I don’t know much about gardening, so if you’re here to learn about landscaping techniques, mulching or botany, you’re on the wrong blog. I survey experiential terrain with my heart and pen. I muse about life landscapes: travel, history, visual arts, theatre, language, literature, relationships, spirituality, serendipity and sensuality. These subjects appeal to me to amuse you.
In the Closet
Posted on November 3, 2015
The blue velvet gown hangs, testing the strength of its hanger, at the back of the closet. It hasn’t been worn in years and dust has settled within the short, dense pile, dulling the luster of the royal navy creation.
It needs work. The corset loops need to be reinforced and the shoulder strap is frayed.
It is a work of art, created during a hopeful spring in the mountains. Paper patterns, copied onto brown wrapping discarded on the floor, cheap cotton mockups with tentative markings strewn beside them. Plastic ties, serving as bodice boning, broken sewing machine needles, hundreds of pins and scraps of fabric littered the tabletops.
I worked in a frenzy of pleasure, listening to Italian radio while I hand-stitched eighty inches of velvet skirt pleats to the bodice.
My Venetian renaissance gown is a perfect novice’s attempt at recreating a masterpiece from a Renaissance painting. The chemise with cotton lace trim peeks delicately from the edge of the bodice and from beneath the tied on sleeves, which are finished with thick, intricate white lace cuffs. The blue cording crosses back and forth in straight lines across the v-shaped gap in the bodice, puckering the chemise with delight, and lifting the breasts toward heaven in a style particular to Venetian design. It’s a shame I can’t wear it more often.
“Watch!”: Time Flies
Posted on June 25, 2015
It’s ninety-one degrees at four p.m. on Spring Boulevard. I’m sitting in my bathing suit with my laptop across my thighs, feet propped on the chair across from me. A fan sways side-to-side, blowing flies away from a bowl of watermelon slices and pretending to cool the air around me.
This place is familiar. For more than thirty years, I’ve come here on vacation. The magnolia trees, alive with the whir of cicadas, now tower above pool. I remember when the scrawny things were planted, and barely reached over the fence that keeps the deer and wild turkeys out.
I swam laps under the mid-day sun and enjoyed a raft battle with my fourteen-year-old. It seems like I was here yesterday teaching him how to swim. He sported a pair of water wings for a while, now, a dark, bristly mustache sprouts out from under his scuba mask. I watched him dive to the bottom and wondered how many times I had yelled, “watch!” before I swam to the depths of this very same pool.
Memories flickered in the flashes and splashes of sun and water. My siblings and cousins, waterlogged and joyful bucking or gliding across the shallows, with another on their back in a game we’d invented about carousel animals. I saw them, sashaying or preening their way down the diving board in our endless diving pageants. Marco Polo and volleyball were favorites, as was night swimming. It was a treat when the parents would join in our games.
My son whined in his now deepening voice, “you never come in,” and I splashed him from my raft. My mom rarely went in. She was busy making bologna sandwiches in the kitchen, or reading a novel under the umbrella. There was that time, though, at a family wedding, when she jumped off of the diving board in her fancy dress and joined the others bobbing around in their finery.
I feel my mother smiling at me.
I know my dad would like to be floating on the rafts with us in the sun, rather than lying all but paralyzed in a bed at a nursing facility. I wonder if he’ll get to see this place again.
It’s lonelier here now. Quiet.
Two monarch butterflies dance above the roses and flutter between the magnolia blossoms.
I’m jumping back in the pool. I don’t know how many more chances I’ll have.
Posted on May 26, 2015
Four weeks ago I was in the throes of packing for a long-anticipated trip to England and Scotland. I had just heard the devastating news that my father had suffered a near fatal fall and was undergoing both brain and spinal surgery. My emotions were all over the proverbial map; from excitement, to despair, fear to hope.
I continued on my quest to find answers to the questions that plagued my every moment. What am I supposed to do with my life? What are my gifts? Who am I? What is going to make me happy, and where am I supposed to be? I pushed aside any feelings of guilt I had about going on such a self-indulgent adventure and moved forward in faith.
I really hoped I’d figure things out. I hoped I’d have a spiritual awakening. I hoped a flash of inspiration would blind me with clarity and direction. I hoped I’d find parts of myself that had fractured off in past lifetimes and that I’d be restored to my full potential and power.
What happened? Where did the time go? How can I already be back? It seems like just yesterday I sat here at my desk penning my first blog post about my trip with the expectation that there would be at least two a week to keep my fans enthralled. Yeah. What happened was the trip of a lifetime.
I was the tourist from hell. I saw everything I possibly could, walked everywhere my feet would carry me, soaked in every sound and savored the fragrances on each breath. There was so little time to write. I had to catch trains and busses and sunrises and theatre curtains. I had to make the most of every moment, so that I could bring them home with me to revisit and decipher at a later time.
Are the fruits of my grail quest a teacup from Kensington Palace, spring water from the Chalice Well, and a cashmere scarf from Edinburgh? Hardly. A boost in self-confidence from the knowledge that I succeeded in doing what I set out to do and saw most of what I set out to see. I conquered the trials and adversities of traveling as a woman, alone in foreign lands and I learned a great deal. Most precious of all were the encounters I had with so many blessed, wonderful, unexpected people.
Now, back in the seat of my routine life, I will take the time to relive my quest, day by day and begin to mine it for all of its treasures. I’ll be able to express what happened.
Welcome to Avalon
Posted on May 10, 2015
This is the first moment I’ve stopped to write since my journey began. I sit, full of gratitude, on my terrace overlooking the Chalice Well Garden and the Vale of Avalon, Glastonbury. It is said the Holy Grail is interred in an ancient underground room beneath the wellspring. The sun is shining and is still quite high in the sky at nearly 7 p.m. When I woke early this morning the grey sky hung low above Somerset and drizzle looked like the forecast for the day, so this is quite lovely.
I started off the by climbing 520 feet up to the top of the Tor (hill) where St. Michael’s Tower was erected back in the fifteenth century. The wind up there was astounding. Interestingly enough, air/wind is the element associated with Michael (Saint, Lord, Archangel, whichever you prefer.) The view was breathtaking and I could see the fabled location of Camelot highlighted by a patch of sun in the distance. A small group of pagans danced in a circle, singing songs about Mother Earth on the lee side of the tower. All the while, sheep grazed on the hillside and ravens flapped about in the currents, landing to snack on juicy looking worms.
After a walk into town for some lunch, I went to the ruined Glastonbury Abbey, rumored resting place of King Arthur and Guinevere. It is also supposed to be the site of the first Christian church in Great Britain started by Joseph of Arimathea and Mary Magdalene. Suddenly, the clouds parted, revealing a bright blue sky and dazzling sunshine. I lay on the grass below the high altar and meditated. While I did, I saw amazing geometric patterns and a little boy who asked for help. It was the second time in two days he’s come to me. I wonder if he is an aspect of myself that will receive some healing and attention while I am here?
When Saint John’s church bells rang the hour, I rose and wandered the Abbey grounds. The peace I found there was profound. One corner is saved as a wilderness area and a nesting place for badgers. I liked that, as I had pulled a Tarot card before my adventure with a badger encouraging me to be bold and fearless. Queen Anne’s Lace, thigh high, covered the ground beneath twisted old trees. I discovered a British plant, popular for hedges, called Lime, which has a beautiful pleated texture. Two ponds, one a home to ducks who nestle in the reeds and beneath the willows, has a wild feel. The other, rimmed with stone and wooden benches, feels purposeful. Surrounding and beside that pool, is one of Avalon’s magical apple orchards. Soft pink and white blossoms cover the trees and petals float in the breeze, falling on the tall grass, more lace and tall purple flowers, which provide a gentle place to land.
Of course I have to mention Glastonbury’s High Street, full of shops specializing in all things magic and fairies, metaphysical and extraterrestrial, earth conscious and Spiritual. If you’ve ever been to Sedona or Mount Shasta, it’s that scene times twenty. Bearded, barefoot men, women wearing fanciful, colorful clothes (including a purple top hat), and the Megolithamania Conference attendees were out in force, enjoying the sunny afternoon and purchasing crystals, essential oils and gluten-free goods.
As I finish this update, a wedding ceremony is taking place in the Chalice Well Garden. The bride and groom wear sage green and, with her deep red hair and the handkerchief skirt paired with her corseted top, the bride reminds me of a woodland fairy. The officiant ties their clasped hands together with red and white ribbons.
I love Avalon.
Posted on April 28, 2015
“Avalon will always be there for all men to find if they can seek the way thither, throughout all the ages past the ages. If they cannot find the way to Avalon, it is a sign, perhaps, that they are not ready.” Marion Zimmer Bradley
I was a junior in high school when I first found this passage, what I perceived to be a personal challenge in The Mists of Avalon. Whatever one thinks of Marion Zimmer Bradley, her writing and her controversial personal life, I have to thank her for introducing me to a part of my soul. It awoke a spiritual longing I couldn’t explain then.
I loved the Arthurian legends as a child, tales jam-packed with chivalry, adventure and Merlin’s magic. I started off with with Rogers and Hammerstein’s romantic musical, “Camelot,” and Disney’s animated “The Sword in the Stone.” When I was 13, John Boorman’s dark and intriguing movie, “Excalibur” played repeatedly on “Z Channel.” I read T.H White’s The Once and Future King and Steinbeck’s parody, The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights. I bought, but never read, Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte D’Arthur, which weighed heavily on the bottom shelf of my bookcase.
The Mists of Avalon, while not the world’s greatest book, is still a personal favorite, rich with the usual myth, mystery, court intrigue and romance. It differs from other versions of the story because of its focus on the earth-based spirituality supporting Arthur’s reign, and has been labeled “feminist” because of the powerful women behind his throne who aren’t portrayed as evil witches or as sinful personal property. Zimmer Bradley takes her readers to a transitional time when Arthur’s half-sister, Morgaine, a priestess of Avalon, attempts to preserve the ways of the Celtic people as Christianity sweeps across the Britains, forcing the Goddess and the dragon energies further into the mists.
Each time I’ve read the book, it sinks in at a deeper level. As I’ve matured and have learned more about the cost of living in a patriarchal society, I’ve begun to appreciate the messages Zimmer Bradley so artfully conveys about the Divine Feminine and how important it is to integrate a balance of masculine and feminine energies within myself so that I can bring that balance into my daily life in the world.
Avalon is said to be the mystic Isle where Excalibur was forged and infused with protective magic, and ultimately, the sanctuary where King Arthur was taken to heal from his fatal wound, the land behind the veil covering modern day Glastonbury. There will always be disagreements about the legends, about which version of the tale is true. I don’t claim to know what is true, which lake The Lady lives in, what the mythic Isle of Avalon actually is, or if I’ll be able to reach it, all I know is that there has been an insistent voice inside of me, calling me there for years. It is time to answer that invitation, to venture out on a quest for my own grail and authentic stories.
I believe I’m ready.