...Thanks to Pia Jane Bijkerk's wonderful collection of Christmas gift selections, I've found the perfect gift for our daughter's first Christmas at home. This is something I would have been wild for as a child, so maybe I'm imposing my own preferences...but when you have a 15-month-old who only recently learned to play with anything other than packets of tissue paper and her own feet, this is what you do. This set is from Our Green House, and is made from plantation-grown rubberwood, and hand-painted using child-safe paints. It includes 17 pieces and a totable, velcro-closure igloo to keep them in, for the very reasonable price of $34.00. I have seen wooden play sets like this costing up in the hundreds, so I was delighted to find something this nice for a price we could actually afford. Now, if we can just figure out how to decorate a child-proof house for the holidays...any suggestions?
What I remember: Shrine pass, above 11,000 feet, the end of the ski season, my second year living in the high country. We had planned a hut trip for the tail end of the season, seven or eight of us, to one of the cabins high on Shrine. It was no more than a couple of miles to the cabin from the utility road where we parked our vehicles...some of us on snowshoes, some on skate skis. But it was late March, typically a heavy snow month in the mountains, and a blizzard had kicked up just as we started. Half a mile in and we were in a whiteout. There was a wide open meadowland to cross between forested areas, and with the invisible sun lighting up the snow-filled air, we were completely blind. We couldn't tell North from South, up from down. The world was topsy-turvy and our footprints vanished even as we took the next step. In the deep snow, every stride burned the thighs and back. By the time we reached the cabin, we were famished. I think we must have eaten for three hours straight before lapsing into a coma in front of the fireplace. There was a sauna 500 yards from the cabin, and during the night we took turns blundering out through the drifts in our bathrobes, bathing suits and unlaced boots. In the morning, the snow covered 3/4 of the way up the cabin windows, letting in an eerie, underwater light.
...we did. But there was none of the deep, spangled snow I was hoping for. Or very little. Just a dusting on the highest peaks, on the crenellated cockscomb of the Gore Range. I was a little disappointed, I must admit. I had so hoped for snow. But there were fanciful towers poised against a gauzy scrim of sky... Beautiful old buildings in high, rickety mining towns... ...rusty churches, their spires spiking into the thin mountain air. Oh, yes, and there were frozen lakes, still and silent amid gilded meadows...and streams running through solid banks of ice. There were still rocks tumbling beneath the cold, cold water, just like I remembered, the mountains grinding molars in the depths of their winter dreams. There were villages of wood sprites enchanted into a frozen tarantella of frosted twigs. And there was ice of all varieties...smooth ice, clear ice, turquoise and platinum ice, ice with crests and crystals and borders of frozen lace. And there were stars to be found everywhere, even in the least probable of places. There were magical bears to ride, their woolly, muscled haunches bound with Christmas wreaths, their fur tinged gold under the faerie lights. And little girls to ride those bears...little girls in red coats, their noses pink and their eyes shining dark as coal. There were windows full of candy... ...and wooden benches strewn with fur rugs to warm cobble-worn legs. Streets aglow with a father's love, tiny fingers touching chilled cheeks... ...and dancing fountains... ...and a million tiny moths of light hovering in place, suspended on the crystal breath of winter.
What I remember: We always had a hammock. My father would hang it between two trees. In Colorado, when there were no trees close to the house, he built a shelter with logdepole pines and strung two hammocks side by side beneath it. One was a brightly-hued string hammock from Mexico, the other, a closed-in canvas hammock with mosquito-net windows, from his army days stationed in Recife, Brazil. This one, though, was in Woodstock, where there were plenty of trees. My mother was always the beauty, far more beautiful than I. I saw her that way, always. Her grace. Her loveliness. She had a quietness about her and a gentleness. A calm that sustained and soothed me. We were thick as thieves from the start. The fact of my birth never really separated us completely, I think. We were connected, almost twinned from the start, to the point where we didn't need words to communicate. She used to complain that when I was a toddler and new people would come to visit, they would always think I hadn't yet learned to talk, because I would only take her hand and say "Mum?" But what was really happening was that I was asking her what I needed to know, and she was answering, silently, letting me know whether to trust or mistrust, whether they were "our kind of people" or not. As adults, our differences have become apparent. We are not alike. In her, her father's Dutch fastidiousness, his practicality and stoicism and attention to detail took precendence over the melodrama and languid glamour of her French mother. Whereas I am a curious amalgamation of my French grandmother's addiction to style, my Mexican father's high temper and wandering heart, the fierce individualism of my anthropologist great-aunt, and my mother's allergy to melodrama. Where she is practical, I am impulsive. Where she is fastidious, I am disordered. She wakes long before the first birds begin to sing in the dawn, while I was a night owl even from the womb. Still, we were joined at the hip from the get-go, twinned somehow in the soul. My mother was a jeweler and a poet, a tomboy and rebel. She was never what people expected her to be. These days, after some rough seas in my early adulthood, we are the best of friends once again. She is an artist, a fly fisherman, and a world-traveler...still fiercely independent yet curiously naîve, still athletic and adventurous, still paving her own road. She is my hero, and would be me role model...though I know I am not made of the stuff as she. This photo speaks volumes for me. I can only hope that my relationship with my own daughter might approach the quiet joy and wonder of my relationship with my mother.
When I started this blog, I had in mind creating some collections of ephemera from the internet, imagery that catches my eye and strikes a chord for me. I've discovered, however, that there's a problem - if I haven't created the image myself, then I feel like I'm cheating if I post it. This has resulted in my posting (with the exception of the "salt" post) all my own imagery here. Today, however, I'm going to shrug off my compunctions and shamelessly gather some fairy dust from the ether. This morning, with the sky turning gold and turquoise with the winter sun, we are packing up our station wagon and heading for the hills...literally. My husband is enjoying a brief and rare vacation, and we are taking advantage of Thanksgiving week to hole up in our cozy nook in the mountains for a few days. It has, after all, been too long since we've seen some real snow! On Thanksgiving, we'll rush back down to the city for a long and languid supper with the family. Since I will be taking a forced "break" from posting imagery while we're playing in the deep snow, since we're sliding headlong into the Holiday season, and since I, for one, intend to indulge (in family, in food, in beautiful scenery and long, lazy mornings), I thought this wonderful "sugarlips" series via Viacomit was an appropriate selection with which to leave you. Go check out the rest of them...they're wonderful! And enjoy your non-material indulgences this season!
I love cement. It's not just that I love it, I am...how shall I say...physically attracted to it. It's the smell, I think. My husband suspects that I must have an iron deficiency because I am drawn to root vegetables like beets (which he loathes) and things that taste of earth. But when I smell wet stone or, worse, wet cement, it creates a physical pang in me, not unlike a hunger. Basements are attractive to me (well, clean basements...not the scary, moldering kind), and the smell inside the stairwells of the 11th Century chateau that my grandparents renovated and, for much of my early life, inhabited, makes me swoon a bit. The smell of a stone ballustrade after a rain is, for me, akin to the aroma emanating from a good bakery, like ozone after a rainshower, like new-mown hay. I also love the history contained in cement, the way fossils are trapped in a mudflat...footprints, paw prints, the shadow of a fallen leaf...and of course the names of long-gone children, scrawled with a stick, or the signature of a craftsman or landowner. Who, do you suppose, was F. Lind?.....