No Distancing Required

The most personal part of autumn is bringing its leaves, nuts, and even tiny creatures that have passed…into my home. In this way, instead of lamenting the passing of summer, I honor the transition to a quieter and more reflective space. Look around, look upward, look sideways, look downward. You are not alone; there is magic everywhere. No distancing required.

A Resilient Spirit

Last week, I ventured out. It felt a bit surreal to go beyond the carefully-masked and gloved forays to the supermarket. It almost felt, well, frivolous. I got my hair cut and colored. The always-bustling salon was half-staffed. Women smiled with their eyes behind their masks, greeting one another like giddy girls enjoying a self-indulgent treat. The absence of magazines and close chatter hardly mattered. We were here, we were out, we were relishing the moment, creating our own light.

The next day, I had my nails done. Weeks before I had chipped away at the remaining gel polish in an act of letting go and acceptance. It didn’t matter. But symbolically, returning to this small ritual of self care did matter. I couldn’t go to yoga yet, but I could get my nails done. The owner apologized for asking customers to sign a waiver and it was no big deal. We accommodated one another. Everyone was upbeat…happy to be back at work, happy to, at least in some small way, pick up where we had left off, happy to reclaim a small piece of normal.

Feeling light-hearted and uplifted, I decided to extend the experience. One store I had hoped to venture into was shuttered, gone for good. I believe it was independently-owned, and my heart dipped in sadness for the owner, the employees, all of us. Next I stopped in a chain store where everything was COVID-prepared and at the same time, beautiful.

“Looking for anything special today?”

“Oh no…just looking to look. It’s been so long.”

“I know, and it’s really great to see people coming back in, even with limited hours and all of the other things we have to do.”

“Please don’t apologize. Just about everyone understands. If we can all be a little more patient with one another, and a little more kind, it works, and it’s better.”

“You know, that’s it. You just said it. I’m going to share that with my team today.”

My eyes smiled. I drove home with a peaceful and hopeful heart. The profound resilience and positive spirit of people working in service industries told me everything I need to know about how we will come through this.

A Mighty Metaphor

Our large, mighty oak now uprooted, the birds are improvising.

Just as we are.

A garden interrupted by nature’s fury

bestows a lesson in patience, endurance, forbearance, and adaptation.

Nature’s mighty metaphor – necessary and timely.

Nature’s “Stimulus”

“Come forth into the light of things, let nature be your teacher.” William Wordsworth

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.” John Muir

“There are always flowers for those who want to see them.” Henri Matisse

“Nature always wears the colors of the spirit.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

“On earth there is no heaven, but there are pieces of it.” Jules Renard

“Deep in their roots, all flowers keep the light.” Theodore Roethke

“God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls.” Mother Teresa

Leave the Light On

We miss seeing a neighbor’s smile up close, or greeting an old friend with a hug. We read with sorrow the growing number of sick and dying. We fear for those we love who live in the most hard hit states, and we wonder if they and we will make it through this. We are profoundly lonely, and yet, we are connected in a new way with people everywhere, through our distancing and our isolation. We are lonely. Writer Olivia Lang offers us these sage and consoling thoughts:

“Love is not just conveyed by touch. It moves between strangers; it travels through objects and words in books. There are so many things available to sustain us now, and though it sounds counterintuitive to say it, loneliness is one of them. The weird gift of loneliness is that it grounds us in our common humanity. Other people have been afraid, waited, listened for news. Other people have survived. The whole world is in the same boat. However frightened we may feel, we have never been less alone.”

-Olivia Laing

As we search for ways to cope and ways to help, I’d like to offer this: leave the light on. On my dark and silent morning walk, my heart is warmed by three houses, all in a row: one with white candles in the window. The next with a trio of bushes strung in Christmas lights, and the third with pillars proudly bedecked in red, white, and blue. I cannot help but smile. They are leaving their lights on and spreading it to me in doing so.

Now, more than ever, don’t let your light go out, the inner one. Leave it on and tend to it as if your life depended on it. Maybe that means more text and phone conversations with friends, more prayer, more meditation, more humor, more laughter, more volunteering, more giving, more compassion, more of every good thing that sustains the human spirit.

Don’t let your light go out. Turn it on and leave it there. On those still morning walks, I’ve taken to humming…the whole way, to keep my light on. This little light of mine…You’ve got a friend…Yesterday…You are my sunshine…Be not afraid…Let it be.

Do what you need to do, but whatever you do, leave the light on.

Corona Kindness

What in the world can a bag of Lay’s potato chips have to do with the corona virus, or more particularly, with kindness?

Given my husband’s prolonged illness, I have recently taken to doing the weekly food shopping. As we each typically eat three meals a day at home, it’s a pretty big load. That, however, isn’t the issue. The “issue,” is me. I prefer to do most things with efficiency and focus, food shopping being one of them. But yesterday, I had to face the annoying truth that my pedal to the metal MO wasn’t working. There is no zooming through the aisles when you don’t know where things are except in the most general sense. Well, when I finally found what looked like the vast “snack section,” I thought I’d be able to home right in, grab a big bag of Lay’s and cross it off the list. That didn’t happen. I noticed an employee and approached her.

“Can you tell me where the potato chips are?”

“Next aisle over.”

“Great, thanks.”

A fellow shopper who was strolling just ahead of me had overheard the exchange. When I got to the next aisle, he was standing there, holding the bag of chips.

“Here. There was only one bag left so I grabbed it for you.”

“Awesome! Thanks.”

He smiled, said “You bet,” and moved on.

“Hey Jean Marie, what are you doing here?” It was my neighbors, R and M, fellow walkers and fellow animal lovers.

“I’m doing the food shopping these days and it’s like being in an altenative universe. I can’t find anything.”

“Those chips aren’t for you, are they? You don’t eat stuff like that.”

“The hell I don’t. Desperate times call for desperate measures. I’ll get back on track when this is all over. For now, this bag is mine.”

Later, an elderly couple paused and smiled.

“Those are some nice pants you have on, a bright spot.”

He was referring to my crazy, neon patterned yoga pants.

By my account, it took me far too long to get through that shopping trip, but the unexpected interactions and the kindness continued.

I could go on and on about the kindheartedness of my neighbors…

H who is there for me in two seconds’ time when I need anything from the proverbial cup of sugar, to the receptivity of an open mind, and the comfort of a non-judgmental heart.

A who has fed me more times than I can count and rescued me with early morning coffee whenever the power goes out and I am desperate for caffeine.

M and D, a dynamic duo who can solve almost any problem with creativity and frugality, and fix absolutely anything in the house.

And that’s not counting the many glasses of wine, the conversations and laughter we’ve shared.

These people matter, and I hope that my generosity of spirit, time, and all of the rest comes at least close to theirs.

But strangers matter, too. And when we are all on lock down, venturing out to forage for scarce necessities while we are social distancing, we can call on what’s best in us- wanting nothing in return- and extend a small kindness to someone who is in the same boat.

The Sense of Wonder

This morning…before the sun spread its warm rays across the lightly-fallen snow, and after I spread the breakfast buffet for my backyard birds and loyal crows, there was this.

Of course, I had things to do, the rolling list of morning chores and ad hoc one-offs that require my time and attention. I wavered and paused.

I hope you never lose your sense of wonder…I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean

No, the practical aspects of this day, this fleeting moment, would wait.

I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance…never settle for the path of least resistance…

Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance: Dance, I hope you dance
I hope you dance
I hope you dance

I danced.

Useful and Beautiful

Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.’

I have long treasured this quote by William Morris, the brilliant 19th century textile designer and artist. It has served as a guidepost when deciding what to keep and what to toss; what to acquire and what to pass on. And yet the either-or juxtaposition, the “this OR that” option doesn’t sit well with me. I seek to create a home where useful objects are beautiful and where beautiful objects are useful. Okay, not all of the time, and not everything. But oh so many things can serve that dual purpose. Case in point: this gorgeous mirror, an estate find of some two decades ago, I will never part with it as my soul resonates with its subtlety.

Clearly “beautiful.” And now, also useful as it serves to accommodate several of my long necklaces, keeping them in plain sight.

Or take this cool booties-box from French designer Sonia Rykiel:

Beautiful…and useful. But since said booties reside on a rack in my closet, I’ve decided to store several of my favorite scarves under the red lid:

If you’d rather store your scarves as a decorative element, you might go with this option instead:

I admit, I had fun laying them out and then wrapping them in a makeshift bow. Too fussy for your taste? Okay, then why not use this decorative vintage stool as a landing space for your jeans collection, as in:

Now for a big reveal…consider this also vintage- piece:

My guess is that it is a circa 1930 – 1940 reproduction. At some point, someone retrofitted the back so that it could house a small TV. Now, that would have met the blended criteria of “useful and beautiful” but I had another idea in mind to meet that mark:

If this looks a lot like a display you might find at Victoria’s Secret, or Soma, you have clearly identified my inspiration.

There isn’t much in my way of thinking or being in the world that is black or white, either- or. And when it comes to the useful and the beautiful, the same holds true.

Where can you combine the useful and the beautiful in your world?

1/01/2020

My Style

I have always loved the color black. There isn’t a room in my house that doesn’t feature a touch of black here or there. As for my wardrobe, I dally in a broader palate in the warmer months, but my base is always black. Some say it is the easy way. I say it is the elegant way. No matter. Today, as we headed out to a New Year’s Day house party brunch, I celebrated the color black in a:

White House Black Market sweater

Gifted leggings

Sam Edelman booties

A Dutch? German? asymmetrical coat I intend to wear in my wheelchair

A badass necklace I found at a local consignment shop

It’s me. You don’t need to understand it, although I love it when you do!

2020. The perfect expression, a shorthand for clarity. How will you express yours this year? Whatever you do, don’t leave it in the closet.