who out there can't look into those eyes and feel loved right back in return?
we here on firefly road wish you all the most happy of holidays, and sweetest of sugarplum dreams, and will be thinking of you as we make our way down to alabama tomorrow for the next few days. see you upon our return... xo
and so we approach winter solstice, which according to my exquisite poetry of rumi calendar (designed by the talented liz kalloch, an ornamental reader, therefore considered family by me) takes place tomorrow, the shortest day of our year. i love this day, or the evening that quickly follows, and am fond of puttering around and pulling out as many candles as i can to fill the little jars and holders in various places across my living room. tiny white lights go on with the touch of a foot pedal in both the studio and at the mantel (they've been staying lit each evening in the newly wonderful studio, i'll have you know), and most evenings i keep the other lights turned down low. needless to say, i've not been doing much handiwork here at night, but have elected instead to quietly sit at my station on the crimson sofa and reflect, ponder, dream. it is not a bad way to while away the hours, and as darkness falls at the end of each day, i'm one who likes the night. "We are the night ocean filled with glints of light", says rumi. so i sit, being an ocean, and glow from the light that surrounds me.
o, soft and sweet light, fill this night, bring to me warm moments of reflection and grace. may i welcome the long winter with an honest embrace, and settle in for many coming nights without longing for the summer's lengthy days and outdoor ways...
“There is no end. There is no beginning. There is only the infinite passion of life.”
—Federico Fellini (1920-1993), film maker
Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childish days; that can recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth; that can transport the sailor and the traveller, thousands of miles away, back to his own fire-side and his quiet home!
Charles Dickens, The Pickwick Papers, 1836
ah, yes. the quiet home - how i do love it here. i've been gone so, so much of late, and find myself pining for a stretch of time when i won't have to leave the suitcase sitting in the bedroom, ready for another round of packing; it's been in a corner, open - i kid you not - since the beginning of october. it's been lovely to be here these past few days with roy (robin, i'm very sad to say, will not be coming home, but will be joining us in alabama over christmas), and he has been beautiful company in the peacefulness of home.
it snowed here on sunday, off and on all day with great swirling rounds of flakes that blew sideways past the windows and skittered across the deck and ended up who knows where. it is a wonderful thing to have a child - a young man, now - who will stop what he is doing and run outside to snap a photo (with his phone) so that the snowflakes in the trees will be captured and shared with friends. there we both were, then, running out to the deck in our bare feet, glancing north and south, up and down, pointing our lenses into the sun while the white flakes filtered and sifted down, down, down. once back inside, it was a beautiful few hours to stand at the window with the tree (hello, wonderful tree - we welcome you) and watch the snow blow by.
late in the afternoon we began to trim the branches, first with lights, and then the garlands (thank you roy) and then with ornaments that we've loved for all these years (see the little triangle of popsickle sticks next to roy's hand? i hope it never falls apart. some of the sequins and glitter have fallen off, but it is stalwartly holding its own, and i continue each and every year to hang it, along its twin, on one of the most prominent branches - much to the boys' chagrin). i think for the first time ever, roy humored me by allowing me to sit and watch as he hung the ornaments, one after another.
i love hands. i love roy's hands. they are the hands of an artist, and i remember talking about his crooked little pinky fingers on the day that he was born. he has a strong grasp, and a gentle touch, which is what every person should hope to achieve in this life. he has it, at twenty, already. lucky tree, to be decorated by such tender beauty.
stretched across my mantel top, all year round, is a little vintage paper house village, surrounded by trees as if in a forest and lit up softly every night to bring me comfort and encompassing peace. i gingerly arranged it two christmases ago, and it has been there ever since. call me quirky, but a row of tiny houses, with their tattered windows and crumpled roof tops surrounded by softly backlit forest trees, cannot be a bad thing to have in one's home all the whole year long.
this season passes too fast - the season of winter solstice, of the deepening dark, of the instinct to draw in and fasten tightly the hatches, to bask in the glow of soft candles and fire light, in the warmth of stories told by friends and family, children and even those of your own mind's making. and so this is, i suppose, a gentle reminder for myself, for you, for all of us to slow down, breathe in, breathe out, and revel in the quiet of the moment that surrounds us. hush. listen. hear it? tell me what it is that you hear.
i'm home again, and my own solid bed with its feather down comforter and pillows, its soft worn flannel sheets felt mighty good to climb into and drift away after what seemed like endless, endless travel across this vast and beautiful state of mine. i left sunshine (and glorious fog) and warm temperatures behind at the coast, and am writing this now as bits of snow drift sideways, and the wind chimes outside the front door are sounding out a constant patter of high pitched song. it's cold. i love this. i love the change. i love this place. i love my life. i love this moment, this instant, this here and now. nina rhymes with carolina, for those of you who've wondered, and it's a grand, sweet place to call home. all of it - i take it all. the beaches, the mountains, the piedmont in between - the rivers and streams, the marshes and wide, wide waters that separate the outer banks from the rest of the state - i wrap my long arms around the bulk of it and do not want to let go. born in alabama, raised there too - i am a deep south girl tried and true, with the scent of magnolias and wispy pink mimosa blossoms sifting through my memories as i write this, but it is north carolina that holds me now, and i am proud when i tell inquiring folks that i am, indeed, nina from carolina.
see the red and white building across the water (click on the photo for detail)? it was once the outer bank coast guard station, and is now NCCAT's newly renovated coastal center; it sits facing the lovely ocracoke village harbor in one direction (what you can see there) and in the other, the wide expanse of water that separates the island from the mainland, some 27 miles away (a 2 1/2 hour ferry ride). the ferry boats pull up right next to the center, and i could watch the crew members walking about from my cozy little room, the last window on the first floor to the right. i'm shaking my head as i write this, looking back now at just how pristine and quaint and unblemished this island really is. when there, walking around, being in the middle and heart of it, was one thing; but to see these photos that i've taken, now that i'm hundreds of miles away back home, it's as if that little island is in another world and reality altogether. and it is, because getting there is no easy feat. one has to take a ferry - there are no bridges connecting ocracoke to the mainland, thankfully, and because of this, development has been slow. and in december, our car was one of three on the swan quarter ferry heading over at 4 in the afternoon. the sunset was the most beautiful i've ever seen in my life. truly. as that great big ball of shining light and warmth sank closer to the horizon, i walked out onto the ferry deck and frantically began snapping what turned out to be dozens of photos, each more beautiful than the next. colors deepened, unfolded, and bloomed from places i didn't know were there. seagulls swooped and soared, and it was one of those series of moments that i hope never to forget.
what to show you after that? i don't know where to stop. do you have time? there were so many highlights of the week, so many moments of laughter with the group, and quiet times of reflection to myself. this is such a busy week for all of you, for everyone, for me, and i suppose i should be writing of doily snowflakes and mica and glitter, of cookie recipes and carols, should be posting photographs of my still undecorated christmas tree (that roy and i dashed out into the pouring rain yesterday afternoon to purchase, no raincoats or umbrellas, in a record time of three minutes, the two of us jumping back into the car absolutely soaking wet afterwards and laughing about our lovely tradition that has now been embellished with yet another memory). what is christmas, anyway? i'm not sure i know anymore. for me, it is what i am sharing with you, this time. it is, as i said, the here and the now. at least it is, for me.
the lighthouse on the island is a sweet little structure, still operating and beaming its light deep into the nights - the second oldest one in operation of this country, i believe. one morning i rented a bicycle and rode over to visit the place, and was taken by the fact that it seemed to be made of spun sugar, as it glistened and shimmered in the early morning light. i liked that. i liked the way the door was set into smooth white recesses like a lovely frosted cake, and had a solid rooted feeling to it, and that the steps wound up and up and up inside the tower (we could not go inside, alas) to the top, where on the day we were there, they hung the giant wreath after we left. how dear. i wished to be able to climb to the top and sit with my bare feet (off would come the birkenstocks) dangling over the edge, hair blowing in the wind, skirt pulled up above my knees away from the breeze. i can imagine it, just so, with the smell of the briny salt air (breathe deeply with me) and the sun glinting off of the water brilliantly in the not too distant sea. it was a tender place for me.
have you ever walked a fog-shrouded coastal village in the chilly winter, barefooted, or with sandals? alone? early in the morning, with only the sound of the seagulls and perhaps a boat horn in the distance, and a random car passing on the road? it was a clear and bracing walk, this walk in the fog, alone. clear, for the direct sense of oneness it afforded me, and the time to ponder and reflect. coming back to my room with fresh, haunting photos, flushed cheeks and hair wet from the mist, i felt rich - and blessed. blessed for having had the opportunity to wander into a world draped in white, a world so quiet and hushed that no dog roamed the streets, no people called to one another from parking lots or open doors, no cars passed by, no boats (or ferries) ran that day. the world waited, and i walked, and captured images that seemed frozen in time, just for me. and now, for you as well.
in the afternoon, the seminar teachers (20 of them all in all) and i were taken out to the beach, a mile or so away, for an hour of writing and wandering. the fog had remained thick and heavy all day, and i'd been content to remain in my little room working on papers and overdue mail (my teaching began after dinner). the beach was otherwise quite deserted, as you can well imagine, and when i turned to see the group fanning out behind me, i was taken by the vision of their bodies walking in the mist - some visible, others fading, others not visible in the least. i think that this one photograph above all others stands out in my mind as a time original to itself, to its place. lovely. haunting. evocative. and i wondered if they, the teachers, knew how beautiful they were?
they are beautiful, misty fog or not. vibrant, enthusiastic, deeply caring about their professions as public educators in the school systems of north carolina, each of these individuals is a person i came to know and cherish in my four days with them, and i learned as much from them as i hope they learned from me. in the words of beautiful, beautiful becca, it was "abundant".
i have so many, many beautiful images to share with you, but i've been at this for nearly five hours, and i'm also afraid i'll lose you along the way. how many words and how many photographs should one person, in one sitting, have to endure?
and so, goodbye it was to ocracoke, as we quietly slipped away on the ferry before dawn, on friday. goodbye to the sea birds and sea wind and sea air, goodbye to that particular winter island form of gentle quiet, goodbye to the boats and the lighthouse and the flat roads and the sand and the fog and ferry horns and most of all, goodbye to the teachers who taught me how beautiful it is to care. i hope to see it all, and them all, again someday.
i'm sitting here in my tiny little room on the island of ocracoke, curled up on the less than single murphy bed that i've covered with a thin flannel blanket from home (vintage, plaid, lavender and white, a "camp" blanket from an estate sale some twenty years ago). not far outside my window rests the ferry - i can see it from here, can see the captain standing in his spot, if it is daylight - and come 6:30am, i'll hear it loud and clear, the quick, deep horn that lets the island know of imminent departure. there are seagulls, and water as far as i can see, if i just walk outside the door, in one direction; and in another, a lovely harbor unblemished by the usual highrise condos of other seaside ports. short twisted live oaks, weathered picket fences, a lighthouse that looks as if it were made of spun confectioner's sugar that glistens in the noonday sun - it's all here. and yesterday, a beautiful quiet fog that draped itself over us all and refused to leave for the entire day. i set out on an early morning walk through a nearly deserted village and marveled at reflections of pilings and docks in silvery water, felt the mist settling in my hair. at 4pm when the school teachers, twenty of them, set out for a writing exercise on the beach, i joined them and snapped a haunting and beautiful photograph of their shadowy, ethereal bodies walking into the mist - bodies that disappeared within seconds as i watched, amazed, from my distance down the way. this afternoon took me back to a very windy beach, clear and crisp, where i stood and watched individual grains of sand blowing across other grains of sand - stood and watched them, transfixed, amazed - so deeply appreciative of the tiniest changes that were dancing all around me, even at my shy bare feet there in the sand. it's all a miniature picture show to me, passing before my eyes as i watch and marvel, as i laugh and point to the sky so that no one in particular will notice but so that i will take note most of all. and i do: it is wonderful. it is here. and i am in the middle of it, being quiet, being alone when not in that classroom, being grounded in my thoughts and remembering to be grateful for the here, for the now, for the everywhere and especially for the this, and this and this.
home again late friday night, and then finally on saturday i'll scramble around to find a christmas tree. see you then. x
i got up early this morning and wandered over to the four wide windows that make up the south facing wall of my living room - a wide expanse of mountains, woods, and sky views that are there to greet me any time of day (and night, if darkness is a view). i see such lovely, quiet things at all hours of the day here - even in an old glass table top outside the window there - and thought i'd share with you a few of my little vignettes that are giving me peace and comfort before this day turns into a frenzy of packing and laundry and errands that always come before a big trip. i've yet to unpack from my trip to the cabin, and the suitcase has stayed squarely in an open spot since the beginning of october. and yes, there are things still unpacked from that early october trip, i'm ashamed to admit. normally i wouldn't think of a pair or two of leggings hanging in the window from the night before to dry as a beautiful thing to see, but laundry done? already? yes. beautiful. does anyone out there remember the wonderful dr. seuss story about the pale green pants with nobody inside them? it comes to mind, this morning, and i almost expect those leggings to jump off their hangers and begin to dance, or curtsy.
it's been a while since i went to the beach; before this year, it had been six years since i'd seen water other than that of a river or lake or stream (or rain), and in february i dipped my feet into salt water as far as the indian ocean, off the coast of perth, australia. imagine! on the pebbled beaches of a lovely seaside new zealand town called russell, i spent a happy hour ambling with my head tucked down, gathering small pebbles and glass and pieces of wood tumbled smooth as silk by the motions of the waves and tide. tomorrow, i'll be headed all the way across this very wide state to the beautiful outer banks of north carolina, will take a 2 1/2 hour ferry ride to a remote little island called ocracoke and will be there for all of next week, teaching that little pocket book of dreams to a sweet group of school teachers. again, imagine. i am a lucky girl. see you when i return, full of stories and images from a place far and near. xx
my, my, my! i had no idea. this morning i began the arduous task of listing each of ten window pendant charms that i had completed on my etsy shop, and as i listed them, they were selling as fast as i could load the images (which is not as fast as you'd think, but faster than i can sometimes in the early morning function). i felt like paul newman as butch cassidy when he said "who are those guys?!", when another image would slowly load, and almost as quickly sell. i've had quite a few of you write me this evening, asking how to get to the site before things sell, how to be notified of new items. i'm no computer expert, but i've heard tell that you can subscribe to some sort of rss feed for my etsy site, and you'll be notified as soon as the new pieces are listed. ask around to your more computer savvy friends and see if they can help you out.
i'll be trying my best to get another eight or ten of my "windows" pieces assembled and listed again tomorrow, for those of you who didn't make it in time. and after that, i'm afraid i'll have to wait until i return from ocracoke island, as there are worlds of things for me to accomplish before i leave for the outer banks of north carolina.
thanks to all of you for expressing such a keen interest in the things that i make, that i do. my heart and hands are happy knowing that you appreciate seeing the creations that they turn out....xx
just look at all the windows, tiny little square brass vintage windows - thirty of them, to be exact, all laid out in a neat little pattern that reminds me of a friendship quilt, or an advent calendar, already opened to the surprises and the tiny toys inside. imagine receiving a pair of wings for christmas, or the wind in the trees, or the gift of flight, or home. just home. or, a memory, or calm, or the chance to simply breathe. a story, a treasure, a chance to glance out the window again. to touch. to plant your feet here. or here. or, here. i'm shaking my head. it seems so simple, these little pictures, and tiny little words. so childlike, so antiquated. so - well. you can fill in your own blanks. tell me what they make you think of, and why.
i've been back out at my par- ents' cabin since last thurs- day, spending time with my mother and father and their fat (very) golden retriever isaac and my sweet aspen, trying to relax with them and not feel frantic as the holiday pace inevitably quickens itself around me, in spite of the fact that i was without computer or phone (mine, anyway) or tv, and away from my studio for five whole days. my mother, sensing my antsiness, kindly and wisely set up a sturdy old wooden card table in an out of the way place by the stone hearth, and i sat there for many a long hour wiring pearls and addressing christmas cards, until the wire and the ink ran out. it pleased both of them to have me near by, working quietly while we three chatted and reminisced about days long gone. "we've had some good times", my mother said quietly to no one in particular but i think mostly to herself, a declaration of a good life, a full life lived. it was a bittersweet thing to sit and watch my father polish and polish and polish any and everything within reach - something he has taken to doing in his forgetful age of 85, something that keeps his hands busy and gives him results that are shiny and sparkle. he asks the same questions over and over again, sometimes within a sixty second time frame; from this, i'm learning new lessons in patience and understanding and bottomless love. i've been told, this weekend, probably thirty times over, that i am loved so very very much. he does not forget that, ever. my mother is a trooper, and a testament to a solid and loving marriage. i can only hope to be like her, a beautiful being at 80, when i am 60, 70. what a joy and privilege it was for me to sit with my parents in the quiet of the late afternoons, as the sun sank down in those surrounding flanking mountains, to sit and laugh and talk and mull, and soak up one another's presence again, yet again.
i've shown you the little window charms that i sat at the cabin and worked on, because i am so in hopes that i'll be able to get them together for you in time as pieces to wear wired and beaded and looped on a silk ribbon, something a bit less expensive to purchase for a loved one this christmas. i leave this saturday morning before dawn for ocracoke island, and won't be back until the following friday, late; between now and saturday i have to assemble 24+ kits for a "pocketbook of dreams" class, do laundry (does it ever end?), errands, and pack. considering how long it takes to load each entry into etsy, i may be biting off more than i can chew - but do stay tuned. i'd like to get a few done, anyway. everyone needs a window to wear around his or her neck - a window to a thought, or a daydream, or a song...