Beautiful blue

blue ocean

“Blue, darkly, deeply, beautifully blue.” – Robert Southey

blue mosque

“Blue color is everlastingly appointed by the deity to be a source of delight.” – John Ruskin

blue cathedral rectangle

“A certain blue enters your soul.” – Henri Matisse

Ultramarine – “The most perfect of all colors,” Cennino Cennini

“Sometimes called ‘true blue,’ ultramarine is made from the semiprecious gemstone lapis lazuli, which for centuries could only be found in a single mountain range in Afghanistan.

Lapis first appeared as a pigment in the 6th century. Around 700 years later, the pigment traveled to Venice and soon became the most sought-after color in medieval Europe. For centuries, the cost of lapis rivaled the price of gold.

lapis painting 1600

Legend has it that Michelangelo left his painting The Entombment (1500–01) unfinished because he could not generate the funds to buy ultramarine blue. Raphael used the pigment scarcely, applying it above base layers of azurite when depicting the Virgin Mary’s blue robe. The Baroque master Vermeer, on the other hand, bought the color in spades, so much so that his indulgence pushed his family into debt.” http://www.artsy.net

Indigo is a natural dye rather than a pigment for painting. It was used to color fabrics, clothing, yarns, and luxurious tapestries. Unlike lapis lazuli, whose rarity drove its high prices, the indigo crop could be grown in excess and produced across the world, from India to South Carolina.

blue thread

Commonly considered a shade of blue, indigo is not a separate color in its own right, so why does it get its own band in the rainbow?

Indigo dyeing was especially popular in England, home to physicist Sir Isaac Newton. Newton believed that the rainbow should consist of seven distinct colors to match the seven days of the week, the seven notes in the musical scale, and the seven known planets. Confronting the fact that the rainbow only displayed five unique colors, Newton pushed indigo, along with orange, much to the dismay of some contemporary scientists.” www.artsy.net

“Jean fabric was first produced in Genoa, Italy, in the 17th century; the French city of Nimes copied the technique shortly after (“de Nimes” aka “denim”). The cotton twill fabric, dyed with indigo, was sturdy and washable, making it perfect for workers.” www.artsandculture.google.com 

“Blue has more complex and contradictory meanings than any other color.

blue glasses

Dark blue: trust, dignity, intelligence, authority

Bright blue: cleanliness, strength, dependability, coolness
(The origin of these meanings arise from the qualities of the ocean and inland waters, most of which are more tangible.)

Light (sky) blue: peace, serenity, ethereal, spiritual, infinity
(The origin of these meanings is the intangible aspects of the sky.)

Most blues convey a sense of trust, loyalty, cleanliness, and understanding. On the other hand, blue evolved as symbol of depression in American culture. “Singing the blues” and feeling blue” are good examples of the complexity of color symbolism and how it has been evolved in different cultures.” http://www.colormatters.com

“Pink for girls and blue for boys is a surprisingly recent tendency. Even as late as 1927 some fashion stores recommended pink for boys.” http://www.express.co.uk

blue stucco ornament

For a fascinating book on color, read Victoria Finlay’s books.

Finlay book
Color: A Natural History of the Palette by Victoria Finlay  Link: http://a.co/bfRUBxs

 

Images from my Pinterest board on color

Giverny — Life as a work of art

For quite some time, I’ve been dreaming about my next trip to France. Paris, of course, but I also want to see Normandy. Among other sites, Mont Saint-Michel has been beckoning for years. And high on my list is a trip to Giverny — Claude Monet’s home and gardens. I would love to see it in all seasons, but for my first visit, I want to experience it in the springtime. Giverny is what happens when you give yourself completely, and passionately, to something you love.

Giverny 6

Quotes from Monet’s letters:

“My garden is a slow work, pursued with love and I do not deny that I am proud of it. Forty years ago, when I established myself here, there was nothing but a farmhouse and a poor orchard…I bought the house and little by little I enlarged and organized it…I dug, planted, weeded myself; in the evenings the children watered.” – Claude Monet

 

“I perhaps owe having become a painter to flowers.” – Claude Monet

 

“My garden is my most beautiful masterpiece.” – Claude Monet

 

“People discuss my art and pretend to understand as if it were necessary to understand, when it’s simply necessary to love.” – Claude Monet

Giverny 5

“I work at my garden all the time and with love. What I need most are flowers, always, and always.” – Claude Monet

Giverny 8

“I want to paint the way a bird sings.” – Claude Monet

Giverny 3

“My heart is forever in Giverny.” – Claude Monet

 

 

 

 

 

Flowering doorways

 

door 11

There’s something about a flowering doorway that moves the heart, that speaks of beauty and happiness.

It greets those who enter by framing them with fragrance, color, and loveliness,

and when leaving the abode, it provides a way of welcoming the day, a portal to pass through sure to initiate optimism and joy.

And if you are simply passing by, it offers a wish for happiness —

 

a silent act of generosity that bestows the gift of beauty and enriches the viewers, who, if their hearts are open, will carry the sweetness with them.

door 10

(all images from Pinterest)

Saint Patrick’s Day thoughts

inner 2May you have warm words on a cold evening,
A full moon on a dark night,
And the road downhill all the way to your door.

 

woods
If there is a way into the wood, there is also a way out.

 

Ireland church

May God look down and bless you.
May you look up and give thanks.

 

moonlit walk crop

“Yes. I am a dreamer. For a dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.” – Oscar Wilde

 

green door

‘Tis afterwards that everything is understood.

 

Irish landscape

“Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising every time we fall.” – Oliver Goldsmith

 

rainbow crop

Be happy with what you have and you will have plenty to be happy about.

 

shamrocks

London

St. Jpark 2

London is a labyrinth of parks and avenues, winding streets and narrow alleys that lead you from one beautiful neighborhood to another. A quick trip over Thanksgiving impressed me anew with the loveliness of London.

St. Ermin’s Hotel in Westminster was the perfect place to stay. It’s a beautiful Victorian building close to St. James Park and Buckingham Palace and just a block away from the Tube. They were just beginning to decorate for Christmas while we were there.

Hotle night

It had been many years since I last visited London, and for the most part, it was like seeing it through fresh eyes. The skyline had changed greatly — the London Eye alone transformed the feel of the skyline, as did the Shard.

While we were visiting the Tower of London,

Tower 3

I was struck by the architectural layering of history: a row of Tudor-styled buildings stood behind the thousand-year-old crumbling walls of the fortress, and behind them both rose the Shard. All over London, the historical and the modern are intertwined.

Tower and Shard

For the most part, my husband and I played tourists, going from one historical site to another: The Tower of London, the Victoria and Albert Museum, Trafalgar Square, the Westminster area (we were disappointed to find Big Ben covered in scaffolding). But Buckingham Palace was beautiful, especially at the end of day when the lights came on.

Buckingham closeup night

This was the first time I visited Notting Hill, and I was immediately taken with its charm. I would love to see it in the spring when the wisteria is in bloom.

NH window

Another afternoon we spent in the ever-changing Brick Lane neighborhood, full of wonderful Bangladeshi restaurants.

Brick Lane

Also new on this trip was a visit to the Leighton House, home of the artist Frederic, Lord Leighton. I fell in love with the exotic tiles and lamps, and the colors he surrounded himself with — rich peacock blue, muted gold, and dark woodwork.

Leighton House tiles

I’m glad we visited London in the late fall. Dusk came early, and by 4:30 the corner pubs and restaurants dotted the evening with golden light and a feeling of coziness and cheer spilled outside onto the sidewalks.

W pub night

Buildings that were beautiful by day took on a deeper beauty by night.

Ian night 3

The shopping areas of Oxford and Bond Streets, and Picadilly Circus glittered with tiny lights and holiday decorations, and were bustling with red double-decker buses and crowds of happy shoppers. A stroll through Selfridges offered a glimpse of the glamour depicted in the Masterpiece period drama Mr. Selfridge.

Stores like Harrods and Selfridges brought to mind the wonderful scene from Howard’s End where Mrs. Wilcox and Margaret Schlegel do their Christmas shopping.

howards-end-christmas-scene

Scenes from movies and books are everywhere. We took a train to the Baker Street Station and above ground saw the Sherlock Holmes Museum (with a long line outside).

Baker Street crop

At King’s Cross station there is Platform 9 and 3/4 from Harry Potter (with an even longer line of children waiting to get their photo taken). Though my list of things to see included the Charles Dickens Museum, the Samuel Johnson House, a stroll through Bloomsbury, and several other sites and parks, five days didn’t allow it.

So I’m already working on another list for my next visit.

Ian night white flowers

 

 

 

 

Travel – Bangladesh

winter-morning-rice field

In the mornings, I stood on the bedroom balcony, and closed my eyes as I listened to the sounds of Bangladesh: bells from the bicycle rickshaws, short beeps from the motorbikes, the alluring call of the muezzin from the nearby mosque. Small birds chirped from trees that rose up past the balcony, and geese squawked and flapped their wings in the neighboring yard.

rickshaw

One day,  as I was writing, I heard music coming from the street, and I ran downstairs to the front veranda to see what it was. I was delighted to find an enchanting procession passing by on the dirt road outside the house. But then I was told that it was a Hindu funeral and they were on their way to the cremation. Carried on the shoulders of six men was a wicker bier on which the body was laid, its head rocking back and forth with the movement of their walking. The men held burning sticks of incense, and the group that followed made rhythmic sounds from bells and tiny brass instruments. It was a day-to-day event, and the other people on the street took little notice.

A group of giggling schoolgirls in uniforms of pale blue and white passed by, their black hair neatly arranged in buns or in braids. Vendors passed the procession, bent only on selling their wares: a stick-thin man with a bamboo pole across his shoulders with baskets of vegetables on either end, the bangle lady enticing the women in the houses with her cries of “churi, churi!” and a man carrying a colorful stack of cloth on his head. Life and death were in easy company on the busy, dusty street.

Folk_Art_Museum_Sonargaon

 

 

 

Oregon

 

soft sunset Vista House

Every time I visit Oregon I’m left with the impression of the past and present mixing and shifting in a layering of influences. Though this is true of most places, it seems more pronounced in Oregon. My sister and her family live in Oregon and I’m lucky enough to visit there once a year, each time seeing someplace new.

My visit this time began with a wedding at the Columbia Gorge Hotel, in Hood River. Mount Hood, majestic and always covered in snow, forms a backdrop to the hotel when viewed from the Washington side of the river.

The historic mission-styled hotel was built in the 1920s and retains the glamour that once attracted the likes of Rudolph Valentino and Clara Bow.

Old postcard Columbia River Gorge Hotel

“These were the days of steamers navigating the waters of the Columbia River from the Cascades to The Dalles. To alert the hotel, the captains would sound the whistle once for each guest he had on board. Maids would then quickly make up the appropriate number of beds….Simon Benson [owner] had just helped complete what many of the era claimed to be the world’s most beautiful road, the Columbia Gorge Scenic Highway. Benson’s dream was to create an opulent hotel for travelers at the end of this road.”

Source: ColumbiaGorgeHotel.com website, 2015

A picturesque stream, crossed by small stone bridges, runs through the grounds and ends in a rushing 90-foot waterfall that plunges into the Columbia River.

The river itself is steeped in the older history of the Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1804-1806, which began in St. Louis and ended where the Columbia River empties into the Pacific.

In fact, the very waterfall on the hotel grounds (the Wah Gwin Gwin Falls) is mentioned in their journals: “a butifull cascade falling over a rock of about 100 feet …” [Clark, October 29, 1805]. Their journals also describe the “Indian houses” along this section of the river and the sand bars “where the Indians caught fish.”

The Oregon landscape is imbued with Indian names that point to a deeper past, rich with the histories and legends of different tribes. Not far from the Columbia River is the stunning Multnomah Falls, one of the most photographed waterfalls in the world, and bound with the Wasco legend of a noble Indian maiden who sacrificed herself for her people.

Multnomah Falls free

The rest of my trip was spent a few hours south, near Roseburg. The Umpqua River dominates this area. Wide, rocky, and breathtakingly beautiful, the river cascades down from the mountains and flows to the Pacific. Where the river widens and slows, the South Umpqua, people “float” the river on rafts, inner tubes, and canoes.

The area is noted for its waterfalls, and hiking to them you can’t help but imagine a more distant time and feel the presence of the various tribes who walked the forest paths, hearing the same deafening roar of the waterfalls and feeling the same cooling mists.

A more recent layer of history woven into the landscape is that of the early settlers. There are places, such as Canyonville, where the ruts from the covered wagons can still be seen, evidence of the people who passed through the Applegate River and along the Rogue River. Some of the names of towns are reminders of the pioneers, and perhaps their impressions of places: Looking Glass, Steamboat, Riddle, Remote.

The valleys are still full of farms and ranches and orchards that were started by the pioneers. Century farms, “continuously owned by a single family for 100 years or more,” (Wikipedia) are plentiful. Some of the farms are beautifully preserved and give a glimpse into a harmonious way of living that was intricately bound with the seasons and the land.

Centruy farm

Other barns and farm structures, seen from the road, sag with the weight of time, or have collapsed completely.

More recent in the agricultural landscape are the vineyards, that are increasingly being planted. Though “settlers to the Oregon Territory planted grapes as early as the 1840s…the production of wine has only been a significant industry in Oregon since the 1960s” (Wikipedia). The Willamette Valley alone has over 500 wineries. Some are perched on hilltops that overlook rows of vines and give the countryside a European feel. Others, set along rushing rivers, are distinctly Oregonian in feel.

vineyard

Oregon is also famous for its flowers, and on this visit taken at the end of June and early July, we sought out some fields of lavender. Though they were not quite in full bloom, their fragrance was strong — fresh, clean, and uplifting — and I bought some vials of lavender oil to take with me back to New York. So much of the landscape inspires a sense of beauty and well-being and the lavender oil seems to capture that.

lavender field

On my last evening in Oregon, we took a walk along a country road that overlooked the valley below. The coastal clouds, like a slow-moving wave, gently blanketed the rolling hills, and the setting sun cast the farmland below in a soft golden light. Magical.

sunset end

 

 

 

 

 

Venice

venice sunset

An early, hushed Sunday morning in New York City. Cool air wafts through the open window. I sit at my kitchen table with a cup of tea from the set I bought in a little town outside of Portland over twenty years ago. My “cottage set” I’ve always called it – a round teapot and heavy mugs, deep blue with garlands of flowers on them, the handles like twisted branches. They always bring to mind the Cotswolds and thatched cottages with gardens – though I’m far from any kind of cottage existence.

A dense fog last night leaves the flowers in my window boxes dewy and fresh. In the distance, I hear a lone train whistle from the Sunnyside train yard, the early chirping of birds, the muted peal of faraway church bells, the low passing rumble of a car or two a few blocks over.

My mind is focused on the writing at hand – when in the morning quiet, I hear the click click of a woman’s heels on the sidewalk below – and immediately I’m back in Venice.

Venice beautiful bridge

Exhausted upon our arrival, we rested in the early evening, almost asleep. And through the open window, we heard for the first time the sound that would forever remind us of Venice: the clicking of women’s heels in otherwise silence, ever so slightly echoing in the narrow calli below – mysterious, intriguing, beguiling. Who is she? Why is she alone? Where is she going?

I take a sip of tea, glance out the window, and decide that I must go back there – to the city of soft summer evenings, canals and bridges, and breathtaking beauty.

venice end of day