Tag: Beauty


New Month’s Resolutions

  1. Bake cookies. It’s been far too long.
  2. Forego so much as new socks and go all Dave Ramsey on our credit card’s ass.
  3. Haul my sleepy bones out in the fresh air and give my work-out shoes a run (ha!) for their money.
  4. Cultivate gratitude.
    (For the first snowfall of the year, the air dancing white;
    For a washing machine up to the repeated challenge of sick days;
    For beauty growing wild out of old hurts;
    For sugar-dusted sunsets lingering one minute closer to spring.)

What about you? Any dear little challenges to keep February on its toes?


Choose Your Own Dust Storm

2012 for our family has whirled in like a dust storm. For all my hope that we would receive some sort of cosmic prize package for making it through 2011 intact, we’re still in the gritty thick of uncertainty. The positive side is that there’s no better time to evaluate core values than when nothing else is guaranteed. The less positive side is that we’ve simply had no time for self-evaluation.

Here’s a snack-sized recap of the past three weeks: We’ve traveled over 8,500 miles, mostly by car. We’ve celebrated a holiday each with Dan’s whole family and with mine, and we wish we could have spent more time with both. We’ve seen dear friends and missed getting to see others. We’ve made our traditional dash  to Urgent Care and added Natalie’s broken arm X-rays to our vacation album. We’ve procured a new driver’s license, a new passport, and one precious visa, and we’ve woken up on Italian time for many mornings in an ongoing attempt to get the other.

We still have a little bit of buffer time here in the States, but it’s not certain that I’ll be able to return home when Dan and the girls do. This week has been a unique exercise in balancing anxiety with trust that all will turn out for the best. Not to say that I’ve successfully gone all Zen Master, but I’m grateful for the perspective that comes with derailed plans, and I’m glad to finally have a bit of time today to take stock of what I’m bringing to the new year.

I don’t have any word or mantra picked out for 2012, and I haven’t dared yet to think of goals beyond the immediate future. However, the day that my Kickstarter project ended, one possible version of this year misted out of sight and another began to come into focus. It’s hard to fill in the details without even knowing which country I’ll be in come February, but I’m discovering just how important flexibility is on my list of guiding values. This year, I need to have space on my margins, the grace to enjoy life through its unpredictability instead of rushing from one source of resentment to the next.

It’s also on my heart to embody generosity this year, not so much with finances as with my time and attention (though being able to give more in a traditional sense would be great too). Of course, this will require me to reclaim my time and attention so that I can give them to the things that matter, and some heavy decisions are involved.

Unfortunately, there’s no PA system booming down from heaven to tell me what I should do this year. This is more like a choose-your-own-adventure novel with further direction on hold until I pick a page. I’ve never cared for those books, but there’s something to be said for being an active participant in your own story, isn’t there? Plus, I have a pretty good idea of the values I want to help guide my decisions this year:






…and this—creativity, community, intention, art, whatever name writing takes on any given day.

I’ll keep you posted as the dust begins to settle.


Room for Wonder

We are in Venice, a land of fairy-tale opulence—gondoliers and palaces, masks and museums—but we stop for the honeysuckle. My barefoot Texas days come flooding back in muscle memory as I show the girls how to ease out the stamen and catch the tiniest drop of nectar on our tongues. It tastes like July. Natalie and Sophie are enthralled; drinking from flowers is a purer magic to them than St. Mark’s Basilica would be, so we linger off the tourist path to pick summer, and this is it: motherhood, nostalgia, travel, joy, LIFE.

[Continue reading over at My Topography!]


Color and Light

 My first day back at work after our drive across Europe this summer, a student leaned forward in his seat with the telltale flush of the travel-bitten and asked, “Which city was the most beautiful?” The grin he tacked onto the end showed that he already knew the answer:

All of them.

When experience weaves itself into memory, places become a sort of beautiful you can’t quantify, and here on an October morning packed with damp cotton, I only remember the color. Porto beamed with it, rippled with it, sang from its rooftops in bold chromatics, and if that’s not beauty, I don’t know what is.

Sophie wandering the Ribeira

The River Douro flows into the sea there, carrying barrels of port wine down from mountain vineyards to hibernate in cool cellars. On one side of the river, wine glimmers secretly in labyrinths of dark wood; on the other side, blue-tiled balconies greet the sun face first. In the rippling in-between, teenagers dive off an arched bridge and swim laughing in the wake of flat-bottomed river boats. There are no guard rails, no prohibitions. It is utterly refreshing.

Boats on the Douro - 2

That’s really what our time in Porto was to me—refreshing. Just soaking up the vibrancy of the riverfront, noticing how a glass of ruby Port caught the same hue of sunlight reflecting off of glazed brick buildings, wandering and tasting and appreciating, let me breathe deep. Even four months later, my windows pressed in with gray, the memories bring color and light. Quantifiable? No. Beautiful? You betcha.

Collage - Port Wine


More from our summer campingstravaganza:

Who’s Ready for Summer Vacation?


Who’s Ready for Summer Vacation?

The season is in tear-down mode outside our windows with digits collapsing and clouds corroding, jack hammers on the wind. It all falls (ha!) tomorrow, and my daydreams are scrambling for an extension. Nothing sounds as wonderful right now as putting time on hold, loading up the car, and setting off for someplace new. In fact, why don’t we?

Let’s start with Barcelona at sunset. We don’t have much time before an overnight trek across Spain, but there are just enough moments of terracotta sunlight left to illuminate cranes and fruit baskets on the gaudiest cathedral conjured up by a mere mortal. We’ll try and soak up all the details but resign ourselves to head-scratching wonderment in the end.  Even though we don’t mean to linger so late, it’s worth watching shades of sandstone cool to ghostly pewter, lit green from within like a witch’s stronghold. As our footsteps sizzle away on Catalan sidewalks, we erase Barcelona from our penciled-in dream list and rewrite it in pen.

Collage - Sagrada Familia

Let’s drive now into the sunrise over endless fields of scrub brush, wending our way alongside modern-day pilgrims on old paths. Spain is only a means to an end this time, but we pass the miles by plotting future summers in Basque orchards and reminiscing about a nearly-disastrous layover in Madrid two years ago. Mountains suddenly sprout up through the earth, green and dizzying, and just like that, we’re in Portugal. They plunge back into the ground just as suddenly, and we’re finally there, where mountain river flows into ocean deep.

Collage - River and sea

There is only one way we can possibly begin a stay in Porto, of course—set our alarm clock next to the towels and head to the beach on a morning breeze while magic still shimmers in the shallows. We’ll soak it up through the soles of our feet, saltwater packing it into our skin until even our fingertips thrill to its touch. Somehow, this translates into sand being flung like live grenades, but the resultant giggling recalls a long-lost truth: that getting grit under our nails and behind our ears is the purest kind of fun. There is nowhere else we need to go, so let’s run straight into the heart of incoming waves and then dash away again with foam-flecked surf nipping at our heels. If the only thing we do today is remember how to play, our souls will have reimbursed every travel expense a hundred times over.

Collage - Morning at Lavadores Beach

If you care to join me next time, we’ll take a tour through the colorful riverfront and maybe even charm Sandeman into supplying the drinks. What do you say to a few more weeks of vicarious summer?


New Every Morning

At 6:45 a.m., the world is impossibly quiet. Even the birds whisper in half chirps and trilling wings, unwilling to break the feather-light spell which separates the mad rush from this magic. The sun is dressed to play the enchantress this morning, her translucent robes draped over rooftops and church towers, her shining elixirs tipped into valleys and over windowsills, and I can’t see the sky for all her radiance. The silence and light ground my soul to its ethereal roots.

By 7:45, the city will have yawned, turned over once or twice, and finally tossed off the translucence like a rumpled sheet. The air will hum and growl, sizzle with electric charge, whoosh out of the way as trains and traffic and alarm-harried people claim the morning for industry. The sun will be tucked up tightly and lost in the larger sphere of blue. Bells will more clang than chime, drowning out birdsong for a resounding second, and car horns will follow suit. I’ll begin checking lists, herding clothes into the washer, fielding the infinite curiosity of preschoolers, and working with one eye on the calendar and one eye on the clock. Stopping to hear the silence or squint into sunlight would seem foolish at best.

But here, in the radiant hush of 6:45, it is still possible to believe in mercies renewed every morning, and so this is where I start.


If Flowers Had Cleavage

Subtlety isn’t exactly May’s forte, but what she lacks in unobtrusiveness, she more than makes up for in va va voom. I mean, just look at this:

Bougainvillea profusion

She pulls off lilac awfully well too…

Lilac daisies

…and what about lush, sun-swept green?

Lush backyard

The gal’s an expert at strutting her stuff; there’s just no ignoring her extravagant color when she waltzes into the room petals first. While I’m more of a September personality myself, I can’t help loving May’s opulence, her spontaneity, and her two-shimmies-beyond-proper self confidence, and she’s the perfect inspiration for leaving creative inhibitions back in the coat room with the snow gear. If only va va voom came with unlimited time and chocolate-coated espresso beans on the side…

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