A dream garden…

“A dream garden is better than no garden at all. At least your mind is filled with flowers and color and beauty. And I think, without even being aware of it, we slowly move towards what we hold in our minds.” (Words from Millie to her daughter Vita in my novel And So We Dream)

If I had a garden, I’d take my breakfast there.

I’d find a hammock or a garden chair and enjoy the peaceful shade.

I’d invite a friend to join me for lunch among the blooms,

and I’d find a quiet spot in the fragrant afternoons.

In the garden’s comfort, I’d indulge in a book or two,

and include a pot of tea and a floral china cup.

And in the scented evenings, the garden all aglow,

I’d sleep among the flowers and dream the sweetest dreams.

(images from my Pinterest boards)

A late spring

While much of the country has already experienced soaring temperatures, here in New York, this has been an especially beautiful spring. Cooler temperatures have prolonged the season of lilacs, irises, and azaleas.

Even the rhododendrons and peonies are just now in full bloom.

I think of these kinds of days as “gift” days, allowing me to more fully enjoy the cool mornings and to take longer end-of-day strolls through the neighborhood, with its profusion of flowering bushes and small flower-filled gardens.

I hope wherever you experience spring, you have an abundance of flowers and blooms to enrich your day —

including bouquets of fresh-cut flowers that also bring about that same springtime joy.

(images from my Pinterest boards – and my neighborhood!)

And So We Dream – my latest novel

Anne, Vita, Beth. They were hippie girls. Teenagers. Long flowing hair, embroidered peasant tops, long skirts, dangling earrings, bare feet. Pulled one way by the tradition of their small Mid-Western town, another by the promise of the wide world outside.

Twelve-year-old Joey Roland spends the summer with them while his parents “work things out.” He soon discovers that, like the home he left behind in Chicago, the small town of Greenberry is also filled with sadness – loss, betrayal, fears, and disappointment.

The difference is that the three sisters – especially the middle one who pursues the path of acting – teach him how to infuse ordinary life with magic, adventure, and joy.

The result is a summer of transformation, and, for Joey, new-found confidence in his dream path.

Springtime reading

Now that it’s officially spring, reading outdoors has even more appeal. Opening a new book amid the first flowers of spring or under blossoming trees speaks of new beginnings, a sense of well-being, and hope.

There’s the promise of longer days and milder weather, and hopefully, more free time to indulge in the discovery of new books.

And if it’s still too cold where you live to read outdoors, bring a bit of springtime inside with a few blossomy sprigs or some fresh-cut flowers to remind you of what’s up ahead.

All images are from my Pinterest boards.

Forget-me-nots

Forget-me-nots are one of summer’s many beautiful flowers. They grow in clusters in varying shades of blue and are almost fairy-like in their daintiness. They are small and unassuming — yet packed with significance.

In my novel The Garden House, the flower, and more particularly, its name, takes on a special meaning. They are related to Miranda and her memories of when her children were young, and are significant to the secondary plot involving the mysterious William Priestly.

In preparation for the new tenant, Miranda plants flowers outside the garden house and then comes inside to clean it. 

Tired, she sat down on the floor, resting her elbows on her knees. Then with a sigh of fatigue she stretched out, the hardwood floor feeling good against her back.

She let her eyes wander over some of the details of her beloved garden house – the Dutch blue of the dresser and window trim, the pillows and curtains she and Clara had made. They had spent so many hours over the years down here – painting, sewing, transforming the run-down garden house into a charming, livable cottage. Clara had loved the profusion of forget-me-nots that surrounded the garden house, and decided to christen the cottage the Forget-Me-Not House. It had seen many tea parties and birthday celebrations, and Clara’s favorite, the fairy parties.

Later, Miranda shows the garden house to William who decides that he will rent it for the summer.

It’s all very comfortable. It feels – ” he looked around for the words to describe it. “It feels like – a real home.”

Miranda laughed. “It is a real home – an extension of the house.” She gazed lovingly at the garden house, the window boxes and potted flowers. “A lot of happy memories here.”

William stepped off the porch and looked at the garden house from a few paces back, clearly admiring it. He noticed the small hand-painted sign nailed above the door, and read, “The Forget-Me-Not House.”

“My daughter named it that when she was little. But somehow we always refer to it as the Garden House.”

Jane Austen and springtime

Spring seems to be the perfect season to read a Jane Austen novel, or one of the many books inspired by her work. Perhaps it’s because her stories end on a hopeful, spring-like note.

Perhaps it’s because milder weather allows the heroines to be out and about more, as with Elizabeth Bennet’s strolls through the spring countryside in Pride and Prejudice,

or Fanny Price in Mansfield Park enjoying a spring day in Portsmouth with its “mild air, brisk soft wind, and bright sun, occasionally clouded for a minute: and everything looked so beautiful under the influence of such a sky,”

or Persuasion’s Anne Elliot “hoping that she was to blessed with a second spring of youth and beauty.”

The fresh beauty of blossom-time and the promise of milder weather are just the right time to reread your favorite Austen book or to discover a new one.

(All images from Pinterest)

May Day

May 1st –Maypoles,

floral wreaths and garlands,

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small vases of first flowers.

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Surprise bouquets.

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Bursts of color.

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“Spring — an experience in immortality.” – Henry D. Thoreau

 

 

Enchanted April

Lately, I’ve been thinking about a movie I’ve always loved, Enchanted April, based on the 1922 novel by Elizabeth von Arnim. I remembered that I had bought the book a few years ago and decided to read it — and watch the movie again. Set shortly after WWI, the story is about two women who are unhappy with their dreary, loveless lives in rainy London.

After seeing an advertisement for “Wisteria and Sunshine,”

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they become filled with the dream of renting a villa in Italy for the month of April.

The impetuous Lotty convinces her friend Rose to make the dream a reality.

They find two other women, who are also dissatisfied with their lives, to join them in order to help lessen the cost, and set off for Italy.

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A  month of strolling through the terraced hillsides, enjoying the rocky shore, dining al fresco, and resting in the tranquility of the gardens enables their spirits to heal.

The result is a reawakening to life, love, beauty, and newfound friendship .

 

To “wisteria and sunshine,”

 and to healing the spirit.

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The Garden House – spring

The novel The Garden House is set in the Pacific Northwest, with most of the action occurring in Seattle. Other books in the fledgling series might be set on the Oregon coast, or perhaps the San Juan Islands, or even — if shop owner Paula gets her way — the flea markets of Paris.

I lived in Seattle for seven years and I visit my sister in Oregon once or twice a year. I’m always struck by the breathtaking beauty of the landscape.

One of the things I love most about the Pacific Northwest is that spring arrives so early in the year.

As I thrill at the inch-high green shoots of crocuses in my tiny garden patch, I imagine The Garden House’s main character, Miranda, already surrounded by spring’s beauty.

I see her out in her garden on a cool morning holding a steaming cup of tea, or on her hands and knees, turning the soil to plant a box of pansies or brushing aside a few dried leaves to uncover a cluster of grape hyacinths.

Or just sitting quietly on a garden bench, taking in the colors and scents of early spring.

 

January colors and the High Line’s “Four Arches”

Faded grasses, gray skies, a myriad shades of bare branches. The colors of January are, for the most part, soft and muted. Such colors lined the walkway of New York City’s High Line, an elevated park built on an old train line, on a recent early morning walk.

I was struck by how the earthy colors of the leaves and branches blended with the brick of different buildings.

Other times bursts of color stood out, as with the red berries against a bare wall,

the coppery branches set among the evergreens, and a few splashes of yellow.

An unexpected pleasure was coming across one of the “En Plein Air” art installations that enliven the Highline — “Four Arches” by artist Sam Falls.

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A simple walk through the four slender arches provides a subtle thrill, perhaps coming from the delicacy of plant life depicted on the arches. The colors of the painted leaves and flowers blended with the muted quiet of the day. Understated and elegant, the arches seem perfectly situated for the High Line.

The plaque next to the installation explains why the design so resonates with its surroundings. Falls created “four ceramic archways supported by the steel tracks from the High Line’s original railway, each of which is dedicated to a different season in the park. For one year, Falls collected plants from the High Line, embedded them in ceramic, and fossilized them with colorful pigments.” 

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The linearity of the gray steel rails and the painted plant life complement each other in an unexpected way. The artwork is a collection of oppositions: the rails are durable, rigidly straight, industrial and functional; the depictions of plant life are delicate, airy, colorful, organic in shape, and decorative. The nearly hundred-year-old rails contrast with the seasonal ephemeral plants. 

The installation is so slender and unobtrusive that you could easily miss its intricacies, especially when the High Line becomes crowded at midday, or if you are engaged in conversation or taking in the views of the city. From a distance “Four Arches” is one thing — an angular walkway set among the other angles of the surrounding buildings.

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Close up, it becomes a seasonal garden of gorgeous colors and shapes,

full of individual compositions which must have involved countless decisions for the artist: How to present such variety? How best to portray the delicate flowers, leaves, and grasses? Which plants should be placed at eye level, and which will work on the top horizontal beams? How to represent the seasons? Which colors work best together?

“Four Arches” is a welcome garden on a gray January morning.