Sunday, November 08, 2015

My brother, Justin

Sudden onset sadness today. And it's not out of character. I've been working non-stop for three or four weeks, including weekends, and work is its own balm. I'm very grateful for it. But it's put off for me the mourning of the death of my older brother, Justin. We didn't grow up together because he's twenty years older than me, but he is someone I've always admired greatly and always been very happy to see. I wish I had known him a little better.

He was ten when my mother came into his life as his au pair, and only a little older when his own mother died. My earliest memory of him was that he was in the equivalent of the Peace Corps, in Africa, the Gambia. His room was filled with books and trunks and African tribal masks and artifacts, strange looking fabrics, animal tusks, things I'd never seen before. He was tall and funny, had a port wine stain on his cheek that I was fascinated with as a small child, and he didn't always get on with my father. As I got older, we came to appreciate each other. I learned about irony and sarcasm from him, about generosity, the joy of drinking a good glass of wine (something, no doubt, he inherited from my father). He introduced me to the books of Richard Mabey, who was a friend of his, and later he encouraged my riding. Like all Ward men, he was a good shot, had a real talent with dogs, and rode and understood horses beautifully.  The horse I remember of his was an ex-chaser, a grey Irish thoroughbred named McGinty.

He has a lovely wife, an artist, a beauty, someone who was by his side all along, someone who is stalwart, particularly at the end, dealing with the horribleness of pancreatic cancer. She was his rock. I saw him twice in the summer, and she brought us tea as he talked to us from his bed, with his dogs next to him. "All my life," he said, "I was told not to feel anything, not to cry. Once by my mother's grave, I felt myself break, and my grandfather put his hand on my shoulder and said 'Pull yourself together.' And so now, forgive me if I'm an emotional old fool. It's all coming out." It was strange to see him alternately funny and teary. I'd never seen him like that. It was lovely. He wasn't sorry for himself, just for the other people, everyone that was worried about him, people he might be leaving behind, his own sweet daughters, old friends.

"When I was at school, one Sunday, I was in the sick bay, and everyone was in chapel and the woman looking after me was from the town. I think she was filling in for the nurse for an hour. She came into my room and said "let's open the windows now. That's what we do every Sunday at this time, so we can hear the beautiful singing. Listen to that!" He'd just remembered this and told my younger brother and me, voice choked a little by it. With a minute he'd snapped back into sarcastic mode, and said something funny to cover up.

I don't want to think of him dying or lying in bed. I remember his laugh. I can hear it now as I write. The best memories are of the summer Sunday lunches we'd have in the garden. Everyone was invited, my two half sisters and their husbands and children, my half brother, Hermione, their lovely girls. There was always a glass of champagne, dogs on the lawn, the peach trees growing on the wall that separated the garden from the kitchen driveway, a barbecue going, my father grilling belly pork and lamb chops and sausages, an enormous salad great wedges of little gem and chive flowers, straight from the garden, new potatoes with mint, lots of red wine, and family banter. Snapdragons and roses and dahlias in the borders, the tomatoes we'd get from the deliciously warm and damp greenhouse. Sometimes, when it was too hot, we'd move the table a hundred yards down the lawn under the copper beech tree, and there we'd sit for hours, after pudding and cheese and port and more bad jokes, until we'd all either fall asleep or play a drunken game of bocce.

This is how I remember him, in his hat, smiling, glass of wine in his hand, always gently teasing me, or picking on John, very sweetly, as he was the token American. Or on a horse. I always had a soft spot for the men who rode with me. He even took me hunting, and taught me the right way to box a horse.

It's taken a few days to sink in, but they don't make men like that anymore. Such kindness, such generosity, always thinking about other people, giving back. (He lent his lovely cottage in Norfolk to John and the children one year when I had to work back in LA. They said it was the best holiday, ever.) I miss his missives, his poems he'd send, the occasional witty email. Actually, I'll miss him very, very much indeed.

Justin and my father. Summer of 1997. Justin is in one of his excellent hats. My father has a dog whistle around his neck. Both carry a glass of claret.

Thursday, November 05, 2015


I'm recalibrating. I am getting used to what happiness feels like. Trying it on. Adjusting the arms a little. My mouth, for example, has permanently turned up edges, so that I appear to be somewhat half-witted. When I close my eyes, the picture I see gives me a warm and cozy glow like the children on the Ready Brek ads.  I can't contain it. I want to climb to the top of a tall building and shout it loudly. I didn't know it could be like this, I keep thinking. And yes, I do want to pinch myself. Birds are suddenly appearing and all that malarkey. Please don't stop. 



Wednesday, October 28, 2015


I'm eating Lebanese rice (with vermicelli and pine nuts) and drinking a lovely glass of white Burgundy and considering, just for a moment, how very lucky I am. As you know, I am prone to magical thinking, but then again, so is Mary Oliver (see her poem below), but I am also practical and down to earth and sensible.  I am afraid of the ephemeral nature of things (I said this today to the man that I think I might love, I said, I am afraid that things are ephemeral, I dare not believe them too wholly, and he said, in his sage-like best Jeremy Irons voice, "I understand." Which was just about the best bloody thing he could have said under the circumstances.) It's all so damn BIG, you know? One day you're happily miserable and minding your own business and feeling content with being a single woman with many dogs and the next you're bloody being propelled through space like Starman at a thousand miles an hour and you're thinking, what the actual fuck? It's like someone put an enormous plastic syringe in your brain (you know, the kind that administers antibiotic paste to sheep) and zhuzhed up all of its content so that your perception of the world fundamentally changed. And yes, I use italics for emphasis. What the fuck is that? "It's big." I said, trying not to make a big deal about it but trying at the same time to make sure he knew what I meant (I suck in real-to-real conversations; he's all honest and lovely and direct and I'm all middle class and mealy mouthed and hideous). It's as if we've been H-bombed and we can't get away. This huge mushroom cloud has appeared, full of goodness and sweetness and honesty and love and the most overwhelming sense that life is just going to get bloody better, and I'm staring at it, this thing I've always wanted, always prayed for, and I'm wondering a)what to do with it and b)whether it's about to go away. W the actual F?

And breathe.

Morning Poem

Every morning 
the world 
is created. 
Under the orange

sticks of the sun 
the heaped 
ashes of the night 
turn into leaves again

and fasten themselves to the high branches— 
and the ponds appear 
like black cloth 
on which are painted islands

of summer lilies. 
If it is your nature 
to be happy 
you will swim away along the soft trails

for hours, your imagination 
alighting everywhere. 
And if your spirit 
carries within it

the thorn 
that is heavier than lead— 
if it's all you can do 
to keep on trudging—

there is still 
somewhere deep within you 
a beast shouting that the earth 
is exactly what it wanted—

each pond with its blazing lilies 
is a prayer heard and answered 
every morning,

whether or not 
you have ever dared to be happy, 
whether or not 
you have ever dared to pray.

-- Mary Oliver


Thursday, October 22, 2015

Love vs Fear

What are the guiding forces in life? Love and fear. The beauty of love is that love is extremely infinite, extensive, fearless, vengeless and realistic. Love has no limit. When there's a limit, there's no love. It is a surrender, absolute.

There are two forces in life of a human: Love and Fear.  Love makes you kind.  Fear makes you unkind.  Both forces have results, and we are the byproduct of these two forces.  
    * When you fear something, consciously or subconsciously, whether it is spiritually, mentally, personally or by faith, you suspend things. 
    * When you are not afraid you act wisely.  When you are afraid you act stupidly because of your sensory sense of the sixth sense.  Your radiant body doesn't act when clouded by fear.

 --Yogi Bhajan 


Saturday, October 17, 2015


God, I love this horse. 



My heart is full.

It's such a strange and new sensation.
I think people might think me dim-witted, as I wonder about the world with a goofy grin on my face. I can feel the corners of my mouth curling up as I sit here at my desk, listening to the early evening crickets and staring a vase filled with the most glorious white roses, propped up outside my door this afternoon.
I carried them around the house like a beauty queen, trying not to cry.

This is a whole new world, not feeling anxious about one's heart.

And then of course, there's the palpable frisson, as he calls it.

Here's to pink dusks and chilly Autumn nights and English woods filled with chestnuts.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

lightning bolt

I have spent a long, long time whinging about my "idyllic life in Laurel Canyon"(that's an actual quote, by the way). So what happens when you want to write about a lightning bolt, about the day when everything changes? How do you shift your narrative in such a way that doesn't make you seem like an asshole?

This is how it goes: You're one thing, in one mind-set, lamenting the things you don't have, stuck in the mode of trying to look your most beautiful and spending anxious moments trying to be adorable and winning and then in one momentous night, you're not the same. Every single thing changes.

This is new territory. I don't know where to start or how, I don't even know that I should be writing about this. It's taken a few days (punctuated with travel to London and a full-on press schedule for a winning, kind client, and my bold move of taking the splint off of my finger, and finding the time in the crazy work schedule to sit down outside, listening to crickets, under the fairy lights in the garden, with a glass of Merlot, hoping above hope that the rain might come) to even sit down to write about it. I'm wondering if I can or if I should or whether I might jinx it, or whether it's appropriate. (My daughter asked me the other day why I don't write about her, and I tried to explain that things that important and close to me, don't get written about, but then, what is the point of a personal blog, such as this one?).

This is how it goes. There is man I have know for a while, a tall, kind, elegant man, someone who works hard and is gentle and has helped me for years with both my personal demons and the work ones, someone who is receptive and attentive and a rock, someone who I've written about her before because he reminds me of tea and cricket and chalk and oak trees, an Englishman, who has managed to make a little home for himself inside my head, a tiny little safe place, that I can retreat to when things aren't good. And the man became real. The things in my head, both imagined and not dared for, became real.

My friend Laura, who I fully believe to be a witch, because she is so very intuitive, calls it emotional intimacy, and I think this is what happens when you allow yourself to be vulnerable (thank you Devin, and Brene Brown).

One day you are nervous and shy and wondering if you've chosen the right shade of lipstick, and the very next, you are open and un-awkward and yourself, and lying with your head on the lovely, kind, smooth, warm chest of someone you want to spend hours whispering to when the lights are out. It's not the kissing or the way he puts his arm around your shoulders when you cross the street, or the way he smells, or how he's the tallest person in the room and he's introducing you to everyone and taking your coat and bringing you glasses of wine with a secret code that only you know, nor the way he says "I don't care who knows," it's the conversations you have in the early hours of the morning when the revellers have gone home, and it's just you and the hum of distant traffic. It's the revealing of one's truth to another, to someone who wants to hear it and seems to understand it. It's the walking around a dark flat with bare feet and seeing the light outside, but feeling safe inside. It's the unusual sensation of not being alone, even when you're driving down Santa Monica Boulevard after a three o'clock meeting and he's about to go to bed, but he tells you that he's there for you and you know, you know that he means it, that it's true. After such a long time of trying to be a dater, a lover, a happy-go-lucky cool party girl, that somehow you're home. It's about getting used to home and remembering that there is no need any longer to sparkle, that your sparkling is, in fact, absorbed, happily, by someone else.

I don't know how to relax. I don't know how to wake up in the night and not find poetry which illuminates my longing. I don't know how or have forgotten how to be still in it.

I do know that he won't panic when he reads this. And I know that he won't ask me to take it down, because like me, he came out of his cocoon, and, in a rather wonderful way, we're on an adventure together, and I don't think either of us care where it leads; we're just trusting it.

Thank you, o great and loving energy of the universe, or whatever you would like to be called. I am a very happy girl.