Posted by: ktzefr | January 19, 2017

10 Flowers of the Virgin Islands

Outside my window on this rainy, cold day — bare branches and a few scattered evergreens against a gray sky.  I have one of those lamps with the energy light that’s supposed to make sunny weather people feel better on dreary winter days.  I’m waiting for it to work.  Meanwhile, I have starfish on my window sill, a painting of a favorite hillside on St. Thomas perched above a perfectly blue sea, and a treasure trove of photos from warm places.  Today, I’ve been looking at flowers of the Caribbean and reading poetry from around the world.  Here are a few favorites:

“Each white blossom/on a dangle of white flowers holds one green seed –/a new life.  Also each blossom on a dangle of flowers/holds a flask/of fragrance called Heaven, which is never sealed.”   ~Mary Oliver, from “Honey Locust”

Frangipani, St. John, US Virgin Islands; Photo:DFawcett

Frangipani, St. John, US Virgin Islands; Photo:DFawcett

The poet refers to the blossoms of the honey locust tree.  I think of frangipani.  Frangipani is most familiar in white and yellow, but the closer you get to the equator, the more colors you find.  The Virgins, at just 18 degrees north of the equator, have flowers in a variety of colors.  There’s nothing quite like their early-morning, heavenly scent after the night rains.   

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Haiku, in a handful of words, can give the reader something to think about all day.

“Villages may lack

Sea bream or flowers

but they all have tonight’s moon.”

~ Ibara Saikaku (A haiku master in Japan in the 1600s, he was also a pioneer of popular fiction and detective stories.)  Sea bream refers to red snapper; the fish is a good-luck symbol.

Frangipani, US Virgin Islands; Photo:DFawcett

Frangipani, US Virgin Islands; Photo:DFawcett

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“The ant climbs up a trunk/carrying a petal on its back,/and if you look closely/that petal is as big as a house…compared to the ant…/Why couldn’t I carry/a petal twice as big as my body and my head?

Ah, but you can…”boxes full of thoughts/and loads of magic hours, and/a wagon of clear dreams…”

~ David Escobar Galindo (El Salvador), from the poem “A Short Story,” translated by Jorge D. Piche

Royal Poinciana, "flame" tree, US Virgin Islands; Photo:DFawcett

Royal Poinciana, “flame” tree, US Virgin Islands; Photo:DFawcett

The Royal Poinciana or flamboyant (flame) tree is my favorite flowering tree in the world!  It’s worth a trip to the Virgins, especially in late spring and early summer, to see these fiery trees in full bloom. 

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“I want every instant/to be lovely as crayons./I’d like to draw — on chaste white paper…/eyes that never wept,/a piece of sky, a feather…/I want each breathless moment to beget a flower.” 

~Gu Cheng (China), “A Headstrong Boy”

Powderpuff tree, US Virgin Islands; Photo:DFawcett

Powderpuff tree, US Virgin Islands; Photo:DFawcett

Hummingbirds, bees, and other insects are attracted to this plant, though the spiky flowers have no obvious scent.  Critters must see, smell, or know some secret that is hidden from humans.  Powderpuff is a fun name for the Calliandra, but so is the name it goes by in the tropics — fairy duster.   

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“…their golden bodies –/I could not help but touch them–/and dashed forth their sleek pods,/oh, life flew around us, everywhere.”

~ Mary Oliver, from “Touch-me-nots”

Golden Shower Tree, US Virgin Islands; Photo:KFawcett

Golden Shower Tree, US Virgin Islands; Photo:KFawcett

The poet here is talking about touch-me-nots, but the image for me is the golden shower or golden chain trees of the tropics.  I used to love riding a bike along a trail on St. John and dashing beneath a cluster of golden chain trees, reaching up to touch the petals, and watching each day as they covered the ground like yellow snow. 

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“Today let’s take the laundry basket down/to a clear summer stream where we’ll bleach/our memories clean./Sweetly surround me with fragrant shrubbery,/Little white flowers sprinkled on a tree./Like the soapsuds made while washing clothes,/Reflected in a bubble, my laughing face/a song.”

~ Chang Shian-hua (Taiwan),  from “An Appointment”

White Spider Lily, US Virgin Islands; Photo:DFawcett

White Spider Lily, US Virgin Islands; Photo:DFawcett

There are a number of species of spider lilies, but this one is native to only a few countries in the Caribbean, including the US Virgin Islands.  It is believed to be indigenous to Peru as one of the most common names for the plant is Sacred Lily of the Incas.  In Mexico it’s called the Lily of Life.

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“When it is night in New York,/the sun shines in Dhaka,/but that doesn’t matter./Flowers that blossom here in spring/are unknown in meadows of distant Bengal–/that too doesn’t matter./There’s an enormous comfort knowing/we all live under this same sky.”

~ Zia Hyder (Bangladesh), from “Under This Sky”

Bougainvillea, Virgin Islands; Photo:KFawcett

Bougainvillea, Virgin Islands; Photo:KFawcett

Bougainvillea trivia:  It is believed that the first European to discover bougainvillea plants was Jeanne Baret, an expert in botany.  She disguised herself as a man in order to board the ship of French navy admiral and explorer Louis Antoine de Bougainville on his voyage of circumnavigation of the globe.  Though women were not allowed on ship, she became the first woman to circumnavigate the globe.

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“Between the sunset and the eucalyptus tree/Paint peeling walls.  The windows gleaming red,/Lights in the bedrooms.  Hibiscus, quisquailis,/and dry earth moistened…/Hushed brushed wings of sleepy birds,/A stillness rising to the stars./Between the dark night and the eucalyptus tree.”

~  Nasima Aziz (India), from “Home”

Hibiscus, Virgin Islands; Photo:KFawcett

Hibiscus, Virgin Islands; Photo:KFawcett

I’ve been taking pictures of hibiscus flowers for more than forty years — blooms on perfectly manicured hedges, blooms on bushes in big clay pots, blooms in tropical gardens.  But this one is special — not because it’s the prettiest of the lot; it’s not.  It’s special because it’s wild.  It was taken on an early morning hike after the night rains on a trail in the British Virgin Islands.  The flowers were a little droopy and covered in raindrops (see if you zoom), but the sun was coming out and the morning was headed toward perfection. 

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“He said every morning found him here,/before the water boiled on the flame/he came out to this garden,/dug hands into earth saying, I know you.”

~  Naomi Shihab Nye, from “The Garden of Abu Mahmoud”

(If you enjoy gardening, you know the feeling of first digging your hands into the spring soil.)

Ixora, West Indian Jasmine, US Virgin Islands; Photo:DFawcett

Ixora, West Indian Jasmine, US Virgin Islands; Photo:DFawcett

At a distance the flowers of the Ixora bushes look like balls of red and orange; up close they reveal themselves to be thousands of little stars.  How often do we define something by the way we see it from a distance and don’t take the time to have a closer look?

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“A spring breeze makes everyone laugh…/Rose and thorn pair up…/The orchard king from his secret center/says, Welcome to your hidden life./They move together,/the cypress and the bud of the lily,/the willow and the flowering judas./Ladders have been set up/around the garden,/so that everyone’s eyes lift.”

~ Rumi, from “The Dance of Your Hidden Life”

Bougainvillea and Ginger Thomas, US Virgin Islands; Photo:KFawcett

Bougainvillea and Ginger Thomas, US Virgin Islands; Photo:KFawcett

 

Just like each US state has its own state flower, the Virgin Islands also has this custom.  The territorial flower is the Ginger Thomas.  The photo above was taken out the back door of my friend’s house in St. Thomas.  It sits on a steep hillside with the front porch perched above the sea and the back tucked below the neighbor’s yard.  Mango trees drop fruit on both sides of the fence.  Ladders are handy for gardening here as one must look up at the flowers.  

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Looking up is good.  Lifting eyes.  Poems and flowers have the power to lift spirits.  What is YOUR secret to bringing sunshine to gray winter days?   

 

 

Posted by: ktzefr | January 13, 2017

12 Ways to Look at Soap

bunnyWhen I was in elementary school the kids raved about Ivory soap.  It was great fun, they said, because the bars float in the bathtub.  We didn’t have a bathtub.  “We use Camay,” I told them, “It’s pink and smells better than Ivory.”  Years later, I moved to the city and rented an apartment with a bathtub.  I bought Ivory soap and watched it float.  Still later, I showed my toddler son how the Ivory soap could float right along with the yellow rubber ducks.  It seemed important at the time.  I remember my mom saying that when she was young and had no money she saw so many beautiful things she wanted to buy, but when she finally had the money to get what she wanted, it didn’t matter anymore.  Timing is everything…and, in case you’re curious, Ivory Soap floats because it’s pumped full of air bubbles.

*****

As a teen I tried every kind of soap I could find for acne, but nothing helped.  It took a long time to accept that breakouts went along with adolescence, at least for some of us, and soap was neither the culprit nor the answer.  Sometimes what we think is the “fix” doesn’t work, no matter how many times we try nor how much effort we put into it.

*****

Why are soap operas called soap operas?  They have nothing to do with soap and they’re certainly not operas.  But, in the 1920s, everyone listened to radio and daily serials aimed at women became popular.  So the stations decided to find sponsors for these programs.  The first major sponsors were soap manufacturers — Procter and Gamble, Colgate-Palmolive, Lever Brothers.  Thus, the media dubbed them soap operas.

*****

Cashmere Bouquet reminds me of the beach.  In my mind the flowery scent mingles with the salt air and the sound of wind chimes, the rush of waves, and the shouts of children.  It brings back memories of crab cakes and straw hats.  Of red noses.  Of that flushed, tingly-all-over feeling after a day in the sun.  Of porpoise sightings and flying kites.  Every few minutes in summer a small plane would fly along the coast trailing a banner that said “Paul Revere Smorgesbord, all you can eat $4.95.”  Imagine that.  Four ninety-five.  Today, $4.95 won’t even buy a bath bar of Cashmere Bouquet, a “favorite since 1872.”

*****

Soap is not always for washing  — whether it’s real or fake.  My mother kept a dish of little soaps in the shape of rosebuds on a shelf in her bathroom.  They were blue and pink and white and smelled like roses.  But we had to remind the kids that the rosebud soap was “just for looks” — not for washing dirty hands.  Several years ago we were looking at a model house in a new development and my young son was surprised to find that almost everything in the house was plastic — the fruit in the bowls, eggs in the basket, bottles in the refrigerator, and the soap in the soap dishes.  “I don’t want to live in this house,” he said, looking anxious.  “Everything is fake.”

*****

When bars of soap become thin slivers of themselves I toss them in the trash.  But some people save the leftover pieces, melt them down, and make new bars.  If only one could take the pieces of a life, rearrange them on occasion, and make a brand new person.

*****

Laundry soaps used to be bought for the prizes.  Cheer had a dish towel inside every box and my mom collected them the way I collected Cracker Jack prizes.  She saved money by turning cow feed sacks into dresses and jelly jars into drinking glasses and she always hung the laundry outside to dry.  My clothes smelled of soap and sun, wind and rain.  One of my favorite places today, far removed from my own childhood but where I feel eerily at home, is an old hacienda in Mexico where the sheets and towels are hung to dry every day on a rooftop in the sun.

*****

“Cleanliness is next to godliness,” Ms. Valentine said.  That’s what they taught us in school and we would all steal looks at Jimmy Doan in his dirty clothes.  His family was on relief, but we felt that was no excuse.  “Anybody can afford a bar of soap.”  That’s what our teacher said.  But she didn’t live in Jimmy’s house.  I had been there and I knew it wasn’t a matter of money.  Jimmy Doan’s family simply didn’t consider cleanliness to be next to godliness the way Ms. Valentine did.  He stayed an outsider at school until he finally quit.  Would a bar of soap have made any difference?

*****

Years ago in the tropics we stayed at a place that used Riley’s soap and I always brought back the tiny samples.  During the rest of the year, the scent reminded me of all that I loved about being there — the night rains and cloudless morning skies, the wild donkeys that stirred in the woods at the edge of daybreak, and the constant chatter and songs of the rain forest birds.  I used the soap sparingly so I could stretch its magic and get as many “trips” as possible from it.

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Lava soap.  Construction workers and coal miners liked it because it would clean anything — lift grease off a frying pan.  (In the 60s they advertised using Lava soap to prevent the spread of polio though there was no evidence that this was the case.)  I wonder if anyone ever blamed themselves for not washing with Lava when a family member took ill.  False advertising, like fake news, can bring false hope or unwarranted anger, fear, or sadness.  It’s amazing how much more staying power it has than the truth.

*****

Lye soap.   Every Thanksgiving we butchered hogs and Mom and my Aunt Thelma made lye soap in a big black kettle that hung on a rod in the center of two poles in the backyard.  The kettle rocked back and forth above the fire and they stirred the pot with long wooden paddles.  Later, when the soap cooled, they cut it into large chunks the color of mottled honey. It looked bad and smelled bad.  We didn’t need it.  We had pink Camay.  But Mom and Aunt Thelma had been brought up to make lye soap.  It seemed the older they got the more they needed to do such things.  I suppose it was a holding-0n of sorts, to tradition, to the past, to their own childhoods.  The soap-making process once a year brought back memories, old stories, family secrets. 

*****

The other day I checked out the different brands of soap at the store and was amazed by all the paraphernalia that goes along with bathing.  There’s a big market today in soap and related products.  Curious, I googled to see what the 10 top selling brands were in 2016.  Here they are: Dove Sensitive Skin, Paul Mitchell Tea Tree, Aveda Rosemary Mint, DHC Pure, Pangea Organics, Dove White, Chanel Coco, Beessential All Natural, Badger Organic, and Caswell-Massey Goat’s Milk and Honey. 

There’s no reason on earth for a human body to smell like a human body anymore.

*****

 

 

 

 

Posted by: ktzefr | January 6, 2017

10 Things To Do With Lavender

Lavender on my window sill, a mini winter garden; Photo:KFawcett

Lavender on my window sill, a mini winter garden; Photo:KFawcett 

The holidays are over.  A new year has begun.  I’m already thinking about spring.  Gardens.  Herbs and flowers.  But, until it’s time to plant outside, here are 10 things to do with lavender — whether it be the herb still green in your garden or a scent that still lingers in your thoughts…

1.  Snip and root.  I snipped my two big plants outside and put the clippings in old medicine bottles and mini vases on my kitchen window sill.  A tiny “garden” is taking root.

2.  Sing about it!  “Lavender’s blue, dilly dilly, lavender’s green…”  Most people have heard this English folk song from the 17th century.  It’s been a drinking song, a ballad, and a nursery rhyme, sung by Burl Ives, Leon Russell, and David Bowie.  It’s been written about in short stories, children’s stories, and even a horror novel.  And it’s been sung on television shows, in an opera, and in the movie Cinderella.

3.  Light a lavender candle.  The essential oil is also used in soap, perfume, and cosmetics. 

4.  Add the herb to salads and dressings.  Lavender sugar flowers also make tasty cake decorations.  There’s lavender syrup in scones and marshmallows, lavender flowers in tea.  I especially like Rishi Tea’s Earl Grey Lavender.  And the sweet flower goodies go great with chocolate.  But, then, everything is better with chocolate.

5.  Eat honey!  Around the Mediterranean the bees make high-quality honey from the nectar of lavender.  Monoflorel honey is marketed worldwide.  Try Olivier’s Wild Lavender Honey.

6.  Use lavender as medicine to help you sleep, lift your mood, cure a headache, or clear up eczema.  According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, “research has confirmed that lavender produces slight calming, soothing, and sedative effects when its scent is inhaled,” in addition to treating the above-mentioned ailments. ***

7.  Unwind with a lavender-infused back massage the next time you to go the spa.  Or add a cup of Epsom salt with a few drops of lavender oil to a hot bath at home.

8.  Read a “lavender” book.  A quick-read Romance for a snowy day?   Lavender Morning by Jude Deveraux (a woman inherits an 18th century house and a letter with clues to a mystery).  Or a historical novel?  The Lavender Keeper by Fiona McIntosh (set in France during WW2 about a lavender farmer who joins the Resistance).  Or a children’s book?  Lavender by Karen Hesse (a lovely little book about a secret, handmade gift). 

9.  Dry a few sprigs from the garden and slip into a cloth pouch to place in bureau drawers and closets to keep away moths.  People like the scent; insects do not.

10. Bring pots of lavender inside for the winter or clip and use in dried flower arrangements or potpourri to add a springtime scent to the house after the fir-scented Christmas greens have all been taken down.

***Check out warnings about the use of lavender oil, allergies, and toxicity on the NIH site.

Posted by: ktzefr | December 28, 2016

15 Quirky New Year’s Resolutions for 2017

Sunset, BVI; Photo:KFawcett

Sunset, BVI; Photo:KFawcett

1.   Appreciate the briefest moments – the fire of a late sunset, the scent of mown grass, white geese on a dark pond.  Be faithful to nature and make memories of small, good things.

2.  Trust that the heart is big enough to hold the sky – Cassiopeia, Ursa Minor, Orion’s Belt, the Southern Cross and beyond.

3.  Experience the joy of being a wanderer – here, there, or anywhere – like a bird blown free in the wind.

4.  Accept this:  many things happen that we cannot see, explain, or understand.  Nobody sees the stars that fall in the daytime.

5.  Cry when you feel like it; rubble gets washed away in the rain.

6.  Set your sights on the mountain top and start climbing.  Don’t give up.  Goats can climb sheer cliff sides so long as they get a toe hold.

7.  Life is a marvelous journey in a messy, confusing world.  Be transformed.  Re-invent yourself on occasion.  Be the guitar slung on the back of a traveler, watching the colors of the world go by, listening to your own music.

8.  You cannot run fast enough or climb high enough or swim far enough to leave all the storms behind.  Sometimes you have to stop and face the wind.    

9.  Write your own story – a moment at a time – and you will capture it; you can keep it forever.

10. When you’re feeling low, remember the air way up high, how it felt when the ferris wheel stopped on top, how the stars looked across the black night sky, and how easy it was to dismiss the tiny voice inside that worried about falling.

11. Take a GAP day or week or month now and then.  (GAP – Get Away from Politics)

12. It is what’s in the heart that matters.  The mind has limits, but the heart can and will be stretched and re-shaped and broken and stitched back together too many times to count.

13. Always keep a few good memories in your pocket wherever you go so that every now and then you can take them out to look at or listen to or feel again.

14. Remember that winter sometimes holds onto its bareness, like the soul laid bare, with all its ugly branches, leafless and cold.  But spring always follows, the way the sun comes up and the sun goes down, in its powerful silence.    

15. Get to know yourself.  Stop for thinking time.  Don’t be afraid to eat alone, shop alone, travel alone.  Sit in a plaza or park where everyone is a stranger.  There is a special thrill in anonymity. 

 

 

 

 

img_4390I read recently that, in the last six weeks, doctors have been seeing many more patients with depression.  It doesn’t seem to matter why they made an appointment, whether for aching joints or overactive intestines, they get around to talking about the election.  And both sides are depressed — the Hillary folks because she lost and the Trump folks because they can’t celebrate the win without alienating friends or family.  So, if you’ve invited dinner guests from both sides of the aisle, you already get a gold star for being brave.  But you may want to have a few non-political topics in mind to quickly turn a discussion that shows signs of heading in the wrong direction.  Remember: it’s easier to change topics than to change minds.

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— The Christmas season is such a good time to enjoy all kinds of food and drink.  What’s your favorite?

— What part of the Christmas preparations and chores do you like least?

— What is the oldest ornament on your Christmas tree?

— If you were Santa Claus, where would you want to spend your summers?

— Do you watch the same Christmas movies every year?  If so, which ones do you like best? 

— If you had to drop one thing from the holiday season, which one could you do without: Christmas lights, gifts, parties, music, sweets?

— In the Bible story the three kings followed a star to find the baby Jesus.  What is the best thing you’ve ever found?

— Can you name all of Santa’s reindeer?  If you chose one reindeer name for the title of a book, which would you choose and what would the book be about? 

— When you were a child what was your favorite toy?

— What has been the greatest blessing in your life since last Christmas?

*****

 

Posted by: ktzefr | December 21, 2016

4 Christmases Remembered

 

img_43971942.  The world was at war.  Millions of lives would be changed forever.  And yet…there was music and shows and art and literature.  One of the puzzling aspects of being human, of living in the larger world, is that no matter how terrible things may be in one place at any given time, there is joy and laughter somewhere.  Memories of the good times are powerful antidotes to despair.  The following quotes are from writers in the 40s, looking back at the Christmases of their childhoods. 

All excerpts originally appeared in Vogue and were included in the anthology, Vogue’s First Reader, published by Conde Nast Publications in 1942.  I love stumbling across old anthologies as they are often full of small treasures — glimpses at another place and time through multiple sets of eyes.

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“Early on Christmas morning, long before dawn, the members of the choral society have climbed the steep spiral stairway in the medieval clock tower.  Suddenly from the tower’s gallery, which is still wrapped in the gloom of night, come the swelling tones of “Silent Night, Holy Night.”  The town awakens.  Thousands of candles appear before the darkened panes.  It is as if a fire is raging.  The flames in the windows leap from house to house, jump across squares and race upstairs.”

~ Pierre Van Paassen, “I Remember Christmas in Holland”

*****

“We were called to the table, arranged with pine branches, the room lit only by candles.  Our glasses were filled with golden Gumpoldskirchener wine, and we were allowed to take a sip…This night we did not have to go to bed early.  The neighbours came in, one playing the zither, another the harmonica and every one sang: “Silent night, holy night…

Then our peasant landlady came in with a huge pan of steaming incense and palm branches blessed at Easter…she went all over the house, to the stables and barns, until the entire place was full of incense–this to protect the house from fire in the coming year.  As midnight approached, we had hot punch and were snugly bundled in our coats and mufflers and set out to the village church.  The night, the forest, all nature seemed to hold its breath to hear the church bells calling the faithful to midnight mass.”

~Leo Lania, “I Remember Christmas in Austria”

*****

“…I saw on the nearby slopes dancing lights which slowly converged toward the church.  They were the lanterns of the mountaineers going to midnight mass, and each of those stars was followed, not by the Magi kings, but by troupes of delighted children.  At the bottom of the ravine, the little illumined church shone like a lighthouse — a port where they could find at once repose, warmth, and, above all, love.  The slopes were steep, and the children fell and laughed.  But the difficulty only increased the value of the expedition. Never have I heard the Christmas hymns sung with more vigour than in the little church of Verrieres, covered softly with snow.”

~Andre Maurois, “I Remember Christmas in France”

*****

“…in the evening, the children could stay up with their elders by the Yule log that crackled in the great open fireplace with its gleaming iron fire-dogs.  Here were told tales of the long ago.  Here we crunched hot chestnuts, and we drank white wine.  From every village the people headed for the sanctuary; the father, shod with straw-lined sabots, walking ahead with a pitchfork, for it was rumoured that a wolf had been heard howling at the moon.  Betrothed girls walked on the arms of their gallants, following the fiddler who scraped joyous airs on his violin.   

At the top of the hill, a group looked into the distance; a song rose in the night.  The families stopped and watched the glowworms hastening toward the church.  The father said:  “Those are the people from across the river.  I recognize their Christmas carol.”

~ Robert Goffin, “I Remember Christmas in Belgium”

*****

Pierre van Paassen, in the same piece (above), shares a legend worth repeating…

“On Christ-night, according to an old Dutch legend, when all is still and the town’s lights burn low, the Holy Child, hand in hand with His mother, goes around on tiptoe in the snow-smothered streets and peeks through keyholes and shutters to see whether there is not a broken heart in the house, or any soul in anguish or distress.” The legend goes that if He finds such a place, it is marked with a sign so the angels can come at dawn to deliver their best gift — the blessing of peace.

Today, more than seven decades later, the world still needs the blessing of peace.

*****

 

 

Posted by: ktzefr | December 15, 2016

10 Quotes from Coelho

Dorado Beach sunset, Puerto Rico; Photo:DFawcett

Dorado Beach sunset, Puerto Rico; Photo:DFawcett

I never start to read a book by Paulo Coelho without first grabbing a notebook.  It seems that I spend as much time collecting quotes as I do reading.  And his words are as lovely and as calming as an island sunset…

Here is a favorite from Manuscript Found in Accra distinguishing between arrogance and elegance:

“Arrogance complicates words, because it believes that intelligence is for only the chosen few.  Elegance transforms complex thoughts into something that everyone can understand.”

I have a shelf full of notebooks that have accumulated over the years with my words and the words of writers I admire.  My blue notebook is filled with Coelho’s wonderfully elegant words, full of wisdom, and easy to understand.  As I make grocery lists and shop and run errands during this busy holiday season, I take a few minutes to flip through the blue notebook and always find just the right quote to make my day.  Perhaps one of these will click with you…

— “Only he who gives up is defeated.  Everyone else is victorious.”

— “Do one thing: Live the life you always wanted to live…. The angels say: Now!”

— “Stay close to those who sing, tell stories, and enjoy life, and whose eyes sparkle with happiness…because happiness is contagious and will always manage to find a solution, whereas logic can find only an explanation for the mistake made.”

— On success:  “It is being able to go to bed each night with your soul at peace.”

— “What the future holds for you depends entirely on your capacity to love.”

— “Some words are elegant, some can wound and destroy, but all are written with the same letters.”

— “Never try to please everyone; if you do, you will be respected by no one.”

— “Love is an act of faith in another person, not an act of surrender.”

— “Time and life have given me plenty of logical explanations for everything, but my soul feeds on mysteries.”

— “I will smile without feeling guilty, because joy is not a sin.”

 

***All of the above quotes come from Manuscript Found in Accra by Paulo Coelho

 

Posted by: ktzefr | December 13, 2016

7 Ways to Stay Warm

The obvious way to keep warm is to turn up the thermostat.  But extra warm air blowing from the vents won’t warm up the heart, the mind, the soul. 

My favorite ways to do that…

1.   A cup of tea.  Hands around a hot mug.  Steam rising from a cup of flower-scented darjeeling or a cinnamon-flavored chai.  It doesn’t matter what’s happening outside.

2.  Candles.  A crackling fire in the fireplace is great, but there’s nothing quite like the silent beauty of a candle flame.

Oaxaca lantern; Photo:KFawcett

Oaxaca lantern; Photo:KFawcett

 

“Surely everyone is aware of the divine pleasures which attend

a wintry fireside; candles at four o’clock, warm hearthrugs…

whilst the wind and rain are raging audibly without.”

~Thomas de Quincey

 

 3.  A wrap.  I have rebozos draped throughout the house, over chairs and trunks and railings.  I fell in love with these wonderful shawls in Mexico years ago — thin ones for cool summer nights, wool for winter.  Coats are okay for outside, but a wrap is perfect anywhere.
rebozo

4.  Dance.  When Mozart was twenty-six he married Constance Weber, who was eighteen.  They had next to nothing and were poor managers of money; it came in slowly and left rapidly.  Sometimes they couldn’t even afford wood for a fire.  But one cold day a friend dropped by and found them dancing…

“What!” he [the friend] cried, “are you teaching Madam Constance to dance?”

“Oh no!” returned Mozart, “we are dancing to keep warm.”

So…you can be extra warm dancing with a partner, but a good salsa CD will work wonders if you’re alone. 

5.  A glass of wine.  “The wine was summer in a bottle.  It was all the warm afternoons and the cloudless skies, stoppered tight; to be opened, said the label, on a January day with snow falling fast.”  ~Ray Bradbury 

6.  Memories.  On cold days I find that memories of warm places bring their own sunshine. 

St. John, USVI; Photo:DFawcett

St. John, USVI; Photo:DFawcett

7.  Music

“Music brings a warm glow to my vision,

thawing mind and muscle from their endless wintering.” 

~Haruki Murakami    

In a nutshell:  On these cold, gray days grab a wrap and a cup of tea or a glass of wine, light a candle, play some music, and think warm thoughts of places far or near that bring a little sunshine. If this doesn’t work, start dancing!

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Posted by: ktzefr | November 29, 2016

Tea from the Heart

img_3731A few minutes after five and it’s already dark.  I miss the long daylight hours of summer.  The day is always too short to do everything I want to do.  Still, I make time for tea.  But I’m not the sort to run around in circles with a mug in hand doing chores while I drink.  Tea is meant to be enjoyed for its own sake — with a good book and/or music.

Today: Sergio Basurto on the harp and Te de la Casa in the cup.  A couple of weeks ago I heard Sergio play (harp and flamenco guitar in San Miguel de Allende) Nunca en Domingo, La Borrachita, Las Golondrinas...  and I brought back CDs and tea leaves from my favorite places.

Te de la Casa, Posada Corazon, San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico

 

The Te de la Casa is an herbal blend that grows in the gardens of the lovely Posada Corazón (inn of the heart).

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The herbs:  Estafiate, salvia, cedron, toronjil….scents of sage and mint and lemon.  Estafiate goes by several names — white sagebrush, Mexican wormwood, prairie sage — and is used as a medicinal herb to treat pain, malaria, diabetes and other ills.  The name salvia, first described by Pliny the Elder, comes from the Latin “to feel well and healthy” and cedron and toronjil are both “lemon” herbs — lemon verbena/lemon balm — used to flavor or add fragrance to food and essential oils.  The lemon herbs have also been used in the treatment of disorders of the gastrointestinal tract and nervous system.  Whether they cure any ills or not, they make a nice combination, both for the scent and taste.

The herbs at Posada Corazon grow in small patches amongst the flowers and fruit trees. 

 

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Ahhh, the places one can go with a cup of tea and the song of a harp…

“Cultivate interior life as though it were a garden sanctuary.  Give away what you can.  Squander your love.” ~ Frances Mayes, Every Day in Tuscany

 

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“What matters in life are those things contained in moments as fleeting as lightning.”  ~Elena Santiago

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“The things you are passionate about are not random, they are your calling.” 

~Fabienne Fredrickson

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Tea, flowers, music…what small, everyday thing are YOU passionate about?

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by: ktzefr | November 21, 2016

Ordinary Magic: 10 Short, Short Stories

Coffee tree blooming; Photo:KFawcett

Coffee tree blooming; Photo:KFawcett

— My coffee tree is blooming!  It sits in a bedroom window with the bright morning sun that imitates (sorta) the sun of the tropics, where coffee trees (and some of us humans) feel more at home.  Supposedly, it will flower and produce beans that I can “harvest” and brew coffee.  Maybe one very small espresso cup.  Maybe, if I’m lucky.  Sometimes you have to work diligently for a long time to reap a tiny reward. 

— All summer, most days, the wind chimes remained silent.  A tinkle now and then.  But the stiff gusts of the last two days have sent them flying wildly in the wind — as if they finally have something to say!

— Saturday, breakfast, it seemed every finch in the yard wanted to take a bath at the same time.  My “invention” — a wire plant hanger with a plastic tray for water — rocked back and forth in the branches of the snowball bush/tree as the birds took turns, sending water splashing over the edge.  They must have known cold weather was on the way.  Today: ice in the birdbath.

— The sweet gum leaves have finally turned yellow and red and purple.  Falling like big stars on the driveway.  What beauty!  In a month’s time the tree will be bare.  I’m trying to embrace the idea that bare can be beautiful.  Not having much luck.

— The scent of bacon frying.  Brownies in the oven.  Minestrone soup simmering on the stove.  That’s a lot of magic!

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—  A room full of books.  A stack of ” to read” tomes on a table.  Books in mind, books on lists.  Books full of answers that I don’t know to questions I’ve never asked.  For example: Every second the Earth is visited by 10,000 trillion trillion tiny neutrinos (mostly shot out by the nuclear broiling of the sun) and virtually all of them pass right through the planet and everything on it, including you and me, as if it/we weren’t there.

— Words.  “Happiness is absorption, being entirely yourself and entirely in one place.” ~Pico Iyer

— Memories are like…photos.  Tangible things.  You can see and hear and feel and almost, almost touch.  Pieces of songs remembered.  A word here, a phrase there.  A whisper.  The sound of silence.  The moon through the trees.  A candle flame in a window.  And this…the mouse we saved in 1972 when we lived in an old house with a crooked fireplace and an ancient out-of-tune piano.  The mouse transported in a cardboard box to freedom.  Like magic.

— The Mexican purse.  I bought it more than 3 decades ago.  It’s red suede with fringes that reach all the way to my ankles.  A hippie purse.  A purse I just had to have but never carried.  I couldn’t answer “why” to either.  Maybe I’ll hang it on the wall and fill it full of flowers.

— There is no magic like the imagination.  If I were a fruit…I’d be a mango — a little sweet, a little tart, smooth to the touch, and with a very big heart. 

*****

How about you?

What constitutes the ordinary magic of your day?

 

 

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