Thursday, April 30, 2009

art in bloom

If you truly love nature, you will find beauty everywhere, said Vincent van Gogh.  On this perfect April morning, I especially find it in the garden next door where Dr. Mac's beautiful irises bloom.  

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

we're all poets and may not even know it

Into Mrs. Fabian's class at Coleman Junior High came a beautiful visitor on Tuesdays and Thursdays of our 8th grade year.  She had long dark hair and looked like Ali McGraw in Love Story.  She dressed in black and carried a brown leather satchel.  Her name was Camille.  She was a traveling poetry teacher in the Hillsborough County School System that year, the year we fell in love with reading and writing poems.  At the end of the semester, she produced an anthology of poems by some of her students throughout the county. Swish, Swoon I think it was called.  One of mine was included, which still makes me exquisitely happy.  

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

the joy of boys

The most wonderful thing about a son?  It's having one. And if you're blessed beyond measure, you'll have two and the privilege of watching them grow up together. Like Christopher Robin and Winnie the Pooh.  Like Yates and Ian.  

Monday, April 27, 2009

it doesn't seem write

I can close my eyes and picture the handwriting of everyone I love.  Each signature literally as distinct as the person who forms it.  Mom's is teacher perfect cursive, Palmer Method. Michele's and Monteen's are artistically freestyle.  John's is old world elegant.  The doctors in our family all scribble like, well, doctors. And if I come across something in Dad's script, it almost packs the power of hearing his voice across time and memory. Kitty Burns Florey's endearing book, Script & Scribble, poses this question: is writing by hand becoming obsolete in today's world?  I do know they're not teaching cursive at our elementary school any more. The kids take keyboarding instead.  And now it's even possible to get a computer font made to match your handwriting! I believe that handwriting is a mark of individuality too important to fall by the cultural wayside. What we write may say a lot about us, but so does the way we write it. 

Friday, April 24, 2009

fabulous Friday

Find Maira Kalman's diva illustrated blog, And the Pursuit of Happiness, in the New York Times online on Fridays (http://kalman.blogs.nytimes.com/). Such a visual treat.  How can anyone be that creative? And that prolifically productive?! Makes me, and probably you, want to think, write, draw, dream, dance, sew, sing, soar. What's stopping us? 

Thursday, April 23, 2009

weather report

Just as weather is determined by different pressure systems coming into contact with one another, the feelings generated in your home living space are determined by the things you place around you: the kind of music you listen to, the food you prepare, the relationships you foster, the books you read, and the dozens of other everyday choices you make.   
Gary Thorp in Sweeping Changes

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

there's no place like home

When you take a moment out of the daily orbit and really think about it, doesn't this old earth bring you to your very knees?  The magnitude, majesty, glory and wonder of it all?  The mountains and oceans and beaches and backyard gardens? The waterfalls and the hollyhocks and the bird nests tucked in the branches of the sycamore tree?  Today is Earth Day, created by Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson in 1970.  He envisioned it as a grassroots day of environmental awareness at college campuses across the country and today it is observed around the globe.  A happy coincidence is that April 22nd is also the birthday of Saint Francis of Assisi, lover of nature and considered to be the world's first environmentalist. Probably the best way to celebrate is to take to heart the myriad ways we can protect and preserve this precious, inherited gift.  And then to live them out so that every day becomes Earth Day.  

Monday, April 20, 2009

sweetest things


It was the most beautiful April day,
warm and sunny and full of happiness,
a gorgeous and festive setting.
Four generations gathered together
with friends old and new (one is silver, the other gold).
There were flowers on dresses, shoes, jacket lapels,
and pink and orange Gerber daisies everywhere.
There was fruit punch in little glass cups,
chicken salad in pineapple boats,
luscious tomato soup, princess sandwiches,
a two-tier cake with pink icing flowers.
Sweet boys serenaded happy birthday 
in four-part harmony, and everyone 
went home with a song in the heart.

Friday, April 17, 2009

walkin' the walk

Early Saturday, we'll lace up and take to the pavement with a band of thousands here in Charlotte for the annual Walk to Cure Juvenile Diabetes.  We'll put one foot in front of the other for several miles and cheer each other on, which is, in fact, the only way to deal with this chronic and life-threatening disease.  Our girl was 12 when she suddenly became skinny as a stick and started drinking buckets of water, signs that her pancreas was shutting down. The pediatrician sent us straight to the hospital for several days to learn a new language, medical procedures and habits to keep her alive and healthy. 
 
It was late when we turned out the lights that first night in the hospital, to rest among the flowers and plush bunny, the medical supplies and stack of reading material that got scarier by the page.  I remember saying a desperate prayer that I could get my rattled mind around the critical things we needed to learn. When I opened my eyes, they settled on a vase of exquisite flowers my sister had sent to us. In the dark, I could see that it was actually lit from within with tiny white lights! Amazing and comforting.  I took that as a sign - and still do - that things would be okay, that we would manage, that she would continue to shine. And she has.    

Thursday, April 16, 2009

i still love Lucy!

'It only looks like the real thing.'  That is the premise of this ad by BBDO for Armstrong laminate flooring, which you've probably seen in magazines. The campaign also includes cameos by James Dean and Dean Martin. Cool concept, visually stunning and so very realistic, yet with a touch of fantasy.  I love Lucy and I love artistic advertising. Definitely among the best work of 2008.  

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

a cheery yes

Saying Yes
It's all too much if you really stop to think of it.
The grace, the mystery, the blessings, the unknown.
    But stop anyway!
And grant yourself the permission you already have.
    Take one of each!  There is something
behind the starry fullness, where all appears a void.
It's where the cheery yeses come from.
The rain will start looking like showers of blessings
to you.  Washing away all but essence.
And then you'll find your own oil paints to 
potter in, mangoes to eat in wonderment
    and a nest to protect.
                                               - Laura Fargas

Monday, April 13, 2009

heavenly spring

The calendar said 'spring' weeks ago, but Easter Monday somehow makes it official. Even when it's cool and drizzly and you still need a jacket outdoors.  The earth is soft and welcoming to lambs ear and lilies.  The yard is a thick green carpet with hot pink and white azaleas in full bloom.  You can write your name in the pollen that collects on the car window.  The air is softer and a gentle breeze carries on it the feeling of hope.  

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter tidings

What one sees depends on where one sets up one's shop.  Mine is at the entrance of the empty tomb.  
- W. Paul Jones

Friday, April 10, 2009

a bunny tale (or why I love Target)

The mother of all children's books about mothering has got to be The Runaway Bunny, in print since 1942.  It's a tale of reassurance and love that children find very comforting:  no matter where you may run, hide or become lost, I will find you and bring you home.  It's our life's work, we mothers, even when it ceases to be a feat of physical endurance and becomes mostly metaphorical instead.  I walked into Target one spring day when the children were little to pick up socks and Similac and jelly sandals in pastel colors, and hanging from the ceiling were huge cardboard cutouts of illustrations from The Runaway Bunny.  It was like magically walking into the pages of the book.  There was a matching plush bunny, too, which we still have. It's called building brand loyalty in marketing-speak, or why Target will always be my runaway favorite store.  

Thursday, April 9, 2009

the bunny hop

Hunt no longer for the perfect dessert to serve on Sunday.  The good people at McCormick Foods offer up this darling bunny cake, a reasonable facsimile of which has graced many an Easter table in my own life. Women's magazines always used to carry an ad with the recipe (and a diagram!) in their spring issues. Can you see how he's simply made from two round cakes?  One is used whole for the head and the other is cut into three pieces for the bowtie and ears.  Then you just frost away and decorate with whimsy. Easy enough for children to make. So hop to it!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

morning walk, Isle of Palms

blonde boy on a pogo stick, hopping to his cousin's house
a beige house with bright orange-red shutters
pale yellow roses climbing over a picket fence
boats bobbing at the end of their docks
a wooden mailbox shaped like a whale
someone walking a golden retriever
a side street called Tabby Lane
the quiet little Baptist church
snapdragons in every color

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

a rite of Easter

The best holiday activities stand the test of time, which is how they become traditions.  Same with a wonderful book.  In The Egg Tree by Katherine Milhous, Katy discovers a treasure trove of hand painted eggs in the attic of her grandmother's Pennsylvania Dutch home, sparking memories and rekindling a beloved ritual. We made our first egg tree when I was ten and our New York cousins came to visit for Easter in Florida.  Maybe this Caldecott award-winning book is where mom, a teacher, got the fun, creative idea.  It even comes with instructions. Last week I noticed a gorgeous Easter tree on the cover of Martha Stewart Living while waiting in line at the grocery store.  It was almost as pretty as ours.

Monday, April 6, 2009

dogwood days

The dogwood tree says spring in North Carolina.  And Easter.  Legend has it that the cross Christ died upon was made of wood from a dogwood tree.  The flowers are symbolic, with 'nail holes' at the end of each petal and a 'cross of thorns' at the center.  Seasons change and nature reminds us that endings are really new beginnings.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

happy birthday, cupcake!

Sometimes in life, if you're extraordinarily lucky and blessed, heaven opens up and sprinkles you with stardust.  The world takes on a rosy pink glow and your heart is filled with joy and wonder. It's called having a daughter.  

Friday, April 3, 2009

finding the way

Life is a sacred path that twists, turns, grows and reaches new levels as long as you keep moving forward.  Which takes immense courage, perseverance and love.  The destination? Your very own soul.  Christian churches throughout time have used the Labyrinth as a symbol of wholeness and the sacred journey of life.  The one above is at Chartres, but many churches like mine, and maybe yours, will set out a temporary Labyrinth during Holy Week. Representing 'a journey to our own center and back out into the world,' we're encouraged to walk it meditatively, on our own time and at our own pace, to see where it takes us.  This is the mystery of faith.  

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

poetry in motion

Today is the first day of National Poetry Month in these United States.  Let the celebration begin by visiting www.americanlifeinpoetry.org and signing up to have a wonderful poem magically delivered to your inbox each week by Ted Kooser, the 2004-2006 Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress.  His brief introduction of the poems is always as poetic as the work itself. There are lots of ways to revel in this April-long event.  Stay tuned.