Views from Annie's Cabin

miscellaneous musings on aging and living and loving


(Operation Save-A-Marriage)


I can still hear my mother’s voice: “Anne, watch out for February—it’s your most dangerous month. You always want to change everything: change your job, move somewhere else, cut your hair, even change husbands.  Please, just watch out for February——-!

Well, at the ripe old age of 71, a true Septuagenarian now, I thought I’d beaten that old nemesis month.  Turns out I was wrong.  Here’s the back story:

Mother was right.  An astute Charleston lady of the old school.  Who knew everything, kept her eyes open and (usually) her mouth shut.  Except, the older she grew the more she spoke the truth openly and directly.  She could pitch a dagger to the heart with humor and a twinkle in her eye—yet she always spoke the truth. And she coached us in Life’s nitty-gritty maxims, too, like “Absence makes the heart grow fonder,” “Familiarity breeds contempt.”  And “Be careful what you wish for….”

As I said, she was right.  Every February we’d suffer together whatever changes were my destiny that year.  She was always my champion, my oracle of wisdom—always my rock.

So she loved it when I finally married the man of my dreams, my very first boyfriend (from way back in ‘62) and her favorite of them all.  But I was young and so was he and we drifted off into our different life paths.  Only to meet up again forty-five years later, to Mother’s delight, and our own wonder and amazement.  We felt that God had saved us… till a time when we knew what we were doing.

And for eleven years now I’ve managed my Februaries, succumbing only to mild stumbles and diversions.  But nothing too far off the path of a settled and happy marriage.

But then came Covidious.  And The Year In Isolation.  

And now the front story:   We live in paradise.  In a rustic old (restored) fishing cabin on the Middle Saluda River, tucked way back in the Blue Ridge mountains, in the northwestern tip of South Carolina, fondly (and sometimes not so fondly) called The Dark Corner.  Where we’ve been living happily ever after, tending a wilderness garden, writing, painting, cooking, drinking wine on the screened porch, taking walks along woodsy trails. And getting along just fine.

Until Covidious made the cabin shrink.  Along with our world.  Not that we ventured out a lot, but every now and then we enjoyed meeting friends and family, going to our favorite rocking chair theatre in nearby Flat Rock, excursions to a local vineyard and winery. 

My husband has a compromised immune system.  I have a torn meniscus that’s waiting on surgery.  This last from a surprise encounter with a young 300 pound black bear in our garden, where my Little Black Dog (LBD) was in fearless attack mode.  I managed to grab the dog, the bear shuffled off, but I was left with a badly twisted knee.  And though it was only June, it was fast beginning to turn into February—and therewith, OPERATION SAM.

I’ve always been active—a swimmer, hiker, a yogini—but a crippled knee puts a stop to all those lovely stress-relieving activities.  I was suddenly lurching around like a drunken sailor, walking with brace and cane, finding all semblance of grace vanished, seemingly forever.  

And did I mention that my husband loves to cook?  And that we both love to drink wine?  And that June turned into October and October into December and December into February.  And that I sat about, read thousands of books, even finished and published my second novel (JOURNEY HOME, see  And got fat.  And short-tempered.  And sharp-tongued.

Now…my husband is a good-natured soul, but he IS a man.  And so most of the changes coming upon me were taken in stride, not really noticed.  Until a night recently when, sitting by the comfortable fireside, after a comfortable supper, watching the uncomfortable news, he happened to say, “Anne, I know your knee is a problem, and I know you haven’t been able to exercise like you used to, but maybe if you were to lose a little weight, your knee wouldn’t be under so much strain.”

Did I mention it was February?  And that my good humor had been turned into bile by Covidious?  And that I was at my wit’s end, the end of my tether, that my rope was frayed and ready to split?  

I suddenly heard myself yelling—not speaking softly, but yelling at the top of my lungs, “Well, all we’ve done since last February is to drink wine and eat peanuts!  What the samehell did you THINK would happen?  We need a break—our marriage needs a break!”

And thus…. OPERATION SAVE-A-MARRIAGE was born.  

We both decided that we needed time apart in order to survive together.  Which we wanted to do.  We wanted to survive together.  Our marriage is a good one, we have fun, we love a lot and laugh a lot, and very rarely let the outside world mess with our inner serenity.  I blame it on Covidious.  I blame it on watching the entire world living in fear and everyone masked, looking like they’re fixing to rob the nearest bank.  I blame it on never being able see smiles in the grocery store, on having dinner dances with lifelong friends cancelled for the foreseeable future, on simply not being able to go the movies again.  I blame it on this upside down, broken world we’re living in now.

But– OPERATION SAM is saving our marriage.  My good husband hied himself off to the beach, where the ocean fixes everything, and I stayed home and am singing with the river.  I’m getting my groove back.  I’m happy again.  I still love my wine but I’m not drinking at 4:00 every day.  We talk on the phone and say “I love you,” and can hear the lift in our hearts and voices, can feel the love growing stronger again.

Every marriage needs a break, a little time-off every now and then.  Here at home…alone…the energy is feminine, the incense burns, I do awkward yoga that only my LBD sees; I eat what I want when I want, and have tackled long put-off domestic triumphs around the cabin.  He’s been walking on the beach, having thinking time, and planning projects he loves.  

OPERATION SAM is working.  Our marriage is saved.  Thank you, Mama………….

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Time Marches On………









I’m saying a slow goodbye to one of the best friends of my life, a lady of impeccable lineage (Bull, Pinckney), a lady with a talent for painting flowers and telling wonderful “Only in the South” stories.  A lady who made the best bloody marys in the world and who loved to go out to the local hamburger joint for boiled peanuts, and Coronas with a lime pushed into the bottle (great fun that, with it squirting lime juice over us both—oh how we laughed!).  We shared a love for Jane Austen and could quote her heroes and heroines by heart, but loved her charming villains the most.  We laughed at her clergymen and grew exasperated with Emma and Lady Catherine DeBourgh….while our hearts beat faster over the love story of Mr. Darcy and “dearest, loveliest” Elizabeth.

We worked Altar Guild together, needlepointed kneelers together, and entertained our own  clergymen after church ourselves.  We giggled and laughed at the absurdities of life around us (not necessarily the clergy!)  and she taught me how to make formidable devilled eggs.

I still love burned bacon because of Mary.  For when she was a new bride and went to stay with her in-laws, she burned the breakfast bacon.  “You burned the bacon!” her mother-in-law chided.  “I like burned bacon,” Mary said, drawing herself up to full height (and haughtiness!).

When I sometimes spent the night with her, we’d have a breakfast I still count as one of the finest, perhaps because it was made with simplicity, ease, and good humor.  Buttered toast slow-baked in the oven and a nice plump boiled egg.  Usually followed shortly by  “elevensies” Bloody Marys!

She was (still is) her great-great grandfather’s doughty granddaughter.  She had a portrait of Old Colonel Bull in her dining room, standing “bullish” in the foreground while his plantation home was engulfed in flames behind him.  In order to thwart Sherman as he marched towards the home place, Colonel Bull set the house afire himself…..

And her “Only in the South” stories!  She told me of the three maiden sisters, ancient and impoverished who lived in the big house nearly falling down around them.  Inside were priceless antiques and treasures including many portraits by the famed Mr. Sully.  They refused to put the treasures in a museum, refused to let people in to admire them; they just sat on their weathered front porch and rocked…..and when their cousin would come to carry them to church, they’d all fall asleep in the buggy……..

And Mary, a pure child of the South herself, still has that rich southern liquid drawl and reminds me of how she grew up barefoot (except for going to church) and how she loved eating boiled peanuts on the porch.  Still does….both!  I never saw her at home with shoes on her feet— barefooted in the kitchen, barefooted entertaining guests, and, like in the aforementioned hamburger shack, still loves her boiled peanuts, and boils them herself, so they’re just right!

She’s a cherished friend I’ve corresponded with for years, even while living in the same town, but more especially now that I’m 100 miles away.  Glorious chatty letters back and forth on stationery ranging from blue-lined notebook paper to elegant weighty Crane.

I just spoke with her today, the day after Easter.  She was thanking me for the Easter card and telling me why I’d not heard from her since December, when Holly and I drove to Columbia, taking a picnic luncheon to her home in celebration of her 90th birthday.  Just after our visit she went into hospital with “something unpronounceable,” was in the hospital for two weeks, then in rehab for six, and now is back home, with hospital bed and a lady who comes in every day.  She just wanted to tell me not to worry about her, not to feel sorry for her.  That she’s fine.

That’s my Mary.  In this phone conversation we talked about our friendship, how it’s been so special, such fun, so many laughs and giggles and memorable times together.  “I’ll never forget them, Anne,” she said.  “Nor will I, Mary…nor will I.”

We ended our conversation with “I love yous” while wondering if we too were becoming one of those “Only in the South” stories ourselves.  I certainly hope so, Mary, I certainly hope so.  And I do believe we already are….


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Rainy Day & Ginger Lilies

I love rainy days in the Dark Corner………days when it’s twilight from morning till night.  For those are the days we steal away from the world.  Those are the days when we rock on the porch, listening to the rain patter on the rooftop and hear the water rushing over the rock waterfalls below.  These are the days when we catch up with each other, say whatever comes to mind, or simply rock in comfortable silence.  These are the days when we know we have the world all to ourselves because no one’s coming up the mountain in the dark pelting rain.

These are our days of quiet intimacy.

So we sipped champagne mimosas and rocked and talked and laughed and played 50’s on 5.  And danced barefoot on the porch.  In and out of the rain.  We splashed up to WordSplash’s porch and sat there for a while….letting the cool mist drift over us on that open porch.  We were groundhogs with lots of different holes to run up and down and round-about.  We were grownup children again………simply loving life and each other.

And later, drifting back out to the porch, rain now a gentle mizzling rather than a roaring downpour—that’s when I spied it!  white butterfly wings nodding over the stair rail heading down to the river.  My heart skipped a beat and I ran barefooted to see if it was what I thought—and hoped—it would be.  For I’ve been watching and waiting and checking the green bud pods daily, watching them swell into separate little tippy-points full of hidden promise and that wondrous delicious transportive spicy scent that is a Ginger Lily in full and luscious bloom.

Ahhhhh…what a blessing to an already blessed and glorious day!  What a gift….and what a surprise.  And yet it was a surprise I’d been anticipating and dreaming of for a full long year.  A passalong plant from two dear friends, dug up from their garden on the day after their wedding and plopped, full of mud, wrapped in newspapers, in the trunk of our jeep.  As Jane Austen would say, “I knew how it would be!”  But I had to wait for it…I had to watch and hope and peep and yearn for it….so that when it did  finally burst into creamy white bloom, its scent reaching me first in the damp misty air—Oh Yes, indeed…I knew how it would be!

And then, knowing that others were on their scented way into bloom, in the bed beside the screened porch, I reached out and SNIPPED that first lovely flower!   So now, I’m gift-wrapped in spiciness…..both coming and going.  Inside and out.  In the soft summer rain.  On this enchanted…and bedazzling…afternoon.



MARCH 1962




Rose Marie


“The only thing constant in this life is change,” thought Rose, as she watched the priest drop earth to earth on Celeste’s magnolia-draped casket. The service had been lovely and brief, the traditional Episcopal Burial of the Dead and as the parties stepped from their cars into the cemetery a cold drizzling rain began to fall. The umbrellas made a stately parade through the narrow winding lane to the tent where chairs were set up to receive the mourners.


“Rain blesses the dead,” she recalled, feeling that remembrance infuse a little strength and reserve into her forlorn spirits. Septuagenarian friend of now three generations of the women of this family, Rose Marie walked alone following the others, her black umbrella dripping as she filed along the narrow path, before being ushered into a seat near the rear of the tent. Looking about her at the small crowd in attendance, she recognized the safe and distant world Celeste Fairfax had chosen to make her own in this lifetime, and thought wryly that most of the women there looked the same, all looked the way Celeste had looked ever since leaving the convent and marrying her prominent Charleston attorney: brushed and polished, carefully thin and elegantly dressed.


“Still, too young to die,” sighed Rose, “but then they all seem to die young,” she reflected, remembering Celeste’s mother Clara, and her death at the age of 36. And now Celeste, too, dead at 40.


Her mind running back in time, Rose’s heart ached for both of them, mother and daughter, but realized at the same time that, no matter how untimely, Celeste’s death was more understandable, more explainable, more easily accepted, than Clara’s had been. Celeste, whom Rose had known since her birth, had always been a delicate, fragile child, ethereal one might even say, finding her only real passion in music; whereas Clara had been strong and vital, more at ease flying over pastures on her horse, or being held voluntary captive in her remote mountain studio, alone with palette, paint and easel. Celeste had escaped into the ancient world of revered composers; Clara was determined to create something new out of the old, determined that her own stamp of individuality should make even ancient subjects live again. “But,” Rose thought, arguing with herself, “Celeste did the same with the soulful interpretation she brought to her music—-so they were alike as artists—–where the line was drawn was in their connection to the earth, to the physical world around them.”


Her breast rising with a deep sigh, Rose saw in the depths of her heart and in the immediacy of her sorrow that it was Clara who had been the whole woman and Celeste, alas, the woman manqué. Deliberately choosing to cut herself off from the physical side of life, the side that, to her, defined her mother’s shame and rebellion, Celeste made the conscious decision to live an unsoiled life, a life clean and tidy and untainted by passion and grief. She wanted her life to be safe. As safe as it was and had been in the convent, and as predictable; there’d be no heartbreak for her if she abandoned all that her mother had stood for and represented. And this, marveled Rose, was what carried the numbing shock of tragedy in this family. For both women had lost.


“Yet remnants of both lives, of both hearts and souls, still breathe right here, right now in this moment, right here where I’m sitting, laying yet another one down to sleep in the rain, she thought, brushing away the single slow tear that coursed her cheek.


“It’s funny how the mystery of genes keeps memories alive,” she thought, her eyes searching for and finding young Victoria Wren Fairfax on the front row, and from her place in the rear, watching the profile of that young woman, Rose became aware of a familiar sense of warmth flooding over her, a sense of fondness she knew from 50 long years ago and that had never left her. Feeling that flush of warmth in spite of the surrounding chilly rain, Rose gave a private nod to an old friend, an old private companion whom she called the Ghost of Time. And in acknowledging the presence of that old familiar friend, Rose, with a heart more heavy than lifted, knew that she had another part to play in the lives of these women, both dead and alive.


Gentle Reader—-after a summer of many diversions, I’m finally settling down to writing again.  And so—–to galvanize me into ACTION!!!  I’m posting a little teaser of how my story starts……..hope you like it!!

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Well, here it is, near the end of February—and thus far I’ve survived my most dangerous month.  The river water reflected my thoughts and moods this morning, though….a little wobbly, yet still bright in the sunshine.  Spring has arrived early here in my beloved Dark Corner mountains—jonquils are nodding, Lenten roses are raising their heads to the sun and lo and behold first thing I saw from my window this morning was my Fortunia Vitata in bloom!!!  Glory be—I thought I’d lost her in last construction work, but…she’s a survivor!  a beautiful, delicate, gently painted survivor…one of the oldest azaleas and I think rare nowadays.  So that lifted my heart and straightened out the wobbles a bit!

But still…perhaps it’s where I am in the journey of life—I marvel at the mercurial variety of my thoughts and memories and their commensurate moods……..And my DREAMS!!!  whoof……’s like all of the days and minutes and seconds of  my life have been put into one of those big tumbler machines and someone (devil or angel??) sits there turning the giant handle while these fragments rearrange themselves in kaleidoscope colors and patterns.  I awake in astonishment!— at the brightness, the sharpness, the muddled accuracy of all those memories….some are delightful, some a bit disconcerting, but they’re all the composite me, which is a little wild when I stop to think about it.  Have you, Dear Reader, ever cried in your dreams, only to awaken and find that you have real tears standing in your eyes?  Or better yet, have you ever awakened  laughing out loud?!  I have and it’s truly delightful—one of God’s little mysterious gifts……

But another side of this journey is that I find “my old ones” attend me more frequently these days—which does wondrous things to my heart.  My wonderful mother whom I long to see again, whose wicked wit I miss and whose cloudy blue eyes I see each and every morning reflected in my mirror.  My gentleman father whose “old school” manners and values are almost a thing of the past these days….and my blithe sister Tudie who left this world far too soon.  But the peculiar irony is that….in missing them, in longing for them to warm my life again—they actually ARE warming my life, coloring my world in all the soft and brilliant shades of memory.  And those memories….live.  And so…in ways I can’t quite understand, ways I’m probably not meant yet to understand, my old ones are nearer to me today, ever-present with me every day.  Closer to me than when we were alive and living down the way or in another town.  Closer to me…when I walk by my river and feel the warmth of the morning sun on my shoulders and back, when I dream and they make cameo appearances or steal the whole show, when I’m alone or when I’m in a crowd and have that deja vue all over again……..

And all this, Gentle Reader, is what comes from watching the river current dance in the sun….this sweet early spring, end-of-February morning.  What a life!  What a world!  and what an amazing thing memory is………


Ringing out the Old…..


I’m getting used to wondering where all the time’s gone…staring in some amazement at the backward pages of my (19thc) printed-book calendar and realizing I’ve forgotten to keep up with all the days fleeing by.  But today—as this first new day of the New Year dawns, I’m trying to remember how to do all these 21st century things that constitute a blog!  Oh dear, oh well…..whatever.

WordSplash has been busy, though, of late—or at least her creative side has been caught up in a whirlwind of activity.  All new adventures for me.  New projects, new creations, and I’m still not sure what to make of them!

First crazy project was re-inventing my old wedding gown, a beauty that’s lain packed up & preserved in a box on my shelf for 47 years or more!  So, like I did with my old family linens that had been passed down, daughter to daughter, for four generations, I called upon my Needleworking Wizardress to refashion these old beloved memories…into new ones.  And my old wedding gown has now become the new curtains that gentle the afternoon sun in WordSplash.

The surprise I’ve discovered is the joy I’m having just gazing at the exquisite silk and lace as they dance in the filtered light.  Many memories are preserved in that fabric….beginning with the memory of Mother taking me shopping for the dress in 1968, for its first incarnation was as my Debutante dress.  Looking at gown after gown, trying on a few, turning in the mirror, asking her opinion, until FINALLY!  the right dress found me.  It was perfect and there’s happy photograph taken of us that magical night:  me, Mama, Daddy, and my escort (who was destined to watch that same gown—with me in it—walk slowly down that long red-carpeted aisle).  But of course by then the gown had had sleeves fashioned for it, as was the tradition:  Deb gown to Bridal gown….just add sleeves and veil.  The nine-foot train was already there……


 The original 1969 gown & train

My new wedding dress curtains


So, I reckon WordSplash is already calling my name in this New Year 2017….for there are many more memories and stories bundled up here in my studio in the woods.  I wonder what shapes those old friends will take, newly refashioned from both memory and living time ?  I can’t wait to walk over that little foot-bridge, and see what lies hidden in the folds of silken memory……….

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The Lost Days of Summer

So—-where’d July go in such a hurry, pray tell?!  One day it was the 4th of July with Holly’s succulent smoked ribs and all the attendant RED, WHITE, and BLUE and then just as suddenly—-VAROOM! it’s the 25th and all I’ve got to show for it is a dozen (high calibre) junk books read…..abed with my dawg …and a total immersion into the life and work of Thomas Wolfe and Max Perkins….and a further immersion into the Charleston Literary Renaissance of the 1920’s and the poetry of Josephine Pinckney.  Not bad, I reckon, for a cranky ol’ lady laid up with a mean virus and an unholy allergic reaction to penicillin—-which is what happened to my month of July.

But—(sweet breath of summer air)—Miss Grace and I walked by the river this morning in the early morning light and I began to emerge from my funk.  Yet it had to be early and quick, that morning walk, for even the wild cats are seeking refuge from the heat in the soft leafy arbor of yellow jess and porcelain vine.

I’ve been tested and I’m not sure I’ve yet passed the test.  All I really want are the cool breezes of October and to know the snakes have travelled back to their dens and the bears to their lairs!  I want the bugs to be gone and the air around me to be soft and sweet, not heavy and suffocating.  If I were QUEEN OF THE WORLD summer would last the month of June and then would gently morph into the cool sweet days of autumn…but then—oh dear how soon I forget!  I’d miss our ripe heirloom tomato sandwiches (on white bread with Duke’s mayo) and the sweet sweet fresh corn and golden garden squash.  Oh, and the blueberries!  I’d miss the blueberries……Oh, and you know what ELSE I’d miss?  Yep—–those sweet summer juleps in a frosty silver tumbler with a long silver muddler and a sprig of fresh mint tickling my nose!  Okay, okay….maybe I’m fixing to pass the test after all!  Summer’s bounty is upon me and I’m loving and appreciating it all.  And am reminded again of Churchill’s words of wisdom:  Nothing worthwhile is easy.  Amen to that……….



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Scents, Sense & Hammock Days of Summer

IMG_1075Well, the “season” is over and summer’s upon me…..Strawberry Festival was a success and all the end-of-season book club luncheons were lovely and fun—and now are put to rest until the season resumes in October.  So the lazy, hazy days of summer loom before me——and WordSplash.  Even my dreams are helping me write!  Two scenes were colored by last night’s dreams and I pulled out my little writing pad with the lighted pen and wrote them down so’s not to forget….and did that feel good!!

And the other day, in a meeting, the facilitator asked the participants to introduce themselves and say what they were looking forward to this summer.  I heard myself saying, “Hammock Days are upon me beginning tomorrow.”  Do you know how delicious that sounded to me–then—and still?!  Because the next day actually found me IN the HAMMOCK and (oh, dare I admit this) with a junk book!!  Now, I believe in good junk books, but this was a step over the edge for me:  my first ever Nora Roberts romance!  It was just what the doctor ordered, too—predictable, facile, compelling enough to keep my frayed attention.  And good.  Perfect even for what my mind needed……So Nora, Miss Grace and I all lollygogged in the hammock, reading, drifting, pulling the ribbon chain to keep us swinging every now and then……

The next day I realized summer was even more upon me, for I found my Jean Nate bath splash….!  now that’s a TRUE sign of summer for me, and has been since my Media Arts days at USC—pre Ph.D. days—so a LONG LONG time ago.  My favorite scent of summer…..

And the next day found me furiously splashing words around in WordSplash, tackling one of the hardest sensory passages I know I’m going to have to write.  I just closed my eyes and plunged and my whole being drifted up into another powerful tragic dangerous world, but one that he’d survived…Edward, that is…..

And today?  Who knows?  Miss G and I walked in the park, admired the peonies in bloom and the morning glories climbing their trellis; foxgloves are velvety and dapper, awaiting a fox’s dainty little paw; hummingbirds are chittering madly at one another and Paul’s Himalayan Musk Rose is clambering higher and higher up the trees toward the sky.

And me—well, I reckon it’s another day of scents, sense, & hammock rocking for me.  And guess what?  Nora’s “bonus story” is called “Blithe Images”—makes sense to me!


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Saturday in the Hammock

Last warm day before a cold snap.  In the morning I worked on our new garden patch, hoping and praying there’ll be enough sun to grow a few 
decent tomatoes.  Then, knowing a trip to Greenville was slated for the evening, I betook myself to the hammock for the afternoon…..with a book that’s turning my heart inside out.


Perhaps you can read the title from here:

The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George.

Where do I start, and how to describe the thunder and ice and clouds and mists and fragrances and hope that it’s brought to my heart?  How do I begin to describe the passages I’ve traveled reading it?

At first I was perplexed, then intrigued, and then didn’t want to continue reading it until or unless or when I had the time to really read it.  I mean—to listen to the words, to enjoy and understand the leaps and somersaults of the words, the surprises they hold when laced together in unfamiliar patterns.  Nina George, like Dylan Thomas, LOVES THE WORDS!

So I kept reading a few pages, then stopping to breathe, then picking it up, then stopping to breathe… least five times I’ve started and stopped, reading the beginning chapters over and over again but knowing I didn’t have the time to really take the ride…..till yesterday….in the hammock.

Then I was enchanted and curious and charmed; then my heart started breaking and I fell beneath sorrow; then I laughed the deep clean bountiful laugh of a heart in love with a book.  Oh, and did I mention the words——-??

It’s so unbearably good that I had to put it down after each chapter…again to breathe, to savor, to rewind, to recover my balance.  And that’s when I’d pull the beribboned chain and swing and swing and swing….and close my eyes and let that world and my world blend and merge…..and let it teach me its spells.

And what is it teaching me?  It’s teaching me to take more risks…with my own writing.  And it’s teaching me to take more loving time for life itself; to tender each moment, each breeze, each scent upon the air; to prize and gather the fleeting beauty and hold it as a treasure in my heart; to take the hard little kernel of bitterness that’s managed to stay lodged way way down deep and rub it with frankincense and myrrh till it dissolves ….thereby dispelling all bereftness of soul…..

The book is —well, here are the notes I scrawled yesterday.  Read for yourself, Gentle Reader:

“It’s too intensely beautiful and poignant and truthful—I can’t stand it!  I need champagne!—–

“…and so!…out of the hammock in full tousled habille…I find my old faded straw hat from halcyon days of “junk” excursions in the South China Seas with ex-pat girlfriends—steered by a fearless captain with his toes, island hopping (“to buy a hat!”) before dropping anchor to be served wine and cheese and fruit after which a climb down the ladder for a swimmy swirl in the magic waters……..oh and with that old island straw hat and my old faded black ‘everything else,’  I painted my lips baby doll pink and and returned in magic to my hammock with a cold split of champagne….…talking my soul into taking more risks…and allowing my heart to believe…..”

Need I say more, oh Gentle Reader?  Other than I’ve never read anything like it before—and probably never ever will.  But this one’s already become an old and cherished friend……..


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Sundials and Heartache

Last night, in the soft quiet hours of the morning, the ones that Fitzgerald called the loneliest, I found myself once again wandering the night in Abbey the Book Barn, searching the shelves for something to read.  Nothing with a plot or story line would do; my mind was too weighted down for amusement, too fragile to enter into anyone else’s sorrow.  I’m living with the knowledge that I’m having to send a most beloved companion, my Ragdoll cat Mr. Darcy, over the Rainbow Bridge Sunday morning.  He’s given me joy for ten years and he’s been a true and faithful companion, but now he’s struggling with a debilitating disease and it’s time for me to be merciful instead of selfish.  Hence my sorrow; hence my midnight hours’ wanderings…….

I first leafed through Gertrude Jekyll’s WOOD AND GARDEN, enjoying the straightforward, unblowsy chronicle of her gardening adventures.  And thanking her for her courage and adventuresome spirit, for, in later life, crippled with myopia, she undertook to learn the art of photography. And so her books are graced with her own photographs of the gardens and walks and pergolas she’s describing.  Nice, pleasant, engaging and soothing midnight reading……..but then, aha…..I ran into a reference she gives to Mrs. Earle’s gardening books and that’s when I settled into true serendipity.  Mrs. Alice Morse Earle’s OLD TIME GARDENS (1901, MacMillan) is one treasure I own and the other treasure is her SUNDIALS AND ROSES OF YESTERDAY (1902, MacMillan; 1971, Tuttle).  My copy of SUNDIALS was “Officially withdrawn from Timberland Regional Library” in Olympia, Washington.  How sad for a book to be withdrawn from a library; how fortuitous that it landed in Abbey my Book Barn; how perfectly wonderful that my eyes and hands found it last night….when I needed it.

The subtitle of the book is “Garden Delights Which Are Here Displayed in Very Truth And Are Moreover Regarded As Emblems.”  With 240 (!) photographs of sundials from all over the world, from all centuries, from cathedrals to cottage gardens. Poets and philosophers are quoted.  Perhaps my favorite chapter (though that’s hard to say) is “The Charm and Sentiment of Sun-Dials.”  At Grey Friars Churchyard, Stirling, England, is this motto:  “I Am A Shadow, So Art Thou/ I Mark Time—Dost Thou?”

And Rossetti, comparing love and sundials:  “Stands it not by the door?/Love’s Hour—?/Its eyes invisible/Watch till the dark thin-thrown shade/Be born,—yea, till the journeying line be laid/Upon the point that notes the spell.”  Oh, to mark the hour of falling in love by the shadow of the gnome following the sun in its course………….Oh my……

And this one, a bit of timely forewarning, on the sundial of Thornby Church, Northamptonshire:


Yes, so utterly true, so haphazardly forgotten in our razzle dazzle frenetic times—no, one cannot call back a former day, nor can one re-call the past……..

And this one, Oxfordshire, 1691:


And so, the night unfolded.  Me, with a beloved companion’s last journey on my mind, reading what men throughout time have had to say about mortality, and how they’ve immortalized those thoughts—for us to take to heart—by channeling the sun and shadow to mark the passing of our days.  “FOR THE NIGHT COMETH.”


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