Entries in Hurray (49)


A Gift of Self

Rings and other jewels are not gifts, but apologies for gifts. The only gift is a portion of thyself....Therefore the poet brings his poem; the shepherd, his lamb; the farmer, corn...the girl, a handkerchief of her own sewing...it is a cold, lifeless business when you go to the shops to buy me something, which does not represent your life and talent, but a goldsmith’s.

--Ralph Waldo Emerson

Last summer, I got a postcard from a new but already dear friend.  It read,

Dear Luisa,

I walked up to this little cemetery on the hill above Jackson, and while I was sitting there enjoying the last of the afternoon sun, I was reminded of your post about family history...and that cemetery story.  Sending my love from Jackson Hole--



Real mail!  From a real person!  How often does that happen these days? 

But it gets better.  The postcard was not some generic photo of Wyoming, but an original watercolor my friend had painted on that hill just for me.  "Enjoying the last of the afternoon sun" for her was not just drinking in the light, but using it to capture the scene before her in deft and vivid strokes. 

Miraculously, the little painting survived the postal system and arrived in my mailbox unscathed.  I took it to my favorite framer in all the world, Edie at The Art Barn.  Edie is a genius at setting our art; this time was no exception.  A few weeks later, I picked this up:

The photo does not do the original justice--neither the painting nor the frame.  (And my walls are a warm, rich cream, not the dinginess you see here.)

I wanted to scan the picture and frame for this post, but experienced technical difficulties.  So trust me: the colors are deeper and richer; Charrette's gift and skill amaze me.  The painting is double matted in dove gray behind museum glass, and the beaded frame suits the mood of the subject perfectly.  Everytime I see it--it is in my bedroom, so I see it often--I feel joy.

How did Charrette know that her creation would evoke for me everything I love about the American West?  That I live for art, and that watercolors in particular are special to me?  That her gift of self would cement the bonds of a budding friendship such that I knew I could trust her in a recent time of deep, dark need?

I don't know; all I know is that friends like Charrette are a true blessing.

This past January, Charrette and I met in person for the first time.  She and her terrific husband were funny and kind and interesting and authentic.  A couple of days later, Charrette and another lovely pal and I met and talked for hours; it was as if we had known each other always.  And you know what?  I believe we always have--and that we always will.


Birth and Rebirth

I'm thinking about my friend dianamuse today; it's her birthday, and I wish her every good thing.  Diana is gorgeous, brilliant, faultlessly stylish, and unfailingly kind.  If you are not familiar with her blog, know that it is a constant source of aesthetic inspiration. 

I've known Diana for a long time, and she has been an angelic friend to me over the years.  Tess's middle name is "Diana" in her honor (and James's middle name is "Stephen" after her dear husband).  I mentioned her and Steve in this post and wrote this one in honor of their older daughter.

When Steve and Diana adopted that sweet girl many years ago, our mutual friend D. Fletcher and I wrote the song that follows (longtime Novembrance readers will recognize it, I'm sure).  Diana, this year I can't afford the lavish flowers and festivities that you deserve, but know that my heart is with you this day and always.



This Blessed Plot


It's official: we are vacationing in England this August. Oh, the rapture!  If it were possible, I am an even bigger Anglophile than I am a Francophile, and I will be in heaven for the two and a half weeks we are in that green and pleasant land.

Building on the success of last summer's trip to France, we are again exchanging houses through the HomeLink service.  I highly recommend the house exchange experience, even though finding an English family was much harder than finding a French family.  Perhaps it's the economy, but we sent out a whopping 35 offers this year before getting an acceptance as opposed to last year's 10 or so. 

We'll be staying in a lovely house in Twickenham, which is right near Windsor and about a half hour from central London.  We'll visit the city often, I'm sure, but we'll also venture to places like Oxford, Cambridge, Stratford, Canterbury, and Down Ampney.  If the kids get their way, we'll also make an overnight pilgrimage to Liverpool, but that is still in negotiation.  And I have a special, secret destination planned for Patrick's birthday, though I can't reveal the details of that yet.  But it's going to be amazing, honey.

As of today, our trip is exactly six months away, which means it's time to prepare.  I love to know as much as possible about a place before I visit it, even if I've been there before (and this will be my fifth trip to England, lucky girl that I am).  As I did last year, in the next 26 weeks I'll be providing as much context as possible for myself and the kids.  Let me count the ways.... 

I am agog at how many fabulous Masterpiece Theater miniseries are available through Netflix, including:

  • The Tenant of Wildfell Hall
    Wives and Daughters
    The Secret Life of Mrs. Beeton
    Bleak House
    The Buccaneers
    Daniel Deronda
    and so many, many others....

At minimum, I want to read or re-read:

  • The Pilgrim's Progress, by John Bunyan (yes, again)
    Albion: The Origins of the English Imagination, by Peter Ackroyd
    London: The Biography, by Peter Ackroyd
    The Life of Thomas More, by Peter Ackroyd
    English Music (a novel), by Peter Ackroyd
    (Can you tell I adore Peter Ackroyd?)
    Eden Renewed (a biography of Milton), by Peter Levi
    Middlemarch, by George Eliot
    The Dead Secret, by Wilkie Collins
    The Faerie Queen, by Edmund Spenser
    The Canterbury Tales, by Geoffrey Chaucer
    Pamela, by Samuel Richardson
    The Weight of Glory, by C.S. Lewis
    Martin Chuzzlewit, by Charles Dickens
    The Tempest, by William Shakespeare
    Henry V, by William Shakespeare
    and we'll see what else I can get through.

I hope we can see some Shakespeare on our trip, but we'll also see Troilus and Cressida and The Taming of the Shrew beforehand, both performed by the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival.

Ah, the glory that is English music.  From Tallis and Gibbons to Britten and most especially my beloved Vaughan Williams, English classical music speaks to my soul in a way that is unparalleled.  And then there's all the pop magic, from The Beatles to Led Zeppelin, and from The Kinks to The Arctic Monkeys.  It will pretty much be playing constantly (not that that's anything different from the norm around here).

And the art!  The Pre-RaphaelitesNashGainsboroughConstable!  Need I say more?

Books for the kids?  Right now, I'm reading the first Harry Potter book to Daniel and Tess, and I'm reading The Hobbit to James and Hope; I expect we'll continue with both series for the foreseeable future.  I hope the bigger kids will re-read The Chronicles of Narnia and The Dark is Rising series on their own.  Anne will get plenty of the Alfie series by Shirley Hughes and repeated readings of all of John Burningham's books.  I'm pretty sure I can convince Christian to read at least C.S. Lewis's The Screwtape Letters and Dickens's Oliver Twist, and I know he wants to re-read all of the Sherlock Holmes stories, but he has so much reading to do for his AP English and History classes that I can't be too pushy.

Soon I'll post a list of the places we'll go, but as for preparatory education, there you have it.  I'm sure I haven't listed some of your favorites; there's only so much time, after all.  But if there is something I must include, be it several James Mason films or a detailed review of the Romantic poets (you know who you are, people), then let me know.


Queen for a Day

Today is my birthday, fair subjects. Let there be much merry-making!


i carry your heart with me

i carry your heart with me (i carry it in
my heart) i am never without it (anywhere
i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling)

i fear
no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet) i want
no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)

 --e.e. cummings