28 September 2012

Favorite Thing No. 91c

Mr. Tyger arrived as a gift to cheer me during a long hospital stay. Everyone likes a life-sized stuffed animal when they're ill.  Even grownups. The nursing station was another thing altogether, but they got over it. In time.

Within weeks of our arrival home, he had become KING of the parlor, with a "bejeweled" crown from the local toy store.  They also sell sceptres, ballet tutus, wands, and other magical make believe paraphernalia; but despite his pestering, I drew the line at a crown. At Christmas he gets a ring of holly inside the crown, and in late winter he sports several strands of Mardi Gras beads. (He prefers the green ones.  They match his eyes.)

He likes his spot in front of the old steamer trunk in the parlor.  I suspect that's because he gets a nice breeze through the verandah doors in summer, and in winter he can enjoy the heat from the furnace below or the nearby fireplace.

Mr. Tyger is a calm and attentive fellow.  And despite that incident last year with the Boxer dog (his tail is healing nicely, thank you) he's very long-suffering about being pulled around during vacuuming or being sat on my small children. All in all, a wonderful companion.

Grab your crown and stop by Claudia's Favorite Thing party.

The rain it raineth every day

It is raining today. A soft, constant rain that sounds like a taffeta gown rustling down the stairs.  Occasionally a car will pass and the wheels will make that soft ribbony splashing sound. But otherwise it is a quiet rain. And much needed.

I do love the bright blue weather of September, with crisp nights and sunny days. But it has been very dry and the gardens will be better for having this lovely day-long rain. The air has been thick with the promise of it for days.  So heavy, in fact, you can hear the train whistle moaning in the distance, carrying on the dense breeze, despite being several miles away.

They say the rain may continue, off and on, throughout the weekend.  This is just fine with me.  I'll be baking scones, brewing lots of tea, working on my knitting project, and curling up with my latest book.
 And sitting on the verandah now and then,
listening to the rain fall into my garden.

26 September 2012

My Huckleberry Friend

Moon River, wider than a mile,
I'm crossing you in style some day.
Oh, dream maker, you heart breaker,
wherever you're going I'm going your way.
Two drifters off to see the world.
There's such a lot of world to see.
We're after the same rainbow's end--
waiting 'round the bend,
my huckleberry friend,
Moon River and me.

 1927 - 2012

25 September 2012

Style Redux

Apparently I am growing old because I find myself divesting the cottage of things I thought I would never part with.  I keep finding areas in the house that once delighted me with their whimsical clutter but now seem little more than obstacle courses.  When these fits (which is what they resemble) overtake me, in the back of my mind I hear the cautionery words of an old friend's former art teacher: "Refine and select! Refine and select!" (Not unlike a Barbary Coast parrot: "Pieces of Eight! Squawk! Pieces of Eight!") 

And so the baskets and piles are routinely gathered together in one place and I pore over them to see what can be put away, what can be [gasp!] thrown or given away (i.e., let someone else fall over it), what can be used in a different and less intrusive way, or what should be packed in newsprint and put in the attic. ("For my descendants", I tell myself, although to be honest my progeny would have to be legion to inherit all the items I have already squirreled away for them. They would also have to be willing to spend half their lifetimes reading myriad books and the other half ironing mountains of antique table linen.)

 One tipping point is the untold numbers of toys I seem to have.  I began collecting "whimsy" as a teenager, making adorable vignettes of paper doll figures and small toys with moving parts such as miniature wagons or rolling hobby horses. This addiction only ramped up with the arrival of my own child, providing me with a legitimate excuse to keep ever more playful old fashioned toys around the house in charming tablescapes or tumbling aesthetically from baskets and tins.  

When she reached adolescence the excuses for having these things in plain view were thin on the ground, but I kept them out just the same, and visitors to the cottage always commented on how many interesting curiosities there were tucked away here and there.

The arrival of grandchildren meant that the toy displays became larger and more pervasive. (Including a life-sized tiger!)  Nearly every stair going to the second floor had a vintage toy, a stuffed animal wearing reading glasses, or a stack of miniature Beatrix Potter volumes. (I routinely knocked a handmade cloth doll on her head each morning as my dressing gown brushed past her on my way downstairs.)

As of this writing, there are still plenty of artistic 'piles' around the house, barely a surface free of tableaux, and enough overflowing baskets and containers to outfit a Covent Garden market stand. 

I will never adopt anything close to a "spare" look.  But I am trying to be more selective in my dotage. If only to avoid being found at the bottom of the stairs, surrounded by toys that turned on their mistress.



21 September 2012

Favorite Thing No. 117

Okay so I'm a huge fan of quirky.
(Hence my own strange numbering system for my posts
which has no basis in reality, really, but there you are...)  
And I love it when I wander around the neighborhood
and discover that other people are quirky, too.
(It's comforting to know I'll have a comrade in the adjoining cell...)

So needless to say, on a recent walk, this was by far my FAVORITE discovery!

 At first I wasn't sure what it was.... so I walked around the tree.

... oh my!...

 Pleased to meet you, Mr. Tree!

And then I gave him a little wink and went on my way.
(With a huge smile on my face!)

[Mr. Tree and I are going to visit Claudia for her FAVORITE THING party.]

Turn, turn, turn

Watching the garden pass by is a rite of passage each year but I'm never quite prepared for how rapidly things change once September arrives.

At the height of summer there was a full bounty of Roses, Phlox, Evening Primrose, Loosestrife, Impatiens, Dame's Rocket, Soapwort, Shasta Daisies, Day Lilies, Iris, and herbs. By the end of August, quite a few plants had already spent themselves, but there were still many in bloom to take up the slack. Morning Glorys climbed heavenward into the hemlock, opening their blue, pink, and purple bells to the sunlight and then curling in against themselves by afternoon. Hostas sent out the last of their purple and white spikes. Bittersweet reached out and wrapped itself around every possible support, setting lime green berries that will eventually turn bright orange. Black-Eyed Susans continued to cut a colorful swath across the garden beds with their startling Crayola gold.  And the Phlox and a few hybrid Roses were still sending forth blooms.

But now, in mid-September, the crisp night air and bright sun has worked its magic on the leaves and flowers that were thriving only a week earlier, turning their petal edges a rusty brown and their leaves into brown-green curls. And the tiny crab apples have been falling like hailstones onto the garden beds each time a squirrel makes its way through the tree branches.

It's always a bit sad to see it all end, especially having spent so many icey months waiting and longing for it all to be here.  It seems like only yesterday I was writing about the first spring blossoms I saw, the first scent of greenery awakening in the sleeping gardens, and the first bright sound of birdsong in the tree branches overhead heralding spring.  Now the birds looked plumped up as if bracing their fragile bodies for the cold they know is imminent; the squirrels are frantically digging tiny holes throughout the garden, readying their larders for the long dearth of food that faces them; and the cricket song has been replaced by one lone sparrow who likes to chirrup in the maple each evening. (I've secretly named him Paul Revere since I'm convinced he drew the short stick and was chosen to be the harbinger of winter's coming.)

As for me, despite feeling a bit blue over this passing, I'm looking forward to the Autumn days and nights, when the debilitating heat that slowed my brain to a crawl is replaced by chilly, wood-scented air, making me feel more mentally alert and eager to accomplish things again.  Soon enough I'll be setting the first fire on the grate, tackling the stacks of books that peer at me accusingly, and beginning all the Christmas knitting projects that lie in wait.  And as Autumn slips away and the winter cold drapes itself over the cottage once more, I will comfort myself with garden and landscape books, dreaming about what I hope to accomplish next year.

To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven. 

 And so it goes.

20 September 2012

Sock Feet

Last year a generous knitting friend passed along a beautiful bag of colorful SOCKOTTA yarn—that crazy, calibrated "yarn of many colors" that magically knits itself into a pattern. (Or as I call it: "Fair Isle for Dummies".)  

Intrigued by the tempting tangles that awaited me, I sat on the couch for several hours, patiently finding all the ends and winding the yarn into at least 10 different balls.  (I'm the type of person who actually loves spending most of the day de-tangling yarn.  Or jewelry. Or tidying junk drawers.)  

Once I'd finished this labor intensive but strangely restful chore, I lined the yarn balls in a row and sat back to consider them. 

None were larger than 50g. 

Definitely enough to make one sock out of each ball.... 

...but only one.  

So I am the proud owner of six mismatched socks with at least four more to go.

[Or I could always use them as hand puppets.]

17 September 2012

Heaven is here in this house

“Heaven is here in this house. I am held captive by the beauty and magic that surround me at this very moment. On a misty evening like this one, I may decide to draw or paint, but I would always rather be reading a good book, enjoying the pleasure of an excellent story written by someone else. Sitting in my parlor, I am completely content in my chair, with the best companions imaginable: my books. To treasure one’s house and books, lavishing them with care and love, is reward in itself, as they return your love so beautifully. And for this I am truly grateful.” — Rose Tarlow 

Perhaps one of the loveliest descriptions of the phenomenon of "house bliss".

16 September 2012

Tyger, Tyger....

Tyger! Tyger!  burning bright


In the forests of the night,

What immortal hand or eye

Could frame thy fearful .....

... Sock.

A gift for a dear friend.

13 September 2012

Tristan da Cunha - No Place Like Home

"... to travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive." — Robert Louis Stevenson
from Virginibus Puerisque (1881)

Val recently asked her friends what Island they would most like to visit.
For me that would be Tristan da Cunha, the most remote inhabited island in the world.
(I was thrilled when I discovered that it was one of the islands mentioned
in my copy of Atlas of Remote Islands.) 
Letter from Shackleton-Rowett Expedition 1922 posted from Tristan da Cunha

In 1989, I watched a TRAVELS episode about John Hemingway's journey to the island
on a Mail packet boat. Ever since then I've been enthralled by the place.
The population is 275. It's a scant seven miles across.
There is no airstrip so you can only arrive by boat.
The nearest inhabited land mass is 1500 miles away.
The boat he travelled on made the trip once a year.  (That's ONCE a year.)
 Since then, more ships do travel there, although the schedule is still infrequent.
(Approximately nine times a year from St. Helena or Cape Town.)

Tristan da Cunha (Google Earth)
For much of his adult life my grandfather lived on an island that was barely five square miles, with a population of 80.  His son was a sea captain for nearly 50 years, gone from his family for three months at a time and plying each of the earth's waterways and seas. My own home has a shoreline that runs for 400 miles, in and out of bays, sounds, inlets, and coves. We tend to be people who seem to love—no, need—to stare for long hours into the face of the ocean, listening to the gulls cry, enjoying the scent of salt air. Eccentric loners, unafraid of solitude. And so rather than fearing the lack of society and the sameness of shore, sand and sea, Tristan da Cunha intrigues and seduces me.

"Tristan da Cunha... it's hardly a place. It's a destination of the mind." —John Hemingway

12 September 2012

Always together…eternally apart

 "Always together… eternally apart.  As long as the sun rises and sets, as long as there is day and night, and for as long as they both shall live.  You have stumbled onto a tragic story. And now, whether you like it or not, you are lost in it, with the rest of us."  —Ladyhawke

This is one of my very favorite films.  I love the story, the actors, and the magic of it all.

Isabelle d'Anjou (Michelle Pfeiffer) and Captain Etienne Navarre (Rutger Hauer) are in love, but a wicked cleric puts a curse on them:  Isabelle becomes a Hawk by day and at the moment of sunset, as she turns back into a woman, the Captain becomes a wolf.  And so he rides by day, with the hawk on his wrist or circling above him, and she wanders the forest by night, her palm resting on the wolf's neck as he pads by her side.

Phillipe Gaston (a very young Matthew Broderick) is a mischievous petty thief who comes into their lives and is determined to help them lift the curse.

The scenes at sunset and sunrise, when each transforms from human to animal, are so haunting and sad because for one split second they are both human and see one another. 

Truly an exquisite rendering of a haunting love story.  A faëry tale in every possible sense!

07 September 2012

Favorite Thing No. 43b

I discovered this lovely lady and her child in an antique shop.  I've had it on my mantle ever since I moved into my cottage. I made a woodland wreath to drape over her, interlaced with tiny golden stars and baby's breath. (And if you look ver-r-r-ry carefully you'll see two small birds... one on either side.) There's a tiny leather-bound book at her feet —"A Child's Garden of Verses" — and a gold, waxen robin stands guard.
I love the way the little child is cupping her face.

Please stop by Claudia's FAVORITE THING party.

05 September 2012

Exterminate.... Exterminate....

For some reason, I'm suddenly unable to use the word verification step
that some bloggers have enabled, to help them reduce comment spam.
(Or, as the comment space puts it: "To prove you're not a robot")

I was able to use it before but as of last month, it now tells me
"The characters you entered don't match the word verification. Please try again."

So please don't think I'm not reading your blogs... I am.
I just can't tell you how wonderful they are!

(Where's the Doctor when you need him.....)

UPDATE:  Okay.... so if you know of a Village that needs an idiot, just let me know.
It turns out that you not only have to type the fun house letters,
you also have to type whatever squiggly NUMBERS there are in the adjoining box.
*bangs head on keypad*

03 September 2012

Last of the Summer Wine

Yesterday was the most perfect 'end-of-summer' day. Beautiful cool breezes, blue skies, and a bright sun overhead. The kind of sun that feels warm but not oppressive. I sat on the verandah at mid-day, losing myself entirely in the pages of a novel, looking up now and then to gaze out to the garden or into the greenery overhead, before turning back to the landscape that awaited me in my book.

It's easy to tell that Fall is barely a month away. The nights have been growing cooler, little by little, and I have to wear a sweater or shawl now if I sit on the verandah after dark. The crickets still sing, in fact I think they're louder than ever, but there's a feeling in the air, an expectancy of something drawing to a close. But I can't bring myself to shut the windows yet. I love to feel chilly that way in the evening. Even if it means grabbing another shawl or running upstairs for a pair of socks. It's such a blessed relief from those few nights (and there were only a few, thank goodness) where I could barely lift my hand without feeling as if I was swimming in a humid pool of damp air. But this is wonderful, and I'll keep the house open this way for as long as possible. The time to be holed up inside, barricaded behind shutters by the fire against winter's cold, will come soon enough. Best to enjoy this freshness in the house now while I can.

A mocking bird family hatched near the Hemlock tree again this year. The babies are so dear when they start to fly, practicing their aerobatics by fluttering clumsily from one branch to another, and sometimes throwing caution to the wind and making it as far as the trellis over the front walk. Although Mockingbirds are supposed to be shy, the fledglings always come quite near whenever I'm outside, with curious cocked heads. (Perhaps they see me in the garden often enough to have mistaken me as part of the landscape!) One of them has been coming each morning and sitting by the pergola at the front of the house, calling in through the screen. And I think he must have been perched on the doorknob one day, because when I turned it to go outside and put the flag out, there was a great flapping of new feathers (mostly fluff) and between the two of us I'm not sure which was the more startled! (I felt a little like "Aunt Pitty-Pat" with all my flustered arm-waving.)

Soon the garden will turn that beautiful russet color, and all the leaves will lie along the ground, their jewel tones like a Persian carpet at my feet. The rose bushes are already laden with enormous pips and the Bittersweet is pushing its tendrils through every nook and cranny it can find, weighing the trellises down with berries that will peel back their yellow hulls and explode into bursts of orange. The black "dolls eyes" berries on the Pokeberry are hanging full from every stalk while the Mountain Ash branches swing heavily with bunches of bright berries. All of these will be left for the birds to eat throughout the winter.  

There's really no season that I don't enjoy. But these "endings" in Fall are my favorite, I think... watching as things "go by" (as my grandmother would say) and then waiting throughout the winter for them to begin again.

02 September 2012

September 2, 1945

 He joined the Coast Guard in 1943.  He was only 17. 
His mission: support the European Theatre off the coast of North Africa.

There's an old Coast Guard expression: 
"You have to go out; but you don't have to come back."

He made it back, the worse for wear.  Grateful—and perhaps even surprised—to be alive.
He never spoke of his experiences. Perhaps that's just as well.
But he could not hide the pure boyish joy he must have felt
"The Day the War Ended". 

Semper Paratus.