“The sun shone on the garden, thick with late summer flowers and early autumn blooms.”
Though most of the story of The Garden House takes place over summer, the book ends with the beginning of fall, and a sense of change. I imagine the main character, Miranda, strolling through her garden at this time of year, gathering a few autumn leaves that have fallen to the ground and clipping blooms for displays around her home.
She would use certain flowers and berries and turn them into wreaths,
or pair them with candles to create a cozy fall ambiance.
Most of the cut flowers would become arrangements that Miranda would place on bookshelves, counters, and tables throughout the house, with one special bouquet for the dining table.
I imagine her preparing one of her special meals for her children who would visit over the weekend, or perhaps her friends next door would stop by for dinner.
Miranda would add leaves and moss, or branches of berries and a few apples to the dining table to give it an autumnal feel.
And if the weather was mild, she would choose to have dinner under the trees on her beloved deck.
As the autumn days grew cooler, Miranda would take a moment in her garden to curl up on a bench with a shawl, or find just the right spot to enjoy a cup of hot cocoa and good book.
Beauty. Meaning. Books.
Transformation, rebirth, a visionary rebuilding, weaving the old with the new — words that come to mind on viewing the High Line park on the west side of mid-Manhattan. What was once a rusty, weedy, abandoned railroad segment of a freight train line, is now a verdant, blooming public park with spectacular views of the city, and ever-changing artwork.
The elevated park, which opened in 2009, runs 1.45 miles between 14th Street in the Meatpacking District (another transformed neighborhood) and 34th Street.
Above the noise and traffic and bustle of the streets below, the High Line provides a calm respite, an opportunity to walk through the city without all the stop and go of the traffic lights. Running through the park is a relaxing walkway with remnants of the rail tracks still visible in the landscaped swaths of flowers, grasses, and trees.
There are various places to gather with friends, and seating that overlooks the Hudson River and the streets of Manhattan.
The park provides great viewing points from which to see the architecture of the West Side, new and old New York sitting comfortably side by side. To the north stands the Hudson Yards Project — a cluster of gleaming buildings towering high above the city. Further down, the ultra-modern architecture of Frank Gehry’s IAC Building and the new Whitney Museum stand among the lower brick buildings of a much older Manhattan. And the Empire State Building can be seen from various points.
At end of day, small recessed lighting softens the park, and from one of its many benches you can catch the setting sun glinting off the windows of Manhattan, or watch the sun sink slowly over the Hudson River.
Long summer days mean that we can spend more time out of doors. And one of the best places to linger in the summer twilight is in a lovely garden. There’s something about candlelight and dinner in the garden that is absolutely magical.
Though I can count such dinners I’ve experienced on one hand, they stand out in my mind. Some memories shine more than others, like tiny jewels in an inner treasure chest — clearer, sharper, more durable.
One such memory is of an impromptu dinner I once had with friends in Seattle. A guest was visiting from Switzerland and we decided to have our dinner outside, just beside the flower garden.
We pulled out the kitchen table, draped it in a lace tablecloth, and added details to make the dinner even more special — fresh flowers from the garden, antique water goblets and an Art Deco silverware set that belonged to my grandparents, and a tiny salt and pepper set — green and white enamel owls. One of my roommates, who was attending a culinary arts school, created a sumptuous meal full of summer freshness — I remember a cold blueberry soup with creme fraiche swirled on top and a salad with orange nasturtiums from the garden.
I never made the connection before, but surely that evening found its way into my novel The Garden House, which is set in Seattle. There’s a scene where the main character, Miranda, sets a beautiful table on the garden deck and enjoys a lovely summer evening with her husband and a few friends.
The Italian poet and author Cesare Pavese said, “We do not remember days, we remember moments.” I wouldn’t be at all surprised if those words came to him as he sat in a summer garden at evening.
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The Fourth of July means cookouts, fireworks, a day at the beach, or a few vacation days away from home. We all celebrate the Fourth in our own way, but for most people, it means being around family and friends — and good food.
Festive, flavorful, home-grown, and homemade.
Corn on the cob and garden vegetables,
Watermelon and the fresh fruits of summer.
Homemade pies and ice cream,
and red-white-and-blue desserts.
Whether you keep Independence Day in a traditional manner,
or in a style uniquely your own,
enjoy this festive holiday with family and friends and delicious food. We’ve entered the heart of summer — let’s celebrate!
In my novel The Garden House, the main character, Miranda, often takes a cup of tea out into her beloved garden and curls up on a bench as she takes in the beauty of her flowers. Her garden offers both solace and pleasure. It’s the perfect place to read a good book, to visit with a friend, or to sit quietly and enjoy the simple tranquility of nature.
“Strange how a teapot can represent at the same time the comforts of solitude and the pleasures of company” ~Author Unknown
“Find yourself a cup; the teapot is behind you. Now tell me about hundreds of things.” ~Saki
“Tea is quiet and our thirst for tea is never far from our craving for beauty.” ~James Norwood Pratt
“You can’t get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” ~C.S. Lewis,
“Where there’s tea there’s hope.” ~Arthur Wing Pinero
People often ask me what movies or books my Christmastime series is most similar to. For many reasons, the movie It’s A Wonderful Life comes to mind. It’s set during and just after WWII, it’s a story about love and family, the importance of friends and neighbors, and it’s about transformation.
I happened to catch it on TV the other night, and though I know the movie by heart, I found that I loved it as much as ever.
The story behind the movie is also “wonderful,” and offers an inspirational example for today’s independent writers. The movie is based on a short story by Philip Van Doren Stern (1900 – 1984), an American author, editor, and Civil War historian.
The story goes that in “February 1938, Stern awoke with the story in mind. Inspired by a dream that was reminiscent of Charles Dickens’ 1843 A Christmas Carol, Stern wrote a 4,000 word short story called The Greatest Gift. He began work on it in 1939 but didn’t finish until 1943.
Unable to find a publisher for his story, he printed two hundred copies of the story and distributed them as Christmas cards in 1943. One of the original palm-sized booklets came to the attention of a producer at RKO Pictures who purchased the rights, and then sold them to Frank Capra in 1945.” (Wikipedia)
“From this humble beginning, a classic was born. Stern’s story captivated Capra, who said he ‘had been looking for [it] all [his] life.’ Capra’s beloved adaptation, It’s a Wonderful Life, was released in 1946,” (Zoetrope – www.all-story.com) and has become part of the American Christmas tradition.