what takes your breath away?

Raindrops on roses
And whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favorite things

A few weeks ago, as I was making a routine journey back and forth along the busy street I traverse several times a day, I couldn’t help but hear the leaves.  I heard them.  Yes.  That’s what I wrote.  I  h e a r d  them.

They were the deepest, most crimson red they’d ever be this year.  Saturated with beauty and singing their highest notes.  An opera for my ears, a crescendo of color.  Have you ever noticed that?  How autumn leaves are this most vivid, crisp color just before they begin to fade and fall to the ground?

There are so many things like this that take my breath away.

Yesterday marked the winter solstice, the darkest night of the year, and at a time in which we find our world community tempted toward anxiety and despair, when I know so many of us are caught up in the tumult of life, it’s these moments of awe and wonder that fill me with gratitude and propel me forward in hope.  There are kind strangers holding open doors for you.  There are clerks smiling behind cash registers.  There are even drivers nodding and letting you in to jammed city streets, waving back at you, you’re welcome.

There are so many things . . . just listen.

By now the rains have come, and those beautiful leaves have fallen at our feet, a small sacrifice for the springtime flowers to come.  But it has me singing, welcoming the coming light into the world and wondering, what takes  y o u r  breath away?

 

 

Cream-colored ponies and crisp apple strudels
Doorbells and sleigh bells
And schnitzel with noodles
Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings
These are a few of my favorite things

wintercouple

 

 

MERRY CHRISTMAS, from two or three little birds.

 

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come away with me, or how to get lost on one kings lane

There’s a certain kind of magic when the city is bathed in
light, buds begin to bloom, and parks swell with people.
With those perfect early spring days in mind, we gathered
all the elements of a chic Parisian apartment in a softer,
lighter palette. Your sunny hideaway awaits.

Click!

Marta_Chair

the marta chair

Lately I’ve been addicted to the One Kings Lane ads that clutter my inbox every day because they use editorial storytelling to sell a heap of beautiful things I don’t need and can hardly afford.  This is an online retailer disguised as a design blog, and they push out clever emails inviting you to various themed “events” featuring all the designer-selected furniture, decor and linens you’d need to achieve the desired look.  The key word being

desired.

I used to delete these emails without question but that was so yesterday.  One or two forays down the lane and the storytelling’s got me hooked!  I think last week or today or the day before some day they lured me into “The Gentleman’s Study” and before that I wandered through “The Lost Art of Afternoon Tea” and lingered there for a few minutes until moving on to ponder how I might “Achieve the Library Look.”  Noted tastemakers have done all the shopping for me —  they’ve trotted the globe gathering vintage fleamarket finds and art deco jewelry, tufted linen club chairs in soothing Montauk hues and decorative books to line my shelves.  It’s all taken care of!  All that exhaustion, all the decision-making — at someone else’s expense and artfully arranged.  It just sails across the lawn and lands smack on your doorstep every morning before sunrise.  You can just wake up, grab your morning cup and find yourself transported to an elegant English Manor or some other equally imaginative landscape, all while snuggled in your robe and slippers with your hair still in a scrunchy!  I’ve gotten so drawn into the storylines I’ve begun pinning $199 turquoise vintage typewriters to my Interiors Pinterest board with no hope in sight.

But this post isn’t about that typewriter.  Of course if you love me and have some change to spare I wouldn’t mind if you snatched it up before it sells out.  Maybe stow it away in the garage until my birthday — I won’t mind waiting and I promise to fall over with surprise before finding the perfect spot for it in my study.  No, what I really mean to blog about is not that typewriter at all or my wasting time on One Kings Lane but something else entirely.  After a few minutes browsing a recent event entitled “Wake Up In Paris,” I wandered over to the “Weekly Click List” and bumped right into a plug for a lifestyle blog called Modern Hepburn.

Did you say, Modern Hepburn?  . . . CLICK!

Modern Hepburn is a simple, elegant tumblr site, a visual feast filled with beautiful photographs and lovely quotations.  More Katharine than Audrey, it’s one woman’s decisive digital scrapbook with minimal text or commentary.  Unlike this blog with its heaps of blathering, you can make a quick visit to Modern Hepburn and just take in all the beautiful things.  One step up from Twitter and yet another from Pinterest.  It’s more like a graceful glide from the tree instead of a mindless chirp.  Now there are many creative tumblrs like this because that is sort of what tumblr is known for, being more like a portfolio or pin board, but what I love about this particular site is its entire page devoted to hands, two of my favorite things.  I love hands.

hands clasped.  hands outstretched.

hands holding other hands.

hands pressed in prayer.

This Modern Hepburn, whoever she is, is someone else on the planet who loves hands.  And now there’s this lovely place to go when I need one, when I’m writing about them.  Hands.  Where, because I don’t have that $199 turquoise vintage typewriter, I will be able to use my computer to scroll through the photographs, upload one to my blog and share the stories they tell with you.  Stories of kindness, generosity, and hope.

 

An average of seventy-four species become extinct every day,

which was one good reason but not the only one to hold someone’s hand.

~ Nicole Krauss “The History of Love”


 two or three little birds: hands

tumblr_n29u17kahN1syearho1_500I wrote this post after two weeks spent driving across four states in the southern united states, and the only thing I could think to write about were the father and son holding hands on a train:

But at one moment during his conversation with me, the man took his son’s pale hand in his and held it gently, patting him softly with his other hand.  Their fingers seemed worn smooth with familiarity and they playfully intertwined as the man continued in his quiet way to tell me about visiting his brother one time in the prison I had passed just outside Bakersfield.  It was a seamless gesture of affection, but I noticed it, and I can’t seem to get the image out of my mind.  The way his son rested peacefully with his touch.  The love between this elderly father and his adult son traveling together on a train to spend the day in Santa Fe.

holding hands, 24 july 2014

tumblr_ltwe2dfJVc1qi8o10o1_500And this describing my favorite hour of the week with my favorite people doing my favorite things:

We’ve spent another Sunday morning sitting close to one another for a whole hour, though, locking arms and holding hands, singing . . . smiling . . . praying

resistance is futile, 10 november 2014

tumblr_n1ieqlc77E1r21xm5o1_500

More hands . . .

Heraclitus says, day by day, what you do is who you become, and isn’t that wisdom for all of us to think about?  I know this is going to sound sillyhearted, and God if I can’t get the memory out of my head of my friend recently referring to me in jest as Mother Teresa, but I’m going to say it anyway.  I do.  I really really do want to spend my days holding hands.

leap, 11 september 2013

 

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love song for galway kinnell

But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st,
Nor shall death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st,
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

gkinnellWhen Shakespeare wrote in his Sonnet 18 that loveliness lives on in the immortal lines of the poet, I think he was writing about Galway Kinnell, the American poet who died Wednesday of this week at the age of 87.  As a passionate reader, Kinnell is one of those writers I longed to sit under trees with.  To sit under a tree on a summer afternoon, listening to him talk or tell stories.  To notice perhaps his gentle eyes tracing the flight of birds overhead or his strong wrinkled and freckled hands trembling a little as they smooth down the grass along the edge of our blanket.  I’d tell him how I never could get the man I keep to like the name Maud, how I can’t stop dreaming about hair sprouting in the moonlight, how haunted I am by the wind crying across stones.  The wages of dying is love, he’d say.  We’d read from a book I’ve brought, his Selected Poems.  And we’d start with the first poem “Two Seasons” and read straight through sunset to the last poem, “Flying Home.”  Mine is a 1982 paperback, black with creased corners and pencil-marked pages.  Would he linger at all over my notes, I doubt.  In the margin on page 129 nothing stays the same    impermanence   A faded blue post-it note on page 115 The last blackbird lights up his gold wings: farewell

When a beautiful soul departs the earth there’s always that sad reminder of our own mortality, but when we share pieces of ourselves with others, when we extend our hands and utter words, when we write them down, especially, a part of us lives on.

 

Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens,
and those who lead many to righteousness,
like the stars for ever and ever.

~ Daniel 12:3


 

Two Seasons (1946)

I

The stars were wild that summer evening
As on the low lake shore stood you and I
And every time I caught your flashing eye
Or heard your voice discourse on anything
It seemed a star went burning down the sky.

I looked into your heart that dying summer
And found your silent woman’s heart grown wild
Whereupon you turned to me and smiled
Saying you felt afraid but that you were
Weary of being mute and undefiled

II

I spoke to you that last winter morning
Watching the wind smoke snow across the ice
Told of how the beauty of your spirit, flesh,
And smile had made day break at night and spring
Burst beauty in the wasting winter’s place.

You did not answer when I spoke, but stood
As if that wistful part of you, your sorrow,
Were blown about in fitful winds below;
Your eyes replied your worn heart wished it could
Again be white and silent as the snow.

 

Flying Home (1980)
1

It is good for strangers
of few nights to love each other
(as she and I did, eighteen years ago,
strangers of a single night)
and merge in natural rapture—
though it isn’t exactly each other
but through each other some
force in existence they don’t acknowledge
yet propitiate, no matter where,
in the least faithful of beds,
and by the quick dopplering of horns
of trucks plunging down Delancey,
and next to the iron rumblings
of outlived technology, subways up for air,
which blunder past every ten minutes
and botch the TV screen in the next apartment,
where the man in his beer
has to get up from his chair over and over
to soothe the bewildered jerking
things dance with internally,
and under the dead-light of neon,
and among the mating of cockroaches,
and like the mating of cockroaches,
who were etched before the daybreak
of the gods with compulsions to repeat
that drive them, too, to union
by starlight, without will or choice.

It is also good—and harder—
for lovers who live many years together
to feel their way toward
the one they know completely
and don’t ever quite know,
and to be with each other
and to increase what light may shine
in their ashes and let it go out
toward the other, and to need
the whole presence of the other
so badly that the two together
wrench their souls from the future
in which each mostly wanders alone

and in this familiar strange room,
for this night which lives
amid daily life past and to come
and lights it, find they hold,
perhaps shimmering a little,
or perhaps almost spectral, only the loved
other in their arms.

2

Flying home, looking about
in this swollen airplane, every seat
of it squashed full with one of us,
it occurs to me I might be the luckiest
in this planeload of the species;
for earlier,
in the airport men’s room, seeing
the middle-aged men my age,
as they washed their hands after touching
their penises—when it might have been more in accord
with the lost order to wash first, then touch—
peer into the mirror
and then stand back, as if asking, who is this?
I could only think
that one looks relieved to be getting away,
that one dreads going where he goes;
while as for me, at the very same moment
I feel regret at leaving
and happiness to be flying home.

3

As this plane dragging
its track of used ozone half the world long
thrusts some four hundred of us
toward places where actual known people
live and may wait,
we diminish down into our seats,
disappeared into novels of lives clearer than ours,
and yet we do not forget for a moment
the life down there, the doorway each will soon enter:
where I will meet her again
and know her again,
dark radiance with, and then mostly without, the stars.

Very likely she has always understood
what I have slowly learned
and which only now, after being away, almost as far away
as one can get on this globe, almost
as far as thoughts can carry—yet still in her presence,
still surrounded not so much by reminders of her
as by things she had already reminded me of,
shadows of her
cast forward and waiting—can I try to express:

that love is hard,
that while many good things are easy, true love is not,
because love is first of all a power,
its own power,
which continually must make its way forward, from night
into day, from transcending union always forward into difficult
day.
And as the plane descends, it comes to me,
in the space
where tears stream down across the stars,
tears fallen on the actual earth
where their shining is what we call spirit,
that once the lover
recognizes the other, knows for the first time
what is most to be valued in another,
from then on, love is very much like courage,
perhaps it is courage, and even
perhaps
only courage. Squashed
out of old selves, smearing the darkness
of expectation across experience, all of us little
thinkers it brings home having similar thoughts
of landing to the imponderable world,
the transcontinental airliner,
resisting its huge weight down, comes in almost lightly,
to where
with sudden, tiny, white puffs and long, black, rubberish smears
all its tires know the home ground.

originally published in New York Review of Books, July 17, 1980 • Volume 27, Number 12

Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever. – See more at: http://bible.knowing-jesus.com/topics/eternal-life,-nature-of#sthash.lor6ya4c.dpuf
Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever. – See more at: http://bible.knowing-jesus.com/topics/eternal-life,-nature-of#sthash.lor6ya4c.dpuf
Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever. – See more at: http://bible.knowing-jesus.com/topics/eternal-life,-nature-of#sthash.lor6ya4c.dpuf

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