Category Archives: collecting

The Long Way Home


After nearly nine months away we pulled in the drive and the bank of mom’s daffodils was the first thing to greet us. I call them mom’s daffodils, but in truth she never made their acquaintance.

A few years ago a couple large bags of daffodil bulbs were lying around in my mud room, waiting to be planted, when my mother in Boston was suddenly hospitalized for a major operation. The surgery was to be performed in two parts, and between surgeries mom suffered a massive stroke. The decision was made not to proceed with the operation, and my sister and I moved into mom’s hospital room to camp out for what would be the remainder of her life.

Returning home was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, which I exhibited by lying around, doing nothing. Much like the bags of bulbs in the mud room.

That’s when I heard her voice. She was right there, at my feet, standing at the end of the sofa. My mother, prodding me to get up and get going, and not come undone over this. “Life goes on,” she kept saying. She suggested we start with the bulbs and get them in the ground before winter. So off we went, trowel and gloves in hand, planting all the bulbs together. 

Life goes on.

And now that voice is prodding me to clean up my house and grounds. After the initial display of daffodils it was all downhill for me. I opened the front door, put down our baggage, and was struck senseless by the clutter of our former lives. Our gravel drive looked like the forest floor, and tree branches had been blown upon decks. Everything was everywhere, just too much stuff, covered now in dust. Who lived like this, I wondered?

Every trip to Southern California is a lesson in minimalistic lifestyle and décor for me. This time we lived it by designing a condo as stark and white and natural as can be. I have to say we grew quite fond of the aesthetic, and found that by starting from scratch we could do it. I nearly forgot about all the stuff I had left behind, and grew to think I didn’t need it. Now here it all was, assaulting me. All my carefully curated pots and vases, throws and rugs, books, candles, paintings, sculpture, photographs, baskets, pillows, and did I mention books? Thousands of books. 

I see myself in homes. I can reconstruct my entire life through a home. It is both a talent and a flaw. One place, so minimalist in sensibility, and the other, you could almost call maximalist. I am trying to chip away at it, hoping to strike a balance. Balance being the hardest thing. I mean, where else are you going to go with a chandelier you fell in love with in Venice except to hang it? As well as the Raku pottery school of fish on the wall, all the framed drawings and photographs, Indigenous art, a number of women’s faces in clay by islander Maria Michaelson, and the bow and arrows our cousin carved out of Pacific Yew, a wood prided by Native Americans for its strength. 

Toss in a big old leather sofa, rugs, rustic finishes, cedar stump tables, Pendleton throws, and it all works. Like a lodge house in the Pacific Northwest, a place where so many cultures converge in a harmony all their own. 

That’s what I have come home to. I had forgotten this whole other half of myself, of our lives. 


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