Feathering My New Nest

 

An African Violet growing on the kitchen window sill

An African Violet growing on the kitchen window sill

I have moved so many times in my life that I can unpack and set up my home in three weeks flat. That includes scrubbing down every cupboard and countertop, and washing all the walls and floors. I don’t care how clean my new space looks on the surface; I need to do a deep clean before I unpack partly so I know it is clean to my standard but also to remove the previous owner’s energy. And by touching every wall and surface I get to know the feel of the space.

Once that is done, I will unpack the things I need for daily living but the finishing touches I leave for at least two months. Knick knacks and treasures stay in their boxes and pictures lay against the wall waiting to be hung.

Feathers in an old jar, poppy seedpods in a vase and a silver tea service

Feathers in an old jar, poppy seed pods in a vase and a silver tea service

I didn’t always do this. In my earlier moves, I was in such a rush to make the alien space I was moving into with its odd smells and unfamiliar sounds feel safe and familiar that I would slap up pictures and artwork and arrange my treasures willy-nilly just to banish the strangeness to the corners of the room. Quickly putting out my things so I could see and touch the familiar like a security blanket.

It calmed me down to have my things out in the new environment but in not considering the personality of my new abode, how the energy and light flowed through the space, where it got stuck and the air stuffy or how I would use the space every day I would inevitably have to go back and rearrange the wall art and displays and sometimes even the furniture layout and function of a space.

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Birthday cards in inexpensive white frames

 

If you want to have a great relationship with your house and make it feel like a home you need to spend a few months getting to know each other. Then and only then do I place my things out in locations that both honour the treasures and the home, creating a harmonious new union.

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Vintage clock and glass votive holders on the mantle

So for the few months I was learning about my new space, getting to know its quirks I started watching beauty gurus on YouTube. My discoveries on beauty and the modern young woman is a blog for another day, but what I noticed with the majority of these bright young things is that their spaces were beautifully decorated with the same design esthetic, soft grey or white walls, white lacquered tables, white or grey tailored sofas, lots of silver or rose gold to add sparkle, fresh flowers and gleaming pristine kitchens. These spaces all looked like they came ready-made out of the pages of a design magazine.

I remember being in my early twenties and setting up my first apartments, the thrill of picking out furniture and accessories, cookware and towels, although it would be several years and apartments later that I could afford to buy new. But I remember adopting the latest trend in home design from top to bottom. If a home reflects who you are, in your twenties you are still relatively fresh out of the package without much life experience to shape your taste in the space you call home.

When you are older you have more memories, experiences and a clearer understanding of who you are down to what you prefer as opposed to what others would have you like. I’m sure that if I were twenty-something today, my space would look just like all those fabulous young YouTubers right down to the granite counter tops in a kitchen that is never used except to make a salad or tea.

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Vintage prints and modern plaque

But in my well-worn skin, I like my spaces to feel comfortable, cozy and relaxed. My ideal design esthetic is an English country home where the décor pieces have been handed down for generations, telling stories of the lives of the people who inhabited the home, of furniture that is slightly threadbare giving the whole place a feel of benign neglect where dogs are welcome to snooze on sofas with slightly sagging cushions and where there is always something delicious simmering on the Aga in a kitchen that is more utilitarian than sleek.

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Home-made Lemon Meringue pie cooling on the counter

 

So dear readers, whether you are in your twenties or, like me, inching every closer to fifty, what does your current space look like? Does it reflect your authentic self? And what is the style of decorating that resonates with you?

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Where Is Your Home?

Source: purpleshadow13.hubpages.com

Source: purpleshadow13.hubpages.com

Everyone has ideal work and home environments, places where they can be their most productive and authentic. I wonder where these preferences come from. Is it an attempt to recreate a childhood home where one felt safe and loved, is it just a matter of convenience and lifestyle or is it a link to the way our ancestors lived that is stored in our DNA that makes one person hanker for city life and another for the quiet of the country?

As an introvert, I’ve spent most of my life trying to fit into an extrovert world. I tried to convince myself living in an apartment in a big city was what I wanted and working in a government office was the thing to do. Then I got older and wiser and just plain tired of trying to be something and someone I wasn’t.

If I had just listened to my child self and followed what made her happy, I would have saved myself a great deal of time, grief and moving expenses. Children always know their preferences especially when they are young enough not to care about what society says.

I’ve always preferred a forest, and not a forest view but being amongst the trees, down in the understory. As a preschooler, I would head outside and straight for the hedgerow that divided our property from the neighbour’s. I would spend hours tucked underneath the branches where it was cool and dark making up stories about magical animals and places. Once I started attending school, every recess I would scoot down to a small dell where a poplar forest stood. I loved that tiny green palace with its shimmering leaves that shivered with the slightest breeze breaking the sunlight into moving sculptures of dark and light.

It wasn’t until my forties when I would finally own a property that was nestled in the trees and for five years I lived in my dream environment. Even on the brightest, hottest days of summer I could find a cool, dark spot of shade where my light-sensitive eyes could enjoy looking at the sunny day from a comfortable perspective.

When it comes to work environment, a softly lit, quiet room with the sound of the rain outside is when I feel the most energized and productive. A sunny day does the opposite for me; I just want to find shade and read all afternoon or have a long afternoon nap. Give me an overcast stormy day, soft glowing yellow light and even better a fire roaring on the hearth and I’m a very happy camper.

kitchen fire

I am also a morning person, a very early morning person. Before sunrise, I take my coffee outside no matter what time of year. I go outside to experience the brief moment when the night creatures have all gone to bed and the day beings haven’t gotten up yet. The silence that exists is like the earth holding its breath and it feels as if all things are possible in that fleeting period of absolute silence.

So, I prefer the sun dappled shade of a forest and my home needs to reflect a sense of calm, warmth and dreaminess. I contemplated why I hold such preferences and I think I unconsciously try to recreate in the external world what my internal one looks and feels like.

My imagination and inspiration live in a place of shadows where characters and stories emerge from the half-light of a flickering candle flame, where the brooding clouds create a blank slate for my characters to act out their stories. And the in between places of my mind are where I catch glimpses of another world that ask to be placed on the page.

candlelight window

So what is your ideal place to live; the stark beauty of a desert, the vastness of an ocean view, a cottage in the forest, the open vistas of a prairie, or the exotic flora of a jungle? And what environment allows you to feel most comfortable, the hum and buzz of a city, the quiet of the country or something in between?

Chesterfield of Dreams

AfricanvioletIt’s been a month of soaring temperatures and oppressive heat.  Even with the blinds closed and several fans running, my apartment is sweltering.  The only solution is to head outside in search of shade and the faint hope of catching a breeze.

My apartment opens onto a covered patio so finding shade wasn’t a problem but the available seating left a great deal to be desired. But that’s where my sister, the Garage Sale Guru, the Diva of Dumpster Diving came to my rescue.

She’d recently plucked a rather sad-looking bamboo and wicker sofa from someone’s front lawn.  Don’t worry, she didn’t steal it, the owners had stuck a free sign on it before my sister scooped it up and shoved it in the back of her truck.

Its coat of glossy black paint was peeling off, there were no cushions and a few of the wicker wraps on the back and arms had started to unravel. I gave it a good cleaning and fixed the broken pieces.  As for cushions, we snagged them for under forty dollars, sixty percent off, as the store was already putting out its back to school merchandise (this was in July).

At first I labeled this wonderful piece of furniture the Couch of Procrastination because as soon as I’d settle into it, time would disappear and I would find myself daydreaming while watching the bees dance with the flowers in the back yard.

Couch

 

But the word procrastination conjured up feeling of guilt; that in sitting in this wonderful space I was somehow being lazy.  I was wasting time when there were more important things that needed my attention; laundry, housecleaning, this month’s blog, hitting my daily word count on my current novel.

Then I remembered a quote from Socrates, “Beware the barrenness of a busy life.”  Somehow I’d forgotten the value of being instead of constantly doing. Its only when you are really clear on what is important in your life, what fulfills you, can you lead a meaningful life.  And the only way to figure that out is to be.  Be with yourself, and your thoughts and your fears. When you dig deeper that is when the real richness of your life can come forward.

Now more than ever, we need to disconnect with the digital world and step out of the rush of modern society.  When you aren’t distracting yourself with tweets, Facebook updates and pinning images on Pinterest or rushing about to-and-from work or dashing out to do some retail therapy, something wondrous creeps in. Silence.

And once the silence has established itself it allows you to finally hear that still quiet voice of your authentic self.

There is a reason why even cloistered monks and nuns set time aside for silent prayer and meditation.  Only in quiet contemplation can one begin to know God, or Buddha or the intelligent consciousness of the Universe.  Without that sacred space of silence, we who live in the secular world can lose our centre and get way off track in our quick-fix, instant gratification society.  Our purpose for being gets lost under the barrage of advertising, consumerism and distraction.

If you build it he will come.

Or in my case if you arrange some second-hand furniture unexpected magic may happen.  And to ensure that this little corner of the patio nurtures the alchemy of the soul I’ve imposed a few rules; no iPods, portable DVD players or cellphones allowed and the laptop comes out only when I need it for writing.

What is allowed are books, journals, sketch books, cold drinks, fresh flowers, something delicious to eat, and a soft pillow in case the urge to have a nap overtakes me.

It really is an adult play space were daydreaming, reading, lounging, napping and reconnecting with family and friends are fostered.

Couch Collage

So I encourage you, while we still have a few weeks of lazy summer days left, to find an outdoor spot and install your own Chesterfield of Dreams. It doesn’t even have to be a sofa, perhaps a hammock is more your style or a chaise lounge.  And if you don’t have the furniture already and dumpster diving isn’t your thing even a blanket and some pillows arranged under the spreading arms of a tree would be just fine.  Whatever appeals to you.  If you set up your spot for reflection without delay, I promise you, you too will begin to experience the magic of being.

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The Spirit of Solstice

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASolstice Carole by the Wyrd Sisters

The fire is burning,

The long night draws near,

All who need comfort are welcome by here.

We’ll dance ‘neath the stars and toast the past year,

For the spirit of Solstice is still living here.

It’s the Winter Solstice; the longest night of the year. For eons people have celebrated this day as a time to count their blessings and to celebrate surviving through another cold, dark winter.  A season to rekindle hope and faith as the dark half of the year gives way to the light yet again.

My favourite tradition of the Solstice is the lighting of the Yule log, for there is something in my makeup, perhaps the faint echo of my ancestors still alive in my DNA, which is stirred by the simple act of making a fire and tending to its warmth.

I didn’t realize how much I need the comfort of a fire as essential to the nurturing of my soul as a hot bath, living in nature, and growing my own food until I lived on a hobby farm in the woods for five years.

The house I shared with my sister was small and nondescript but it was the diminutive cast-iron stove that made it the most amazing home I’ve ever lived in and one I still pine for since we moved two years ago.

We kept a pot of water on the stove scented with eucalyptus oil, or clove and cinnamon. And during the frequent power outages, it was the little wood stove that heated a pot of soup and another of hot water for washing and our morning coffee.

The crackle and pop as the flames consume wood has the mystical power to ward off the spirits of darkness and depression that seem inevitable when daylight is short and the snowdrifts are over my head.  My favourite place to be was reading a good book in front of the fire or just watching the flames dance and the embers glow as the fire drew me into silence and contemplation.

Most people prefer a gas fireplace over a real one because there is no muss and no fuss.  With the simple flick of a switch flames appear and warms the room.  They even work when the power goes out.

But it’s not for me, because the muss and fuss are as important to me as enjoying a fire; waking to a cold house and cleaning out the excess ash from the firebox, crumpling the paper, stacking the kindling just so, the scratch of a match and the curl of smoke as the fire comes to life, the smell of hot cast-iron as the stove heats up.  I relish all these things about a real fire, even splitting the logs and hauling in wood.  There is something magickal in these mundane activities.

The snapshot of memory I call forth when I’m forced to turn on the electric heater because of the cold and damp seeping up through the floor of my basement apartment is of snow and fire and the dark hush of a winter’s night on the farm.

After I’d put the chicken’s to bed for the night I would stop under the three hemlock trees that stood halfway between the barn and the house. From this vantage point I could see into the living room window where the fire burning merrily in the stove.  The absolute velvet of the night sky pierced with starlight, the smell of cold and ozone in the night air, the soft whisper of snow falling and the sight of that warm little room gave me such peace and contentment.

This holiday season I am surrounded by two generations of family and a menagerie of furry four-legged companions.  In a few days we will be joined by yet another sister traveling all the way from Australia to spend time with us at Christmas.

As the evening draws in on the longest night of the year, the candles are lit to ward of the dark spirits; their flickering flames a reminder to have faith and hope, even at this the darkest hour.  The evergreen tree takes pride of place in the living room, a symbol of continuity and life everlasting.

There are brightly wrapped presents below the tree for all the ones I hold dear, small tokens of my gratitude and best wishes.

And despite not having a Yule log or a hearth to burn it in, the spirit of solstice is definitely still living here.

To watch the Solstice Carole Video click here

Your Relationship With Your House

I just finished writing a story where the house is as much a character as the people. It is a snug little cottage that at first, welcomes the new owner but below the surface it hides its own mystery and pain. As I wrote, I thought about the way houses have a personality, a feeling about them good or bad and I wondered how this comes about.

I believe that in some cases it’s because of spirits that still linger. I’ve had enough first-hand experience not to question the possibility of ghosts and things that go bump in the night. But what about places that have no spectral visitors but still elicit an emotional response from visitors. What is it we are feeling?

At the most basic level we are all energy. Thoughts and emotions are no different, just another form of energy. So if a home is filled with loving people, where the events were positive can these energies become imprinted into the very walls and floors? And would the reverse be true, if a building has witnessed trauma, violence and deep unhappiness would that too become part of the fabric of the building.

So what allows a dwelling to record the lives of its previous owners or the events that occurred there? If most building materials are porous and can absorb sound, is it just an accumulation of these sound waves that contribute to the overall feel of a home; much like a sponge absorbing water. Or could it be something more? What if it is more like a relationship that over time becomes an indelible bond between house and homeowner?

I recently read The Bond, Connecting Through The Space Between Us by Lynne McTaggart. In her book she explores the nature of bonds not just between human beings but between our environment, the natural world, our solar system and even the universe. It is a fascinating read and a book I highly recommend.

In discussing Heisenberg’s “quantum field theory” she states the following;

He discovered that at our most fundamental layer of being, our subatomic particles not only aren’t really a definable anything, but also do not remain the same at any moment. . . . All subatomic particles are constantly trading information with their environment and being reshuffled in a dynamic pattern. The universe contains and indeterminate number of vibrating packets of energy that constantly pass energy back and forth as if in an endless game of basketball with the quantum sea of light.

Further she writes:

Nature’s most basic ingredients are bundles of energy that are indistinguishable from the field around it. According to quantum field theory, the individual entity is transient and insubstantial, and particles cannot be separated from the empty space around them. Although you appear the same at any given moment, you are an entirely new batch of subatomic energy with every breath you take.

Rather than a batch of separate things jostling around in empty space, it is more correct to say that fundamental matter is simply a relationship between two indeterminate things: particle energy traded with other particle energy and also with the background Field. It is in fact the Bond between these tiny particles and the background Field that creates everything that we refer to as “matter.

She concludes her description of the relationship between energy and the Zero-Point field with the following:

What this essentially boils down to is that everything we label an object, no matter how large or how heavy, is essentially a collection of electric charges interacting with other energy. The most basic property of matter, its sense of being a solid “something,” is only and entirely due to the Bond between subatomic particles and the background sea of energy.” A subatomic “particle” is simply the seeking of a connection in the space between a big web of energy and a little knot of energy. You and everything around you are simply a collection of charged energy having a relationship.

I know that the above quotes deal with a purely scientific description of an energetic relationship but I’m a fiction writer so I’m allowed to make the next supposition if only as an exercise in creativity.

So if we are energy having a relationship with other energy and the Zero-point Field by constantly exchanging subatomic particles and our environment includes our home what if what was going on was that over time the energy that was once house is now you and vice versa. And in that back and forth relationship would the memories and emotions be part of that exchange?

And what about the house? Over time do we take on the history of the trees that the framing is constructed from, or the feeling of a mountain from which the stone was quarried. And what about the people who built the house, the land that it is situated on or the furniture inside it?

My mind fizzes with the possibilities.

What kind of relationship are you having with your home? Do you have a blissful union or do you require couples counselling? Or maybe it’s time to find a new house mate.

Something to ponder isn’t it?

Farmers Market

Mission Farmers Market

Mission Farmers Market

Mornings are usually reserved for my writing but I was enticed out of my studio to partake in the Mission Farmers Market. It was a beautiful sunny Saturday morning and my sister and I had a delightful time wandering around the booths.

One of the English Tarts

One of the English Tarts

The English Tarts is a tea room located in the historic part of downtown Mission. I was thrilled to see they had a booth at the market.

I want one of each please!

I want one of each please!

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Jennifer Stack of Stack Family Farms

Jennifer Stack of Stack Family Farms

We bought a dozen eggs from Jenn. She and her family run the Stack Family Farm in Deroche.

Sampled some fresh hot bannock and I bought a beautiful dreamcatcher made by the same gentleman that cooked our bannock. I resisted the urge to gobble up the entire thing and saved some for the nieces back home.

These delightful young ladies were surveying the customers for feedback on how to improve the market. Love their fashion sense.