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Archive for the ‘The American West’ Category

Recently our daughter, Laura, shopped for upholstery fabric for her sofa.  Laura wanted a print which would incorporate the soft colors she loves, to accent the muted gold walls in her new home.  At her first stop, Laura was told emphatically that patterned fabrics are unavailable because they are “not in style”.  Only solid colors are “in”.

At the next store Laura was told that patterns were scarce, but the decorator/clerk was helpful and willing to look.  Amazingly, she came up with a print in a traditional design which contained all the colors Laura desired.  Both our daughter and the clerk were delighted! 

Since hearing Laura’s account of shopping for fabric I’ve been musing on the patternless trend in decorating.  Not only does a lack of pattern go against my grain—it seems totally unnatural.  Nature is full of patterns.  If we are observant we cannot look anywhere without seeing a variety of designs.  Even in vast expanses of sky and sea, patterns are evident in moving clouds and undulating waves.  And our personal lives overflow with patterns as well!

Not only do I love patterns, but I love to mix them up and feature them together in the smallest of areas.  How many patterns can you detect in the below photo?

In this room alone, I have counted at least twenty-two patterns—including those in furniture, throw rugs, table runners, decorative shawls, afghans, and pillows.  Not taken into consideration were the patterns in dishes on shelves and art on the walls. 

Quite obviously, eclectic decorating is (and nearly always has been) a dominating pattern in my life!  Back in the 1990s, I received so many comments (pros and cons) about my “style” that I recorded the following message on our telephone answering device:  “You have reached the Beens, and the headquarters of Outrageous Home Decor.” 

Unfortunately many callers failed to comprehend my funky brand of humor, and they registered rank confusion.  They just didn’t get it.  So we replaced that message with one that was thoroughly boring and “socially correct”.*

Returning to current decorating trends, there IS HOPE!  This week I went to TARGET, in search of towels for my bathroom.  We have two bathrooms in our condo:  a big one for Joe and and a sweet little one for me.  A private loo!  How wonderful is that?!!!  Having my own loo means it is ALL MINE, and I can decorate it however I wish.  At TARGET I found incredibly gorgeous towels in Southwestern-ish stripes of many colors. 

I bought several towels and wash cloths, and rejoiced all the way home with this amazing bounty for my bathroom which abounds in cowboy pictures, art reminiscent of New Mexico, photos of family members with horses, my Dad’s spurs, and glass ARIZONA TEA® bottles with a Western or Native American motif.  (Fondly, I call the loo my “Louis L’Amour bathroom”.)

I’ve been waiting for a grandson to come over during his school break, to paint the above described bathroom.  But hanging the new towels set an idea moving in my patterned brain.  Wouldn’t it be fun if . . . ? 

Below, you will see the fun (and funky) outcome of that idea:

When we moved here three plus years ago, the bathroom walls were already sponged with blotches of tan.  I added life to the room by charging the walls with blotches of vibrant color, plus a few of my favorite words. 

Having (just this morning!) added these fresh patterns, I guided my husband into the bathroom while instructing him to keep his eyes shut until we were in the room with the door shut for full effect.  Even in my wildest imagination, I wasn’t prepared for Joe’s response.  He broke into an immense grin and said, “That’s BEAUTIFUL!”

Then Joe added that instead of painting my bathroom we should keep my folk artsy walls this way, with the words and colorful blotches—while using the gallon of paint we’d purchased for my loo, for painting his den instead.  The paint is BRIGHT, BRIGHT RED!  That’s the result of nearly sixty years of happy marriage! 

Margaret L. Been, ©2012

*We could only stand our generic, “socially correct” answering machine message for a very short time.  Finally we changed it to one that remains right up to this minute—and will remain:  “You have reached the LOVERS—Joe and Margaret Been.  Please leave a message, and have a great day!”

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When our son, Karl, was five years old he imparted to me a bit of wisdom that will serve me all my days on earth.  We were out walking, and we saw a baby robin hopping on the grass.  Karl commented, “If I ‘ketched’ a little bird, I would not put it in a cage.  I’d hold it for awhile, and then let it go.”

Life is an ongoing exercise in holding for awhile, then letting go.  Currently I am letting go of a beloved young family:  our grandson, Joshua, his wife, Kelly, and their precious children—Ethan, Cole, and Ella.  These Valentines (that is their last name!) are moving to California, where Josh has accepted a new job. 

Josh and his family have been our neighbors for the last two plus years, here in the northern reaches of our county.  They are the kind of people who show up and sit quietly by your side when you have been rushed to Emergency.   We’ve stashed away a treasure trove of memories with these young people—pizza outings, birthday celebrations, strolls in the park, and lots of ice cream occasions.  I have shed tears over losing this family, and I’ll undoubtedly shed more tears.  Yet I smile to think of Kelly enjoying San Diego.  Kelly and I are alike; we love warm weather!

I often reflect on how radical it was back in the 1800s when Easterners went West, facing incredible hardships and dangers.  Even more life changing was the uprooting of millions of immigrant families who came to our land from other continents, for a fresh start and the hope of a better life—or, as in the case of most of my ancestors, for religious freedom.  We can concentrate on thinking with all we have, yet we cannot begin to comprehend what those early settlers experienced—let alone the courage they displayed.

So California is not that far away, and it is not inaccessible!  A few hours by air.  Yet it sounds like the other end of the world to me, now that flying is no longer one of my favorite things!  I would relish a long trip on the Amtrak, but sitting on a train is not Joe’s idea of fun.  We’ll see what we can dream up.  Meanwhile our loved ones will be back to visit, with so much family in Wisconsin.

 ↑ Ethan (in front), Joshua holding Cole, Kelly holding Ella 

Letting go!

Margaret L. Been, ©2012

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Every year at this time, since I began blogging, I’ve commemorated Pearl Harbor with a photo of the disaster.  This year, I can’t bring myself to feature the photo.  Recently, whenever I think of Japan I think of the devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Necessary from a military standpoint?  Yes!  Unthinkably tragic from a human standpoint?  YES! 

We need to remember history, mainly because we could benefit from learning.  History could provide foresight and wisdom.  But it’s been shown again and again that people do not learn from history.  We may remember history, but we simply play it again.

As Christians, we are commanded to forgive.  Forgiveness is the very core of our faith, and the reason why we are standing here rather than decimated and plowed under by God’s wrath.  Yet there are historical characters whom I cannot forgive in my fallen humanity:  especially Hitler, for his atrocities to God’s people the Jews.  And Stalin. 

And, going way back—Oliver Cromwell.  I read a lot of documentaries on Irish history.  I’m currently experiencing a formidable challenge knowing that I have to forgive the British Empire, not only for its mindless brutality in Ireland but for centuries of power lust and domination in India and Africa.  My husband, always the wit, suggests that I gather up all my English tea and dump it in the harbor a mile from our home.

However when I think England I want to think tea and English country gardens—along with Shakespeare, Jane Austin, Keats, the Brontës, Thomas Hardy, John Galsworthy and other authors too numerous to name.  I want to think our precious English language, and English theatre which (in my opinion) is second to none. 

When I think Russia I want to remember ballet and Tchaikowsky who, tortured as he was in his personal life, left the world a legacy of hauntingly beautiful music.  When I think Germany I want to recall Bach and Beethoven—and the tradition of gemütlichkeit reflected by German Americans in the cultural history of Wisconsin.  When I think Japan I want to focus on centuries of exquisite art traditions:  painting, poetry, gardening.

Every nation on earth has its shame as well as its pride.  Individuals are born sinners.  National shame is sin multiplied.  America is not exempt from national sin.  Just ask the decendants of the Cherokee and other Native Nations who walked the Trail of Tears from the deep South to Oklahoma and points West.  Or ask the descendants of slaves.

There is only One Remedy for sin, and that was accomplished for us at Calvary.  God’s Remedy for sin came to us as a baby, born in a crude and humble manger some 2000 plus years ago.  He is coming again!  “And He shall reign forever and ever!”

Meanwhile I will remember December 7th, 1941.  Remember, but move on!

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

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Just inside the door from our snowy patio, more gardens thrive:  one on a vintage trunk which I decoupaged with wild west art and cattle brand-type symbols, and the other on a pie crust table.  Both trunk and table were unearthed at rummage sales in Price County, Wisconsin.

The trunk features beloved African violets, overseen by a fake barrel cactus on a stool with a deer skull from our land up north.  Our friends, Mary and Bernie, found the skull so it’s theoretically theirs (finders/keepers!) but they said it didn’t fit in with their decor.  Fortunately, skulls look great anywhere we choose to put them!  (I still have a couple of cattle skulls in our northern home, for that classic Georgia O’Keeffe look.  You pay big bucks for skulls out west!)

The pie crust table provides a mini-museum for artifacts, as well as room for more indoor gardening.  Leaning against the watering can on the left, with it’s rose intact, you will notice a rather bizarre piece of work.  This gem was a Christmas gift from our grandson, Jason, and his wife, Sandy.  They “won” it at a white elephant party.  Jason and Sandy didn’t really want or need the pot, but they knew exactly what to do with their acquisition:  Give it to Grandma!  (This grandma welcomes elephants of any color!)

Resting in the shade of the spider plant, is a slab of petrified wood from (of course!) Arizona.  The white pottery mushroom behind the Native American vase was a gift from its creator, my friend Barbara.  In front of the vase, chestnuts sit in a toile box.  The nuts are part of my ever growing chestnut collection, begun years ago and replenished each autumn by the horse chestnut tree just a few yards outside our front door.  The toile box came in a nesting set, from T. J. MAX. 

The plant on the right side as you face the pie crust table is called “Candelabra”, for obvious reasons.  It’s a new kid on the plant block here.  I was attracted to it’s shape.  The plant looks like it popped off the pages of a Dr. Seuss book. 

On the floor, in a basket crafted by yours truly, you will see something very funky:  raffia paper vegies, purchased for a few cents last summer at a garage sale.  I look at the vegies and smile—not from wanting to eat them, but rather from recalling the joys of past rummages and anticipating a whole new garage season soon to begin.  (Two months, or certainly three!)

Moving from still life to live life, I finally got some snap shots of Baby Dylan, the shy one.  The sleeping beauty photo was fairly easy to procure because Dylan was zonked out on the floor.  (Like Joe and me, Dylan takes his naps seriously.)  The other picture was more fleeting.  Dylan normally hides when he sees the camera, and here I sneaked up on him; it didn’t take him long to sense the “danger” of having his picture taken and a moment later he had split!

Finally, here are some indoor friends who do not have to be watered, and do not have any paparazzi phobias.  They just sort of take life as it comes!

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

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Yesterday I wandered through a local art gallery, and enjoyed the creativity displayed there in paintings, textiles, and pottery.  Then I came home and wandered through our condo, and was awed once again by the ambience of home art and the fun of living in a personal “gallery”.  Here is another mini-tour—this one focusing on some of the art and artifacts which comprise our home gallery.

Above is a shot of my Louis L’Amour bathroom.  Yes, Joe and I each have our own bathroom.  What a joy to have a loo of one’s own to pack with stuff!  I have named my bathroom after one of my favorite 20th century novelists.  Oddly enough, I do not at this point own a Louis L’Amour book but I’ve borrowed and read most of them from libraries.  Perhaps someday I’ll run across a L’Amour at a reasonable price.

Pictured are a few of my ARIZONA TEA® bottles with a Western theme.  The bottle with the cattle driving scene was a “once in a lifetime” find at King Sooper’s in Denver.  I’ve never seen this issue anywhere else.  Southwestern pictures, my home made soap, a bighorn sheep horn, a copper sheep bell, a bit of lace, an artificial barrel cactus, and photos of family members with horses fit nicely into this bathroom cranny. 

Meanwhile, out in my garden is a Western steer’s skull—just waiting to be cleaned up and added to the bathroom decor, Georgia O’Keeffe style.

Partially pictured above, in the lower left corner as you face the screen, is a unique bit of home grown art:  two large clay pots joined bottom to bottom to create an hourglass effect, and mosaic tiled with Native American symbols.  I think one of the symbols is a Harley® thing.  It’s orange and black and it has wings.  This gem was purchased at an up-north rummage sale for all of $2.00.

Pictured below in the same loo are switchplate covers decoupaged by my artist niece, Nancy, who lives in Colorado Springs.  Beneath the switchplates you can faintly see a painting of sheep, probably set in the Hebrides, unearthed at some antique shop back in the fathomless mists of time.

Our neighborhood abounds in funky finds.  In fact, the hanging art pictured below was purchased from a local recycle artist who has named her business FUNKY FINDS.  On this hanging wonder you’ll see an assortment of glass bottles, bells, beads, a butterfly, and even a die left over from a board or dice game.  The herb (catmint, I think) in tandem with the art is a snippet from my garden. 

Behind the funky find is a poignant, tinted photograph of my mother at age three.  The photo was taken in 1899.  On the small shelves to the right are some of my parents’ toothpick holders, and a Royal Doulton® Mrs. Tiggiewinkle which Joe and I bought in Beatrix Potter country—the Lake District of England.

Below, you will see an answer to the question, “What does one do with those boring kitchen cupboard doors?”  In past homes I have removed them altogether, as cupboard doors make a house look new—and who would ever want that!?!  Also, I’ve been known to paint the cupboard doors, to liven things up a bit.

When we moved here and I mentioned removing the doors or painting them, I could actually see Joe wince in his chair.  Finally it was Joe who said, “Why don’t you decoupage your art on them?”  So that’s what I did, and we both like the result.

Finally, the gallery pictured below is an integral feature of most every happy home I’ve ever visited:  The Refrigerator Door Gallery.  How precious is children’s art, nestled among snapshots and assorted fragments of family life!  :)

Margaret L. Been, 2010©

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