Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Great Gift of Memory

Bobby Burns 1759-96
by Archibald Skirving
Scottish National Portrait Gallery

Auld Lang Syne

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,

And never brought to min'?

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,

And days o' lang syne?

We twa hae rin about the braes,

And pu'd the gowans fine;

But we've wander'd monie a weary fit

Sin' auld lang syne.

We twa hae paidl't i' the burn,

Frae mornin' sun till dine;

But seas between us braid hae roar'd

Sin' auld lang syne.

And here 's a hand, my trusty fiere,

And gie's a hand o' thine;

And we'll tak a right guid-willie waught

For auld lang syne.

And surely ye'll be your pint-stowp,

And surely I'll be mine;

And we'll tak a cup o' kindness yet

For auld lang syne!

For auld lang syne, my dear,

For auld lang syne,

We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet

For auld lang syne.


This traditional song tells us, rather allows us, to take a moment and look to our past, before we step forward into a new year. The speaker asks: Should we leave it all behind us? Then he answers: Certainly not until we honor the times we have had and friends who have been separated from us. What is it about the turning of the year that insists that our past and its memories are part of the ages--like heaps of ashes? Yesterday, in a still moment, as I waited in a local deli for a take-out order, I noticed a group of young men, obviously builders and craftsmen taking their lunch. One looked very much like my nephew Matthew who also was a builder. It is very nearly impossible to describe the memory flash I experienced, but just for a fleeting instant, I could hear his voice and rich laughter as might have wafted from such a gathering in his lifetime. In my memory was buried, not just his voice, but his big and boyish grin and blue eyes and blond curls. I have to say, it was a comfort to walk out the door thinking he had just checked in on me. So dear readers, on this last day of the year, I'll take a cup of kindness for this great and mysterious gift of memory -- and its endless voices and visions from times gone by -- be they joyous or heartbreaking -- that make each of us who we are.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

If on a Winter's Night: Best Gift of 2009!

In my last post, I sent you each my favorite card, and now, unwrap your gift! ( Be sure to go to Full Screen & turn up the volume!) This new offering by Sting was not only the best gift I received -- from the Colonel -- naturally, but it has been my favorite one to give others. I have been playing it since the middle of November and love it more and more.

If you you are a winter soul as I am, this one is for you.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


Yesterday, The Colonel and I took in the Loveliest Village Christmas Tour sponsored by the Preservation League! There was really only one house that totally qualified as a preservation project. A classic Southern Greek revival featuring original brick oven in the kitchen and large inviting rooms ... all dating back to the 1840's. I loved this house because it showcased the varied interests of the collectors in the family, and this charming statue caught my eye and my imagination. (Here is another cell phone snapshot). I wanted to rush home and watch the Disney film Pinocchio! It may be my all time favorite of the animated films...well at least it was yesterday!
Which one is your
This morning, we are off to another tour in Birmingham!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Giving you the Dickens...

In my last post featuring a photo of an original copy of A Christmas Carol, I noted in a response to Rebecca that Charles Dickens loved to read this story aloud and had edited the text especially for public readings. I can't believe I missed this short feature yesterday on NPR's "Morning Edition" which addresses this very subject, but thank goodness, the ever attendant Colonel did not. He was telling me all about it this morning over his coffee & my tea! Additionally, he reported that he had read in the Wednesday, December 2nd New York Times of a hand written manuscript of this Dicken's classic which is on display at the Morgan Library & amp; Museum in Manhattan . This historical manuscript has profuse editorial notes revealing the author's writing process concerning such details as converting "a spot of mustard" to a "blot of mustard" -- all are particularly fascinating when one considers he wrote the book in less than six weeks. He was trying to raise some extra funds.
As my students would say, "I feel you, Mr. Dickens!"
Now here is the fun part , dear bloggy readers: The NYT invites us to examine this manuscript online, and submit what we think is the most interesting edit in the work. Declan Keily, curator of literary and historical manuscripts, will read the submissions. He will select the most worthy response, and that reader will be invited to afternoon tea at the Morgan. When you get a chance, take a look, and let me know what you think! Also, can you guess who has finally taught herself how to create text links today for her 50th post? As we say in the South, "Lawdy......who'd 've thaaawt it!"

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Host with the Most: Our Dear Mr. Toast!

Dear Mr. Toast, your Christmas Tea certainly has brought the spirit of Christmas to each of us and right on time! As a thank you gift, please accept this little treasure from one my recent time travels back to London, 1843. This is a first edition of A Christmas Carol. I absolutely must read this every year and perhaps see a play or a film version as well. If I were one of the Book People in Fahrenheit 451....I would be A Christmas Carol.

"I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year!
I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future.
The Spirits of all three shall strive within me.
I will not shut out the lessons that they teach"

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Tea in Aspen? What to wear? Oleana, of course!

Oleana Ensemble #1

Firelight's Choice
Oleana Ensemble #2 - I love the touch of lace and the headband with taffeta!

This number is mine! I will be wearing this to
Mr. Toast's First Annual Christmas Tea
(click on link in my siderbar)
on Tuesday December 1st!
The fact that I have lived in Alabama all of my life does not change that I absolutely love winter and winter clothes! Maybe it is because I was born on a frosty morn in January. So with this opportunity to visit Aspen, Colorado, I knew exactly what I wanted to wear!
I have always admired the gorgeous Oleana of Norway outfits which feature beautifully designed sweaters, wristlets, headbands, ruffled taffeta collars, and taffeta skirts.
If you are interested in learning more, click on the title of this post!
Ladies, for those of you who have not had time to shop, just tell me which of the following ensembles you would like, and I will put your name under the photo! Now which one are you wearing to tea? I don't mind if some of you choose the same one, or if someone wants to wear the one I have chosen! The more, the merrier ....and more glamorous! Trust me, I had a hard time deciding, but the tiny ruffle of lace around the neck of this sweater won me over. The skirts are long tea length. They look beautiful with suede or velvet slippers or even dressy boots.
Also, as you can see, they make the wearer look so very young and beautiful--just an added little bit of Norwegian Magic! I really would love to have a winter closet full of these clothes!

Oleana Ensemble #3

Oleana Ensemble #4

Oleana Ensemble #5

Oleana Ensemble #6

Thank you, Mr. Toast, for hosting this much anticipated flight of fancy! I am in much need of it and know it will become a fabulous tradition!
It is indeed, my cup of tea!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Simple Gifts

Golden Autumn watercolor


'Tis the gift to be simple
'tis the gift to be free
'tis a gift to come down where we ought to be
And when we find ourselves in the place just right
It will be in the valley of love and delight

I have long admired the softness and simplicity of the art
of P. Buckley Moss of Virginia (my header is her Colonial Church),
and this beautiful and inspiring hymn written by Quaker Elder Joseph in 1848.
May you enjoy the beauty and grace and love of your simple gifts on this day.
Peace be with you.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

"I once was lost..."

Matthew Ryan Bedford
November 6, 1975 - November 18, 2009

"Through many dangers, toils, and snares
I have already come,
'Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far
and Grace will lead me home."

We each may have known that ominous ringing of a telephone--too early in the still darkness of a morning --the modern version of the knelling of a village's chapel bell--that stirs the heart with dread. Thursday morning, my niece so devastated she could barely talk, delivered the news of the death of her youngest brother, Matthew. Could it be any worse? Circumstances added extra agony to this story. After rehab and many weeks of being drug free, with the help and constant support of his devoted mother (my sister), his darling wife, and the joyous presence of their two year-old daughter, Matt faltered; it was a fatal lapse. After a frantic afternoon stretching into late night and a missing person's report, Matt was found slumped over in his car, dead from a drug overdose.

At his funeral yesterday, Father Wells led a Holy Conversation rather than delivering a sermon as part of the Burial of the Dead Rite I from the Book of Common Prayer. He stated that this sort of tragedy calls on each of us not to judge Matthew, but rather to understand that addiction is a terminal illness. It affects everyone, not just the user. It can be rigorously managed, but it is never cured. He reminded us too, that we must focus on the bright day represented by the banner (in the photo) which is draped over his coffin and know that he is now at peace, never to suffer the scourge of addiction again. He then invited anyone present to share a story or just thoughts on the life of Matthew. Many people spoke and told precious stories and made heartfelt comments. His wife stood, looked at the entire gathering and told us how he was a good, kind, and generous man who loved everyone present just as she knew we loved him. It was one the bravest acts I have witnessed in a long time.

After the service ended, Matthew's nephew, Zachary age 18, sang his very soulful and tender rendition of "Forever Young" by Bob Dylan. With that, we each made our first steps toward healing our many broken hearts.

'I borrow from Emily Dickinson when I say, it is the 'Hour of lead.'
However, it is this poem that best expresses the past few days spent with my family.

The bustle in the house

The morning after death

Is the solemnest of industries

Enacted upon earth, -

The sweeping up the heart,

And putting love away

We shall not use again

Until eternity.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Fall Fading Fast

Every year I promise myself that I will go the courtyard outside my window where I keep up with nature all through the school year and take some proper photos of a glorious Japanese maple. The autumn comes and races past me with school work, football games, and getting ready for holidays. (It is my Secret Pal at school bringing cherished gifts as it changes with the seasons.) I had an "Aha!" moment when I remembered one evening at dusk that my phone might do the trick!
So here is a close up of the tree's autumn adornments which brighten my view each day.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Gentle Heroes

Armistice Day
The Eleventh Hour, Eleventh Day, Eleventh Month
Then ...the Captain March 1970
with his Miracle Tail Rotor Blades
which returned his crew and those they rescued
to safety .
To all Vietnam Veterans,
welcome home!
Thanks to my son...
Operation Enduring Freedom
& Iraqi Freedom
We are so blessed that you will be here this Christmas!

Thank you Colonel,
for your service and your heroism!
Yes, these and a few dollars these days will get you a cup of coffee at Starbucks!
(That's all he ever said about them for years....but I know better.)
Hardest earned ...
43 Air Medals
Bronze Star
Distinguished Flying Cross
(click on photo to enlarge)
Happy Veterans Day
and a heartfelt thanks to all of our men & women
who have served and sacrificed



John McCrae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead.
Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Canadian John McCrae was not satisfied with this poem, and tossed it aside. A fellow officer saved it, sent it to several publications. It became the most famous poem of World War I. Even so, it has that powerful quality to transcend its time and place. The message is always the same: a soldier survives and tells the story of those who did not. How can we possibly understand the depth of feeling -- the grief -- and yes the guilt many veterans continue to bear all because they survived? Yes, there is glory, but many veterans say it pales and is hollow when they remember the "gentle heroes" who never returned.

When my husband returned from Vietnam, among his personal treasures was a manila folder of several poems composed and typed by his co-pilot, Michael. I read them over and over...and so did many people over the years. Michael died on the very day my husband was returning to the Central Highlands from his R&R in Hawaii. Michael had gone out on a rescue mission, and his helicopter took enemy fire and exploded in flames. No bodies were recovered, and he remained on MIA status for many long years. One poem, written only two months before he died, poignantly echoes the call to remember...

If you are able,
Save for them
A place inside of you
For the places
They can no longer go...
Be not ashamed
To say you loved them
Though you may or
May not have always
Take what they have left
And what they have taught you
With their dying
And keep it with your own...
And in that time
When men decide and feel safe
To call the war insane,
Take one moment
To embrace those gentle heroes
You left behind.

by Major Michael Davis O'Donnell
January 1, 1970

(Click on the Title Line of this post to visit the
In Flanders Fields Museum)

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Horsing Around

"In riding a horse, we borrow freedom."
Helen Thomson

"Show me your horse and I will telll you what you are."
Old English saying

"The air of heaven is that which blows between a horse's ears."
Arabian Proverb

Nothing like the crisp autumn air to start me dreaming of horses. My friend and fellow English teacher Phillip has spent a good deal of time working on a farm where the owners have Fresians.
He once told me I would probably love them as they are the cocker spaniels of the horse world. I took that to mean they had a rather high adorability factor. Judging from the photos (portrait above & header) I've scavenged from the net, I would have to agree with Phillip.

There is a dear little book that I discovered just a few years ago, a book I should have read a long time ago. SILVER SNAFFLES is the story of a little girl named Jenny who visits a farmer's pony because she does not have one of her own. One evening as she is feeding him, Tattles begins to speak. She must go to the dark corner he says...she does....and it's the gateway to a farm where all the ponies speak to their riders and teach them all the secrets of riding and caring for ponies! My pony Jiggs was just a big pet to me. (I was a teenager before I learned that horseback riding could be such a formal sport!) He was a sturdy Welsh pony. In the winter he had a heavy, wavy coat that I loved to curry. He had a Western saddle and bridle, but I hardly ever used them. I would just grab his mane and pull up. Needless to say he was a gentle soul and patient one too. He was clever though, and stubborn. He always took me straight back to his barn and his feed box. He was good at convincing me and other members of the family that "No, one has fed me this morning....or evening."
If you are interested in the book for yourself or a child who loves horses, look on eBay and ABE Books. Published in 1937 and reprinted into the 40's by Blackie & Son, Ltd., it is quite sought after. I just happened to find one online from a bookstore in Glasgow, Scotland. The author is Primrose Cumming and the charming charcoal pencil illustrations are by Stanley Lloyd. Click on the book cover in the sidebar for more information on Silver Snaffles!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Behind the Scenes at Willow Manor: This Just In!

I just bumped into Miss Piggy in the powder room, and she told me that she had secretly arranged a dance with a long lost flame of hers......a man from Russia she said....and she swooned on the chaise lounge dreamily.......I asked her if that was the same man who had been wandering around alone asking for her earlier...and she flew out of that room and disappeared into the the ballroom faster than I can order bacon & eggs!
What's all this fuss.?....Could it be........Nureyev.......DANCING here at the Manor???
(Click on this post title to see one of the highlights of Willow's Ball!)
Derrick .......your date is absolutely stunning in Swine Lake!

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Light Fantastic

I rolled into Maycomb this evening just in time to catch the spirit of Gregory Peck hovering around the old Monroe County Court House. The American Film Institute has recently voted his portrayal of Atticus Finch as the number one hero of 20th century films.
No wonder he is so fond of this guy!

Not surprisingly, he was reading over To Kill a Mockingbird and remembering his dear friend. He had been expecting me he said. He pointed me down the street just a few blocks from the court house to the front porch where I would find Atticus in his rocking chair. As I walked away, I heard him say softly, "Make sure he has a wonderful time, and give your hostess my best regards!"

The court house is actually a museum...a perfect haunt for the ghostly likes of Mr. Peck.

"Good evening m'am. May I help you find someone?"

"A Willow Manor? I had a strange dream about that....Gregory Peck said I should get out of Maycomb for just once......branch a little.......have a ball. Hmmm?
Well, let me see if my tux still fits."

I showed him my dress...just to prove I was not too over the top...just a little understated elegance....a little jewelry, my favorite garnet with gold earrings and and matching delicate bangle!
Suede dancing slippers. Hair pulled back in a French braid. Just the faintest hint of Shalimar...

I do love my slippers!

" A little Peck on the cheek for taking me to the ball, and then I'll change"

"Will this do? Not bad for a little ol' lawyer from Alabama?"
"Perfect, just perfect, Atticus!"
And we are off, tripping the light fantastic on the road to Willow's!
We'll be arriving any moment!

On our way to the ball!

Many thanks to the Colonel and fellow car guys for polishing up my 1930 Phantom Rolls-Royce and priming the engine for the grand tour to collect my escort from the small Alabama town where he is quietly living despite his great fame. Yes, after having channeled the spirit of his dear friend and alter ego, the most distinguished Gregory Peck, I have successfully coaxed Mr. Atticus Finch from the town of Maycomb to join me at this year's Willow Manor Ball. Miss Harper Lee has graciously agreed to watch over the children, Jem & Scout, with the help of Boo Radley, who loves the little tykes as we learned from the poignant ending of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. You may recall, that Atticus, a widower, devoted all of is time to practicing law, to justice, and to his children. I just decided it is high time that this man had a night out! The Mocking bird is on the wing, and we are on the road!!!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Looking for that certain dress...

Up early for a dash to New York City and the dress salon at Lord & Taylor. I explained to the sales lady that I was looking for a dress for a very special ball....that I loved the English country house look....
She brought out this one of a I like old fashioned things.....but this was a little too far back in the Way Back Machine ----even for me! Lady Macbeth I am not. Let's try something a little more up to date.

Now this was certainly ball worthy, but way too modern for me,
and looks more like a wedding gown. Next....

This one was almost as lovely as the model, but certainly not for right me.

Then, of all people at Tavern on the Green (I had to break for lunch) there was Charlotte Moss.... well I could not very well ask for her dress.....but I would love to know how to find her designer.....she has some gorgeous taffeta evening skirts I have seen in some magazines paired with very femine white blouses.

Then I passed a shop specializing in vintage clothes.....and I was getting closer ....this 1930's beauty was so Katharine Hepburn......but the color was all wrong for me.

Naturally I wanted to check out jewelry at Tiffany's...surely I could find just the dress to crown with the tiara and matching diamond necklace and earrings!

Then I remembered a dress I had seen in one of Sargent's paintings....a Mrs. Chapman I believe......not time to copy it .....but reminds of something I had seen in England once upon a across the Pond!

Once in London, I make my way north to the walled city of York. To my great joy and and surprise, I find my dear old friends still in business (I call this Willow Magic)... and there in the window...dresses, dresses, and dresses galore in the style I love.....and yes there is velvet! I am just a velvet kind of girl! I did spend more time than the 15 minutes I had spent there the first time I visited. Once inside, I meet owner and designer Angela Holmes sent by the angels to rescue the total lack of imagination and romance in current fashions. She walks to a collection of velvets...and the rest-- as they say--is history. At last, I have the perfect gown for the ball!

Once back home....I must make plans to call on a very famous and much admired Southern gentleman. Though he has been honored and celebrated, he has never made the Most Eligible Bachelor's List, or has even been on a date as far as I know. I am determined that he will be my escort...I think he may be sort of shy. I will ask a close friend of his...and get a few tips.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Happy Anniversary to my #1 and his love!

Happy Second Wedding Anniversary
September 29, 2007
Lisa & Cameron
on the way to their wedding reception
...looking in the same direction...
Much love from Graystone Cottage!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

MyMy MeMe for Lyn: 7 Random Facts

Okay readers, help me here. Yep, there I am lost in time in the first photo!

1. The Dave Matthews Band is the one rock band that I still like to see in concert. I adore the lyrics, the music, and fiddler Boyd Tinsley on his electric fiddle is something to behold. This is the only band I have seen live more than I saw my original favorite rock & roll band in the '60's. Dave started this band when he was in college at the University of Virginia. He grew up in South Africa, but I am thrilled he came to this country and put together his amazing band. Yo, Dave!!!

2. I learned to drive in a 1951 Crosley Hot Shot designed by Powel Crosley. My father had purchased the car to make an economic drive to the Pentagon in Washington D.C. where he was assigned for a period of time during the Korean War. My brother, two older sisters, and I practiced our driving in the pony pasture featured in the header. It was a stick shift on the floor and loads of fun. The side doors were removable as was the top.

While looking for a photo of this little darling, I came across yet another book I need to read.


Remember Lily Tomlin's Ernestine?

3. My first job was as a long distance operator for Southern Bell --aka Ma Bell--located on 6th Avenue North in Birmingham. I worked there part time from 6:00 to 10:00 PM during my junior and senior years in high school. My best friend and often partner in crime, Cindy and I had applied and been hired and trained together. We worked in Unit Six which served the south side of Birmingham and a series of small towns down Highway 280 -- the same route that led to a college town named Auburn. Sometimes to keep the late evenings lively, Cindy and I liked to practice our accents: British , of course, and then Japanese, Spanish, French, and just plain Old Deep South --a la Scarlet O'Hara --when we plugged in and beamed "Your number please?"

4. One of my favorite claims to fame is the amazing fact that I actually had the gratt good fortune and pleasure of seeing the Beatles in concert 3 times! (Yes, only Dave Matthews got my attention as well as this band. )The first concert was in August of 1965 at Atlanta's Fulton Stadium. My best friend Cindy ( fellow operator in crime) convinced her mother to drive us to Atlanta. She took care of lodgings and food and made sure we made it to the concert on time. Thank you, Katharine!! The following summer, in August of 1966 my sister Sue and I took the train from Birmingham to Memphis. We had tickets to both the afternoon and evening performances at the Mid-South Coliseum. It was a much smaller and intimate venue. We could actually see their faces and hear the music!! I was much more mature by this time, and did not scream once (chuckling). It was sheer Fab Four euphoria! BEATLES 4 EVER!!!!

5. I STILL miss the Laura Ashley stores, clothes, accessories, fabric, & shoes desperately!!! Thank goodness I can still find my all time favorite perfumes Laura Ashley No 1 & 2 on eBay!
LA No 2 is a really rare find, but I have been lucky twice. As for clothes, I do have a few classic LA patterns, so I can have the occasional new taffeta or corduroy dress. At one point I was so far gone on the whole Laura Ashley era, that my good friend Bob, saw a chance to give me a most memorable Christmas present. Mind you , this neighbor, expert painter ( the only one I will allow to paint inside the cottage) , woodcutter, personal baker (his homemade sour dough bread is truly the stuff of yummylicious legend ), never misses a chance to have me double over in laughter with his humor. Having salvaged some satin & monogrammed Laura Ashley ribbon from some linens his wife had bought, he graciously presented me with my own personal and exquisitely wrapped bundle of his hand hewed Laura Ashley Fatwood (a Southern term for heart of pine pieces used as kindling) for my Christmas fireplace!

I think that was the beginning of the end of the era!

VANITY.....blame thy name on Laura Ashley!


6. Though my usual approach to buying clothes had always been one of long, quiet reflection, I once bought two very special dresses in less than 15 minutes! I had only thirty minutes to stroll down the charming street in York known as the Shambles: a series of lilting but nevertheless sturdy & charming shops & buildings. Somewhere tucked in among the storefronts, I stepped into Droopy & Browns, the original store of designer Angela Holmes. A quick description of her style is in the name of the shop, then think medieval motifs in 1940's shapes and gorgeous fabrics. It was March and the winter dresses were on sale. I took one look at these beauties and declared something was going with me. When I returned two years later, there were several shops throughout England. I found the one in Bath, and discovered that Holmes's designs were quite in demand...and the prices had increased three fold! Alas, the end of another era was inevitable. I am sad to tell you that Angela died at the height of her career in the mid 90's.


7. After reading The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and seeing the film, I vowed that I would have to do something to leave my mark on my students: I would conduct student tours to England & Scotland! I did, too. In the 1980's I organized and escorted six groups of junior high aged students along with some parents. It was hard work, but it was worth every minute. I will always be grateful to the students and parents who participated in those trips. When students ask me to sign their yearbooks, I either quote Bob Dylan's "Forever Young" or say "The classroom is just a beginning; travel if you really want to learn about the world.'

(The caricature was surprise gift done by art teacher
Betsy Logan when I left the junior high school & all my travelers.)

Okay, now I am obliged, and very happily so, to tag seven of my bloggy followers to follow suit! Truly, I ask anyone who wishes to join in and share seven facts about you!
Special requests go to these 7 super duper blog friends....

Cait O'Connor


Janelle Goodwin


Maggie's Garden



Oh yes, you can take your sweet time to do this.....I certainly did!

Thank you, dear Lyn, for giving me something to do!!!

About Me

My photo
Recreational scholar, former high school and junior college English teacher. Animal lover (especially horses, dogs, and people), live in the South, sometimes poet and essayist... "Ireland, Scotland, Britain, and Wales...I can hear those ancient voices calling..." Van Morrison from Celtic Heartbeat