Strange Tableau

Original photo by Barbara Johansen Newman. Futzed with by me.

The stage was set, the performance about to begin. Cupid aimed his arrow at Véronique. She was not a willing participant in this grand guignol. Alas, poor Yorick,  wearing a wretched grin — his was not a speaking role, stuck as he was between la dame and the ridiculous Louis, whose eyes rolled relentlessly heavenward. The bit players barely noticeable at the back. All of them waiting for the houselights to dim. As they did every day, except for Sunday when the public attended church to confess the sin of misplaced curiosity.

At the front of the stage, there was no mask to represent comedy. Tragedy was the only play held here.


n.b. My friend Barbara is currently on a Viking River Cruise. She’s been generous in sharing her photos with those of us who are stuck at home. One of the places she visited was Český Krumlov in the Czech Republic.   There were a couple of museum-y kinds of places with large collections of puppets and marionettes.  This evolved from one of the photos she posted. My imagination ran a little wild. I am thinking of making my own strange tableau.

A Love Song

bob & jordan France 2

Just an old-fashioned love song,
One I’m sure they wrote for you and me.
Just an old-fashioned love song,
Comin’ down in three-part harmony . . .

~~~  Three Dog Night


Of all the photos I have ever taken, this one is my favorite:  My husband and our son walking down the street in a French village twenty-two years ago.  They are walking away from me not to go anywhere in particular, but to allow me to record how astonishingly narrow the street is, using them as a measure.

I don’t remember where this was specifically.  Somewhere in the Provence area.  We had rented a car and were driving around to various places we’d pinpointed on a map.  A guide book I read mentioned a villa outside this village that Picasso may (or may not) have lived in for a short time.  We thought it would be fun to say we saw where Picasso may (or may not) have lived.  It was the first trip we’d taken where we needed passports.  We were giddy with excitement.

Thanks to the digital services of online places like Zazzle, this photo now adorns the case on my cell phone, as well as cheering me from a mug as I enjoy a cup of tea.  I bought three mugs bearing this photo, one for each of us.  To remind us.

We are a love song.  The three-part harmony.  The Boy and his Dad striding step by step along side of one another, me capturing the joy of a free and easy moment to carry us through life’s rough patches.  For me, the thought of that is all the Valentine I will ever need.


On the Way: Window Dressing

I’ve been traveling around England for a little over a week.  Today I’m in London.  My husband and I have logged some miles walking and today was windy and cool, so I wanted to head back to our hotel early.  On the way we walked past Selfridges.  Some of the window arrangements caught my eye, and for a few minutes I forgot about being tired and cranky.

This spring we watched the weekly PBS presentation of Mr. Selfridge.  I imagine that Harry Selfridge would approve of this display for the Apple iWatch.  I love how all the elements of this design — the butterflies changing color and suspended from thin filaments, the watches on pedestals rising from the bottom — meld with the reflections of sky and the wonderful glass building across the street to create something quite fanciful.


Into the woods

creepy woods 2

I’m off on an adventure, but I’ll be back soon.  You may wait in the heart of the Night-Light Forest while I’m away.  It’s lovely here.  If you squint your eyes, you can just make out the shadowy figures of creatures who are too shy to show themselves.  They hum the same soft tune and sway to the music they make.  The light show was created for them.  They love the lights — O glorious light!  Magnificent bursts of phosphorescence; the sky is awash with color.

If you chose to spend time here, be respectful.  No hooting and hollering lest you disturb the serenity.  Don’t trod on anyone’s feet.  Feel free to hum along, though, once you’ve deciphered the tune. If you must snack, pick up after yourself.  And if you happen to see Betsy, tell her the thing she most wants to know is skulking around here somewhere.

I’ll see you all when I return.  If you’re good I may bring you a little something.  Maybe chocolate, maybe not.  It’s a surprise.

Everyone loves a surprise.

Why I gave up gardening

When I was a kid, I found a patch of lady’s slippers growing in the woods.  They looked like fairy shoes, those little pink slippers.  They were the most beautiful flowers I had ever seen.  About the same time, I read The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett and I fell in love with the idea that one day I would have a garden, and it would be magnificent.

I grew up and lived in apartments for a while, so I kept house plants instead.  Now I have a house and a yard.  A good sized yard, in fact.  With lots of trees.  My husband and I began by putting in rhododendron and azaleas and forsythia.  Shortly after that, a gardening friend who was moving gave me clumps of day lilies, lady’s mantle, Japanese irises, shasta daisies, and various herbs: garlic chives, mint, and rosemary.  And it was – if not yet magnificent – at least a lovely start.

Then weeds poked through the wood chips I laid out.  Some were scruffy and sporadic and easy to pull out, but that’s what gardening is about, right?  Being outdoors, getting fresh air and exercise.  I soon found out that there was another kind of weed encroaching on my dream.  It was way more insidious.  Tenacious and woody with roots that spread underground like an alien invasion.  If I didn’t get them soon enough I had to hack the roots apart.  But I persisted.  For several years.  And then, not so much, and the weedy vine took over.  I eventually learned that what our yard was most proficient at producing was Oriental bittersweet, an invasive species that is all but impossible to get rid of short of using napalm.  That was it for me.

Still, throughout this past summer, I occasionally felt pangs of guilt over my poor gone-to-seed garden.  I tried to remember how it used to look.  I think it was because this year I was mostly home-bound without a car, and so many days were sunny and warm.  But, now that October has settled in, and the trees are shedding their leaves all over our lawn, I feel less anxious.  I’m an inside girl, anyways.  There are bugs outside in summer.  And I am fair-skinned and easily burn.

Truth be told, spending time indoors reading, grips my heart more fiercely than the idea of gardening, anyway.  So, when I get a hankering for the serenity of a lovely garden, I will content myself with visiting someone else who is more persistent than myself.

And that will do.

Kensington Gardens in London – perfect example of a far grander garden than mine!

Hostas chewed to nubbins by deer or bunnies. We have wildlife wandering in our yard!

Where my husband likes to park his 1936 Dodge – in the middle of the yard.

Only a couple of stacks of books beside my bed. There are many more stacks in other rooms.

How my mind works – in case anyone besides my husband cares

My brother took his girlfriend to the area in the Adirondack mountains where we grew up. She in turn posted photographs on Facebook. I looked at these two and thought – blog post.

Photo by Peggy Houlihan Bielecki

Photo by Peggy Houlihan Bielecki

This is the footbridge in Wanakena, NY.  Population: So low I can’t find it listed.  (Maybe 100 or so, if you don’t count students of the New York State Ranger School.) I remember calling it the swinging bridge because that’s what it did; kids walked out to the middle of it and rocked it back and forth.

The bridge photos reminded me of this photo which was taken by Mr. Vickers who lived in a house at one end of the footbridge.

Me with my two sisters, and our brother. I’m the tallest one.

Remembering this photo made me think that I should blog about the houses on each end of the bridge.  How different they and the people who lived in them were.  The one we were standing next to in our bathing suits, with the nice older couple, and the house at the other end of the bridge with the boy who liked to dunk smaller kids under the water when we were swimming.  He terrified me until one winter when I discovered that he, too, liked to pretend to be an Olympic figure skater gliding gracefully around the frozen river.

Then I looked again at the first picture and remembered the summer my grandfather was hired to paint that footbridge.  The best summer of my life.  I should blog about that.

Every afternoon that summer, he would drop by our house when he had finished for the day.  He sat at our kitchen table and drank a beer before heading home.  Besides being a painter of footbridges, he was also a magician.  He could pull coins from our ears.  Then he’d make them disappear on the top of his beer bottle.  When he picked the bottle up, there was the coin on the table where the bottle had sat.  He was quiet, this magic painter man.  And he was well-loved.  He had blue eyes and a bemused smile, but he didn’t talk much about himself.  What I knew about him, about his life, I learned from my mother and others who had known him for a long time.  Which led me to these photos:

My grandfather in his Army uniform taken just before World War I when he was sent with his company to fight in France.

This was how I remember him.

One of the things I’d heard about my grandfather, was that he had an operatic voice and had trained in New York City after the war.  Thinking about that made me remember sitting beneath the window of a particular house in Wanakena listening to a woman we all called Madame Tweedy do her vocal warm-ups.  She was an opera singer, a summer resident, and the closest thing Wanakena had to a celebrity.  I don’t know if she was really famous anywhere outside of Wanakena.  I wish I would have asked more questions then.

My husband doesn’t always follow my train of thought, which is usually because he hasn’t been privy to the circuitous route said train has taken inside my head.  But now that I’ve explained it, it all makes perfect sense.

Doesn’t it?