Monday, October 31, 2011

oh joy

Sometimes joy comes in a blue wrapper and offers up sweet memories of Halloweens past, of plastic pumpkin buckets full of candy and polyester costumes depicting cartoon characters, of the year a friend disguised as a pirate popped out and scared our bunny pajama-clad baby to tears. Some traditions we may outgrow, but never the hot dogs for dinner on Halloween night, a pop of bright orange color in the day's outfit and the palm-sized happiness of an Almond Joy.

Friday, October 28, 2011

treat yourself

You don't get much fallier than this, the weekend before Halloween. Like it's straight out of casting central, ours comes complete with grey skies, a 20-degree temperature drop and wind whistling through the trees. Here's a pumpkin latte recipe from a beautiful blog for your Saturday afternoon sipping pleasure. Make sure there's a good mystery in that pile of books you've been wanting to read and be sure to venture out for a special candle - like Henri Bendel's Fig or Cinnamon Bark or Firewood - to light in remembrance next Tuesday, All Saints Day.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

blanket statement

When the weather turned cool, I bought the pale pumpkin-colored throw on top of this stack from West Elm to 'throw' over the arm of the couch. They call it Tigerlily, which I think is especially pretty. I would adore one in any hue! We're big on blankets at our house, or 'blanies' as the kids still call them. There's a quilted pink one from the Hendersonville market circa 1991, a creamy polyester (!) number that I try to hide behind big pillows, and a soft white one that's now just tattered bits and pieces of its former glory. All seem to provide as much comfort as ever. Like a blanket, there are some people whose mere presence invokes a secure feeling (miss you, Dad). There are books and foods and places, too, that we turn to time and again for comfort. The Wind in the Willows, maybe, or stories by Alexander McCall Smith and Rosamunde Pilcher. Gingerbread right out of the oven, a certain kind of tea, a cabin by the river. Whatever yours may be, conjure up some comforts this fall. Let them wrap around you like a blanket.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

autumn reverie

A is for autumn, deserving of an A+ grade in any year. Autumn's a well-worn denim jacket, hanging from a wooden peg, at the ready whenever there's a minute to spend outdoors. It's bouquets of bright orange and gold mums, thistles and yarrow, with a twisty grapevine branch tucked in. There's pumpkin soup with a dollop of creme fraiche and a sprinkling of pumpkin seeds. And apple pie for dessert, adorned with pastry hearts on the crust. Picture a gypsy wagon, a fortune-telling booth at the state fair, a bowl chock full of Halloween candy on the foyer table. It's the chilly thrill of a ghost story, a wood fire, long rambling walks wrapped up in a soft, mulberry-colored poncho and coming home to cozy. Revel in these glory days of autumn.

Monday, October 24, 2011

acting like Audrey

Of all the reasons to adore Audrey Hepburn, from her classic movie roles to her iconic sense of style, this sweet picture book written by Margaret Cardillo and illustrated by Julia Denos, goes beneath the surface to celebrate her kind and loving spirit. After a distinguished acting career and raising two cherished children, Audrey could have rested on countless laurels, but instead became an eloquent ambassador for UNICEF, bettering the lives of children around the world. What an amazing second act and life well-lived. What a marvelous way to be remembered.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

follow your signs

"To live authentically each of us must be aware of our "within." We need to become conscious of feeling content, safe, and in the right place, and of feeling lonely, disillusioned, or mildly depressed. In front of turmoil, what do we do? Wise teachers tell us to be very attentive at these moments, to be open to "signs," feelings, comments, a line in a book, unexpected meetings or events that may move us to consider new directions, to refind balance, and to remain fully alive. Spiritual signs have four characteristics: They are simple not complicated, persistent, seemingly impossible, and always about others as well as ourselves. Be attentive when you experience these on your journey. Try to recognize an opportunity as well as a difficulty. Try not to respond too quickly. Pray for wisdom." - Henri Nouwen, from Home Tonight: Further Reflections on the Parable of The Prodigal Son

Friday, October 21, 2011

12 before 2012

In case you haven't noticed the fully decorated artificial trees lurking at the periphery of the Halloween section at Target, there are only 2 months and change left in this year. This causes all kinds of emotions to bubble up, from bewilderment and befuddlement to sheer panic. Where has the time gone and what have I truly accomplished? Inspired by the warm and wonderful Hello, Friend blog, I've created a list of 12 things, big and small, that I am determined to complete by December 31st. It feels good: doable, quantifiable, self-accountable. I think there's a certain alchemy to writing the goals down and openly putting them out there in the universe. Consider making your own list and let me know how it goes for you these last good weeks of 2011. We can cheer each other on.
{My list of 12 before 2012}
1. finish manuscript of children's book about Dr. Mac
2. take the rollerblades out for a spin at least once a week
3. ride my bike to work on nice days
4. determine, with Mike and the kids, a way to honor Cocoa's life
5. finish out Ruffy's dog obedience lessons
6. attend Pittman McGehee seminar in early November
7. run in the 5k Thanksgiving morning Turkey Trot
8. query Garden & Gun magazine about writing an article on
'The Two Elizabeths,' Elizabeth Lawrence and Elizabeth Clarkson
9. begin writing a play about 'The Two Elizabeths'
10. contact a few key companies about writer-in-residence services
11. learn how to make homemade marshmallows to give
cellophane bags full of 'Marrshmallows' at the holidays
12. not miss a single Wednesday morning faith class

Thursday, October 13, 2011


Earthly life is wrenchingly short. Love lasts forever. Cocoa 2001 - 2011.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

simple, doable, durable

We can all find and nurture a quiet, sacred space at the center of our lives where we experience connection to God. This is what I learned from author, pastor and social justice activist Brian McLaren, who spoke at church this morning. He talked about ways to deepen faith with daily spiritual practices that are simple, doable and durable, each rooted in a single word. The first is 'here.' And here's how it works: you simply show up to the moment - any moment - and hold an awareness: I am here, God. You are here. We are here together. Regardless of what is swirling around you. All twelve practices/words are outlined in his book, Naked Spirituality, which is about stripping away the distractions and non-essentials to get to God. It's not about finding time to do these things, he said, it's about claiming your time. So simple. Yet amazing.
(The Chapel at Sewanee on an October evening, 2011)

Friday, October 7, 2011

Thursday, October 6, 2011

the art of living

Romare Bearden might have been recollecting a day just like today while creating this beautiful collage. The hundredth anniversary of his birth is being celebrated across the country right now, nowhere more joyfully than here in Mecklenburg County where he was born. His family moved to Harlem when he was quite young, but he returned often throughout his life to visit and even more often in his art. I've enjoyed learning more about Romare Bearden, someone whose work, and spirit, I've long admired. He graduated from NYU and became a social worker, then a published writer. He loved books and cats and jazz. He cherished the most ordinary everyday details and had a very strong sense of place. His life seems to me kind of a collage, with brilliant colors, lots of texture and layer upon layer of vivid memories. A work of art. (Mecklenburg Autumn: October - Toward Paw Creek by Romare Bearden, 1983)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

sorting life into words

There's a direct correlation between how much pleasure writing (i.e., this blog!) is getting done and how much I am paying attention to, processing and honoring life. For you, it may be how many pages read or rows knitted, the number of miles logged on the jogging path or how often you've picked up the paintbrush lately. For all of us, there's some barometer of how much we're engaged in the details of daily life and not just hurtling through on automatic. I recently marked the three-year anniversary of coming to this spot pretty consistently to check in with life. What I've realized is that I need it much more than it needs me. And that consistently showing up makes a world of difference.