Tag Archives: nature

A NOD TO NATURE

15 November 2017

The sky is darkening early as another storm approaches from the north. I watch two large roses at the garden gate, their heavy pink heads bowed, yet nodding, as if to say, yes, come what may we will rejoice. I cannot imagine how I would keep my own head up in these turbulent times if it weren’t for nature.

I try to have the courage to be honest when I write, although sometimes my opinion might offend others. While it is not my wish to be offensive, or hurtful, neither is it my way to pretty-up my opinions. They are merely mine, and valuable to me as I hope all of yours are to you. I’m referring in particular to the reaction I received recently from three readers in response to a September post in which I expressed my discontent with New York city, Manhattan in particular.

It’s interesting, isn’t it, how easily we can touch a nerve in another person? We are, all of us, attached to something, or someone, or some place. Yet while it might be okay for us to criticize our own mother, or city, or country, when someone else does so our backs go up immediately in defense. It would seem that each of us is guilty to some degree in the way in which we barely listen to someone else without needing to assert our own opinion as the only one valid. We see this on a large scale now, with regard to how divided so many nations have become: north-v-south, right-v-left, red-v-blue, Brexit-v-Remain and on and on.

I lived in Manhattan from 1994 to 2013 and it just wasn’t my cup of tea. I also lived there during the 70’s and loved it; loved it for its diversity, its grit, its edginess. Sure it was more dangerous then, but it was also more real, more creative. And even though expensive back then, it wasn’t prohibitive. Maybe I’m overly sensitive, (although actually I don’t believe there is such a thing, either you are sensitive or you’re not), but part of what turns me off about cities in general and New York in particular is the enormous, ever-widening divide between the rich and the poor. I find it hard to see past this in order to enjoy the good stuff, of which there is much: museums, entertainment, fine food etc. But I wonder what percentage of people living in New York can actually afford any of those things? To that point I might better be able to appreciate those who leap to the city’s defense if any one of them had not been privileged enough to own homes in the country to which they can regularly escape the city’s relentless energy.

I mean really, how many people who have to take the subway every day see or experience joy? When was the last time the immigrant who delivered your dinner to your home was able to afford a visit to a museum or take his or her kid to a Broadway show? I remember days when I lived in New York when I would look at the teeming humanity on buses, sidewalks, subways and, yes, I would feel deeply connected to everyone; would feel profoundly moved by the fact that every single one of us had the courage to survive another day; each of us doing the best we were capable of. But these last few years what I more often experience is the pain and stress and anxiety etched on those faces, which, coupled with the non-stop roar of sound brings me to my knees. Maybe it’s an age thing for some of us. All I know it that after three and half years of living on a farm nature provides me with more wonder and joy than does New York. That said, I respect and am happy for those of you for whom the city is still a thrill.

There are some truths that none of us wish were so, but the truth is that for now, at least, America and New York have lost their way, and I find that upsetting. We were just in Paris for five days, lucky us. It, too, is an expensive city, yet it is still managing to hold onto some measure of humanity; some measure of what I call right-size. It’s comforting to see its citizens walking along, baguette in hand; to see tiny shops specializing in ancient trades, to catch a whiff of butter on every block.

But even though I find Paris charming I wouldn’t want to live there, anymore than I would want to live permanently in my home city of London. I just don’t need millions of people around me anymore in order to feel alive. A handful will do…along with those two roses at the gate, still nodding as evening falls.

 

With love to you all

Maggie

LIFE IS A PIÑATA

15th August 2016

glass

I arrived at 70 last Monday, having trekked towards it for months, only to find it a moving target which, when I finally hit it, broke apart, spilling sweetness all around me.

Swing

We had arrived in Edinburgh a few days earlier, having decided some while ago that the opportunity to spend time with dear friends while partaking of the Fringe Festival was a befittingly unique adventure with which to celebrate, on the 8th day of the 8th month, entrance into the 8th decade of my life. As the time for our adventure neared and the Tuscan temperature soared into the mid 90’s, we began to look forward to the bonus of a week in the 60’s with the occasional rain shower. I’ll just to a quick leap forward here to say that it took us about a day and half of shivering under an umbrella to begin longing for the Tuscan sun and our newly acquired ‘dondolo’, which had arrived the day before we left.

dondolo

But what a week it was! Edinburgh, city of granite and spires, yet only ever a walk away from nature. Our exquisite room in a Georgian guesthouse, complete with a Michelin starred restaurant was only 10 minutes from the city center and yet was almost as peaceful as our Tuscan home, looking out, as it did, to the garden and a slop of wild nature. www.21212restaurant.co.uk/

gardensketch

Back in my drinking years, I was partial to a generous pour of single malt, neat, before dinner. In fact, whisky was the first drink I ever ordered; 15 years old in a pub in Liverpool about to go see the Beatles at The Cavern. I had chosen whisky because I associated it with masculinity and courage, 2 elements I thought I might need to make it through my teens. Even now, I can feel the knife of that first sip, hitting me between the shoulder blades. Although I wasn’t tempted during our stay, I could certainly appreciate the need for its amber glow amidst the dank grey stone, along with the rhythmic insult of rain slapping your face as the umbrella inverts itself beyond function.

edinburgh

Yet if scotch is inseparable from Scotland’s image, it is the warmth of the Scots themselves that is the true spirit of the Highlands. Literally everyone we encountered was kind, quick witted, chatty, and down to earth. From the entire staff at 21212, to taxi drivers, train conductors and the hundreds of people organizing and manning the Fringe which, by the way, was also celebrating its 70th birthday. Three thousand acts ran hourly at 400 venues from 10 am to 10pm everyday with a precision that belied its casual appearance. It is an event without equal and beyond comprehension and I heartily recommend it to all.

We saw 4 modern dancers perform exquisite choreography with such emotional connection that all four of us wept. We saw improv and jugglers and a ventriloquist, all of whom transcended their medium. We saw our friend Gideon Irving perform, My Name Is Gideon, his second year at The Fringe. He is an intimate performer who cannot be labeled: a musician, magician, comedian and story-teller with a deep streak of generosity and love. We saw a bare-bones play depicting the memories of children of war and the refugee crisis which had us sobbing with grief. We saw a Muslim comedian from Australia who gave us permission to laugh at the absurdity of racism and terrorism. And we saw one truly awful one-woman play which was so excruciatingly bad that my friend Viv and I got a near uncontrollable fit of the giggles…in the front row!

On the Saturday, we took the half hour train ride out to North Berwick where our friends were staying in a house swap. A beautiful, unspoiled seaside town famous for its golf course, it is during The Fringe host to the Highland games. A mighty gathering of 3000 pipers and drummers filling the air with controlled savagery. An interesting juxtaposition to our experience of the warm hospitality of the natives, and a reminder that we are none of us far removed from our own barbarism.

berwick wall

n.berwick sea

buspipers

Did I mention the lobster?

L1002853 Maggie Lobster Sm

My birthday began with Joel presenting me with a book he had compiled of lovely impressions of me written by family and friends. A gift that will indeed go on giving should I ever have a moment’s doubt that my life has been of some small worth to others. And then there was the bracelet. The one he gave me on my birthday some 20 years ago. The one I wore every day until it mysteriously disappeared from wrist 2 years ago. For a moment, as I opened the box, I wondered how and where he’d found it. In fact, he’d found a photo of me wearing it, blown it up and taken it to a jeweler in Siena who replicated it.

Of course, nothing can ever be replicated. Loss is loss. And although a bracelet can’t be compared to a baby, nevertheless I experienced the same pang upon seeing it as I felt when my second daughter was born and, in the perfection of her being, experienced another layer of what I had lost when my first daughter arrived stillborn. But the gift of love surpasses loss, as I have come to know from the ever-deepening relationship with my daughter and the profound love my husband constantly shows me in his desire to try to make up for all the loss I have experienced.

So, I came home either a week or a year older, however one wishes to view the mad attempt to define time in a linear manner. In any case, it’s good to be home to the warmth, the light, the garden, the sun-warmed tomatoes Silvia leaves outside our door. And, truth be told, it is a relief to have arrived at this moment. To have finally let go of the need to appear younger and instead embrace the wisdom of my years while still allowing feelings of irascible youth to bubble to the surface. So what if the neck is its own crepe scarf…a smile in beyond measure.

scarf

If I am left with a lasting image from The Fringe it is this: Centre stage, caught in the spotlight, a swirl of smoke gradually dissipates revealing a piñata attached to a rope. Slowly the rope is hoisted, the piñata ascends and as it reaches it apex, 3 jugglers leap into the air taking wild swipes at it until, like life itself, it breaks open and sweetness rains down.

pinata