Monday, December 11, 2017

Snow

Like a child on Christmas Day, I leapt out of bed at 5am to look at the world cloaked in white. Sparkling white snow everywhere. I've been giddy all day, taking the dogs out in it in their ridiculous red tartan coats, watching them leap like bunnies across it, standing in the woods and staring up at the white branches as if in a ghostly cathedral. It's Narnia here. Really it's Narnia. It's magical and white and glittering and everyone's greeting each other with jolly hellos. We're on top of a hill in the Chilterns and we're in a very small village; there are boxes of salt on the side of the road but I haven't seen a snow plough, nor do I know if such a thing exists in the English countryside. This is unusually snowy. This kind of weather sends me into paroxysms of glee and also sends me online searching for used Land Rovers. My poor darling is stuck in Berlin, where all the flights have been cancelled, as is making his way back via Köln and Dortmund and Brussels on a train.

Yesterday, walking through the cold woods, waiting for the snow, I realized that winter makes me, makes us, want to simplify. Summer is about abundance: flowers and fruits and buzzing bees and plenty. Winter is about taking stock, about letting go of things, about appreciating the beauty of minimalism. The cold seals you up, makes you careful, forces you to think about what you can lose without losing yourself. Winter isn't chaotic, unlike Spring, when everything bursts into being. Our job in winter is to keep warm, is basic sustenance, is thoughtfulness, is kindness.


Monday, December 04, 2017

No-Vember (remember)

Hello, kind and patient friends of the blog. It's the fourth of December at four minutes past four and it's dark outside. I'm sitting at my desk, catching up on emails, writing a few things, waiting for LA to wake up, and thinking, I'll take the dogs out in a few. And there it is, the skeleton trees and the cloudy darkness. Blink and you'll miss the day in December in the UK. Blink and you might as well just hibernate. But I refuse to be rocked or knocked or even slightly perturbed by it. I have cod liver oil and vitamin pills, radiators that work, and a very attractive grey beanie that I wear At All Times, in order to keep warm. My friend suggests wearing a housecoat over one's clothes to keep really warm. To that I say what my mother said in church this morning when offered a blanket for her legs "I'm not 100 yet, darling."

The mother of one of my oldest childhood friends (a pony club girl) has died, sadly, and we were at the funeral today. I remember her mother as beautiful, sexy, glamorous, funny, an ace cakemaker, and absolutely not death material whatsoever. In fact, she came to lunch in the spring, and was witty and amusing and warm and kind; this was, as I suppose death always is, unexpected.

Funerals are awfully sad.  But sitting in churches is lovely. This one was a creamy white, and light, and oddly, optimistic. There were grandchildren reading poems. A lovely son choking back his grief while reading a eulogy with a slightly wobbly voice. White flowers which looked as if they had been picked directly from the meadow, loose and natural and bright. Jerusalem, which was belted out. (This is how the English express emotion, through the belting of stirring hymns.) But also there were people I hadn't seen since I was fourteen. Lots of them. Lovely old friends and boys on whom I had miserable crushes, and Plum, who held a joint 14th birthday party with me, and painted my nails red for the first time, and made me feel sophisticated and grown up and just slightly slutty. There were sandwiches, and fudge, and little smoked haddock fishcakes, and farmers from all around, names of people my father liked. Names I remember him saying with warmth, which was not always the case. Two of my mother's widow group were there, and a sprinkling of pony club girls. Happily familiar faces. How sad it is that it takes a funeral to reunite us all. (Dear, dear Plum. Isn't it funny how you can see a friend for the first time in 40! years and it's the same. They may have a couple of extra lines, but the essence is their fourteen year old self. All I felt was immense warmth and love. Also, everyone should have a friend called Plum. It's so deliciously cozy.)

I have managed for the first time in the fourteen years that this blog has existed to miss an entire month. While other people were growing moustaches, I was NOT WRITING and no doubt lying about it to anyone who asked. I'm not sure how I could have allowed that to happen, but I am sorry. I am awfully sorry. In the future, I promise at least to publish a recipe. I'm letting no-one down but myself, I realize. This must be amended.

I can tell you this:

  1. I have fallen in love with the Alhambra Palace after seeing "A Trip to Spain" on the plane.
  2. I have been back to Los Angeles twice and I realize what an easy life we have there. Also, that I miss those balmy, orange-lit afternoons that only Thanksgiving brings.
  3. Vegan sweet potatoes with coconut milk are the most delicious things on the planet.
  4. I miss Monica with a passion. (This is another blog post entirely: but, I was a SPOILED girl.)
  5. I am busier with work than I have been all year and I love it.
  6. If you haven't seen "Midnight Special" do, immediately.
  7. People don't show up for food in the UK. This is what distinguishes it from the US. I told this story to a colleague and she thought I was joking, but in LA, if you want people to come watch a movie, you merely feed them. Here, not so much.
  8. I've done very little Christmas shopping and don't quite know how to survive with my go-to LA shops, OK Gallery, New Stone Age, Lost and Found, and Pergolina. If my British readers have any good ideas for cute places to shop for Christmas, please let me know.
  9. The stark, naked beauty of Britain in December takes some beating. Every leaf that's left is copper. The ground is muddy. There are starlings and wood pigeons and pheasants everywhere. And the blue, when it comes, is so pleasing, and so unexpected, that one's mood is imediately lifted.
  10. There is no Honey Baked Ham in Buckinghamshire.
  11. My expectations have changed. And this is a good thing. More on this later.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Radiate

In the two days since I last wrote something here, I have not had any wine, I have slept a full night (until 5.15am), and both my skin and my outlook are radiant. Not a coincidence, I'm sure. The wind is blowing through the oak outside my window, and I walked the dogs late in the dark on the common, as I got the 10.30pm train from Euston. The dogs don't care a bit about the rain. They're happy to bomb about on the cricket pitch, getting their feet muddy. My darling man is going to Australia tomorrow morning, but tonight he took me to see Michael Clark's extraordinary dance company at the Barbican, dancing to Satie, and Patti Smith and David Bowie. I found myself moved beyond measure, but perhaps that's because we were sitting dead center, three rows back, and I could see the facial expressions and lipstick of everyone on stage. C sat next to me with his arm around me the entire time and I felt myself swooning and wondered if it were possible to feel happier. Mr McDuck and Aladdin Sane after an almost full night of sleep; a heady combination.

I hope you all sleep well. xo


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Sleep No More

This not sleeping thing is a killer. Actually, it is. I read that the less you sleep the shorter your life will be. At this rate I'll make it to about 61.  It's not just the exhaustion, the lack of energy, but it's one's world picture which becomes distorted and the (albeit mild) paranoia that sets in, questioning one's actions, pondering the motives of others, instead of seeing the world as bountiful and blissful and benign. For those who do sleep, I am in awe of you. For those that don't, let's work this out together.

There are a few things that are taking a toll on sleep for all of us.

1) 45. Yeah, I can't even say his name any more because it makes me wince. That man with the orange face who lives in the White House, who has made a mockery of the Presidency, and has demeaned America in the eyes of every other nation in the world. Every day we live with the underlying anxiety of wondering what his next move will be and whether, in fact, we will have a world to live in.

2) The weather. The sands from the Sahara have been whipped up in England to produce eerily orange and brown skies. Once again, the fear is that maybe, while we were listening to a nice podcast and driving along the M11, Trump's small hands had been fumbling too close to the nuclear button and North Korea had retaliated.

3) Harvey. Every single woman I know (Every. Single. Woman.) has been re-living sexual harassment and abuse. We'd all tamped it down. We'd all told ourselves that what happened to us wasn't a big deal, that people had it worse. But in some beautiful, Jungian, mind-meld of consciousness, we've all started to remember together, in the knowledge that other women have in fact gone through a similar thing, and suddenly, now, we feel safe in shining a light on all these things. For too long we've been told that we have to smile, laugh it off, make a joke of it, make the man feel better about himself for being wildly inappropriate (great piece here on this: here), we've been told, oh that's just what men do, and now it's not okay any more. Hugest kudos and love and respect to Rose McGowan, Ashley Judd and all the women who came out and poked a hole in the dam so big that the geyser is covering all of us. Last night, I vented on Facebook, just briefly about the horrible encounters I could remember, the squirming feeling that is hard to shake, the awful uncomfortableness of being a child with no recourse when there is a predator, not knowing who to turn to, or how, or why it's happening, but just knowing, in a small, dark place inside that it IS wrong.

4) Devices In Bedrooms. I am an addict. I keep my phone by my bed even when I know I shouldn't because it fills the dark, sleepless hours. I vow to stop this.

5) Wine. I drank almost a full bottle of wine last night after venting about horrible men. My darling wasn't here and I felt alone and I drank a full bottle of wine. Note to self: wine does not aid sleep. Not a bit.  Time for a few nights of mint tea, methinks.

Is there anything I've missed?

And so as not to end on a dark note, please read this beautiful piece by my teacher Tej on depression and ways to help it:

Yogic Tips for Handling Depression


Monday, October 09, 2017

Nature

"If you can trust nature, by and by you become quiet, silent, happy, joyful, celebrating – because nature is celebrating. Nature is a celebration. Look all around. Can you see any flower which looks like your saints? Can you see any rainbow which looks like your saints? Or any cloud, bird singing, and the light reflecting in the river, and the stars? The world is celebrating. The world is not sad. The world is a song, an utterly beautiful song, and the dance continues. Become part of this dance and trust your nature."

-- Osho




 

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Three geraniums

The dark creeps in on you and suddenly the days are no longer long. On the train back from London last night, I realized that at 6.30pm it was almost winter. I love the train; I do all the things you aren't meant to do, like stare at people, make eye contact, sometimes chat. I have my little telepathic ideas about everyone. I told a woman the other day that her hair was fantastic. It was curly and wild and she wore it well, without worrying about it. I longed for such confidence.

I wake up in the dark now, in my cozy bed with its Hudson Bay blanket and the two real live furry hot water bottles around my legs and feet. You can hear if it's raining by the sound the cars' wheels make on the road. Mostly it's just drizzle. But today there is wind and from my kitchen window I can see that the trees are veering into yellow and orange, and I dream of Maine and Vermont and pancakes with maple syrup.

I am alone but for the dogs. (Potential burglars: the small one will kill you, no problem.) My darling man is in London as it was the opening of the London Film Festival last night. It's strange not to wake up to his lovely face. He sleeps like an angel, quietly. My French Bulldog snores more than him.  Secretly, I like to be alone. I like to make my own tea, to start slowly, to venture out early with the dogs, to drink in the day, to bathe in nature, like a fool, to be renewed.

Slowly, slowly, I am finding my people. My friend with whom I had tea yesterday, an imp of a woman, smiley and wise, says that it takes two years to find your people when you move to a new place. She is my people. She has somehow managed to rise above class, a notable feat in this country, so that when I speak to her, I feel as if I am speaking to an American friend. There is no barrier, no layers to negotiate, no flinty passive aggression to beat down, just an openness that I understand and appreciate. It's a jungle out here, I tell you. There is just so much stuff to get through, so many little hints and notes that may have meaning (but meaning is always denied; "Oh, it's a JOKE!" or "Oh, no, I'm FINE.") It's snakes and ladders for a foreigner and believe me, I am a foreigner here in the land of my birth. Nothing is dealt with straight on. Which is both good and bad. I am reminded of the way my father asked for the salt to be passed. "Darling, would you like some salt?"

So being with my impish friend, who is a writer and, I dare say, an empath, over a lovely big cup of Darjeeling in a hotel filled with the most beautiful flowers I have ever seen, displayed in various sized milk bottles, is like sitting by a burn in the Scottish highlands, in the sunshine, splashing water on one's face. I'm refreshed and I have a lovely warm feeling, as if I have been eating Ready Brek.

We are two nations divided by a common language. I could write about this for a long, long time. It pulls into focus one's idea about identity, belonging, class, ways to live. I used to believe I spoke both languages fluently. Now, I wonder.

There are three rose-scented geraniums in my kitchen window. I was in house full of plants last week and decided that as winter closes in, we need to bring more green things inside.

Three geraniums. Two potatoes.

And one more thing:

"We are all just walking each other home." -- Ram Dass

I think this is a good thing to remember in these dark times. I think that's what I want to spread about liberally. We are here for a very short time. There is only room to love each other.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Winner!


Taking this opportunity to thank all my lovely friends who supported me in the South Oxfordshire Sponsored Ride. Incredibly happy to say that due to everyone's enormous generosity, we raised over $1800 for Macmillan Cancer Support. I have the nicest friends and the best clients in the world. I also have an expert lorry driver (who's handsome to boot) and a very sweet little mare, who jumped her heart out. Thank you to everyone. I am incredibly grateful. Big love to all of you. (And yes, that's a bottle of Lanson Black Label in my hand!)