22 February 2011

What I've learned

Don't regret anything. Everything happens for a reason and there can be beautiful hidden rewards. 

Be kind. It takes less effort than being mean, it's good for your soul, and it's the right thing to do.

Learn to express yourself: your talents, your emotions, your opinions. Find your unique voice and use it to leave your mark on the world and on the hearts and minds of the people you meet. 

Be open to all of life's possibilities. It's arrogant to think we know everything about the "unknown, unexpected and unseen". Having a closed mind just might deprive you of the experience of a lifetime.

Be whimsical. Serious people are a dime a dozen. It takes a special kind of person to recognize the importance of frivolity.

Talk to animals. You'll never feel so close to God or Nature as when you sit quietly in a garden or a park and actually lock eyes with a sparrow or murmur something silly to a squirrel. 

Ride a Merry Go Round at least once every summer if you can. Forget the 'Tower of Terror' or 'Rocket of Doom'. Get on an old wooden horse, grab at the brass ring and remember how it felt to be 6 years old again.

Read as much as you can get your hands on. 

Travel unexpectedly. Don't plan every moment. Walk down a street or alleyway that's not on the tour. 

Remember that life is a journey, not a destination. Enjoy the trip, and make it enjoyable for others. Because despite what you think, no one travels alone.

Keep a journal. One that no one ever sees but you. Write as sporadically or regularly as you want, but be honest.

Never think for a moment that you're finished growing up. The day you wake up and don't feel a little uncertain about life, or don't learn something, is the day you've died inside.

Don't be afraid to cry.

Laugh often. Find the humor in things.  Irreverence is sometimes the only saving grace in tragedy.

Defy any convention that doesn't reflect who you are or what you feel. Be yourself. It's a tough act to follow.

Don't be a slave to money. Use it to survive and use it improve your life. And if there's not enough to do both, use it to improve your life.

One word: Karma. It really does all come back at you. And anyway, why be unpleasant? 

Learn how to say no.

Learn how to say yes.

Learn how to say I'm sorry.

Be clean. Your house and your body should always be ready for company. 

Always keep a chilled bottle of champagne on hand. And when you open it, replace it. (Notice I said when, not if.)

Don't concern yourself with fads. Wear clothes that make you feel at home with yourself. The self-confidence you'll exude will make you look years younger and twice as beautiful as any fashion slave.

Treat guests like family, and family like company, so your guests feel at home and your loved ones feel special.

Don't be afraid to take chances. "If only.." are the two saddest words to murmur on your deathbed.

When it comes to love, more is seldom enough.

“There are places I remember....”

One by one the landmarks of my past have been disappearing over the years, each one a favorite haunt where I spent time and enjoyed myself, or a benchmark for a certain period of my life.

First it was the College Hill Bookstore which I’d been going to since I was a teenager.  Located right in the heart of the East Side in an eclectic part of town, it would stay open each night until midnight, and, according to the sign in the window, was “Dedicated to the art of browsing.” Many of my first “serious” books came from its shelves of poetry, novels, travel or philosophy.

Next it was Second Thoughts - easily my favorite second hand bookstore in all creation! The scent of old books when you went inside was nearly overpowering. Assuming you ever got inside.  On the outside wall by the front door there were two enormous bookcases, each one at least seven feet tall and filled to overflowing with books of all kinds in various stages of repair.  A sign pinned over the top announced: “ALL BOOKS $1”  (Get thee behind me, Satan!)  Inside, the shelves groaned with books in every possible category, while behind the counter the owner had a special hoard of 18th nd 19th gilt-edged collector's editions with embossed covers. The general price could be anywhere from two dollars up to twenty, and I don’t think I ever came home from there with fewer than four or five books, most of them from the outdoor shelves.

On the heels of this disaster, my favorite consignment shop closed, albeit briefly. The Stock Exchange was always full of antiques, china, glassware, linens, furniture and old kitchen items, all of them reasonably priced. It was easy to spend an entire afternoon there, wandering from room to room, upstairs and down, poking into the nooks and corners and coming up with beautiful tea cups or pieces of lace or a pair of sparkling Jet ear-rings. It always seemed like the kind of place that would just always be there and it was a terrible loss when they closed. Miraculously, it did reopen several years later and although it was never quite the same I still manage to find wonderful things there. 

And then the final blow fell: the announcement that Ocean House, a sprawling yellow-shingled Victorian hotel overlooking the sea at the top of Watch Hill, would be closing. And not just closing but torn down! One of the last summer hotels of its kind, it had a huge dining room with glass windows on two sides that gave one the feeling that you were eating on board a great ocean liner. Every window looked out onto the sea, and after dinner you could sit on the verandah in one of their weathered rocking chairs, or slip down the back steps and wander along the beach in your bare feet, not caring if your dinner gown got wet in the waves as the tide came in.  I have glass jars full of the beautiful stones I’ve collected on the beach there, and an old photograph of the hotel hangs in the upstairs bathroom. Whenever guests visited from out of town I always brought them there for a true taste of what it would have been like to holiday by the sea in past times.  They auctioned all the furniture and paintings and rumor had it a developer would tear down the building and erect luxury condominiums in its place on the valuable seafront property.  In the end, the Nostalgia Faerie granted my wish and the developers relented, refurbishing the existing building.  It is now the Ocean House Luxury Resort. The dining room no longer has a rocking shipboard feel to it, and the shabbiness has been replaced by the elegant ethos of a private club.  But beggars can't be choosers and at least it still exists.    

There are other places in my life that have vanished: my first school, the housing development where we lived when I was a newborn, the tenement we shared with my grandmother when I was a toddler.  Even the hospital where I was born was razed and replaced by a Walgreens!  (Odd to imagine being born somewhere near Aisle 6...)

As progress lays waste to life's landmarks, I'm thankful for memories and photographs.

“...in my life, I’ve loved them all.”

A stitch in time

Knitting, Sewing and Crocheting projects at the moment: 

- Civil War era bed socks in a lovely olive green color, which now that I think of it actually makes them look vaguely WWI era...  

- Crocheted bookmarks with Hunca Munca-sized thread that's nearly causing blindness but comes in the most beautiful shades of taupe, seafoam green, ivory, and Wedgewood blue.

- A plaid tea cosy lined with quilting and an underside that's black with small white polka dots. Depending on my sewing skills it may be reversible. We'll see about that. 

- An entrelac scarf using the most wondrous Candide claret-tweed wool. (This one's for me.)

- Multi-colored socks in shades of lavender, grey, and yellow. [Ed. note. These were supposed to be an Easter present last year, and then a mid-summer birthday gift, and then a Christmas present. The good news is, Easter is coming around again in 8 weeks.]

- A gray wool scarf with a very thin pink metallic thread running through it. (Did I mention it was very thin??)   I've only done one row so it remains to be seen if I have the patience for this one.

- A test run at knitting Frost Flowers.  (Please keep my room at the Asylum aired out.)

Well, that should keep me quiet throughout the rest of this winter.


What you will not find here

I won't be trying to solve the world's problems here, that's number one.  (If I can decipher the condemn-them-to-fiery-hell symbols on the knitting chart with which I seem to be locked in mortal combat, that will be victory enough thank you very much.)

Call me crazy (and you won't be the first) but most days life can be blissfully simple:  Family and friends. My cottage. Reading. Writing. Watching films. Puttering in the garden. Sitting by the ocean. Long walks. Hockey games.  Oh, I indulge in the occasional 'brainy' discussion at times -- the world, politics, things I'm reading or films I've seen.  And I fondly recall youthful nights that lasted until the early hours, discussing "the meaning of meaning" with friends, waxing as philosophical and poetic as the next guy.  But as a general rule I try not to concentrate on the bleak, the profound or the grim, nor do I pose the dense questions for which there are really no answers. (With the possible exception of obscure knitting charts.) What's the use of looking into life's face and seeing a complicated and forbidding terrain?  Maybe it's something you outgrow, but right now the faulty plumbing in the upstairs bathroom is a more immediate concern than whether or not we recognize Red China.  I'm just saying.

So ... most days I'm carefree, my mind filled with the sweet residue of everything I've read and learned. Some days not so much. But I'm here, part of the whole lovely mess. And I do love the simplicity of it all, and, yes, the messiness. Perhaps the secret is that there's really only as much trouble as you let yourself envision. (Or perhaps I've strayed over that fine line between simplicity and simpleton...?)  But really, let's hear it for those mornings when you wake up and the mocking birds are chittering by the front door, or those nights when you curl up by the fire and watch as the sun sets over the ridge at the North Burial ground, pulling the whole red and purple sky down with it as it sinks. 

Last night I called a neighbor outside so we could walk up the hill where at least two hundred Crows (Blackbirds? Ravens? Rooks?) were simultaneously circling, screeching and roosting in nearly every tree along both sides of the road.  What a glorious racket! Some migratory madness, no doubt.  And say what you will, going out in the cold to watch and listen to it all seemed like just the right thing to do.

So that's the kind of page this will be.  

Carry on.