Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Speaking of Geraniums, What About Sweden?

Carl Larsson's living room--that's a line of pink geraniums in the window.

Whenever I think of geraniums in the window, I also think of Sweden. The photo shows Carl Larrsson's living room, a room I fell in love with when I first saw it in the May 1988 issue of House Beautiful, which was dedicated to Scandinavian country style. I love Swedish interior decorating. I find the Swedes have a genius for beauty through simplicity. Perhaps it is because their environment is dark for so many hours during half the year, that their homes radiate with light and a lightness of spirit that is immediately calming. I also love their reliance on the combination of whites and pastels and the way in which they use color so deftly as an accent. Nothing assaults the eye or the person--nothing grabs you but the totality of a very inviting room. It is uncluttered without being cold, and elegant but affordable.

About a year ago I came across a Swedish blog, called Min Lilla Veranda, with photos from a family's home. I especially loved the Christmas decorations, which centered on greens and white candles--lots of them. One day I decided to check out the blogs listed on Min Lilla Veranda and came across a cornucopia of beautiful blogs created by Swedish women about their homes. Now I have a list of these blogs that I check in all the time, and pull down all kinds of ideas. These ladies have a wonderful knack for taking simple elements and arranging them with artistry and imagination. And they love geraniums.

From Elin's Stuga

Also from Elin's Stuga.

From Guldkant Pa Livet

From Lantliv, Smultronstallen and Loggbokens Recept

From Mias Landliv (in English)

From White Season.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Geraniums in the Windows at Our House

Geraniums in the front window at the left...

and on the right.

From the outside.

Upstairs in the study window.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

In Praise of Geraniums

Geraniums by Childe Hassam, 1859-1935, American impressionist

For many years, I have had geraniums on the windowsills in my house. If you have a black thumb, as I do, this is the plant for you. It thrives on neglect, preferring dryer conditions. It is a gift that keeps on giving--beautiful blooms all year round in warm colors that bring a lovely accent to any room. One year I put them outside, but they did take well to being drenched in rain and looked poorly. Inside, where I neglect them for days on end, they are far happier. A liking for geraniums runs in the family--here is Reubens Peale with a geranium, as painted by his brother. My great-grandmother was a Peale.

Reubens Peale with a Geranium, by Rembrandt Peale

The Japanese like geraniums (apologies for the lack of a painter's name).

Geraniums on the windowsill--an old tradition. Here, from 19th-century England.

The Writing Lesson, by James Collinson, 1825-1885

Geraniums, by Julian Alden Weir, 1852-1919, American impressionist

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

In Praise of My Daughter, Natural-Born Laundress

Laundry folded by my daughter this week.

My daughter learned how to do the laundry at the age of 10, since I was working long hours. She washed the laundry, got it into the dryer, and then folded it--perfectly. She likes to have things in clear rectangles or squares. Everything is sorted by its particular category. Needless to say, she did not learn this from me. She does ironing, too! Her neatness does not extend to all realms--not even up the stairs to her room. Now she is almost 20. However, her beautifully folded laundry is always a pleasure to me -- which just goes to show you the way in which small things can be a gift of love to others. She's a treasure in lots of big ways, too.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Women in the Days of the Cathedral

Saint Clare (1194-1253) and Saint Elizabeth of Hungary (1207-1231), by Simone Martini (1284-1344)

See Tea at Trianon for a review of a fascinating book, Women in the Days of the Cathedral by Regine Pernoud.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Taking Chance

Yesterday, on the anniversary of D-Day, I watched Taking Chance, about a Marine colonel, Michael Strobl, who escorts the body of Private First Class Chance Phelps, a young war hero killed in Iraq, home to his family in Wyoming. This is a very moving story based on the report that the colonel wrote about the trip.

It is especially a tribute to Chance Phelps, who was killed trying to protect his company from enemy fire and who in his brief military career had already been highly decorated with six ribbons.

This movie is also a tribute to the U.S. military and the respect and honor with which people in the military treat each other and treat their fallen. This respect is shown in the way that the military morticians at the Dover Air Force Base take meticulous care of Pvt. Phelps' body and effects and those of other fallen soldiers. This respect is shown in the way in which Col. Strobl performs his slow military salute before the body of Pvt. Phelps and others join him and in the extreme care that the colonel took to ensure a dignified and safe journey. This respect is shown in the deep sense of humility and respect that Col. Strobl showed to the private's family in the face of their loss.

Taking Chance is also a tribute to the American people, because it was the care, honor, and respect that they showed to the body of the dead soldier and to his escort that inspired Col. Strobl to write the story. Thus, this is a story of the character of both of these men in their selfless devotion to the U.S. military and of the American people. I would that all Americans, but especially young people, see this film.

Throughout the three days of the Memorial Day weekend, Turner Classic Movies featured many fine films from World War II, a few from World War I, none from the Korean War, and only one from the Vietnam War. It saddened me to think that Americans, from this lineup, regard World War II as the war in which we can acknowledge our heroes. Watching these films, I realized that although one man may stand out more than others in devotion and leadership, war is filled with heroes--the many unnamed heroes that even help to create the known heroes, or the simple heroism of risking your life for the defense of one's country. In denying the continuation of that military aspiration in our films and in the media, we are denying inspiration to our own youth, not simply inspiration for a military career, but inspiration to service, devotion, self-sacrifice, and belief in our country. The film Taking Chance, exquisitely acted by Kevin Bacon, shows how young men and women are inspired to join the military as the highest achievement of their life--a young friend of mine, who has just joined the Marines, is a case in point--and that most Americans, stretching across the country as in Chance's final journey, recognize this and honor them.