Monday, March 30, 2009

More Signs of Spring - From a Chinese Perspective

I've been having migraines for a couple of weeks. Not every day, but a more than enough. I forgot Spring was coming. I forgot that my acupuncturist / Chinese doctor advises me to have my "Spring Tune-up" to avoid them. Life got busy. And the migraines got the better of me for a few days. But, they reminded me to get to my Chinese doctor asap and once I did, I was on the mend.

I went back today as I recall that "tune ups" come as a series of three and I had barely managed the one when I went in a few weeks ago with eyes closed, sunglasses on, teeth clenched begging for mercy and relief from the crazy-making migraine I was having. He gave me some of each.

Today we talked of Spring.

He said many wise things.

He said, "Spring is a time of wild energies, creative energies ready to spring forth. Winds are whipped up and brisk and wild and the energy rises up - into the head - creating migraines, eye tics (which I now have), rosacea, tinnitus, heart palpatations, anxieties." Okay, have them all. Please just put me on the table. And stick those needles in.

I said, "I feel the creative energies. I feel like they are bottled up inside of me. They are so strong in the last few days. They are thrilling, but I can't quite focus them. It is like they are stuck and making me crazy."

"Yes, that is what happens when there is a yin deficiency. You don' t have the capacity to balance the strong yang forces and they get out of control and stuck."

Whew. I knew he would understand. I climb onto the table. He sticks needles in my "third eye" for vision, my temples for my headache, under my naval for grounding and several in my hands and feet to treat my liver and bring my energy DOWN TO THE EARTH. I have a tendency to be "flighty." Does this surprise anyone that knows me?

I am thankful every day for finding Dr. Hafner at Crocus Hill Medicine in St. Paul. It has changed my life. I am not a woo-woo alternative at any cost medicine kind of gal. I try it after the standard stuff. But, frankly, mainstream medicine missed the boat with me one too many times and this is workin' so I'm going to keep doing it .

Spring is in high gear in my body. For whatever it is worth.

Friday, March 27, 2009


One of Helen's books about her own path to individuation.
A beautiful read for over 50-somethings.

Wisdom consists in doing the next thing that you have to do; doing it with your whole heart and finding delight in doing it. And this is the sense of the sacred.
- Helen Luke, 1904 - 1995

(Helen was a respected Jungian analyst, wise woman and a late bloomer. She only discovered Jung at 39, put herself through the Zurich training after that, set up shop in LA in her later '40's, then really began the heart of her work in her '60's when she created Apple Farm Community in Michigan with like-minded friends and colleagues. She has published many books, all which were written after this time.)

Signs of Spring and Hope.

This is a tree I found in Central Park - must have been the original inspiration for camoflauge!
Isn't it cool?

The daffodils.

First crocus.

The beautiful Burmese Buddha from DeVera - the gesture symbolizes enlightenment, the moment of triumph.

It was a cold two weeks. It hit 70 in Charleston one, maybe two days we were there. Back to New York and the temperatures dipped and I was not prepared to wear my Northface for still another week. I didn't pack gloves or scarves for this trip. Aren't we done with winter yet? But there are signs. I saw it at the park this week. I saw it on the streets today.

We had a wonderful day. It was in the '60's and Lee (who is still getting a lot of mileage out of a two-week spring break) and I (who will be fully ready to go back to work on Monday) decided to really make this the last hurrah of his vacation. We caught the 6 train down to Soho, got off at Spring and as we emerged into daylight around noon there at Spring and Lafayette, the world was buzzing with people. I have learned my way around Soho a little bit - I was there yesterday with a friend - and wanted to show a couple of my favorite spots to Lee. We have found we are better with a PLAN - not just wandering. We are not copacetic wanderers.

De Vera, at Crosby and Howard, is the most amazing collection - and display - of objects I've seen anywhere. It caught my attention when I saw a white cast plaster copy of a Della'Robbia infant stuck to the outside of the black exterior. What is that doing there? How odd. It was a favorite image of ours from Florence where this swaddled infant is on the exterior of the orphanage. So I could hardly imagine what it was doing here in Soho on an old warehouse. Once inside, it all made sense. The owner is just a mad collector of all kinds of things - especially European objects. The older the better. I found a beautiful 19th Burmese Buddha (maybe for a client?) For me, it is just a joy to see these beautiful things.

Then a hop across the street to Ted Muehling. Well, there I do admit to having the "Gimmes". I love his jewelry. And I love the shop. Who thinks to put two huge coral-colored lobsters on the floor under the display case on an old worn floor?

Next BDDW (this is next door to DeVera.) The last time I was here was the day I got the three alarm text that Lee needed me - and he ended up in the emergency room en route to full admission to the hospital for three days. So my visit was cut short and I wanted to go back. The furniture and show room (like the other two shops we visited) are so creative that it makes me hopeful for mankind. The wood finishes may be the finest anywhere. They are known for their organic tables with heavy bronze bases.

All of these shops brought up one thing. Surely, if we can do things like this with our head, heart and hands, we can fix this stupid financial mess, we can stop war and we can take care of our planet. There really is no excuse. It was a clear reminder today that humankind is very resourceful and creative.

On to Balthazar for lunch - apparently with the rest of Manhattan. Wow. A 45-minute wait at 1:00 (I guess I should have known.) The city had already punched the clock, it seemed. People were drinking gin and tonics, wine, champagne. So, not to spoil the party, we had drinks with lunch too. ( I never do this because I fall asleep.) It was yummy and very, very crowded. Crowded like you feel you are dining with the person NEXT to you, not across from you. We had a charming pair of men on one side who joked warmly, "How nice to have lunch with you," and smiled, then broke off into a language I didn't even recognize. Lee said Portuguese because he saw a passport, but I know I heard those gutteral Germanic sounds coming from the guy next to me and I think really they just spoke in about four different languages throughout the meal as I tried to figure out how exactly to get the lobster in my bouillabaisse out of the shell without splattering all over them and making a complete fool of myself. I finally gave up. The men to my right I wanted to slap. They were gay (just an observation, not a judgment), very, very loud (so that I often could not carry on my conversation with Lee) and the one in the pink shirt talked only about himself. Me, me, me. He was an actor and, Lee pointed out, spent a lot of time in LA because he was talking about it. Oh, really? I'm so surprised. An asshole from LA?

With the beautiful weather, we decided to get off the train early and walk home and it was just the ticket. We walked up 5th and saw the buds on the trees getting ready to sprout their color, people with jackets off, and both of us pinching ourselves that we have had two weeks to just be together like this. Tomorrow I go to Minneapolis and I always feel such a bitter-sweetness the days before I leave - so lucky to have had this time, but sad to leave Lee.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

New York: It is a Village.

I didn't spend any time in New York from 1982 to 2005. Then Lee and I came for a few days, popped into the Chanel exhibit at the Museum and went home after our share of good food and a bad fight between us that I will never forget. I think I threw a jar of skin cream. (Fortunately, we were outgrowing fighting at that point.) If you had told me I'd be living here only three years later, I would have thought you were wacky. I never, ever thought about living in New York. I thought about Charleston, SC, Florence, Italy, Santa Barbara, Boston - that's about it for my "where I might want to live" list.

Never New York. Too big, too bustling, too much of a steel and concrete colored swirling whirlpool of activity, most of which I couldn't navigate even if I had a GPS implanted in my brain. Everyone who lived in New York could surely out-compete me on any and every front, including fashion, business, wealth, connections, talent, looks and shoes. Especially shoes. I still wear Dansko clogs. They would also have that unique cheeky chutzpah that New Yorkers are known for and which I would have to work a lifetime to develop. I still want people to like me. New York could not be for me.

Well, destiny had its own plans for us and, now that I am here, I feel differently. We live in a village. We live in one square mile. Or at least Lee does. I am more of a rambler. I leave the neighborhood for pleasure and adventure, but Lee honestly has not left the neighborhood (which I define as one square mile) more than 4 times since last fall - usually at my urging.

Here are the facts: Work - 3 blocks. Endocrinologist - 4 blocks. Internist - 4 flights down (yes, really the same building that we live in.) Lenox Hill Hospital where he spent 3 days with pneumonia in January - 4.5 blocks. Walgreens - 6 blocks. Liquor store - 2 blocks. UPS - 2 blocks. Metropolitan Museum of Art - 1.5 blocks. New York Society Library - 2 blocks. Groceries - as far as the phone - Delivery with Fresh Direct. If, of course, he wants to pick something up, all over. My favorite for meat and seafood, Citerella, is 8 blocks. My yoga - 8 blocks. Oren's Daily Roast - 3 blocks. Laundry - 4 doors down. Framer - 1/2 block. Movie theatres - 8 blocks. Restaurants - everywhere you want one. Central Park - 2 blocks. Florist - all over. Okay, my church is at 51st and Park. I get on a train for 3 stops and walk one block. But Lee doesn't go so this still means he's staying in this one square mile!

What's the point? I think for me the point is how much you can learn from a place when you give it a chance, how set we are in our ideas of a place, of a culture, how negative we can be before we really try something. Lee said to me last week, "You know, I'm so surprised how much I love it here. It is such a rich city."

Of course, I'm thrilled because I happen to be having the same experience and my 23-year old son moved here last summer, too, and LA was my other choice, which, even after giving it a three year chance, I couldn't bear it. LA is no village. It is a nightmare. (This only proves that giving something a chance does not guarantee it will work, but you will surely learn something about a place and yourself.)

New York is a series of villages and people who live in the villages, whom you come to recognize, to smile at, people who take pride in their associations, in their neighborhoods and show some modicum of interest in you even if you aren't from here. It is a city of people who love to be out and about. They both care about how they look and they don't. Walking, walking, walking. All year round. They are very proud of being a New Yorker and they love to tell you what they know about the city. They tend to keep their word and mean what they say. Our neighbor, Janet, who has lived in our building for 40 years, asked, "Do you know about the 79th Street Library? I must take you for a tour." She wasn't kidding. She called yesterday and took us today and it is wonderful and we will become members and use it happily, a new link in our life as New Yorkers.

It is a city where you kind of need to join things - a church, a synagogue, a library, a cause, a club, a museum. They are identities and social networks in a city where your identity will be squashed like a Minnesota mosquito buzzing around your head on a hot summer night if you don't recreate it regularly. So we do. We try new things, go to new places, meet new people, (and happily hang out with some new Minneapolis friends,) soak up the people and ideas that have more to teach us than we have to teach them. Don't get me wrong; I am grateful to have Lee to share this with. I wouldn't want to do it alone at my age. But, together, we are sponges. Sponges living in a tiny village called New York.

Friday, March 20, 2009

My Week in Charleston: On the Street where we Lived.

The door to our kitchen (guest) house.

Into the the McCann's garden. Lee's chair for soaking up midday sun.

Across the street a church has been changed into housing. The entry.

Yellow jasmine.

My favorite - the dogwood just popping.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Authentic Architecture

Remaining outbuildings on an old plantation on Edisto Island

Frame building with "fake" Gothic windows and door - was this a carriage house?

Detail outside frame building.

Tabby ice house

Inside the ice house showing tabby walls.

In a world where everything seems to be shouting (including plenty of the new modernist work) this is what I call quiet architecture. We came across it on our trip out to Edisto Island. These buildings were part of the original plantation - surely built at different times, but notice the care with which they applied the same elements of design. I'm sure a purist would screech at the slightly Victorian details on the tabby ice house (Tabby is a building material made of equal parts lime, sand, water, oyster shells and ash - then plaster is applied to the surface.) But these quirky elements tie them to this land at a particular place and time and that they are still standing for us to enjoy makes my heart sing.

Monday, March 16, 2009

"Home" Again. Charleston, South Carolina

Tami cut the camellias before our arrival and had them on the table in our little kitchen.

Lee and Frank on the path to the beach - through the smoky marsh.

A scene from the beach on Edisto.

The "other-worldliness" of the setting.

The low-country marshes.

We are in Charleston for a real holiday while Lee is on Spring break. I lived here in the late '70's and '80's and I always feel like I am returning to one of my true homes when I am here. I am so relaxed I may turn into a puddle. We are staying with dear friends in their guest quarters – a circa 1840 kitchen house (the building separated from the main home to protect it from both fire and the heat.) The garden surrounding us is dripping with the remaining camellias, some already carpeting the ground. The azaleas are just opening in shades of pink and white in this garden. The moss is moist underfoot, almost like a sponge. It is dewey and slightly gray with a heaviness in the air. It is 70 degrees. I am in heaven and so is my skin.

Yesterday, Tami and Frank drove us south to Edisto Island. It was a field trip to a lonely place called Botany Bay – 5000 acres of land given to the state (thank god no golf courses!) and it was magical. It was empty but for the four of us and a couple sitting on their beach chairs at the entrance whose only job was to ask people to please not take the shells unless you are fourteen or under. (Then you can pick up to a quart of them.) After spending our past Saturday mingling amongst New Yorkers celebrating first signs of Spring in Central Park and moving through the Saturday crowds at the Metropolitan, this was an “other-worldy” (in Frank’s words) contrast. It was divine.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Scenes from the Day in New York

Late Winter Central Park - the light is ephemeral.

Detail: Entrance to Assyrian Palace in Nimrod at the Met.
Carvings and cuniform writing.

The palace of Nimrod. I could soooo live in a home with these colors of the earth - stone.

The mosaic flooring of the Greek room at the Met.

More of the mosaic. Look at the imperfection.

After cleaning up (and sleeping in) after a birthday party I gave for my 23-year old son and 58- year old husband ( they both had birthdays this week), Lee requested going to the Met for his birthday. Not for long, but just wandered through a couple of exhibits; the Greek and Persian exhibit were two of them. It is never disappointing.

Then, we walked through the park. It was 50 degrees, not all that warm, but seemed as if people have come out of hibernation - people just seemed happy to be out. New Yorkers love their weekends.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Chasing Pavements

Scene from a Charleston Garden. Magic.

I have a habit, maybe a couple times a month, of just doing nothing in the evening when I am in Minneapolis and alone. I open a bottle of wine (yes, I drink alone), have a glass, then think about dinner, pour another glass to cook by and because my stomach is mostly empty at this point, am mildly and delightfully intoxicated on this amount of wine. I put in my headphones, tuck my iphone in my pocket, crank up the tunes and get to work in the kitchen and dance while I cook, occasionally glancing at the shadow of myself in the windows on the north, which show the ghost of a figure moving in rhythm to the music. This is not something I have ever admitted to. My husband doesn't even know I do this. This is something I only do in private. Not that I am embarrassed to dance. I LOVE to dance. But where do you dance anymore?

So I finally uploaded (or is it downloaded?) Chasing Pavements and it is almost a slow disco sound. It sent me dancing from the refrigerator to the stove, sauteeing the broccoli to the beat. It transported me back to the Garden and Gun Club (not kidding - but there were no gardening sheers or rifles to be seen, I promise) in Charleston , SC where I lived in the late '70's and early '80's and went dancing regularly. It was that time of life that was magical because love was everything, I was in my late 20's (and if you don't look good then, when will you look good?) I was discovering a whole new culture in the South. And, on occasion, I was discovering myself. And this beautiful song reminds me of that discovery and of that time when love meant everything - as it does to the woman in the song.

So, when I hear the words to Chasing Pavements, "Should I give up or should I just keep chasing pavements - even if it leads nowhere?" I wonder, "Who is to judge where nowhere is?" I have chased plenty of pavements. I wouldn't change it for the world.

I guess it's time to get out - find a place to go dancing and take Lee with me. I've passed along the gold sandals and red viscose disco dress, but not my love of dancing - nor of chasing pavements. And to this day, there is nothing more delicious than love - of your partner, your children, your work. Come to think of it, love still means everything to me.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Mercato Centrale at Grand Central?

The truly elegant Grand Central Station.

One of the vendors.

Pane. Pane!

The meat and homemade sausage vendor.

Cheese. I can hardly resist this.

One thing about New York, I think it must take awhile to get bored. I was heading to an antique "mall" that a designer friend of mine told me about on east 44th Street (Center 44 between 2nd and 3rd and it's pretty darn good - not to die for - but pretty darn good - lots of 60's -80's) and on my way home saw a window full of beautiful breads. It was part of Grand Central Market, but I had no idea what that meant, so I went in and felt happily transported back to Firenze and Mercato Centrale. It was a wonderful surprise on a gray, cold day. I hadn't seen anything like it since I was last in Florence in 2007.

Now, don' t get me wrong - this is nothing as "earthy" as Mercato Centrale - there were no heads of sheep, blood dripping from the carcasses, vendors selling lardo, deep yellow chickens with blue veins, their heads and feet still attached. There were no espresso bars with cold smooth Carrara on which to lean over a morning cappuccino. BUT, there were fish and meat vendors, cheese and bread and wine and pastries and desserts and vegetables. It was quite wonderful and I felt this filling up, a sense of abundance, that even in these grim times, there is plenty. I am not sure that is true for all. Actually, I am certain it is not true for all. But we have more than enough - if only everyone could just have their share. Buon appetito.