Saturday night dinner – a celebration of sorts – started with a trip to a carnival taking place along the piers of Hong Kong Harbor. Fun and games ensued – and I realized that both SW and I are equally bad when it comes to playing carnie games. We are very good at people watching and giggling at ourselves. There were no prizes that went home with either one of us other than another great memory banked.
I have thought about being home since we moved from our home in early December. .
It is cliché that home is where the heart is. These days my heart seems spread all over the place. It is in California with CF. It is with my Mother in Philadelphia, and my brother and his family in New Jersey. It is with my friend SW in Asia. I seem to be living in between all these places – untethered to any place but rooted so deeply to these people whom I love.
This time of year brings a chill in the air. In earlier years I would sit in the great room by the fireplace and write. There was safety and comfort in that space and the words flowed freely and the stories came easily. Not so in the disruption of the last month. I force myself to choose happy and think of our move in the coming weeks. The long winter coming to an end and the gardens beginning to come to life. I begin to feel hopeful.
For the first days of the year I sat on this couch in my Mother’s home in my “soft clothes” – her moniker for clothes that envelope you and keep you warm. Lazy clothes, comfort clothes. I sat there by the fire immoveable for two days. And now she sits there by the fire adopting new rhythms in the silence.
We spoke of home and she shared thoughts of Dominique Browning – an editor – about home and design.
“…A way of trying to tell readers that even though we were showing perfect rooms and perfect gardens, life is not perfect. And things happen, crazy things, bad things, sad things, wonderful things happen in those rooms. And that the point of all this nesting and decorating is life. And living as good a life as we possibly can. And I also wanted to remind people why this mattered. That design is not an airhead subject, that it’s an important subject, and that making a house and a garden is a pretty profound activity.”
I agree with her. Life is not perfect. These rooms are the rooms where I first introduced my parents to CF. They are the rooms where Little a. and J. came when they returned to the states as babies. Each Battersea box filled with 1 M&M for J. to find. I live between those memories of the joy and the sorrow, the laughter and the tears. Each visit , no matter my age, made me feel a child again – a home full of love and safety. That was their home. It is her home.
Soon CF and I will begin to imbue our home with love. It will be the 7th time we have moved. We will fill the house with laughter and joy. We will toast milestones and enjoy our friends children as they grow. We will discover new nooks and spaces. We will light candles. There will be long walks and new routines. We will listen for paws on the stairs and cook dinners over bottles of wine.
Then, we will be home.
You have to really appreciate someone who goes out of their way to create smiles. Just on the north side of our Beloved Laguna is a corner that has been captured by whimsical gnomes, faeries and elves. Busy in their tree houses, their only mission to deliver quirky happy thoughts and fun for anyone stopping to gander. Soon, I believe they will be taking up new residence and it will be like a scavenger hunt to find them but worth the investment. After all, we can never have enough smiles and we all know… there is no place like gnome.
Christmas, moving and grocery shopping is the trifecta of excitement for Zellie…. Why? Because each of these events involves boxes. Christmas Presents, moving boxes and cases of water don’t stand a chance when she is around. And at this particular moment in time, we are inundated with all the above as we move from one house to another.
“Cats like boxes because they are cryptic animals; they like to hide,” Stephen Zawistowski, science adviser for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, told Business Insider. “And a box gives them a place of safety and security.”
The internet is loaded with videos of cats in and out of boxes – including big cats. It is fascinating to watch a leopard or lion try to squeeze themselves into a cardboard box – instinctively attempting to be invisible.
Same is true for our very quirky Zellie…. She loves a good box much to Angie’s disappointment. Each week she comes in to take care of the house and – also instinctively – picks up the empty water case and tosses it in the recycle – all the while thinking “why did CF leave this on the floor?” 2015’s big accomplishment thus far is for Angi to understand that it isn’t CF just forgetting about the case, but rather he has struck an intentional agreement with said quirky cat that this is something he will do to make her happy. Now Angie whispers Mamacita to Zellie as she hides in the discarded water case and Zellie in turn purrs back.
But wait. Greater happiness was found during Christmas when self-proclaimed cat lover asked himself “what do you get the cat that has everything?”….
A Kitty Hut. It rests securely atop her favorite comforter – provides security – a solid place to hide – and furthers the belief that she is one of the funniest creatures on the planet.
It’s a new day. It’s a new world.
Today’s ceremony marks one of those milestones where you realize time differently. It is now measured in increments of before and after. A glorious sunrise over the mountain makes a believer of anyone and renews hope that things will be fine albeit different. The hole in your heart will heal. After all, with each sunset comes a sunrise and so go the rhythms of our lives.
To my Dad whom I loved with all my heart.
March 29, 1933 – January 5, 2015
January always has me in a blue mood – the doldrums so to speak. The temperatures feel colder as the warm glow from the fireplace and the holiday decorations disappear. It isn’t until the first crocus pushes its way through the soil that I feel a lighter heart and a bounce in my step. This January is no different. It could arguably be the worst. Seasonal Affective Disorder is just plain old sad to me this January.
My approach to combatting this is to surround myself with spirited people who wear big smiles every day (you know who you are) and to make a point of doing the rounds to catch one – smile that is. Also, to look for giggles. To stay connected to routines that make me happy – like my morning walk or an occasional lazy morning under the covers. And finally, find or shoot a photo that makes me feel good. One day in December I had the opportunity to shoot Scooter – a dear friend’s rescue dog. He had been through some really hard times before landing in the honey pot of Steve and Mark’s home. His personality shines through when you meet him. The memory of the time we spent together that afternoon along with his quirky expression packed face bring me joy – so important and in short supply.
I hope you will love little Scooter as much as I do just by looking at him, and that his photo brings you a January boost just as it does me.
Happy New Year! Pop the champagne, watch the sunset and marvel in the beauty that surrounds us.
A New Year is cause for celebration and reflection – after all, that is why we have resolutions.
For PJ, it’s all about putting a different spin on the traditional resolution. This year will be about striking a better balance in the W’s …. Wit, Wisdom, Whimsy, Wonder, Wishes, West (for the beloved California) and the most important “W” – the one in We. I “want” to surround myself with people I love and invest in experiences that bring me more from the other “W’s”. Look for big posts on Wednesdays (a “W” – and statistically my most read day) and for some surprises in between.
Happy New Year.
This morning I stood at the top of my stairs and looked down on our Christmas tree and was transported to another time. For all the years I lived in my parent’s house we had a Christmas routine. Mom would spend part of Christmas Eve making a strata or breakfast casserole for us to eat Christmas morning. The night before Christmas we would lay out PB sandwiches and milk – along with cookies – for Santa. Santa was remarkably like my Dad – and didn’t miss any opportunity to eat dessert. Excitedly my brother and I would go to bed… mind you, not to sleep. An important distinction. My Dad didn’t get much sleep either. He would stay up nearly all night putting together whatever was the toy of the season. Most notably a pink kitchenette that is family legend
It is the top of the stairs that gets me every year. Once awake we would gather there and whether 5 (as in most of these photos), 15 or 25, we would stop and wait while he went downstairs to see if Santa had come. It seemed an interminable time. He would make coffee, pour juice for my Mom and light the fire. Only then would he let us know it was safe to come down. We would run to the Christmas tree under which was such bounty. Gifts from our family near and far, and loads of unwrapped goodies from Santa. Stockings filled to the brim with treats – always with gold chocolate coins and oranges. Arms flailing, wrapping paper tossed, my Dad would quietly go behind us picking up the remnants.
Finally things would slow down, we would eat breakfast, play with our new swag, and settle into the afternoon routine. Each year Mom would sew me a new Christmas dress that I would wear for the big meal. She would busy herself with merchandising the packages under the tree and we would prepare for afternoon visits from family friends. Thru the years, these became more and more legendary and I still remember the first with CF and his infamous Goombay Smash – but that is a story for another time. I remember all of this. The year we got Ginty. The year of the kitchenette. The year he made a snow fort which I crawled around in for hours. I remember I knew every bug by name. And how many daughters can say they got a tractor as a toy?
The purpose for this blog has always been to share with Little a. and J. moments and lessons from our life. Today’s is about Family – something I believe my brother and sister-in-law have embedded deeply in the kids. Family matters. And on this Christmas, likely my last with my Dad, it matters most.
I look at this photo and realize that these people have loved me longer than anyone else on the planet. The pictures on the wall still hang in my parents home. They bring me comfort when I walk through the door – more so, I realize now, when our life as a family is about to be disrupted. I cannot imagine making this part of life’s journey without my brother who is unflinchingly present for me and my Mom. The strength of my father is deep in his soul and he will take care of you as my Dad has taken care of us. He has always been able to make me laugh – secret smiles between us – that only come from having grown up one door down the hallway and from having to share a bathroom.
I have deep and profound memories of my Dad. I have loved him all of my life. I will remember it all. And for him some words from Neil Young…..
We’ve been through some things together
With trunks of memories still to come
We found things to do in stormy weather
Long may you run
Long may you run, long may you run
Although these changes have come
With your chrome heart shining in the sun
Long may you run
This is a beautiful photo of a horse and one I “wish” I’d taken. Instead another photographer caught this moment. And an unacknowledged photographer at that – for which I am very sorry.
Earlier in the year I had asked a friend to explain to me what the year would bring. In essence the year of the horse has one running to something or away from something. As I look at this year – at my family and friends – I am struck by how many people are in quite different situations than they were at the beginning of the year. It is uncanny.
PJ Charles will be taking a bit of R&R and so stories will not be so regular for the coming weeks. Time to reflect, to shoot and to consider the Year of the Sheep.
To all a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. May you spend the holidays surrounded by those you love and who love you.
Looking forward to our journey in 2015.