La Belle et La Bete

Son the older and I are watching Jean Cocteau’s La Belle et La Bete. A perfect activity for a rainy morning.

On screen, disembodied arms hold lighted candelabras down a long, dark corridor. Soot covered faces, embedded on either side of the roaring fireplace, turn to follow movements in the room.

The Bete’s waist is encircled with ribbons whose tips sparkle with rhinestones. Smoke rises from his shoulders and fingertips.

Belle’s tears are diamonds. The white stallion glitters.

Son the elder and I take our French lesson from the dialogue. “Souvenez vous de votre promesse!”

Remember your promise.

On the Mountain

Two weeks on a mountain top, surrounded by trees and the rumor of bears. Two weeks of writing. Two weeks of no housework. No phones. No internet.

I took a walk down the road, to the place where blacktop became gravel. I stood, listening. The buzzing of the many bees at my feet nearly drowned out the faint sound of running water.

Somewhere down there a creek, mountain cold.

Above and behind me, a woodpecker hammered five times. My signal to turn and reclimb the hill.

Cream-colored, with a Hint of Lime

Yesterday I decided to pay some attention to my much neglected garden. My gardenia bushes have been looking a little peaked. A trip to the garden shop, some greensand, some pine mulch. Once home, the garden hose and lots of water.

I took my spade and loosened the drought-packed earth. Water helped soften the soil so I could pull weeds. I worked my way from one end of the flower bed to the other. My gloves wet and muddy from the sodden soil.

The sky is a bright blue. The sun is beginning to hit hard but a breeze carries off some of the heat.

I half-kneel, keeping my knees out of mud. A flash of red has caught my eye. I lift some overgrowth and there, nestled under the shade of a gardenia bush is a wild strawberry plant.

I weed more carefully now, delicately pulling up spent dandelion stems. When I put down the pine straw, I work around the strawberries.

On the middle gardenia bush, a single gardenia blooms.

A Garden Grown Wild

This weekend I borrowed a room in which to write. I brought fruit and yogurt, which I placed in the frig. I plugged in a clock. I put a candle on the desk.

I looked around the room and then I went downstairs. I’d smelled jasmine on my way in. I found the vine climbing a tree near the house. I chose carefully, plucking, in the end, three stems of the small, white flowers. I do not take the lone, curling tendril whose backdrop is the smooth, honey-colored bark of the tree.

Looking around, I noticed a bucket filled with seashells and rainwater. I chose an open shell, its interior the color of sunsets at the beach, rinsed then filled it with rainwater. I lay the flower stems into the water and, looking around some more, found a river rock, just the right size, which would hold the stems in place.

Back upstairs, I walked the perimeter of the room, holding the shell and flowers in one hand and with the other, fanning the fragrance of the flowers up to my nose.

I spent the evening at my computer, candle burning to my right, flowers and shell to my left. The desk faces a bank of windows. It is a sign of the lengthening days that it was light until after eight o’clock.

When I leave, early the next morning, the air outside is cool, and smelling of jasmine.

The Bamboo Chimes Softly in the Early Morning Air

After a week of illness, a long weekend near the sea. I sit in the garden, strawberries and a cup of tea nearby. The clouds are slowly burning away but for now the air is cool.

Two cardinals fly from one side of the garden to the other, swooping low under the canopy of the trees. Moments later, here they are again.

They perch in the bush, feathers the color of weathered New England barns.

One bird darts away. The other immediately begins to sing. He flies deeper into the bush. Higher but a place I cannot see as well. He repeats his song.

Within moments, the first bird returns and sings his arrival.

When they have finished their reunion, they return to their game. One following the other in close proximity, they fly to the far side of the garden.

Out at sea, the sun begins to sparkle off the waves.

The Opening of Tight Buds

This morning I look in the mirror as I brush my hair. It has grown long these past three years. I twist it high on my head. It looks odd to me, this ballerina bun I haven’t worn since high school. The unframed face, the knot of hair visible only when I turn my head.

At the grocery store, I buy yogurt, granola bars, and a small pot of daffodils.

At home, I drink Irish breakfast tea and read last Sunday’s New York Times.

The moss of the daffodils is still moist. Four or five of the flowers are in full bloom. Half a dozen are still tight buds.

One flower is just opening.

Port de Bras

Back from a week in DC, where there is still a nip in the air, I am driving down a main thoroughfare when I notice a cluster of blue bonnets. They are huddled at the base of a street light as if it were only within the amber of its light that they felt safe enough to bloom.

The weather here has turned warm. I sweep the house clean and leave the doors open for the fresh air, it too, to sweep out the rooms.

I deadhead the rose bush in my front yard, bringing inside the one bloom remaining. I clip a sprig of lavender; several small flowers cling to the curves of the stem.

I use a small black vase. I prop the deep pink rose into one arm of the lavender. The other arm reaches down toward the dining room table, changing its mind at the last minute to curve inward, toward the belly of the vase.

At its tip, several small flowers curve out and away, like the arm of a ballerina.


Earlier this week, as I was driving son the younger to school, I passed a bank of Texas blue bonnets. Sure sign of early spring. Their bright blue the color of the sky in deep June.

I spent that day at the hospital, working with breast cancer patients on “self-portraits,” humorous images made up of arms, eyes, and lips cut from magazine ads. Bodies are diet coke cans, hand lotion bottles, a Pepperidge Farm Milano cookie. One woman uses a squash cut length-wise and pastes on its end so the seeds cluster in the “belly.” A sign of fertile creativity, I tell her.

At the end of the day, one of my small dancers hands me a fistful of wildflowers. Tiny white trumpets with stems like chives. Their green fades into the color of mushrooms where they have been separated from the earth.

At home, I fill a vase salvaged from an abandoned house. Kitschy gold, with a bulbous bottom and an opening so slender my few flowers just barely fit. I place it in my bedroom.

Th day has both begun and ended with flowers. Wildflowers. Fragile, yet resilient. Returning, unbidden, year after year.

The Hawthorn Beside My Doorway Blooms

The air is beginning to smell of spring. The buds come slowly at first, shy, like a young girl at her first day of dance class. Then with a rush of enthusiasm trees burst forth with pink, lavender, and green.

The hawthorn beside my doorway has small white flowers with a dark pink center.

They smell of my grandmother’s face powder.

The Warming Air

This week a guest brought ice cream to share. “Get out the bowls from the dining room,” said husband, his pleasure in using them evident.

We bought the bowls in Japan. They are small – just the right size for my fist to fit snugly. The exterior is a milky white, a white with a touch of gray, like the color of a frozen pond.

Each interior is a different pattern in blue and white. The rim of each is a chocolate brown, a lighter version of the syrup we pour over our coffee ice cream.

In the dining room, a branch of blooming forsythia is a cheerful yellow against the maroon of the velvet drapes.