Sunday, September 27, 2009

Beach Music : Birthday Cake

Image via WeHeartIt
"She looked as though she had dressed for this moment with the help of the moon. Bowing deeply, Shyla asked me if she could have the pleasure of this dance.

So we danced toward the central motion of our lives. The winds roared and a strange love rose like a tide between us and rested in the crown of waves that was loosening the frame of the house. Alone we danced beneath the full moon and the battery-powered light of cars as the team and their dates cheered each time they saw a giant shift taking place in the water-damaged foundation. As the Atlantic waters rose in a sanctioned dance of wave and tide, the house began to sway like the first terrible lifting of Noah's Ark. We could hear the other five remaining couples as they screamed with pleasure and terror in that room directly beneath us. I held Shyla closely, dancing with the girl who had taught me to dance on the veranda of my house. Outside, the players and their dates were begging us to abandon the foundering house and join them at the driftwood fires. They screamed out of worry and honked their car horns out of pure admiration for our daring.

Then the house shuddered as a large wave struck against its cinder-block foundation. Though I felt that same chilling fear that had sent the others running out of the house, Shyla's eyes held me as we listened to the hammering of the waves beneath us. The cries of our friends now turned to pleas each time a wave washed down over the broken-up road, the salt spray exploding off the beaten-down tarmac that had eroded over time like a cookie half-eaten by a child.

A deck piling snapped outside, loud as a rifle shot. On the radio the Drifters began to sing "Save the Last Dance for Me. " Together, as though this scene had long been choreographed in some zodiacal prophecy, we said together and with no hesitation, "My favorite song."
- excerpted from Beach Music by Pat Conroy, 1995

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Secret Garden : Newfound Nook

Julienne, San Marino
I just love a civilized little convening 'round a magical table. It certainly makes a birthday more pleasant - less focus on the aging, more focus on the conviviality! Fit for a celebratory birthday brunch, Julienne in San Marino was delicious, yes, but it was the stumbling into the unforced antiqued dining room that pushed it into hallowed space. There were high walls and mural-painted ceilings and silvered candelabras. There were shady trees under the September sunshine and outdoor conversationalists and perfectly poached yolks spilling onto freshly baked bread. And there were books - the books were the best part. Floor to ceiling shelves housed vintage leather-bounds and softly faded cloth-covereds. Voltaire, Milton, Ms. Austen, Frances Hodgson Burnett and William S.; Byron, P. Shelley, the Bront√ęs, Wilde and Twain - all side-by-side, stacked artfully, just an arm's length from the curious diner. I felt just a little bit like Mary Lennox happening upon the secret garden for the first time. A magic in the air, an exciting discovery - like stepping into a little slice of heaven.
Mary Lennox had heard a great deal about Magic in her Ayah's stories, and she always said that what happened almost at that moment was Magic.

One of the nice little gusts of wind rushed down the walk, and it was a stronger one than the rest. It was strong enough to wave the branches of the trees, and it was more than strong enough to sway the trailing sprays of untrimmed ivy hanging from the wall. Mary had stepped close to the robin, and suddenly the gust of wind swung aside some loose ivy trails, and more suddenly still she jumped toward it and caught it in her hand. This she did because she had seen something under it - a round knob which had been covered by the leaves hanging over it. It was the knob of a door.

She put her hands under the leaves and began to pull and push them aside. Thick as the ivy hung, it nearly all was a loose and swinging curtain, though some had crept over wood and iron. Mary's heart began to thump and her hands to shake a little in her delight and excitement. The robin kept singing and twittering away and tilting his head on one side, as if he were as excited as she was. What was this under her hands which was square and made of iron and which her fingers found a hole in? It was the lock of the door which had been closed ten years, and she put her hand in her pocket, drew out the key and found it fitted the keyhole. She put the key in and turned it. It took two hands to do it, but it did turn.

And then she took a long breath and looked behind her up the long walk to see if anyone was coming. No one was coming. No one ever did come, it seemed, and she took another long breath, because she could not help it, and she held back the swinging curtain of ivy and pushed back the door which opened slowly - slowly. Then she slipped through it, and shut it behind her, and stood with her back against it, looking about her and breathing quite fast with excitement, and wonder, and delight.

She was standing inside the secret garden.

- The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, 1910