Friday, April 28, 2017

Reflections in the Bottom of a Cup

The box of Blue Willow moved with us. An entire box. When Mom phoned to ask if I wanted "some" of my grandmother's dishes, I assumed she meant a couple of plates and a cup or three. Try a dozen dishes, half a dozen bowels, four coffee cups, one coffee mug and a coffee pot.

We downsized when we moved; there was no room in the inn for more dishes. Honestly, I think the box was labeled "STORAGE" but so much of what was supposed to be stored came with us and vice-a-verse it wasn't a surprise to find yet another case of something we didn't have room for.

It was when I opened that box of Blue Willow that nostalgia hit me. In the chaos of the move, in the frustration of finding boxes of things we didn't need and not finding boxes of things we did need, I pushed back cardboard and found memory. There were reflections in the bottom of the cups that whispered, laughed, and spoke late into the night. I started to cry, standing in the middle of the hallway that was now our kitchen, while the cat looked on in condemnation.

The dishes were in tact. Not a chip in them that wasn't already there. It wasn't the state of the dishes it was the memories attached. My grandparents were in there. So were my parents. Everything about my past incensed from that box. Even my love of "Murder, She Wrote" episodes wafted towards me. Jessica Fletcher's Blue Willow dishes make an appearance in every episode set in Maine. Mom and I watched the show when the episodes were new. I now hunt them down on DVD to watch on rainy days.

As I carefully unwrapped them I marveled at how a stack of dishes could move me to tears. The thought bubbled up that things must carry part of us with them and we, forever, carry throughout our lives a bit of the things we've used, owned and collected.

Do inanimate objects soak up DNA? Could a genetic code for memory be found between book pages or in linen closets? I didn't need tea leaves to read; my past was written in porcelain and it's one that I reread with every clink, every steep, every sip.


Have you ever come across a box of items that punched you in the gut? Things that conjured up smells, sounds, people long gone? Have you ever cried over a box of dishes?

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Live the Life Creative 002 : National Stationery Week

Did you know that today is World Stationery Day? Until two weeks ago, I didn't even know there was a day (or an entire week for that matter...guess what? It's this week!) that celebrated writing letters. I happened upon an Instagram post by Sarah Becvar and she informed me of this lovely idea! By the way, click over to her Instagram account. She does delightful embroidery on note cards. If her work doesn't make you want to pick up  pen and write a note, well, you may want to check your pulse!

I LOVE writing letters. A friend of mine and I exchange letters once a month. I have another friend who's suggested if every my fingers itch to send a little post I should send it to her (and I really, really need to do that!) 

There's something beautiful about receiving a card in the mail. A real, honest to goodness card. You know, a piece of paper encased in an envelope with YOUR name and address HAND WRITTEN on the front. Something that's NOT a bill or a flyer for a new appliance store or dentist opening up in the neighborhood?


The first thing many of you might ask is, "Why? Why in this digital age should I waste what little time I have to sit down and write what I could text?"

The answer is simple: how many times have you received a text and thought, "Wow. How nice it was for that person to take 22 seconds and send me a terribly impersonal message with misspelled words, missing vowels, and some strange amalgam of symbols and consonants that, to some, constitute 'text-speak'?"

I'm going to guess never.

Yes, it's nice when someone sends you a, "Hey, how are you? I've been thinking about you" text. It's so convenient to shoot someone a message to make sure you're meeting at the cafe at 11 instead of 10. Email is fantastic for work! It keeps introverts like me away from telephones, *shudder*. But if you really, really want to catch up, sit down, pull out a nice piece of paper, a lovely pen, and write down your thoughts.

There's a war being waged against handwriting. Many of you are probably aware that public schools have stopped teaching handwriting (or cursive as we old folks call it). It's been said by folks with heftier degrees than mine that it's pointless to have children learn how to write in cursive. Pointless for them to learn the mechanics of their own hands and arms. Pointless for them to see their name, their NAME, written in whatever gorgeous or scrawling or chicken scratch or abstract or calligraphic handwriting that comes out through their fingers.

Ugh. Really? Handwriting is extremely personal. I can pick out my mother's handwriting, my husband's handwriting, even my father's handwriting from a stack of papers a decade or more old. 

No one recognizes your typing. Because it all looks the same. Are you the same as everyone else? Are you? 

No. I didn't think so.

And THAT'S why we need to promote handwriting. It MATTERS. It's individualistic. It's an art form. Heck, it's ART. And art, if I may straddle two soapboxes at once, is also under attack at a national level. The National Endowment for the Arts is being scrutinized and a band of highly unenlightened individuals would rather pump funds (funds that come from YOU and ME, mind you) into such marvelously glorious funds such as defense spending and siphon it out of the funds that encourage education, art, music, and science. In other words, let's take away the nation's ability to promote beauty and creativity, free thinking and individuality and hand weapons of mass destruction to the uneducated masses.

That's scarier than a telephone to an introvert. Heck, that's scarier than forcing this introvert to go to a rave on New Year's Eve!

Forgive the rant. The point of this entire post is to say this: support the ARTS! Write your memoir. Pen a story. Paint a picture. Take out a piece of paper and send your mother/aunt/uncle/best friend a note that says, "Hey! I think you're important enough to spend a few extra minutes writing to and a few extra cents to slap on a stamp and whisk a lovely bit of papery goodness your way."

When you do something with kindness, love, and passion that's art.

Even something as little as a handwritten note.

Happy National Stationery Week and World Stationery Day!


PS: How do YOU feel about sending and receiving letters? What about handwriting? Did you know the National Endowment for the Arts was under attack (again)? Do you disagree with me and think that he NEA SHOULD be de-funded? Come on writers, let me know what you think!

Monday, April 24, 2017

Pilgrimage of Place 002 : Let the Places You Come from Envelope You

I'm a Southern writer, born and bred in the deep south state of Georgia. Growing up, I couldn't wait to leave, head someplace more sophisticated and less “backwoods”. I wanted to travel the world, see the wonders, and leave this old, boring place behind. As of this writing I'm one year shy of 40 and I've lived in Georgia all my life.

While I have traveled a little, most of my time has been spent in the South. A few years ago, my husband and I left our home in Metro Atlanta and relocated to Savannah in the Deep South. We love this city, its people, and all the quirk that comes from being a port/college/military/tourist town. We meet people on a daily basis from all over the world! So many different cultures are alive and well in Savannah and there are plenty of places to go to “escape” the South, if we feel so inclined. The funniest thing to me is that although we're in the deep, old South, we are two of the very few people we know and meet who are actually from the South. So many of our friends and coworkers, the people we meet when we go out, are from other regions and other countries.

I've made peace with my Southern heritage. I'm not at all sorry that I've stayed here and I'm happy to be living in the Hostess City of the South. My husband and I both have wonderful jobs and we live 20 minutes from the Atlantic Ocean. We're happy to sink our roots deeper into this rich, swampy earth.

There are myriad cliches about the south and her people. As I like to say, cliches are cliches for a reason. Come visit me and I can show you every single one of them - well, except for the guy who describes the tornado. I'm not sticking around for that. All those redneck jokes and Civil War horrors aside, the South is filled with beauty, majesty and magic. I've heard it compared with those old places of fairy tales and I must agree. Here things are larger than life, the trees reach the clouds and their roots wrap around seeds and bones. It's beautiful and deadly, serene and horrible, sacred and gritty. We're an old people, old souls, and we're slow. We're fierce and welcoming. We drawl and we dawdle and we sip and we rock. We're the cliches and the unexpected, the front porch tall tales and the backyard BBQs. We're haunted and backward and modern. We are lost and found..

The South is about memories, thousands of them. And stories. It seems that we're all born storytellers. But the only ones I can share with you are my own. I grew up Southern, I live Southern and I'll probably die Southern.

And you know what? That's perfectly fine by me.

We are where we come from. I know that makes some of you cringe. It used to drive me crazy! I didn't want to be Southern, not until I examined just what that really meant. Where you're from peppers everything you do. It oozes out of your pores and shines a light into the undergrowth.

Well I say let it shine. Don't hide your regionality or your nationality. Be yourself and let the places you come from envelope you. If they are painful, move through them, find the lessons, and move on. If they are delightful, breathe a deep hallelujah and step forward. If you're unsure, you moved around, were shifted and unrooted, that's OK too. Find the bits you can use and knit them into your own story.

Because that's really what this is all about.

Telling your own story through the places you've been in order to help pave the way to the places you're going.


Sunday, April 23, 2017

Commonplace 002 - A Day Late

This week slipped right by and right on into Sunday before I realized I'd forgotten Saturday's post!

I spent my off days outside painting, something I haven't done in years. It's such an interesting way to think : in terms of color and structure. I'm used to photography; I can compose photos either in the lens or later when cropping. Taking paint to a canvas, however, is an entirely new adventure. I've painted before but never with the intent to understand composition and color combining. It's fun and I'm enjoying experimenting with colors and shapes.

Saturday was spent meeting friends and family members who breezed into our city for weekend visits. This resulted in a lot of laughs and some really good food.

Today was spent hiking through a marsh-lined national park, getting my tennis shoes all muddy and letting snails crawl along the contours of my outstretched palm.

I finished reading my book for April. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel by Deborah Moggach was spot on in the description of India. Honestly, it wasn't the best book I've read this year but I'm glad I finished it. It was completely different than what I'd anticipated and opened a new world of fiction for me. I've never been one to read a story that felt like real life without much else happening. In other words, the plots were everyday plots with frustrating, very human characters who pretty much didn't work through a lot of their issues but just moved through the book and out of it either by moving away, passing away, or going into hiding. The only reason it held my interest was because of Moggach's descriptions of India.  I spent two weeks in India 8 years ago and there isn't a day that goes by that something doesn't remind me of that baffling, beautiful, heartbreaking, bizarre, frustrating, magical land. I'd go back in a heartbeat.

Now I sit listening to a record that portrays the seasons in music and nature sounds waiting for a forecasted thunderstorm. We've had amazing weather here the past two weeks but I'm getting a bit tired of the sun. Call me crazy but I love rainy weather. I love the sun too but my muse needs the rain.

Happy Sunday! I hope you had a great week.
Here's to a Marvelous Monday,

Friday, April 21, 2017

The Things We Carry - 001

So many things travel with us throughout out lives.

Not just the tangible; there are ideas, dreams, fears and thoughts. There are beliefs and prejudices, stubborn falsehoods and wonder tales.

All of these make up who we are, have a hand in steering us.

This is a topic I've touched upon briefly, several years ago when first we moved from Atlanta to Savannah. It started with a box of china and has now extended past the items on my shelves and burrowed deep into the existential.

I want to explore these "things", unearth them, turn them about in the daylight. Like an archaeologist I need to examine the good, the bad, the baffling; I want to take  microscope to the macrocosm that surrounds me.

Every person is filled with stories, carry things with them from long past and recent memory. It's these things, these pieces that shape us.

I find that utterly fascinating.


This is the third part of a new, four part posting schedule. To read more about all four weekly series, click HERE. And thank you :)

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Life Creative 001 - Reconnecting

I've been an artist my entire life. My first works were coloring book pages with random lines drawn through the pictures and sheets of paper with very delineated skies and grass with great swaths of empty space in between.

Notebooks were torn apart just so I could glue the pages back together with my own covers made from cardboard and construction paper. I made catalogs with magazine pages, sketched nature scenes with colored pencils, and wrote stories of imaginary worlds and journaled all our vacations.

Photography, jewelry making, soldering, free-hand embroidery, felted soap: yep, I've tried it and, for the most part, enjoyed it! The problem is, none of them took.

The problem is, I got caught up in well-meaning people telling me I "should" be doing this or I "ought" to be doing that.

So I did. I pursued some art forms professionally and got - how do we say this nicely - disenchanted with the business. I got caught up in goals I thought were MY goals and let my artistic side slide away.

The trouble is, it was always there, lurking, haunting. It would whisper when I was working or when I was at home, on my off days, working on what I thought I "should" be working on. After all, THAT'S what everyone expects me to do, so I should do it. Right?


Tired, old subject. I've posted about it a hundred times, but bear with me. There's a reason for that, kids! Some are lucky; they are born with an innate knowledge of what road they should walk. Some find it earlier than others. Then there's those like me: we have to learn the hard way. We have to walk round, and round, and round in circles, treading the same, tired paths until we finally, FINALLY, get tired of picking thorns out of our toes.

"Hn?" We say. "I should probably stop this foolishness."

Why do we do that? If I knew, I'd be a psychiatrist and retire in a few years to the Bahamas. But what I do know about this subject can be summed up into two points:

1. None of the time you've spent walking in circles or doing the same old, same old has been wasted. There are lessons to learn, stories to mine, and art to be created from even your darkest, most desperate places.

2. It is never, ever, ever too late to get on the right path and begin.

When you hit that path, you'll know it. You'll find an energy you didn't know you had. You may need to do a little soul searching. Or a lot, as in my case. You may have to take up yoga, join a kick ball team, change your diet, drink nothing but juice for a week. Whatever it takes to get to you own, personal enlightenment.

Your journey is YOURS. Find it, enjoy it, and make the art you were born to create! Pour yourself into it, your experiences; your joys, your triumphs, your disappointments and regrets. All those dumb decisions or stupid choices carry light. Find it and let it shine out of your fingers and toes and your voice.

Never let those missteps drag you down. Climb higher and turn them into your masterpiece.


PS: Were you one of the lucky ones? Did you find and stay on your path early? Or are you, like me, just now getting your toes back in the water of your own river? There's no right, wrong, or better answer. Take a deep breath. GO.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Pilgrimage of Place 001

Smell and sound have a way to transport us to the past. Memory is married to our olfactory glands. Science explains away the mystic, but I feel there's a deep resonance between place and the spirit. The places we've been, that we've inhabited, imprint themselves upon DNA and move with us through time and space. Every now and then, something crops up. A snippet of scent raises it's head above the blowing yellow blooms of rapeseed and instantly we're back.

Back. Where?

To the place we first remember as HOME.

Yesterday we sat in the courtyard sipping when our neighbor fired up the lawnmower, bursting through our silent Sunday with a sputtering, coughing engine. Ah well. We do live in an area with old houses and not so grand yards.

Then I smelled it: gasoline and cut grass. Back, back I catapulted to early summer evenings when Dad would get home from work, put on a pair of shorts and ride the mower round and round until the yard was conquered. Gasoline and grass become precious incense. From fresh cut grass I progress to vinyl and chlorine because when Dad started cutting, the pool was already open.

Petrol and greenery; plastic and pool chemicals:

Frankincense and myrrh to a child.

Mom still lives in the house where the pool once was, where the lawnmower once stowed in the back shed, gathering rust and spiderwebs each autumn and winter. I can sit on the back porch and smell it again, when the breeze shifts and the ice clinks in my glass just so. The hum of the air conditioner becomes the old pool pump and I wait again, eagerly, for Dad to come home, mow the lawn, and make waves we could ride on an old, orange float.