Monday, May 31, 2010

The Keys to a Blissful Weekend

A visit home to Maine, 
a lot of gardening at Mum's,
a lot of good cooking and eating 
(like jalapeno shrimp with lime and cilantro on the grill),
bargains at the Montsweag Flea
and Reny's,
snapping a few good shots,
thinking a few good thoughts,
penning a few good words,
taking one good, long walk.
Thanks to Skeletal Mess for the old paper texture in photos 1 & 2 
and to Kim Klassen for the grubbify texture in photos 1 & 3.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Perfect Day

Hi, friends!  I'm doing a guest post over at my friend Kim Klassen's gorgeous and inspiring blog today.  Hooray!  Come on over and read about my dream of a perfect day.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Josh Ritter - Golden Age Of Radio

I have been away for a whole week! I'm never away for this long. I've missed you.

Tonight Mr. Magpie and I are going on a real date: a concert! Not just any concert, though, we're going to see Josh Ritter, my very favorite songwriter, at the Orpheum. We've been fans of Josh Ritter since the very early days of his career. Do you have any musicians or artists like that? You know, the ones you feel a little bit protective of? You want them to be successful, but as their fame grows you resent the "new" fans just a wee bit? It's not very grown-up of me, but I feel this way about Josh.

At the same time, I adore all of you, so I thought I'd share a clip of him here. I'll be around to visit you over the weekend. Can't wait to catch up with your lives and thoughts and goings on! xo Gigi

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Love Among the Tulips

I adore Boston in the spring, and there's no place I love more than the Common and the Public Garden. If you've never been to Boston, make sure you include this lovely park when you finally visit.  

And you must visit!
This is Romeo and Juliet.  Well, actually, it's Juliet and Juliet.  Or maybe we could call them Juliet and Julia. This gorgeous couple winters at the Franklin Park Zoo, and then spends summers at the Boston Public Garden.  In years past, one of the birds would lay her eggs in the spring, and people would wait anxiously for the cygnets to hatch.  Each year all involved, whether feathered or not, were disappointed.  After a couple of years, officials at the zoo examined the birds and found that both swans are female.  To watch them caring for each other and their nest is a thing of beauty.  They are nesting again this spring, and I saw at least two eggs, but unless the eggs were fertilized ones donated to the couple, these two will be disappointed again, which makes me sad, because I think they would be amazing parents.  
Some brilliant designer plants loads and loads of white tulips near the swans each year.  
Oh, and if you've ever read Robert McCluskey's classic children's book, "Make Way for Ducklings," this is the place where the story unfolds.  You'll meet ducks aplenty at the Public Garden, even brass ones placed along the walking path as a tribute to McCluskey's book.  I didn't include a photo of them here (although I have before in at least one post); you'll just have to come see the mommy and her ducklings for yourself.  If you have little kids, this is the spot in Boston for photos!
Everywhere you turn, there's magic.  Statues come to life and carry on  conversations with robins . . .
. . . swans pause beside you on the banks of the pond . . .
. . . and then there is the fleet of swan boats--for more than a century they have been a Boston tradition.  A child can ride for just $1.50.  Growing up in New England, the swan boats were always one of my favorite parts of a trip to Boston.  I still love to ride them now.

Just across Charles Street on the Common, there's a playground and a wading pool, and there are often carnival rides.

Bring your camera and a picnic, and you can spend a whole afternoon relaxing in the grass.  This is one of the best spots in Boston for people-watching or simply lazing.  When I was there late on Tuesday afternoon, I bought a water over on Charles Street (after poking my head into a few of the gorgeous shops), walked over to the Public Garden, sat by the pond, and let my mind drift along with the swans.  

Anais Nin once said, "He does not need opium.  He has the gift of reverie."  I think she was precisely right.  
P.S. If you'd like to see swans with their cygnets this spring (as well as ducks with their ducklings and geese with their goslings), visit Great Meadows in nearby Concord.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

What My Heart Knew

Yes, this is a humble pigeon that I photographed last summer in London (and processed like crazy tonight, including a texture from Skeletal Mess), but somehow a bird that looks rather silly cooing and pecking and strutting on the ground assumes a mantle of grace as soon as it takes wing.  I feel like I was a grounded pigeon myself for a very long time.  Not that I am exactly what one could call graceful now,  but once I stopped pecking at the crumbs others tossed me, I certainly felt much less restricted by my own fears or measured by other's opinions.

As I take a running leap of faith and attempt to catch a bit of air to hold me aloft, I am summoning up all the courage I can.  Over the past few years I have lost much, including friendships, a career, and any  feeling at all of being at home in the place where I live, but I have gained a new perspective, and I have discovered a profound self-respect.  And with these gains, my heart has grown stronger, more able to withstand the judgement, harsh words, and even the cruelty of certain others; it has grown more willing to fail, and more willing to succeed as well.  I think my heart knew all along what I could do.  Only my stubborn, skeptical mind needed convincing. 

Do you ever doubt that you are amazing?  When you do, come visit me here.  My heart and yours will have a chat.  Together, we'll cast away doubts.  Together we'll grow stronger than our fears.  Together, we'll take flight.  Together, we'll find grace.  

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day!

Wandering in the gardens near the Old North Bridge in Concord, Massachusetts, on Friday, I found myself at various moments crawling under the rhododendrons, lying flat on my belly to photograph (and smell!) the lilies of the valley, and crouching among the dandelions and wild asters in the sunshine.  
Nose-to-nose with blossoms and grasses, I was transported to childhood, to the world of my mother's garden, and to afternoons spent building kingdoms among the rhododendron roots.  Dew-dropped in the morning, cool in the heat of day, lush and mysterious as the sun set, her garden was a world of scents and colors that helped me understand the importance of cultivating and nurturing beauty.
The tame world of the house was always only steps away, yet this was a wild place, a place where tiny flowers loomed large in my imagination.  I could imagine myself into a hundred lives, each one richer and more enticing than the last.
My mother gave me many gifts when I was growing up, among them her time, her patience, her laughter, and her sense of curiosity.  And she passed on to me a love for gardens.  This afternoon, as we walked in the garden of the house where I grew up in Maine, my mother and I talked about plans she has for transplanting a few shrubs and perennials, and for building a new stone wall around one bed.  A gardener's work, like a mother's, is never done, but there is always a little time for sitting in the cool green shade of a late afternoon, letting the scent of lilacs and lilies of the valley wash across the grass as a breeze rises--time to enjoy the feeling of a job well done.     

Happy Mother's Day, Mum!  
Thinking today of you, 
and of Grammy and Memere,
and all the women in our lives
whose understanding  and humor and care
taught us to grow wiser and stronger
and ever better 
with the passing of years. 

Thank you.


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Tagged Day Two--Savannah: Vintage Paradise.

So, as I mentioned yesterday, I was tagged by the beautiful and fabulous Ange to share my sixth and tenth posts.  I, being the rebel that I am, shared my fifth post, and today I am sharing my eleventh post.  I can't help myself.  This one was fun to write and fun to share again, because it's about Savannah, one of my favorite cities.  I've made a little list of friends down at the bottom of this post.  If any of you would like to play along, please do.  Just repost your sixth and/or tenth blog posts ever and then ask some others to play along.  Please forgive me if you've already been tagged.  I'm terrible at keeping track of these things!

Without further ado, here's my eleventh post, from Monday, March 23, 2009:

This magpie is in love with Savannah and all of its sparkle, rust, and Spanish moss.  I'd been there once before a few years ago and found it charming, but this trip confirmed my crush.  Could I live there?  Absolutely.  I want a tiny cottage or carriage house, encrusted with paint and age, slightly crumbling, covered in wisteria.  I would most likely transform into a Southern Gothic writer overnight.    

Here are just a few of the places we visited that I know I'll return to:
  • The SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design) Store for gifts and craft ideas
  • Gallery Espresso for people watching and pastry
  • Bull Street for beauty 
  • Vinnie Van Go-Go's for pizza and more people watching
  • Forsythe Park for everything a city park should be
  • The waterfront for tacky tourist fun and free praline samples
  • The Clothing Warehouse for vintage cowboy boots
  • The Savannah Bee Company for tupelo honey!
  • 24 E for amazing furniture and design at fantastic prices
  • The Paris Market and Brocante for all my glittery addictions
  • Broughton Street itself for window shopping, coffee, and even more people watching
  • The Gryphon Tea Room--only peeked in, but will have tea there next time!  The building itself is as pretty as a tea cake.
At the Paris Market I scooped up grab bags of cheap but pretty beads and baubles for crafting.  I wanted to scoop up other things, too, like the vintage x-ray table, the giant carnival-light letters, the perfume originally concocted for Catherine de Medici, or the cafe table encrusted in oyster shells (actually, I think my friend Marlowe could whip one of these up in no time), but I was good. I kept in mind that we were flying home and shipping costs money, and we are trying to be thrifty. The beads and broken brooches were just enough sparkle to keep me smiling.  
My self control in Savannah meant that I could have fun the next day when Steve, Todd, and I went thrift-store shopping on Hilton Head.  Okay, so there may be twenty-nine golf courses on that eleven-mile island, but I think there are also at least that many charity shops.  I may be exaggerating slightly, but not much.  I also got to have some fun in my brother's amazing antiques shop, Damn Yankees.  More on Mark and Steve and their cat adventures very soon.

May 4th addendum: Mark and Steve's business has grown since last spring.  They now have an amazing auction house in Hardeeville, SC, too.  For more information, visit their website: Damn Yankees Auction House.

Here are a few friends I'm tagging to play along.  Please don't feel any pressure, but if you feel like joining in, that would be lovely.
Melissa at Reverie
Ciara at Milkmoon
Lily at bigBANG Studio
Yvonne at La Petite Gallery
Sue at I Need Mom
m.heart at Secret Notebooks, Wild Pages
Relyn at Come Sit By My Fire
Lenore at LenoreNevermore
DJ at Dustjacket Attic
Oliag at Picturing the Year

I could go on and on . . . I love my blogging friends!!!  If I haven't listed you here and you feel like joining in, please do.  xo

Monday, May 3, 2010

Romancing the Muse: Digging into the Archives

I have been tagged by my amazing and hilarious friend Ange whose blog Signed by Ange never fails to inspire me. Often I don't play along with tags simply because I forget, which I know is lame, but it is exactly what happens.  This tag, however, is easy as pie, and loads of fun.  I'm supposed to repost my sixth and tenth blog posts ever and then tag some other folks to join in the fun.  I'm cheating a little and posting my fifth instead of my sixth because I think this one is rather useful for anyone who is trying to write.   I'll post my tenth tomorrow and include my list of bloggers then.  So, here it is, my fifth post from Saturday, March 7, 2009:

I write every day. Right now that's easier to do than usual because I have a writing residency that gives me the gift of time, but even when life is hectic, I write very regularly.  Place doesn't matter quite as much; I write in coffee shops, airports, waiting rooms, wherever I have time to linger. The best writing, however, the writing of my wild mind, happens at home at my desk with the talismans and tokens in this photo and my cat Dill on his pillow beside me.  Students often complain to me of writer's block.  The best advice I have to give them boils down to a few simple things:

  • Turn off all your electronic devices--just like when you're on an airplane--and simply sit quietly for a bit, allowing your brain to hear its own thoughts.
  • Make a date with your muse every day and don't stand her (or him) up.  Even if it's just time for a quick snog.  Be there in the chair with the pen and paper or laptop and put the words on the page.
  • Don't be critical of your writing as you draft.  Just write.  Criticize and revise later.  When you're having a tough time keeping dates to write new stuff, make a date to work on revisions. That's when you can be tough, but even then, think of revising as a form of play. Imagine the possibilities for your poem or story.  Don't feel married to earlier drafts.  There's been no wedding--just dates.
  • This last one is the most important one: read.  Read books you love.  Read with abandon. Read more than you write.  Become a book addict.  It is the single most valuable habit a writer can cultivate.  Even if you've missed a date or two with the muse, she'll forgive you if she knows you've been reading.  
I'm adding one tip to the list today, May 3rd: If it helps, wherever you keep a calendar or datebook, tuck your date with the muse into that schedule.  Write or type it right in there in bold capitals.  Treat it like you would a meeting or an appointment.  If you're a writer, it is every bit as important as anything else you'll be doing that day--and more important than most.  

Saturday, May 1, 2010


found here. 

Z is for Zoo.
In this case, the Stone Zoo in Stoneham, Massachusetts.
Mr. Magpie and I visited the Stone Zoo this past weekend, mostly so that he could see his beloved big cats, but we loved visiting all the animals, like this wonderful gibbon.  She was a showoff and a flirt, and she played peekaboo around a corner with a delighted little boy.
I have a hard time with zoos; it's never easy to see animals in cages and enclosures.  On the other hand, zoos like this one do the important work of conservation and education.  For example, the Stone Zoo is part of Zoo New England, and they are involved in the Blanding's turtle research and monitoring project at Great Meadows in Concord, Massachusetts.  Anyone who has read my blog knows how much I love Great Meadows--and the turtles we meet there.  Blandings are a threatened species that have been on the decline since the 1970's.  
I also love talking with the folks who work at zoos.  As I watched these beautiful markhors, a man who works at Stone Zoo cut several large branches from nearby trees and fed them to the markhors.  It was incredible to watch these endangered wild goats from India and Afghanistan climb nimbly down the cliff to eat their afternoon snack.  Only 2,000 to 4,000 markhors still exist in the wild, and they are still being hunted for food and for their horns.  Very soon the only markhors left will be in zoos like this one.

The Stone Zoo has cougars, jaguars, and snow leopards.  The jaguars and snow leopards were sleeping, like most cats in the afternoon, but this one glorious cougar was up and about.  In the wild, cougars maintain territorial ranges of up to 100 miles, so it is painful to see them in enclosures.  

I got to spend quite a bit of time with this black-necked crane, who was very social and quite friendly, posing for photos and spending a lot of time examining the crazy woman who wouldn't stop talking and and snapping pictures and making bird noises.
For this, my last photo of my last alphabet post, I thought I'd share this shot I took of a Mexican gray wolf (yes, I was this close to her, but I took the photo through a glass wall).  Like many of the animals at the Stone Zoo, Mexican grey wolves were hunted nearly to extinction.  By the 1950's there were only a handful left in the wild.  The Stone Zoo is involved in efforts to reintroduce  these wolves to remote parts of the American Southwest.   

Whenever I read stories about animals like the Mexican gray wolves or markhors or the countless other species on the verge of extinction, I marvel at how little care or understanding we humans have shown our fellow creatures.  I live in a part of New England that is already densely populated by humans, yet each day I see new strip malls and developments flying up.  Why don't we see that when a forest is gone, it is gone?  When a wolf or a songbird or a snake or a turtle disappears from the planet, we are all left diminished by its absence.  I've always found it funny that people who fight for the conservation of animals and wilderness and the health of the planet are dismissed by those builders of shopping malls and subdivisions as tree huggers, as if that is a derogatory term.  Of course we are tree huggers!  How can we not be?   

Thanks for all your lovely comments and thoughts about the alphabet posts.  I have been less than regular with posting and commenting lately, and you are patient and good to put up with me.