Furnishing Our Stories

 

I suppose there are as many reasons to blog as there are bloggers.  Curiosity about the world, a willingness to accede to Durrell’s conviction that reality can be reworked to show its significant side and the pure pleasure of shaping words all have played a roll in developing and sustaining my personal commitment to this strange new phenomenon of our time.

One thing I particularly enjoy about blogging  is the response I receive from readers.  Comments have ranged from challenging to congratulatory to caustic, but no matter their form, I always find them stimulating and engaging.   To my taste, good blogs exhibit a certain tentativeness, exploring rather than defining the subject at hand, and good comments reflect the same qualities.  Writers and readers work together, inching their way forward through thickets of allusion and argument to reach provisional conclusions.  Occasionally they unearth a real, if unexpected, treasure.

Some months ago, a faithful reader responded to one of my entries by saying, 

“I like this blog. I prefer the ones where you tell your story within its own context. Not sure how to say what I mean here, other than it’s all you.
Of course the others are all you too, it’s just that I like how you decorate with what you have made, rather than …  Can’t figure out how to say it…”

That’s a wonderful comment: honest, straightforward, vacillatory and thought-provoking all at the same time. Best of all, I think I understand the point.

Consider this.  Some years ago, I knew a woman who had plenty of money and an urge to decorate. She lived in a large, relatively new home perfectly suited to someone cursed with a compulsive need to change the scenery.  As the months and years passed, I began to realize the woman I’d become friends with re-created her environment the way I change shorts and t-shirts – casually, frequently and without much thought. 

When I met the family, they weren’t in Santa Fe but they were living the Santa Fe lifestyle, surrounded by terra cotta and turquoise. Ristras woven from brilliant chilis hung from open beams.  Bookshelves were punctuated with Acoma and Jimez pots.  With its tiled floors and washed walls, the house was restful and redolent of pinon and juniper ~ no detail had been overlooked in the attempt to re-create a beloved environment.

Not even a year later, Texas-Cowboy-meets-Gucci had caught my friend’s attention.  Free-form barbed wire borders and mesquite furniture became the order of the day, punctuated with cowhide pillows, heavy silver candelabra and log-cabin quilts produced by the sweet little ladies of Orvis.  But it didn’t last. After a brief flirtation with the minimalist Scandinavians and a run through Edwardian elegance, she decided it was time for a visit to Provence.

Despite suggestions that all those roosters, mustard-yellow walls and lace curtains were becoming just a bit outré and she might do better with a more subdued look, she was determined to achieve the pinnacle of sunny cheerfulness.   A few thousand dollars here, a few thousand there, and the transformation was complete: new furniture, new colors, new fabrics and new accessories. It looked just like a magazine, but everyone knew it wouldn’t be long before she’d be ready to turn the page once again.

And that’s exactly the point.  The new morning-in-Provence digs didn’t satisfy her at all, any more than Santa Fe or Cattle Ranch Chic or Edwardian Elegance had satisfied her. Each time she redecorated, it was the “look” that was the point, and not the life.  Walking into her home, you would find no memories, no personal touches, nothing that would make you want to point to one thing or pick up another and say, “Tell me about this”.  Her creation was a beautiful house, but it was a backdrop for a photo shoot more than it was a home.  Ask any visitor, “Who lives here?  What experiences have they had?  What do they enjoy? believe? appreciate?” and there would be no way to answer.

While I’ll admit to a fondness for adobe and turquoise, I’ve never had the money nor the inclincation for a total re-do.  Looking around my home, there’s no theme, no sense of good taste run amok. What I have are African masks obtained from people whose names I remember, snuggled up against Ethiopian weavings and cowgirl art. There’s a copper basket filled with rocks from Georgia O’Keefe’s Abiquiu hills, and exquisite oils of poppies and roses painted by the hand of a dear friend. There are prints of the Flatiron, my favorite building, and an antique etching from Harper’s of the 1851 flood on Bayou Teche.

There are Batchelder tiles, Bradley and Hubbard plaques, Benin bronzes and more Ohio Valley pottery than anyone should have. There’s my great-grandmother’s butter paddle and my dad’s 9th grade shop class project.  There are braided rugs from the cabin and my childhood rocking chair, Muslim prayer beads and Victorian yard-longs. It’s not a style, it’s a life: collected, cherished and displayed not to please others but to keep me grounded and help me remember where I’ve been as I journey on to unknown destinations.

In short, I’ve decorated my home with the experiences of my life, and at least one reader is telling me it works in writing precisely as it does in life.  “I like how you decorate with what you have made,” she says, her words an unmistakable caution as much as a compliment.  

In writing as in life, there’s no need to be a slave to fashion, or dependent upon literary versions of House Beautiful to tell us what we need.  None of us is called to buy a style or borrow a voice.  Each of us has our own style and our own voice.  Each of us has our own closetful of furnishings, collected and cherished through the years, waiting to be arranged throughout our stories, essays and posts.  

Santa Fe sentences or French Provincial paragraphs may be fine for some, but if they are not our sentences, our paragraphs, they’ll never help us reach our own quite particular conclusions. In writing as in life, all of the memories and dreams, experiences and hopes that have come to us from the past will do perfectly well to enrich the present and carry us into the future.

It’s only a question of how they should be arranged.

 

Comments are welcome.  To leave a comment or respond, please click below.

21 thoughts on “Furnishing Our Stories

  1. Wonderful to come home to this post — I just finished making my appointed rounds of the Heritage Hills Home Tour — so many lovely, lovely homes, most of which wore that comfortable (yet elegant) lived-in look — but one in particular said ‘don’t touch’ — this hands-free home was our only tour stop where we were handed a set of surgery booties to cover our shoes.

    Five mansions,two very nice homes and one garden tour later, I arrived home to … well, home; a place that reflects who I am and what I value. And with one big sigh, I told Don that this was the best home I’d been in all day.

    Good writing should be the same way. It should be welcoming from the first few words. If I’m lucky, the words will invite me to put my feet up and stay a while. It should hold my interest, with an occasional surprise twist. And cause me to ponder some new truth, or glimpse of truth.

    I like your blog for all those reasons. As your interesting life colors it all beautifully.

    Janell,

    It’s common practice at boat shows to find “no shoes allowed” signs at the boarding point for new boats, and many more luxurious yachts will have elegant little signs that say, “Boat shoes only, please”. But to find booties at a home show? I’ve never heard of that one.

    I suppose I can understand it for a home show, particularly if it’s a historic home. But there are homes that just scream “don’t touch”, aren’t there? And remember the 1950’s distinction between the “living room” and the “family room”? I always loved the fact that the family was barred from the “living” room, and that only visitors were allowed access. Funny stuff.

    I like the way you took the metaphor and extended it. I do try to keep the welcome mat out. And I don’t care one bit if someone puts their feet up and stays a while. As soon as I figure out how to get your cup of coffee to you, we’ll be all set!

    Linda

  2. I had a friend such as the decorating woman you described. In my twenties, I was very much intimidated by the money she was able to spend and the environment she was able to create: one of opulence, tradition, elegance.

    But, I came to realize how very superficial it all was; there was no meaning in her life to any of the possessions she had other than that they created an image.

    I do not want to be an image, I do not want to create an image. I want my life, and my blog, to be an honest reflection of who I am: in need of polishing, possibly in need of an overhaul or two, but honest. Real. Someone who can accept imperfections knowing that they are better than decorations.

    Bellezza,

    When I began blogging, I told one of my friends I hoped to achieve some degree of consonance between my life and my words. When she stopped laughing, she said, “But my dear – that’s the whole point of the internet. You don’t have to be who you are.” I rejected her point of view then, and still do. As I like to put it, words can be bricks or words can be glass. We can use them to wall ourselves off from others, to hide our true nature, or we can choose them for their ability to let the light of our lives shine through. Your blog is like a glass tower, and you shine beautifully.

    As to flaws and imperfections… Every now and then I have a customer who isn’t particularly happy to find color variations or swirls of grain in their boat’s wood trim. They would prefer for the color to be absolutely consistent and the grain utterly regular. I always tell them that, if that’s what their heart is set on, they’d do better with plastic. Those “flaws” they see are natural, a part of the world’s infinite variety.

    Recently, I praised another blogger’s essay as “perfect”. When he demurred, I reminded him of the same thing: perfect doesn’t mean flawless. I like to think of “perfect” in terms of something being utterly what it is, utterly true to its nature. As for the little flaws that also appear? Leonard Cohen said it best:

    Ring the bells that still can ring
    Forget your perfect offering
    There is a crack, a crack in everything
    That’s how the light gets in.

    Linda

  3. As I’ve read this, Linda, comments/replies included, I’ve thought about what the realtor wants you to do when you sell your house: “get rid of all the junk!”

    The first time she wanted me to take down my Native American art…that which was my Soul…I balked and resisted almost hysterically. I wanted someone else to buy my house BECAUSE OF what was soulful to me in/of it. But no, I had to strip it almost bare to something no one could identify with except their own touch/taste/soul. I’m still not sure how I feel about this, other than that I agree with what you are saying about what I want my home to be. In my next life, I am keeping only a few things but they are soulful and tell you who I am, if you look at them carefully.

    Thomas Moore talks about this in Care of the Soul. After my parents died and I had my inheritance, I thought nothing of spending money on 3 Mark Hopkins’ bronzes that represented the Soul of me. In my upcoming move to the Netherlands, I had to pick one of them to take with me. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Each piece represented an integral part of me and my life. How could I choose one and let the other two go?

    It’s an interesting question: in case of a fire and you could save only one of the things you have collected all your life to represent who you are and your Journey, which would you save?

    The beauty of this post for me is that if you could save nothing in the end, you’d still have your words! Those you CAN take with you!

    Ginnie,

    Words are portable, for sure, but even they require “things” for communication to take place! That’s why my hurricane evacuation kit includes a laptop and broadband modem ;-)

    The hypothetical you posed – what would you save? – is so interesting. I haven’t a clue what I would take if I could take only one “thing”. But every year I do pack a single suitcase with mementos and treasures and tuck it into the “evacuation closet”. It’s filled with things that simply can’t be left behind – although it’s interesting to note I pack differently each year. Even the suitcase is a treasure, having been carried by my mother on her honeymoon.

    I appreciate the close connection you draw between “things” and “soul”. While we can’t trust in posessions to bring us happiness or a sense of purpose, there’s no doubting their power to mediate our personal histories to us. Like a snatch of melody or a whiff of fragrance, a glimpse of a beloved object can collapse time in an instant.

    That process of selling and packing must have been tough!

    Linda

  4. Linda,

    My house is much like yours. There are memories in every room, on every shelf, and on every wall. While I’m at a stage of life when reducing possessions is necessary in order to move to a more manageable house, it will take time. I have to be be selective. Some things must remain or the next house will not feel like home – at least not my home.

    I’ve thought of those who’ve lost all in a fire, and I’ve wondered how difficult it must be to move forward after such a mighty tear. I suppose there’s a period of grief and a point when you truly take stock of what matters.

    I’ve drifted far from my point which was…

    Who knows? You always send me on a mental trek.

    I do know that blogs can be wonderful things, and words can reveal, obscure, or deceive, but the best blogs (like the best houses) tell us something authentic about the owner.

    Bella,

    I’ve been searching for a photo I can’t find, mostly because I can’t remember the person’s name or where the house was. Nevertheless – there was a wonderful story on tv about someone who lived on a canal around here. As Hurricane Ike was devastating their house, the storm ripped out their dock pilings and drove them through the glass doors that opened onto the deck. When the waters receded, there was little left inside the house except those pilings.

    When the couple rebuilt the house, they salvaged the pilings. Eventually, those pilings became the base for a glass-topped dining table, patio tables, garden accessories, etc. It’s the life/lemons/lemonade dynamic. If life takes your tangible memories, start piling (!) them up again.

    Sometimes it seems all of life is getting and spending. We work at accumulating – things, memories, relationships, experiences – and then little by little, we’re called to let them go (if life doesn’t rip them away first).

    I’ve become far more patient with Mom’s unwillingness to let go of things like her stash of yarn. She hasn’t knit or done needlepoint for a couple of years, and I ask her now and then what she thinks she’s going to do with all that yarn. “I might use it again someday,” she says. And she might. But it might simply be she’s not ready to unravel the memories that yarn represents.

    Linda

  5. I have to agree with Janell and other commenters. Reading your blog is very much like having coffee and chatting with you in your home.

    Well, except for the times when it is more like travelling with you on trips to far-off locales. ;)

    Ack…I am baby chasing. Will have to finish a little later.

    Kit

    Hi, Kit,

    Baby chasing, eh? That’s ok – I spend a good bit of my time mama-chasing. Your turn will come ;-)

    The blog-as-meeting-place is a wonderful concept and a better reality. I do think it has to develop over time. To carry the house metaphor just a little further, the first task each of us faces is to select the neighborhood and build the house. Then, once we’ve moved in and opened the front door, the neighbors can come to visit.

    As a matter of fact, I just now remembered one of my very first blog entries: Blog-Warming: A New Tradition for an Old Time. When I “built” at WordPress, some old neighbors from the WeatherUnderground website, where I started my first, tentative blog, came over with virtual cinnamon rolls, coffee, etc. It was just wonderful, and it was fun to read about all that again.

    Here’s a snippet from that post that’s tickled me all over again:

    In the old days, a familiar Irish blessing for housewarmings was:

    May the roof above us never fall in
    And may we good companions beneath it never fall out.

    For our new day, the old blessing still applies, even for people who have yet to meet.:

    May the hard drive that connects us never crash,
    And may we good companions around it never clash.

    Linda

  6. Not all clutters are created equal… some are more artsy, with character. That’s the kind I want to make in my home.

    Yes Linda, I’m with you about the personal integrity part, ‘to thy own self be true’, but then again, what is this ‘self’? It’s constantly evolving. I must admit, through blogging, I ‘re-invent’ myself time and again. I agree that we shouldn’t be slaves to fashion and trends, but our state of being is not static either. Sometimes we might want to try on something just for a different perspective. But you’re right, outward manifestation doesn’t change what’s inside. I believe the reverse is true.

    Thanks for a thought-provoking post!

    Arti,

    The evolution of self you mention is real. As I noted to Ginnie, above, it’s exactly the reason my “memento suitcase” has different contents each year. What we remember and what we consider significant changes as the years pass and our perspective shifts.

    As for that “re-invention”, I’ve often thought it’s more a matter of discovering our own depths than of actually taking on new characteristics. Someone said once that self-discovery is a spiral rather than a linear progression. (I think it was Annie Dillard, but I think everything good is Annie Dillard.) We keep covering the same territory over and over, but as we do we experience it more fully and with more understanding.

    On the other hand, there are those who believe the computer and role-playing in cyberspace have made that kind of thinking unbearably yesterday.
    If you’ve got some time on your hands and want some honest-to-goodness fascinating reading, there’s an article in Wired by Pamela McCorduck about Sherrie Turkle, author of “Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet”. The article’s called “Sex, Lies and Avatars”, and it’s about post-modernist thought and the construction of online identities. For Turkle, the computer is to society as the Armory Show was to art. It’s worth a read whether you’re a fan of sociology, intrigued by cyber-life or just want some tips on how to nab yourself a troll ;-)

    As ever, thanks for the stimulating comments. I probably wouldn’t have been reading Turkle on this rainy afternoon had you not mentioned trying on perspectives!

    Linda

  7. Somehow, your writing always make me feel more comfortable in my skin and provokes my brain at the same time !!!

    SURFMOM,

    That’s a good combination! And “comfortable in my skin” is such a wonderful phrase. When I was in junior high, I had a teacher who always was walking around with pursed lips and slitted eyes and a generally terrifying demeanor. When I asked my folks what her problem might be, my dad said, “She doesn’t have enough skin”. I laugh every time I remember that, and how true it is – some people just aren’t comfortable in the skin they have, and don’t we all know it?!

    Always a pleasure to have you stop by between your responsibilities and your pleasures ;-)

    Linda

  8. Shoreacres, you have to be the most thoughtful blogger I know…by that I mean you really think about what you say in your response back to comments left, and you really get me to think. I am astounded at your insight into individual bloggers (okay, me) and your beautiful perception of life.

    I so agree with you about how if you don’t want to see the natural burl of the wood, use plastic. Don’t we live in a plastic world, but for those of us who refuse to succumb?

    One of my favorite books is The Art of Imperfectionwhich gives me permission to be less than perfect. I harbored the goal of perfection, as if it was attainable, for far too long in my life.

    Bellezza,

    Back in the day (that would be the 1960s) plastic was the primary metaphor for all that was artificial, contrived and of dubious quality. Two songs were everywhere – “Plastic Jesus”, of course, and another I can’t quite remember except for its chorus, which contained the line, “Don’t you know it’s just plastic…” When Paul Newman sang “Plastic Jesus” in “Cool Hand Luke” it went mainstream, but it had been in the folk tradition for a good while.

    Obviously, plastic didn’t bring down civilization, but there’s something about it that bothers me now far more than our earlier concerns about artificiality, quality and so on. It’s uniformity – not only the flaws, but the delightful variety of the natural world have been manufactured out. The forces pressing today for uniformity among people are strong – dare I mention political correctness? or those who are offended by excellence? But people are created, not manufactured, and our variety is meant to be cherished.

    Thanks for the link to “The Art of Imperfection”. I always thought if I wrote a book about varnishing I’d title it, “The Rule of Good Enough”. I suspect there might be some similarities between the two books!

    Linda

  9. Linda –

    It’s funny how reading your blog left me with a sense of relief. I often feel that my house is just not decorated correctly. I don’t have a decorators bone in my body. We buy furniture that is comfortable and everything we own is a mish mosh of things given to us, or finds we found while ‘not’ looking for anything. I call my house comfortably messy. It’s neat, don’t get me wrong, but you would feel quite comfortable sitting on the couch and putting your feet up on the table – you wouldn’t have to ask.

    I guess a testimony to its comfortable-ness is the comment my sister-in-law always pays me when she visits (I love her lovely, comfortable ‘decorated’ home) – she feels comfortable, safe and truly at home. I think most do…and that should say more than anything else.

    But on a funny aside, our youngest was always on a quest for different. She would move the furniture in her room on almost a weekly basis. It got to the point that when family came over, they would walk down the hall and take a glance into her room just to see the furniture configuration for the week!

    Karen,

    Comfortable and safe are exactly what makes a house a home, at least from my perspective. I just thought of Surfmom’s comment – we do “wear” our houses like a second skin, and we need to be comfortable in them. And don’t they become familiar, like a skin? If we have a power outage, I can walk through the house freely, I know it so well. But visiting somewhere, or in a hotel? That would be me, feeling my way along the walls!

    The same thing happens with my boats. When I take on a new customer and work on their boat for the first time, I come home with bumps and bruises galore. I don’t “know” the boat, and have to be constantly attentive to booms, rigging, etc. After two or three times, I don’t even think about it – I’ve developed a relationship with the boat, and become comfortable.

    I was a furniture mover in my teens, too. I always thought something might “go better over there”. Now, I might move something until I find its place, but once that place is found – there’s no need to make another move. Maybe “predictability” is a mark of a comfortable home, too!

    Linda

  10. A million thank-yous, Linda, for giving me that link to the article “Sex, Lies, and Avatars”. Turkle’s perspective is exactly what I’ve been researching.

    “…whether you’re a fan of sociology… ” I was a sociology major and just a couple years ago conducted an ethnographic study on bilingual children. Among the topics I covered was Turkle’s idea of the liminal identity of these children and the fluidity of borders… yes, the postmodern view of reality. The ‘About’ page on my blog addresses this issue, myself being a cultural ‘hybrid’.(Know what, that’s the story idea of my screenplay!) Again, what vibes!!

    Your depth and breadth of research never fail to amaze me.

    Arti,

    It’s a great article, for sure. I originally came across it when I was researching the concept of liminality for my entry called An Equality of Joy. Post-hurricane clean-up as liminal event – who knew? But if you want a little van Gennep and Turner to go with your Turkle, it’s there.

    Ian in Hamburg responded to comments on his recent post about Buchenwald by saying, “This is why I like blogging. The more I write, the more I learn how much more there is to learn about what I’ve written.” Isn’t it just the truth?

    Linda

  11. I don’t quite know how to sort this one out, because it has brought so many snippets–thoughts, stories, memories–into my head.

    I am not a decorator. I have refinished a couple of pieces of furniture (and found a cool “tweedy” grain on one piece), and that effort is rather like writing–or analysis. The stripping and scraping away of so many layers of varnish (stubborn stuff varnish, as you of all people do know,the sanding with ever finer sandpaper or steel wool, to raise the grain of the wood, to polish it. The decision about stain–how light, how dark? That final, fateful coat of polyurethane. A process of months, or weeks. Some folks will notice; others, not at all (or not that they admit). Some things are meant only for oneself, the quiet sensual pleasure of a job well done–or on occasion, well enough.

    Authenticity. A goal well worth stripping off several layers of mental varnish to reach. It is not the adding, it is the taking away–as Ginnie pointed out in another context–that is the true measure of what is ‘real’.You have achieved it here once again. And I will be rubbing my hand along the grain of this particular piece for quite some time. Thank you.

    I hope that made sense; I can no longer tell.

    ds,

    Of course it makes sense. The one word you didn’t use is “edit” – one of the most important forms of “taking away”. The parallels between wood refinishing and writing are so interesting. I’ve even thought of melding my business card and my blog card. I think I mentioned the blog card once – a business sized card with my header image, title, URL, name and email. I might just use the blog card and add the tagline, “Varnished Wood and Unvarnished Words”. ;-)

    I do think adding is as important as taking away. That stain and varnish are added not only to protect but also to reveal and heighten the beauty of the grain. However pristine a piece of wood, the details don’t show as well if it’s left unfinished. It lacks the glow and depth of a finished piece.

    I have found one important difference between wood and words. Wood work is essentially linear – point A to point B to point C. Writing is quite different. I may write, edit and then add illustrations, but I’m just as likely to begin with a photo and find words to surround it. The graphics I choose may change in midstream, as I discover the direction of the piece has changed and the original selection of photos is simply wrong. Paragraphs get cut out and rearranged, or consigned to the files for bad behavior. Sometimes I know where I’m going, and sometimes I have only a suspicion. That’s what makes it such fun!

    And you’re so right – sometimes the pure pleasure of the task is reward enough.

    Linda

  12. Hehe, I like DS’s image of rubbing her hand along this piece – at first I thought she wrote “along her head.” So let me say, I am rubbing my hand along my head polishing your thoughts and mine – and by polishing I don’t mean improving, but rather ruminating over. :)

    I agree that a home should be lived in and reflect its dwellers.

    I know a woman who decorates houses with extraordinary skill and flare. She has flipped a couple dozen houses in her time. They always look splendid and have sold quickly – almost all of them anyway. But I have never felt really comfortable in her own homes. They have been beautiful, and it’s not that they are of the “don’t touch” variety, but they are of the “I just bought everything in this room at Home Goods” variety. Another thing she does is to give instant collections to her loved ones. Someone collecting white vases and pitchers? Here, let me give you a dozen for your birthday!

    As I’ve thought about your post, I recognize that this is what she loves to do. It is completely and authentically her, even though it drives me crazy. Do I wish she lived in a home that reflects her life? Well yes. But in a way, she does.

    I’ve been blogging going on 4 years now. I’ve changed my colors and headers. But I haven’t changed the focus of just sharing what I’m thinking about. I have to say I have learned more about myself in these blogging years than I ever did before. I didn’t have conversations like this in my real life, much to my loss. Women used to sit in salons, knit and talk talk talk (like they still do in Turkey where I lived 3 years). Like someone said, “How do I know what I think until I hear what I say?” Like you said, putting a topic out there tentatively (like my burning bed post, which I needed to be educated about as far as domestic abuse being about power as much as anger) and letting the “public” go with it has been a tremendous learning process for me.

    We do get to “create” ourselves in our virtual pages. What is fact and what is fiction? Memoir and fiction, well we know what is being said about the distinctions, or lack of them.

    I rejoice even in the blogs I find dull, because women, at last, are finding voice. It may take a lifetime of blogging for them, and me, to discover something true about themselves. Even if no one else ever reads it. All the comments at 0, does it matter? Do I wish they would reflect more, integrate more, make it personal more (and sometimes less personal)? Sure. But I am thrilled that Blogger, WordPress and other sites offer this free service for so many women (and men of course) to express themselves creatively.

    Linda, I usually read your post on Google reader first, then give it a couple days to sink in. Then I come back and read it here before commenting. While I know I will need to devote a little more time to your posts than to others out there, I always know it will be worthwhile to do so. Thank you for the gift you share with us.

    Ruth,

    No need for dessert tonight, as I have the richness of your words to enjoy. And what should be the first thing my wandering eye sees but a wonderful play on words. “Rumi – nating” ~ would that be thinking things over in the spirit and joy of one of your favorite poets?

    I’m smiling at your friend and her “instant collections”. Learning the difference between collecting and accumulating took me some time, and now a good bit of the getting-rid-of I’m doing is the result of pure accumulation. The collections will remain untouched. For me, the joy of collecting is not only the thing itself but the search, and all of the associations with the “find”. It’s always amused me there have been no tariffs on the rocks I’ve dragged through customs from one place or another. After all, they have no “value”.

    The double meaning of “salon” is interesting, too. Combining the coziness and intimacy of the hair or nail salon with the intellectual pleasures of an 18th century French salon produces a remarkable hybrid. Sometimes I think blogging is the best forum for that hybrid to thrive. It slows down the discussion, allowing for reflection before response. Even better, we don’t all have to “be here” at the same time; we can come and go as we please. Wouldn’t the good Mr. Eliot be amazed to see how today’s women “come and go, talking of Michelangelo”?!

    As far as those comments, and whether they matter… Of course it would be foolish to judge our work by the number of comments we receive, just as it’s silliness to obsess over our “stats”. But choosing to blog rather than maintain a private journal at least implies a desire to be heard, to communicate. I’ll never forget hearing a high-school student share his great triumph at a local writer’s group – he had included an original poem on his blog and someone had taken the time to make a suggestion or two about the poem and recommend a book. You would have thought he’d won the Nobel for literature. After listening to him, I began taking 10 or 15 minutes every day to browse around the blogs and find a new, tentative blogger to read and respond to. Who knows what talent might be lurking out there, just waiting for a nudge?

    I so much appreciate your stopping by. I treasure your comments, particularly since I know you have so many readers of your own.

    Oh! and I have to tell you. I pulled up in traffic yesterday behind a black Ford Explorer. On the bumper was a beautiful and rather amusing sticker that asked, “Got Istanbul?” Guess who I thought of!?

    Linda

  13. I got a chuckle out of the “living room/family room” remark. So true, especially in the up-tight, honestly descendants of Puritans family I grew up in. (Both sides of the family in New England by the mid 1630s.)

    The house I grew up in on Cape Cod was built before the Revolution. It was small and cram-full with my parents and five boys and only one bathroom! But we had a “living room” that was only used when company came over. The only time we boys were ever allowed in it was when we passed through from the “family room/dining room” combination on our way to our bedrooms.

    For much of my adult life I lived on boats. Other people’s as captain, and a couple of my own, so under those conditions you don’t accumulate much of what I think of as the detritus of life. That which I had acquired lived for nearly 20 years in a small trunk in the basement of a brother’s house.

    Living like that may seem extremely odd to most people. As I sit here looking around my room there’s only a single piece of art on the walls. It’s a small 4X6 inch etching of Les Ramparts of Antibes, France where I lived, on a boat, for three years. I have been a life-long reader, but there are only a couple of books I haul around with me. The Oxford Companion to Ships and the Sea, my beloved and well-used Harrap’s Mini French/English dictionary, my Spanish/English dictionary and a couple of boat equipment catalogs. My photos are all digitalized and stored on a couple of thumb drives for the dreaded day of this computer’s hard drive.

    My memories aren’t wrapped up in “things.” They are lovingly tucked away in the hard drive inside my cranium to be pulled up from time to time as I lie swinging in my hammock.

    Oldsalt,

    I love hearing the tales of folks whose roots go so deeply into our country’s history. What a rich heritage to grow up with.

    The only thing funnier to me than the so called “living” rooms was the practice of some families who draped everything in sight. There were homes during my own growing up years that were filled with plastic-covered furniture. They looked like crosses between furniture warehouses and mausoleums. Of course, that also was the era of the quilted toaster cover, so….

    Living aboard does require some adjustments. When I began varnishing, I lived for a time aboard a Catalina 31. I always thought of it as the marine equivalent of SRO housing, or a nautical pup tent. It’s best features were being aboard during weather, and being able to take the house out for a spin in the afternoons. There’s the second point, of course. Space isn’t the only constraint on a boat. There’s also the fact of having to stow everything before you get underway. It kept clutter to a minimum – some books, a couple of photos, flowers in plastic glasses were what passed for decorating in those days.

    Today, it’s music that brings those days back more than “things”. Van Halen’s the ICW, Enya the north Pacific. Bertie Higgins is the Exumas. It’s funny ~ Jimmy Buffett isn’t anything at all, unless it might be a bunch of folks wearing parrot hats in a bar ;-)

    Linda

  14. This resonates with me so completely, so complexly. Like you, my “furnishings” are of my life. Someone once told me “If I spent 10 minutes in your house, I could tell the story of your life.” It’s a little disarming to hear that (oh, damn! All that clutter!) and yet I think it’s very true, and in a way, that makes me happy! You’d know I knit by the baskets of yarn; that I’ve traveled and have a love of photography. If you knew your local artists, you’d know they were represented on my wall; you’d know I have a passion for two cats in particular and one man and his boys in particular; that family matters, because it isn’t just the obligatory church portrait that is displayed, but lots of photos! You’d know I love holidays, because one is always up! And cooking and books and the kinds of books… You get the gist.

    The point is, it’s all authentic. I know the folks with the styles that change, and I wonder –is it really their style or is it their “thing” right now? I don’t suppose that makes it “bad” (though expensive) but I wonder — if this person (or all the others) could just list the things they love to surround themselves with and then actually incorporate them into their space in meaningful ways, perhaps they would find their own personal style, not just “a style” or the “new style.”

    I’m all for reinventing ourselves when we get stale or have a reason to. But if we lose our personal authenticity, then something is lost that simply cannot be regained.

    I look at your blog and I have a pretty darned good sense of who you are, your passions, your energy. I’m sure it’s a picture that is far from complete, but the kind that makes me think “I’d like her if I knew her. We’d get on” — even though our lives are (in some ways) different.

    When I began my blog, I thought it would be an art blog, like those I so admired. Then I realized, it wasn’t about the “art” itself, but the art of being me. As you know, The Gypsy is everything — photos and art and travel and family and food. And so am I.A question of arrangement, you point out. Yes, sometimes in all my facets of existence, I could arrange a little better. But I like the material that’s there to work with.

    jeanie,

    A little more thought has made me realize that, just as I’ve changed over the years, my home and its appearance have as well. The changes aren’t as sudden and stark as my friend’s move from one style to another, but things always are changing. When I lived in Berkeley, I was surrounded by tribal art and lots of chrome. Later, in South Texas, there were more country touches. I began to sail, and nautical art and photography showed up, along with coils of rope and anchors and charts.

    Today, many of the possessions associated with various stages in my life are gone – sold, given away, donated. I have some Africa, some sailing, some cabin-in-the-woods, but they’re grace notes, not the melody line. Perhaps the re-inventors are the ones like my friend who wake one day and decide, “This is boring. I want to be someone else”, and then go out and buy it. For the rest of us, it’s more organic, more natural. Life changes us, we change along with life, and the outward expressions of our inward realities change too – like our homes.

    We would get on, I’m sure of that ~ as long as you didn’t make me knit! You’re right when you suggest my blog is a good reflection of who I am. While it doesn’t give a complete accounting of everything I’ve done in my life, it does provide an amazingly complete picture of who I am.
    Sometimes the focus is here, sometimes there. But the picture itself remains constant.

    Linda

  15. Linda,
    I can’t get enough. Now I’m back and reading your replies to your readers. You replied to Kit:

    “…the first task each of us faces is to select the neighborhood and build the house. Then, once we’ve moved in and opened the front door, the neighbors can come to visit.”

    I’ve often thought the same thing. That’s why I call my blogroll “The Neighborhood.” It feels like a neighborhood.

    It still boggles my mind that people from all over the world can be brought together in one little corner of the blogosphere. The discussions and examinations of everything from a recipe to world politics is still fascinating to me, or that these conversations can even take place.
    Bella

    Bella,

    Exactly. And remember that other staple of days gone by? The coffee klatch? I don’t know if they were planned or scheduled, or whether they might have just happened, but coffee, coffee cake and conversation around the table were always happening in our neighborhood during my grade school years. And if I’ve heard it once I’ve heard it thousands of times ~ one woman saying to another, “Come on over for coffee when you get a chance.”

    If you get a chance, go over to Mike Reed’s page and enjoy his take on the cyber-coffee klatch. If the image isn’t us, well… I don’t know what could be better!

    Linda

  16. I love your Jimmy Buffett comment. I have a friend who lived for several years in the Keys and grew to HATE Jimmy Buffett. Personally there are a few of his songs I really enjoy. . . “There’s Something so Feminine About a Mandolin,”He Went to Paris” are a couple. Not “Cheeseburger” or “Wasted Away.”

    To me the Keys were a place where frustrated insurance salesmen went to grow a beard, wear shirts with birds on them and drink themselves into “characterhood.”

    Your “they’re grace notes, not the melody line.” is a wonderful turn of phrase.

    BTW, I’d love to know how you make your italicized comments. I use WordPress, too and would like to be able to do the same thing.

    Richard,

    I love “Mandolin”, too. “Last Mango in Paris” makes the grade, and just about all of A1A – but most of those aren’t meant to whomp up the concert crowd ;-)

    Aren’t the italicized comments nice? It took me a while to figure that out. I’m not certain it works the same for every theme but here’s what I do:

    Instead of adding a comment, I just click on “edit comment”. Then, I type in my response. At the top of the comment section a tool bar has appeared. I highlight the whole comment, click the “i” for italicize, and then click “update comment”. Easy.

    The only very slight issue is that you can’t italicize within the italics, of course – if you try that you’ll end up without italics post-closing tag. So, I just use quotation marks or bold for book titles, etc.

    Hope it works for your theme.

    Linda

  17. “Got ISTANBUL”??? Hurray! I’ll try to find me one of those. There was a terrific piece on NPR this week with Orhan Pamuk about his new book “Museum of Innocence” and the museum he will open in Istanbul of the same name!! Ohh, Istanbul.

    I am at work, hope I can come back this weekend to respond to your comment response.

    Ruth,

    Your enthusiasm sent me scurrying and sure enough, if you go visit our friend Google and search using “Got Istanbul?”, there are stickers, t-shirts, sweatshirts, coffee mugs. You should be able to make yourself happy in short order!

    Maybe your mantra for the weekend could be “Trick or Turkey Memorabilia!”

    Linda

  18. Fabulous post. You made my day. Cheers :)

    Thanks so much, Shelby!

    I so much enjoyed browsing through your site ~ thanks for the notice and the link.

    To paraphrase Kenneth Grahame, there’s very little in the world more fun than messing about with words, but it’s even more fun to bump into others who are doing the same!

    Linda

  19. I enjoy reading your posts and then I move on to the Comments and love how they create their own layer of thoughts. I could spend most of a day here exploring and still be curious.

    Bumbles,

    Aren’t our readers just the best? I’m always amazed at the variety of comments, and their thoughtfulness. Once I’ve posted, I always look forward to seeing what people will have to say – it’s lots of fun.

    Thank YOU for stopping by and enjoying them with me!

    Linda

  20. So interesting. As usual.

    I’m a bit of an interior design magazine junkie and I’ve noticed a rush toward this look, a move away from the over decorated, impersonal blah.

    People now want what’s in their space to have personal provenance, a meaning, a family history. Buying a ready-made look or an instant lifestyle is so over – you’re bang on trend, Linda!

    Jeannine,

    What? Me? Trendy? Good grief!

    I just was thinking how interesting it will be for you to do your own bit of decorating as you move forward with your plans. I know this – it will be your style and not something “off the shelf”.

    Those magazines can be drool-producing, can’t they? Despite the fact that I’m not buying, I’m never averse to a look!

    Linda

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s