Formal Garden of Versailles

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Ordinarily I’m not a big fan of formal gardens. English country is more my style, and the more informal the better. However, I’ve always heard that the Palace of Versailles was where formal gardens reached their zenith, and having seen this one, I have to agree. I had already walked down lanes lined with boxwood clipped to towering perfection, gazed upon fountains of unbelievable size and grandeur, and strolled through impressive areas surrounded by statuary that were a living classroom in the art of impact through repetition. I thought I had seen the best that Versailles had to offer before I decided to explore one more path and gaze over one more terrace railing, just to see if there might be one more thing worth seeing. And there below me was a reward that took my breath away and left me staring in amazement. A picture can’t do it justice, but I took one anyway. I’m all about flowers, and there wasn’t a flower in sight, but it didn’t matter. It was beauty, symmetry, peace and poetry.

I still may not be a huge fan of formal gardens, but there is one that has my heart and always will. And I am infinitely glad I heard it whispering to me and sought it out.

Gardens of Notre Dame

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I recently spent a couple of weeks in Europe. I saw a lot of beautiful things, unbelievable architecture, ruins from ancient Rome, medieval cities with their walls still surrounding them, but amid it all, there were gardens. I went to Notre Dame in Paris, and most of my pictures were of the flowers surrounding it.

In fact, among the most impressive things I saw in Paris were the many, large elaborate gardens that were filled each day with the people of the city. Older couples sat quietly on benches. Mothers watched their children at the playgrounds. People relaxed around the fountains, lounging in chairs while birds swam and young boys sailed wooden boats. The surrounding trees were tall and lush, and the wide paths were lined with limestone pebbles. Whatever time of day we went, the clean, well-maintained parks were filled with citizens and tourists alike quietly enjoying themselves in the obviously much used and cherished gardens.

So, if you have a chance to visit Paris, be sure to take a stroll, find a garden, and relax awhile. Pull up a chair and nap by a fountain, or throw a few crumbs to the birds. If you’re patient, the sea gulls will catch bread crusts from your fingertips as they fly by.

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Thank You, Peggy Lou, Day 6

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I’m a lucky person. My life is full of memorable, fascinating, positive people and any one of them is worthy of a blog, but rather than having someone special enter my life this year, someone special left it. So, I would like to write about her. And I’ll try to keep it brief and relevant, because that’s part of what she taught me.

Peggy Fielding was hitting the mid-century mark and starting her life over when I met her. Not too long before that she had gotten a divorce, moved halfway around the world and thrown herself headlong into being the writer she had always dreamed of being. And typical of Peggy, she was sharing her adventure, her knowledge and her passion with the friends she made along the way. I was invited to join a writers roundtable she conducted weekly, where she served as moderator, editor and guide, using her skills as a teacher to inspire and educate. She taught the assembled group how to edit ourselves, how to listen to others and offer positive critiques, and how to strengthen plot, pacing, dialogue and character development in our own work. She taught me how to craft an idea into a finished book that a publisher would buy. And then she told me it was time for me move on and give up my place at the table to someone who needed it. She kicked me out of her roundtable but not out of her life.

But before she did that, she took raw talent and crafted it into something that would sell. She gave me my writer’s wings and taught me how to fly. And she did the same for so many other writers that it’s impossible to count them all. She was one of the most successful and influential people I’ve ever know, as a writer, as a teacher and as a person. And to her last breath, she was Auntie Mame in the Midwest–colorful, creative, dramatic, and inspiring–and kind and caring and supportive. From all of us to you, Peggy Lou, we will never forget you and we will never be able to thank you enough. 

Ti Amo, Day 5

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The day was lush. The park was quiet. The perfect place to take a walk, to think, to wonder. Her fingers touched the paper in her pocket. Drawing it out, she unfolded the worn sheet of paper. Ti Amo, it began. The ink was faded and the handwriting was thin, spidery and elegant, the way no one seems to write anymore. I love you, I miss you, it continued. I wish you were here with me, and not so far away. When will you come home? I’m sorry. I spoke thoughtlessly. I didn’t mean what I said. I want the baby as much as you do. I’ll take a second job if I have to. We’ll make it work. Just come back. Please. It was signed, Your Husband. No names, no date, though it was clearly old, and no envelope. Just the letter and a million questions. She wished she could hand it back to its owner, but that would never happen. She had found it at the bottom of one of her mother’s purses, in a plain white envelope, wrapped around a gold wedding band and a lock of baby-fine hair. Her mother was gone now, buried yesterday. The single mother who worked two jobs while raising a daughter without a father, and left just the letter and a million questions.

The Other Side of Sorrow, Day 4

Loss takes many forms, some life changing, some small, quiet aches. Some are intense but gone quickly. Some become a part of you, rising up occasionally from where they are buried deep, becoming almost like nostalgia for something loved and lost, and forever cherished.

Loss is inevitable and survivable, and while the memories never leave you, the pain will lessen. And someday there will be smiles again for the good times. On the other side of loss, there will be happiness mingled with the sorrow. Life will go on, and it will carry you with it. Loss Imagewill heal, and the grief will become memories, and there will be new things to love and new memories made.

And life will carry you with it.

 

Music with Meaning

Stevie Ray Vaughn on guitar solo or singing anything. Blues saxophone, especially when it evokes images of streetlights on rain-slicked pavement sometime after midnight. And anyone who sounds like Leonard Cohen singing anything, but especially the songs that make you think of dark, lonely nights filled with the echoes of regret. Music is the thing that reminds me that being alive doesn’t always mean you’re always happy, that growing as a human being really does hurt sometimes, and that if you’ve never done something you are sorry for, then you’re being too damned careful.

Music is emotion, and because I’m a writer, music becomes images and mood, and that becomes people and stories. So for me, music is much more than a song. It’s a door to a world that belongs to someone else, and when I walk through that door, I am in someone else’s shoes, feeling his emotions and telling his story. Music is magic, and the people who write it and perform it are magicians. And I thank them for the world they open to everyone who listens.

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ROOM WITH A VIEW

Winter through a window

Winter through a window

My room is simple. It has a desk, a small laptop, and a mid-century rocking chair with lots of room, a high back, and comfortable cushions. I can sit with my legs crossed yoga-style, put my keyboard on my lap, lean back and write, which is what I do, write, that is. Cozy mysteries specifically, set in Myrtle Grove, a rural town in the lake country of Oklahoma. So a cozy, peaceful setting that lets my mind flow freely is important. And that’s why the room itself isn’t so important. The two big windows on the outside walls, and the views outside the windows are what’s important.

The big cedar with a bed of hostas and coral bells at its base–the hummingbird feeder with the ruby throat who visits it–and the sweeping, terraced flower bed beyond are the views from the room that allow my heart and mind to soar. Imagination takes me through the windows and into the world beyond, and nature is my touchstone to the soul.