Solitude~Serenity

 

The gardens at the Biltmore estate are astounding. There is an ethereal serenity to the solitude of the farthest gardens. These are the ones many tourists are too lazy or uninterested to walk to and so there is a quiet not found in the front gardens.

Throughout the entire estate there is an unparalleled attention to detail while displaying an intense respect for nature. Fields planted with corn are bordered by a wide berm of gorgeous sunflowers, and those are bordered again to the road with a riotous display of blooming wildflowers.  You drive through a forest, a narrow winding road bordered by bamboo and leatherleaf ferns.  You round a bend and there is a wide swath of tended lawn and mulch created out of the forest to display a magnificent tree more than a century old.  Each turn reveals a natural, but human tended, miracle.

But the gardens, those are designed and tended like a precious child. Designed by Frederick Law Olmsted these gardens are something everyone should see. There is an Asian garden, an azalea garden, a shrub garden, and so on.  It is not possible to bring them to life in words. On this visit, I went to see the Chihuly installation in the gardens and it did not disappoint.  The sculptures respected the natural surroundings in which they were installed and the nature enhanced the art.

i spent several hours, first in the more crowded areas where most of the art was installed.  But then just wandering slowly through the rest of the gardens, it was a walking meditation, serene and beautiful.  And around the occasional corner, a random sculpture; sometimes a bench to just sit and ponder.

It began to drizzle just as I was ready to start walking back.  I had an umbrella, but under the spreading arms of the ancient trees there was no rain. Just peace.

Solo ~ Just Means Singing Alone

In the last few years I have done a lot of traveling alone. Now when it is during the week and I have a briefcase, people just look at me as another business traveler. And since I don’t really go anywhere interesting, I generally sit at a table with a book to eat my dinner.  When I travel for myself, everything is different.

First, no briefcase. Second, dressed as my true self – generally funkier than my 50 or so year work armor. Yes, I said armor, I have worn suits, or at least dress pants and tops for most of my adult life.  Except when I first began and judges did not allow female attorneys to wear pants in court. As I spent more and more time in and out of jails, with clients, it became necessary to be sure my armor was pants in case of a lockdown. I also thought of professional garb, and heels, as armor as I chose to be a gladiator in a man’s world.  Figure it out.

Anyway third, I don’t need receipts. Fourth, I sit at the bar.  Dressing as myself and sitting at the bar are ways of making myself more open to opportunities, to life.  They are ways of becoming more vulnerable.  But what is funny about all this is that people are always astounded that I, a woman of a certain age, silver hair and all, am traveling alone.

I am currently on my second weekend trip the impetus for which was simply an art exhibition I wanted to see. The first to Oklahoma City where I had a most splendid adventure and now to Asheville where I will do the same. Why are people surprised? I have no idea but I have fun with it and people often buy me coffee or dessert or whatever in their amazement of my solo-ness. Strange.

It gives me great pleasure to just do the things that please me, art, music, food.  Today I surprised a busker by singing harmony to his not so talented melody as I went by.  Today I had a long talk with a homeless man about feet on a bench on a quaint street.  Today I had latte and a warm fresh croissant in a lovely bakery in mid morning with my book.  Today I visited a wonderful bookstore and my favorite chocolate shop. Tonight I will go hear bluegrass for dinner.  What a wonderful day.  Would it be nice to share it with a like minded partner, sure. But solo is just fine with me. Be amazed.

Things Grandma Joan Wants You To Know #2 ~ Don’t Stop Creating

Darling Jacob, I expect your ma has already pointed out to you that there are many ways in which to be creative (see the “express yourself” post) and that you have learned that for yourself. But do you know that being creative is possibly the closest way in your life that you will come to the divine?

You already know the satisfactions that occur when you finish a drawing; I am sure you are at least a little pleased now and again by something you have written. Making it new. Whether it’s a card or a baby, momentous or merely satisfying, useful or decorative. You have a grandpa, Alfred, who used to create delightful, funny monologues using words. Who knows what sorts of tools you may use, who knows what sorts of satisfactions you may find in your life ahead, but I am sure that if you continue to make things, your life will be blessed. What I wish for you is that you feel this and that you don’t stop. That you don’t settle into an ordinary, everyday, pedestrian existence, the same existence of most of the people in the world.

You’re already shown your talent and your pleasure in your talent. Please keep it up, no matter what else you do and use it if you can in your life’s work or as your life’s work.

Your grandmother has spent her life making things, art, sculpture, books, her house (especially her house). She lives this advice and she has lived a most interesting life; so don’t stop creating.

Things I Want My Son To Know #22 ~ Express Yourself

There are serious conversations, there is chit chat and there is jib jabber; and there is writing. All of these are about words. For some people, words are sufficient for the expression of self, the expression of the truest and deepest feelings. But words, talking, writing is not enough for some.

This is not really about the kind of expression that results in dialogue, in a two sided or multi-sided conversation. This is about finding a way that allows you to get your feelings outside yourself; to show yourself without unbearable vulnerability.

For me its music. I love writing (you didn’t guess?) but I hold back in writing when I am writing about my innermost feelings unless I am sure nobody will see it. In music I don’t need to hold back. In music I can hide behind the fact that the words are someone else’s but I know in my heart they express perfectly how I feel. When I sing I can let loose in a way that I never do any other way. But… music doesn’t do for everyone what it does for me.

For some it is dance, there are people that feel that no matter how well or how poorly they dance, they can let loose in a way they don’t elsewhere. In fact, for those people, they don’t know that they dance well or poorly, they just dance for the sheer job of expressing themselves in dance.

For some it is in drawing or painting that they find this kind of freedom of expresssion; for some its sculpture, photography, film. You name it, there are those that find the expressions of their souls in it. And some people never find the joy of being able to express themselves totally, without reservation.

So I say, listen to all kinds of music, you never know where you might find your inspiration; it may not be in the music popular with your friends. Dance even if you think you can’t, and dance as if nobody is watching you, just enjoy it. Look at all kinds of art and photographs; watch old movies and foreign movies; expose yourself to things unfamiliar. We know you can draw, paint, design. Don’t forget that you are really talented. Don’t forget that you once enjoyed designing for yourself. Don’t forget you loved fabrics and clothing when you were young and nobody was judging you. Just keep doing something until you figure out what gives you joy. There are many different kinds of joy: there is joy in the love of a relationship, joy in friendship, joy in your children, joy in faith and joy in work that you like. But there is a kind of pure joy in finding a way to express yourself fully in a way that works for you; it doesn’t matter if anyone else every understands it, just do it.