I took this picture just after I woke up. An altar to beauty and an altar to memory. Each item on that table, including the table itself, evokes a memory of person, place—a moment—in time past. I suppose if Marcel Proust can write an enormous book about searching for memories of past times, I can manage a blog post.
I have just marked four months in my new home on Samish Island—no boat or ferry needed—a land bridge was built from earth dug up by early farmers in the valley to build dikes to keep their farms from flooding. I live in a little house built in the late 19th Century. It began life as the Atlanta Tavern. And later it became the home of early pioneers on the island. I’m sitting on land between Padilla Bay and the Samish Sea which was the home of Native Americans for hundreds of years. It is very beautiful.
So that table. Wood with inlaid marquetry. Slender. Just the correct size to stand across from the foot of my bed. It belonged to my dear friends, Jeff and Helene. They gave it to me when they left Seattle for Brooklyn. I think of them each time I touch the table.
At one end of the table I have placed a beautiful 19th Century etching of Jerusalem—the city on the hill. My sisters Rebecca, Deborah, and Troya bought it for me when they came to visit Seattle many years ago. I was very touched at their thoughtfulness. I love the golden light. The winding road up to the city. I remember my first visit to Israel and the road from Ben Gurion Airport taking me up the hill. What a long ride that was so many years ago. So many stories, lives, so much history.
But what catches your eye, the star of the show, is the glorious hand- painted maquette—a weavers guide—that runs almost the entire length of the table. It is painted on paper—old, wrinkled but still vibrant. Sound like anyone you know?
I bought that piece from a dealer in Tacoma many years ago for my wonderful store in Seattle—Found Objects. Actually, I bought maybe a hundred or so of similar pieces which I pinned to the very high walls in Found Objects creating a visual symphony. Each piece in varied size, design and color was somehow harmonious together. I sold all of them save this one.
Memories of Found Objects are always happy ones. I am touched when I meet someone who remembers the store and tells me about something they own that they bought at the store. I feel so honored to know that they found a treasure that made them happy. Found Objects was a work of love. A joy. Wonderful staff, wonderful customers, and a wonderful landlord—Melvin Poll—may he rest in peace.
Tall candle sticks made of odd pieces of plumbing and pipes kinda eccentric and irregular suit me just fine. Their dangling crystal drops seem incongruous among the pipe fittings but they make me smile.
The two Chinese bowls I bought from Mike at District are holding blue stone grapes—more offerings to the gods. The bottle of fragrance, a gift from a friend, is also. Aren’t all offerings clouded by mirrors and aromatic smoke?
Lying flat and not easy for you to “read” are some old—very old—scraps of decorative molding. (I shot a separate picture so you can see more detail.) I picked them up out of boxes lying beside the walk way in Florence. Scraps salvaged from the flood that ravaged that city in 1966. Some institution must have been cleaning out its storerooms because I was there in the late 80’s. I took as much of the small carved wooden pieces as I could stuff into my back pack. This larger one was a treasure since it is painted a deep red with gilt trim. I assume there were many such pieces put out for the taking. No one even seemed to notice or care that I was picking from the boxes. I am always reminded of Florence, Rome, and all the other places I visited over many years when I see these lovely pieces hand carved by artisans living hundreds of years ago.
Sitting on top of the painted wooden trim piece is a gift from Curtis Steiner. He came to my home for dinner and brought this along. It’s a sheaf of wheat made of gold wire. You often see these sheafs in the hand of statues from ancient times. I imagine to indicate abundance and good harvest. Curtis is a master at creating an abundance of beauty wherever he treads.
The crystal-handled brush and several others similar to it were purchased at a big out door flea in lower Manhattan. They were all sold at Found Objects but I kept this one. If I remember correctly, my dear friend Betsy was with me on this shopping adventure. She would trundle me from 156th and Riverside Drive where she lives in her trusty old Subaru and schlep me and all the stuff I bought back to the packing store. You’ll hear more about Betsy soon. We’re about to embark on a big road trip from Manhattan to Bal Harbor, Maine. Stay tuned.
The yellow Chinese pot is waiting for an orchid or some other perfect posy to rest inside. I bought it at Housewright Gallery a beautiful store in Seattle I believe the pot is conventionally filled with artists brushes, but I don’t have any of them, so a plant will have to fill in.
We’ve come to the end of the tour or my altar. I am a fortunate woman and I am grateful. I offer the closing words from Mary Oliver’s poem
“The Place I Want to Get Back To”
”If you want to talk about this
come to visit. I live in the house
near the corner, which I have named