, and to grace.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Legacy XI: From Her to Me and Back Again

Almost the New Year, and I am thrilled that D Smith Kaich Jones is at the Magpie's Fancy to share an extraordinary post.  It just seems right that she's the next writer for the Legacy Series, and the one to help wrap up 2010.  There's a quote from Katherine Mansfield that's been running through my head all morning: "The more you are motivated by love, the more fearless and free your actions will be."  This describes how I feel when I read the posts of this gifted photographer, painter, and writer.  Her blog, Emma Tree, is a touchstone for me and for many other bloggers.  It's a joy to welcome her here today.

First – to Gigi - thank you.  For including me in your wonderful Legacy series, and for making me realize a few truths about myself, all good, including the fact, that I do, indeed have something to leave behind.

There was once a fan”, she told me, “that blew magic instead of air . . .”   She was four, and I was enchanted, and it was a long time ago, on a hot Texas summer afternoon.  We were spread across the floor of my mother’s living room, playing games, aunt and niece, she, cousinless on my side of the family, forced to endure as playmates us grownups, I more than willing to be a child again.

She was a born storyteller, a conjurer of magic and witches, and she believed - once upon an Easter time, upon being told we thought we’d spied the Easter Bunny hopping across the backyard, that perhaps he’d left an egg or a basket, she asked if he was white and was he wearing a vest? -  because that’s how the real Easter Bunny dressed; her eyes lit when I told her yes.  She knew.  She believed.

And so the day of the story.  That hot day, the fan blowing air in lazy semicircles back and forth across the room, she weaving a spell with words, spinning yet another of her tales.  I don’t recall the details beyond that opening line . . . “there was once a fan that blew magic instead of air . . .”   What I recall is thinking this will end.  She will grow up and she will lose this just like the rest of us lose it.  The magic will fall away from her; never mind that it is still out there, she will grow up and the workaday world will take her away and she will lose it.

I have a degree in photography and almost an MFA and have been writing for as long as I can remember.  I help run a small business and when you are exhausted and the clock moves too swiftly, it is hard to find the magic.  You live paycheck to paycheck as far as magic is concerned and you forget that it is free, that it is out there waiting for you, that it is sending signals and voice mails and you stop seeing it; you trip over it on the street and don’t even bother to look down to see what caught you.  That is where I lived when she told me her story, and my heart broke when I realized that someday, she, too, would maybe, possibly, live in the same place.

And so a painting came to me, as paintings often do, just a moment of a moment, just a bit of nothingness, a hand held out to catch magic.  An open palm and magic falling from the sky.  I found the time to paint it and called it When Emma Still Believed in Magic, and told no one about it, I just propped it against the wall and went on about my workaday life.  But I was ruined – she’d reawakened within me that desire to run out into that falling everyday magic and play and get soaking wet, drenched by its downpour.  And the magic felt me looking its way, and worked another spell, directed me to a magazine called Artful Blogging, said look here, see this, don’t you want to ?. . .  you should try . . .

And so I did.  On a Saturday morning.  I opened with that painting.  And I told myself the blog would be about painting, but in truth and in my heart, I knew it would be about magic.  Everyday, plain ordinary magic.  That stuff that surrounds us, even in the bad times, if we but choose to look.  I showed paintings and photographs, but I mostly wrote, and almost 3 years later, I am still writing, and I am still finding the magic.  I write for you, to show you, to slow you down, to say see? isn’t that amazing?, and I write for me, to slow myself down, to make myself step out under moonlight and listen for the whoosh of owl wings, to put pen to paper or fingers to computer keys and type out words that spell magic in languages understood by flowers and storms and little girls and grown women.

And I write for her.  She is almost 14 now and at 14 the magic has begun to slip away; it makes her laugh when I tell her tales of her childhood.  But the day will come when she is my age and she is caught in that workaday world and she will feel that there is nothing there but the going and coming and the paying of bills and there will be tiredness waiting for her at the end of the day, and maybe then she will take out my words – she will need something to read over a cup of coffee – and she will understand again.  She will remember the magic, she will realize it is waiting for her, it has been so patient.  My words will suddenly make sense.  You have to grow up a bit to become a child again.

It is all I have to give her.  My words, and that painting.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow

The weather outside is frightful, but inside the cats are napping, the tree lights are twinkling, the paper whites are blooming, the tea is steeping, and we're writing thank you's.  There's much to be thankful for this year, especially the love of family and friends.  I hope that wherever you are, you are safe and warm.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Art of the Parcel, revisited

Thanks for the lovely comments on my last post.  They brought comfort and cheer.  You are the bee's knees.  

And now it's already the weekend before Christmas, which means my kitchen table has been transformed into gift-wrap central, and everything on my holiday to-do list (cards, shopping, crafting, baking) is half done, or half undone, depending on my mood at any given moment.  But I love wrapping gifts, I truly do.  When I was a girl, I'd volunteer to wrap gifts for my mother and father, and I'd spend hours cutting the paper, folding over the edges, curling ribbons, and making gift tags out of Christmas cards from previous years.  I imagined being the woman at Filene's who got to wrap Christmas gifts for customers.  My dream job!  All these years later, I don't usually have has much time to linger over the gifts, but I still love to wrap them, especially for people like my sister-in-law Cate, who adore paper and ribbons and pretty boxes as much as I do.   

Last year, I crocheted little ornaments from the sparkly yarn above, and I attached one to each gift.  This year I've been making paper flowers.  I often save and reuse beautiful paper from the year before.  Or old pages of books . . . or old maps.  I even reuse tissue paper.  And, of course, I reuse ribbon.  A quick iron, and it's ready to go.  And I love creative reuse of containers.  All year I save the metal canisters that Republic of Tea tea bags come in and then I glue pretty paper on them and repurpose them as beautiful containers for small gifts.  I also love gifts that double as packaging, like a pretty vintage purse with smaller gifts tucked inside.

As far as opening gifts is concerned, I'm a sucker for Christmas stockings.  Bigger gifts are lovely, but the stocking has always been my favorite part of Christmas morning.  When we were kids there were certain stuffers we could always count on: a Lifesavers Storybook, a bag of M&M's, an orange, a pair of socks, and a quarter in the toe.  I loved those "regulars" just as much as the surprises.  As we grew older, Santa, always a hip guy, began to toss in scratch lottery tickets.

Okay, the sun's coming up, time to get cracking with that list.  Have a beautiful day, my friends!  

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Deep Breath

For the first time ever tonight I'm at a loss for how to begin a post.  I've been a million miles away.  I could blame it on the holidays, but I won't.  There's nothing earth shattering to report.  I have been working hard, spending time with family, writing consistently, and tucking in Christmas-y outings here and there.  I can't seem to make every piece of my life fit right now, and I am almost afraid of what would happen if I did.  I'm also afraid of looking back over my shoulder at all that I lost this year.  I know I am gaining other things, but at costs that cut me to the quick.  I know that you know about years like that--the ones we'd just as soon pack away with the ornaments come January. 

One saving grace has been family, another has been intense work.  A third has been the Legacy Series, and all who are participating in it as writers and readers.  I'll be continuing with it for a few more weeks with a new post next week and more writers coming along to help begin the New Year with beauty, wit, and insight.

In the meantime, I'm gathering up my nuts and berries for winter, and wrapping up tight 'cuz, baby, it's cold outside. 

Back soon with holiday cheer.  Hope your season so far has been merry and bright.  xo Gigi

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Legacy X: Mothers and Daughters

Most of the Legacy posts thus far have been written by bloggers I've known for quite some time, but today I'm excited to share this post written by a woman I met just a few weeks ago.  Her blog, Eliza Deacon Photography, has become one of my favorite places to visit.  Visit it to discover stunning images and tales of her life in Africa, and I have a feeling she will charm you, too.  Eliza's Legacy post fills me with awe and not a little wanderlust.  It also speaks straight to my heart.

Written with many thanks to Gigi for letting me tell this story here...and for her encouragement as to the writing of it. 

When I reached the age of 33, it was something of a milestone: my mother had now not been present for more of my life than she had ever been in it. She died when I was 16, had been ill from when I was 13.  At 13 I remember her sitting down with my twin sister and I. I can remember the room we were in and where we were sitting, I even remember how I was sitting, legs tucked up beneath me in a brown armchair. She told us that she had this thing called cancer and that she was going to be away in hospital but that we shouldn’t worry. With the innocence, and ignorance, of a 13-year-old I remember thinking ‘wow, I wonder what that word means, but I can’t wait to tell my friends at school’.

I didn’t think then of how I would cope without a mother, I was too young. But how did I negotiate my way through the rest of my adolescence, my tricky teens, my 20s, 30s and into my 40s?  I did of course, with various crashes and burns, but it’s a loss I’ve always felt. You get over it, you learn to live with it, but it’s always with you isn’t it. Your mother, any parent really, isn’t meant to die when you are 16 and your mother especially not. Aren’t mothers meant to guide you, be something of a blueprint to show and teach you how to be the woman you’re going to become: a girlfriend, wife, lover, friend, mother, adult...all those things that we intrinsically are, but somehow also need to be shown. And whilst you do find your own way, you rather stumble through the complexities of your 20s when oh lord, how on earth do you know who you are meant to be when you really have no real idea where to start!

My mother was the most amazing woman: she was born and grew up a barefoot jungle child in India, she rode horses as a cowboy on the Colorado plains, she became a top model in the swinging London 60s scene, and she was a Bond girl in the original Casino Royale (the one without Daniel Craig!). I know now what I didn’t know then, that she often had a far-off look; she gave up many of her dreams when she – not unhappily, I hasten to add – settled down. But I think she still yearned for distant horizons and that never went away. 

As soon as I could, I started to travel with an ignorance is bliss attitude, a sort of ‘I want to do this because I want to know how it feels’ attitude. I discovered it very quickly, in war zones and far-flung places. I wanted to be able to look back and say what an incredible time it all was. And yes it was, I was very lucky. I think my life, whilst not the same as hers, was set on a charted course to somehow follow hers yet on a different parallel. Exploring, finding new horizons, new adventures, and in the process learning more about myself and the person I would become. Knowing the synergy of our lives makes me very happy; it’s also the knowledge that she would love my African life, this crazy and wonderful continent I’ve lived on for the past 16 years. 
I don’t have children, and am unlikely to now. It could be an overwhelming thought, if I let it, to know that I won’t share that mother-daughter bond that I experienced so briefly. But I don’t dwell, I figure that things have turned out ok and I don’t want regrets. Life sends you on strange tangents and I can’t imagine any other than this one; one that I know she will always be very much a part of. 

Monday, December 6, 2010

Local Joys

I love my town.  Have I told you that?  It is a truly remarkable city.  In one weekend I got to shop at the Maine College of Art Holiday Art and Craft Fair, take a free horse and wagon ride with my sweetheart through the Old Port, go on the Holiday Stroll at the funky shops in my neighborhood, eat astonishing pizza at the best pizza place ever, rent actual DVDs from a real local video store (remember those?) that has nearly every movie you could ever want in stock, and watch the Maine Red Claws play some seriously good basketball (plus, it began to snow lightly as we left the game).  
(I used  Kim Klassen's greyday stone texture when processing this photo.)

Next week we'll be joining in with a sing-along of the Hallelujah Chorus at a local church (I hope good singers stand near me and drown me out!) and doing a little more holiday shopping at local stores.  I avoid the mall as much as possible during the holidays, partly because I can't stand it, but mostly because I believe in shopping at local businesses.  I can't think of a better way to support the community I live in and find beautiful, unique gifts at the same time.  Do you have any favorite local places (including perhaps your own shop!) where you go for cool gifts?  Share them here!

Oh, and in the last photo that's a detail of the menu on the wall at Otto Pizza.  Yes, that is squash, ricotta, and cranberry pizza, and yes, it is to die for.  Come have a slice with me!    

Thursday, December 2, 2010


I've sought as much solitude as possible this week.  It's the only way to do the work that I must do.  I have to admit, though, that I enjoy it, too.  I know that many of my writer and artist friends out there will understand. We need to be alone.  We need quiet.  We crave a hidden corner just big enough for a chair, a table, and our thoughts. I love being alone in my workshop, but I seek solitude in other places as well, like churches,  beaches, and graveyards, with just the echoes of others' lives for company. I also find a kind of solitude that I like in the midst of crowded places, especially cafes.  I love the clatter of cups and spoons, the wash of voices and piped-in music. Somewhere in all the clutter and noise I find a kind of anonymity that feels like the release of a pressure valve in my head.  I stare at the window fogged by the heat of conversation and latte steam, and the words come.  

Do you need alone time to create?  If so, where and when do you find it? 

Sunday, November 28, 2010


Thinking today about what a wild and shifting fall it has been--about how much I am loving the Legacy Series and how much I appreciate all who are participating by writing and reading the posts.  I am much the richer for having you in my life, and my reasons for blogging grow deeper as I read your words.  Thank you.   

Thinking today, too, of inspirations.  I've got several projects in the works, and when that happens, I become a sponge (or a leech, I suppose, depending on how one looks at it), soaking up creative inspiration from everything around me.  Here are a few sources (both local and global) this week:

silver map pins (always)
Hans Christian Andersen
Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows  
my husband's wardrobe (best vintage and thrift shopper ever)
Slings & Arrows (amazing series--rent it!)
Bright Star (finally saw it)
butternut squash
Sharpie pens 

What is inspiring you this week?  Tell me please!  Share books and films and food and anything else your heart desires.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Legacy IX: The Legacy of Sweet Auntie Marg

What a joy it is for me to share this week's Legacy contributor with you.  Kim Klassen is, simply put, a blogging and photography goddess.  She and I first found each other almost exactly a year ago, and she has rocked my little world ever since then.  You can find her at her blog, Kim Klassen Cafe, where she shares fantastic photography tips and textures as well as peeks into her rich life, including her husband, sons, dogs, long walks, beautiful barns, and much more.  You can also find Kim and several other fantastic women over at The Inspiration Studio, where every day they offer tips, ideas, and encouragement for living a creative life.  Kim offers incredible e-courses in processing and using textures, so if you've always wanted to learn more about texturing but have felt intimidated, visit the Cafe or the Studio to find out more about her classes and to sign up for her mailing list.  She has been a wonderful friend to me this year, and it's a treat to share her words and images with you.     

Dear sweet Gigi... I am so honoured to be here, sharing in your amazing 'home'.  I am such a fan of everything Gigi....

I have read some of the past legacy posts....and wow... they are truly all so very beautiful. 

I've been pondering my post on legacy since Gigi asked me to do this back in August..... I have had so many ideas running through my almost always spinning head.  You see I am surrounded by pieces of the treasures are here there and everywhere in our home.

Originally I thought I would share a few stories behind the treasures I have been blessed to inherit.....

But recently my sweet Auntie Marg took a quick turn for the worse in her battle with cancer and passed away just a few days ago.

I grew up spending summers and holidays with Auntie Marg. She never had children of her own. But she loved each of her nieces and nephews dearly.  She was a teacher so she had nice long summer breaks.  I would hop on the bus and head to Auntie Marg and Uncle Vern's for weeks at a time.... When I was about 12 my family moved to the same town as Auntie Marg was living and the town where my Dad grew up.  Since then, we have been together for every birthday, celebration, holiday....and just because for years and years..... 

My parents, Auntie Marg, my brother and his family, along with me and mine... still live in the same tiny prairie town.  Auntie Marg loved having us all for dinner...and she was not satisfied until we were all completely STUFFED. 

Auntie Marg was the type of person that was always concerned about others first.  She loved to spoil everyone with the most delicious baking.  Always adding a little more to the recipe... a pinch more sugar, a tab more lard... etc....  and my oh my was it good!

Auntie Marg spent countless hours with my boys.  It was nothing for them to land on her doorstep and stay for several days.  They would soak up the love, the good cooking and the comforts of home away from home.  She made them the most delicious chocolate shakes, yummy french toast....and all kinds of baked goodies.  They loved being with Auntie Marg.

She was very down to earth....nothing deep or complicated about her.  She was a school teacher and a strict one at that....  But with my boys, nope, never... she was the softest soul.....  She spoiled them with love.  There was nothing she would not do for any of us.... 

Yesterday, was her funeral service.....  at the service my husband gave her eulogy and my boys both shared as well.  Brett wrote her a poem and read it to all....  this was not an easy task for a 20 year old young man who is usually very shy in public... But for Auntie Marg he was more than happy to do it.   Bryce wrote a small dedication to Auntie Marg. He's been having a very difficult time with all of this.  And as his mom, it's hard to see him hurting.  I pray his heart heals and he can move through the pain. 

Auntie Marg and Bryce were extremely close.... there was a special bond between the two of them.  'sigh'

I wanted to share a snippet of Bryce's dedication here today.

'She was a person unlike anyone I have ever known.  Unlike anyone I will ever know.  And since her passing I feel an emptiness within my heart.  Auntie Marg meant so much to me.  More than I think a lot of people will understand.  I loved her so very much.  And to a person like myself... a person who has made so many mistakes in life, being with her reminded me that no matter what happens, life is a beautiful thing.  And if anyone has left such an everlasting impression on "mine"... It was Auntie Marg. '

I believe Bryce's snippet summarizes a beautiful legacy left behind.....

To my dear sweet Auntie Marg... may you live in our hearts....forever and always.....

My images today are of a tiny crock Auntie Marg gave to me a few years ago.....  it's been sitting pretty on a shelf in my kitchen....  I will cherish it always.  The old remington belonged to my Grandfather, Auntie Marg's father...whom she loved so deeply.  He was a truly kind and gentle man......

As I sat in the church yesterday, listening to my boys speak so sweetly of their auntie.......  I thought to myself......Auntie Marg lives on...through the beautiful hearts of my children.... and for that I am truly thankful.....

thank you so much for allowing me to share this Gigi..... 

I truly adore you.... xxo, kim

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Anthropologie Book Drive

Anthropologie is holding a book drive this holiday season, 

so while you're at their website stocking up on these

or this

or this 

or (sigh) these

please add one or two (or more!) of these

to your shopping cart.  
They will be donated to Reader to Reader
a nonprofit organization dedicated to stocking the shelves 
of public schools and libraries.  

Friday, November 19, 2010

Legacy VIII: A Legacy Shared

This week's Legacy post was written by Sande Chase.  When I think of Sande, several adjectives come to mind: gracious, elegant, creative, funny, thoughtful, and clever (seriously, you must visit her website for truly gorgeous boxed gifts and gift-wrapping collections, and then her blog, A Gift Wrapped Life, for brilliant methods and techniques for  wrapping gifts).  After reading this post, I have two more words to add: strong and brave.  I am profoundly grateful to her for sharing these words.  Please read them, share them, pass them on.  I can't think of a more important post to pass along to friends and family.  Thank you, Sande, and thank you, Aeleen, for lending your beautiful photo to this post.

late blooming love, originally uploaded by prairiegirl studio

When I think of a legacy and I have thought about it a great deal since Gigi asked me to contribute a guest post, I found myself thinking what most of us think about when asked such an important question.  A thoughtful question and one I wanted to answer for Gigi as I admire her honesty and talent so immensely. But the question almost seemed bigger than me, legacy is a word for important people, people who invent things, find a cure, save the world, perform great feats that will benefit mankind.  The more I read the guest posts the more I realized I did have an answer but I just didn’t really want to talk about it, certainly not say it out loud.  Though I have whispered, I have never shouted, but I am ready to say it loud and clear and I hope you will understand why. 

As I was thinking of a nicer, easier answer, a shadow of deep pain kept circling my thoughts and in order to tell you what I hope my legacy will be, I have to share the most painful part of my life and I have to say it quickly before I turn away, find a way to not say these most difficult and painful words out loud. In 1999, my 36 year old sister, my vivacious, outgoing, a woman who I thought was as strong as they come, the youngest in our family of six children, took her own life, and life as I knew it changed forever, changed my family…….. altered me forever.  

Since that devastating day, it is very rare that anyone outside of our family mentions my sister’s name. Suicide is a shameful departure, the saddest act we can think of, too awful to even contemplate. The very subject of mental illness in any degree makes many us look away, become silent. I understand this too well as even the memory of that day, that call, still stops my own heart………how could this have happened? How could we have missed this? We had many questions but no answers and it took years to relize there wasn’t one. There would never be an answer. 

Mental illness is scary.  It is messy, painful, and we don’t even like thinking about it, let alone talk out loud about it.  The trouble is that we give mental illness all the privacy it needs to survive.  We think of it as a private illness, a coping flaw, we ignore, it, look away, talk in hushed tones,  hope it is temporary, we sometimes even think it will just go away if we offer enough love and support.  And sometimes it does. But often it does not. 

My legacy is perhaps a personal one, first and foremost a way to protect my immediate family and its future generations.  To ensure we talk about depression and mental illness as easily and openly as we talk about sexual protection, illness, politics, family history, all the small and large topics we discuss with our children to prepare them in the years ahead. Sit them down and tell them the history of any mental illness in our family, have them be aware of the signs of depression so that they can come to us, talk to us, and ask for help. Make sure the shame stops here.

As women, we need to be vigilant about our own mental health. Place it at the top of our list and do what it takes to treat our emotional health. We are meant to be happy and if we are not, we need to find out why. Do the dirty work, dig deep, get messy, ask for help, treat it without shame. Be open and talk about it out loud, shout if necessary. When we do this it sends a clear message to our children, mental health is just another function of our bodies, it can go awry for many reasons just as easily as any other body part. Remove the shame.

I share this legacy with my sister and her name was Lynne.

Monday, November 15, 2010

New Fields

People who've read my blog for a long time might remember the many posts I wrote about Great Meadows Wildlife Refuge on the border of Concord and Bedford in Massachusetts.  Mr. Magpie and I used to go for long walks there every week in search of birds and frogs and turtles and other beautiful beasties.

We had come to measure the change of seasons in the height of the cattails and wildflowers, and in the comings and goings of migratory birds.  In spring there were thousands of babies on the marshes, cygnets, ducklings, goslings, and countless others. Come autumn the whole basin was a rustling shudder of reeds and water edged by evergreens and vines whose berries ripened to bursting before the first snowfall.  And when it came, it was as if the frosted path before us were laced with tiny drops of blood pricked from the fingers of fairy tale queens. 

Now we are finding new fields to wander.  This one, Gilsland Farm in Falmouth, Maine, is fast becoming a favorite.  I took these photos there over the weekend as we walked through meadows overlooking the Presumpscot River estuary.  Run by Maine Audubon, it is just the place to watch for hawks on a cold November day.

And this is how we often walk, he just ahead with binoculars in hand, on the lookout for a bird in the reeds or a Cooper's hawk circling above, and then there's me lagging behind, stopping to examine the hips of wild roses or a stand of particularly lovely evergreens. Afterwards, there's talk and tea and amazement at all each of us saw and each of us missed, and the promise in a day or two to take another walk just like this.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Taste the Day

It's one of those autumn weeks when the sun is so bright it bleaches the brown fields to honey gold and the wind makes me wish I had a kite to fly everywhere I go.  Inside, daylight flirts with floorboards until the moon's curfew, and roses mellow until my eyes taste sugared melon at a glance.  Weeks like this, we alternate between morning walks along the bay in search of cooper's hawks and evenings holed up with old books.  In between there's work, but that's not what we'll remember when we look back on these days.  No.  Our minds will recall strong tea, warm bread, the favorite threadbare quilt.  Remember, you'll say, how we laughed at those women in line at the mall buying all those scented candles?  Dozens and dozens of them, every one like Christmas shoved into a jar: cranberry, sugar cookie, apple spice.  "Just bake a friggin' pie!" you said,  and then we went home and baked one in their honor, with blueberries and raspberries and ice cream on the side.

I dreamed of this once, that life could be this.  I didn't know then that each day is the past in the making.   Once I finally realized, I tossed all recipes aside and started each day from scratch, measuring minutes and ounces and cups and pounds and kisses and good mornings and goodbyes with my hands and my heart.  Suddenly, no day was ever too bitter that I didn't want a taste, and most days I was scraping the bowl or finishing the crumbs off the plate with my fingertips.  And you were always willing to share.  

And there's us now, tonight, two forks, eating cake straight from the serving plate.  And this is what I'll remember: just how sweet life can taste.           


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Legacy VII: A Long Line of Love

The Legacy Series continues this week with a post from one of my favorite people in the whole wide world, Relyn Lawson.  If you don't know Relyn (pronounced ruh-Lynn), you'll love getting to know her at Come Sit By My Fire, where she shares family stories, tales about teaching, her beautiful photographs, her passion for lists (which inspires me more than I can say), her LOVE of good books, and so much more.  In her honor, I thought about creating a list of all the reasons why I adore her, but the list began to grow longer than her post itself!  Even though Relyn and I have never met in person, I feel like I already know her, not to mention her wonderful husband Jeffrey and her magical daughter Sloane, who just turned nine yesterday.  I sometimes find myself wishing that I'd had a teacher like Relyn when I was growing up, but then I stop, pinch myself, and realize I am blessed to have a friend and teacher like her right now.


A long line of love
When Gigi invited me to participate in her Legacy series, I was just delighted.  Excited, too.  As the series went on, I began to feel more and more humble.  What amazing company to be in.  Thank you, dear Gigi, for including me among such a luminous gathering of women.

If you were to look around my home for a tangible legacy, you wouldn’t find much.  Oh, I have my Grandpa Chrisner’s old turkey roaster and a red Prince Albert tobacco can.  I have my Mamaw’s carnival glass serving plate and her collection of now-vintage hankies.  I have copies of my mother-in-law’s recipes with a promise of her recipe tin some day.  I have a quilt my mother made for me when I was a little, little girl.  From my aunt, I have a picture I adore of my parents when they were engaged.  

I don’t have antique quilts or sterling silver passed down through generations.  I don’t have boxes of old photos and yellowing letters.  It seems that my family is not of the magpie variety.  Most of the old and faded in my home comes from the local flea market or used bookstore.  

But, if you were to look closer, to look at me instead of my home… ah.  That’s a different story.  

I have my Grandpa’s love of story.  I have the same devilish twinkle he and my father sometimes get; a twinkle that really should serve as a warning.  I have my Mamaw’s sense of humor and love of laughter.  I have my mother’s love of beauty and home.  I have my mother-in-law’s greatest success – her son.  I have the passionate spirit that my parents always cherished.  I have a deep and abiding love for education that my father modeled with each degree he earned.  

I’ve been thinking, of course, about the legacy I will leave for my own daughter.  Will she learn to love learning as I did?  Will she know, bone deep, that a beautiful, peaceful home is a haven for your family?  Will she laugh at every opportunity?  Oh, I hope so.  

But there is something else, something far more important that I hope to leave with Sloane.  I want her to know how to have a good marriage.  I believe it is the greatest gift this life offers.  My parents, and Jeffrey’s, have shown us just how good life can be.  Together, our parents share 93 years of marriage.  It makes me think of that old country song, I come from a long line of love.  Yes, a long line of love.  

Of course, our parents were given this legacy as their own, too.  My Dad’s mother was paralyzed and completely bed-ridden from her early thirties till the end of her life.  At her funeral over 30 years later, my elderly grandfather stood at the head of her coffin the entire service.  When asked if he would please sit down he said, “Son, I stood by your mother for more than 30 years.  I’ll see it through.”

I’ll see it through.  

Yes.  I come from a long line of love.