Posts from March 2020

hobby horse

March 20, 2020

One of the many things I admire about my mother-in-law, is her respect for, and love of hobbies. Sewing has kept her sane, knitting has, too. She bakes beautifully. And is often trying new savory recipes. When her parents died and all three children flew the nest, she taught herself to quilt. She now has an entire room dedicated to her craft. It’s how she spends most days. When she can, at least. She has made each of her grandchildren a quilt, and there are some large ones in the works for her children. My neighbour, Josephine, a retired teacher who lives alone in a big house just north of us, wrote that she is sewing her way through this time of social isolation. My Mum, who also lives alone, is turning raw clay into shells and angel wings at her kitchen table. My studio mate, Dasha is making enough bread to fill a bakery. Hobbies sound old fashioned and quaint –– my brother used to spend hours painting those little metal soldiers –– but in our fast paced, prepped-to-earn lives, how lovely is it to press flowers, plant them, even, for the sheer love of doing so. For Frida, and many other hobbyists, quilting has woven its way into her day-to-day life. It’s an anchor, an escape, a labour of love.

in the bag

March 19, 2020

The inside of my bag is a mess of unwashed paint brushes, crumpled receipts, orange peels and loose change. I’m way too slummy for a see-though bag. Sometimes, I’ll find an old sock, some twigs or a half eaten granola bar in there. Once every few weeks, I’ll empty it out, wash the bag, and start again. I own several beautiful bags, but I only ever use a cloth one. Or a canvas backpack. Because I’m a slob. At least when it comes to the inside of my bag. And the way I wear my hair. Rarely brushed, always lopsided. And the way I eat when I’m hungry. Food always ends up on my face. Or in my lap. And I’m ok with all of that. In fact, I rather like it. We’re all loose with some things, and rigid with others. And I say, thank goodness for that. That’s what makes us human. The only thing worse than across-the-board bedraggled-ness is across-the-board perfectionism, and vice versa. We’re all just trying to keep our shit together. In a bag that suits us.

to build a home

March 19, 2020

A few years ago, I read an article on grief that referred to the firefighters and the builders. The firefighters swoop in immediately, and are there to support you in the days and weeks after your loss. The builders are there to help re-build your life. six months, two years, a decade after your loss. This idea resonated with me a great deal, especially as losing someone, like most traumas, doesn’t have a fixed recovery period. And because the hard work is often in the recovery. When your firefighters are busy putting out new fires. This is why the world needs both firefighters and builders. I, like most of us, have been thinking a lot about how I can support people during this surreal time. I have friends who I know are struggling, and many of our local businesses are holding on by a thread. Social distancing renders us less useful than we’d like –– firefighters can’t do their jobs without getting up close to the flames –– and let’s be honest, we all have fires of our own to manage. So, in the meantime, all we can do is support from a far, knowing that there will be plenty of opportunities to be builders on the other side of all of this.

communion

March 18, 2020

I was raised Greek Orthodox. I find the experience of church safe and uplifting. Greek Orthodox churches, especially the small, island ones that I was raised in, are exquisite. Domed ceilings are painted in vivid shades of lapis and ochre and vermilion. Icons of the saints are burnished in majestic gold. The smell of Myrrh rises up from the old wooden pews. My most beloved churches are the Cycladic ones, utterly minimal from the outside, a jewel box on the inside. I was married in a Cycladic church, and we christened our first child in a Cycladic church. On entering a church, I was taught to do the sign of the cross three times. I’d light candles and pray for the health of my family. I’d kiss hand-painted icons of saints. And at times when communion was being offered, I’d drink sweet wine from a large silver spoon and share chunks of bread with friends and strangers. As a child, I’d look around at the clusters of people sipping from the same spoon. wiping their mouths with the same cloth, and I’d think, “we’re all safe from germs because we’re in a church.” It was naive of me to think that way, and there are a great many Orthodox adults who still think that way. I don’t go to church very often anymore. I know there are plenty of beautiful Orthodox churches in Toronto, but my experience of church is tethered to my experience of Greece. My homeland, and heritage. But when I do go to church, I have found my own ways of respecting the church’s rituals, while feeling comfortable about what the rituals ask of me. I don’t take communion, and I don’t bring my children to communion, because it no longer brings me the comfort it once did. I light a candle, always just one, and pray for the health of my family. Whenever I smell frankincense and myrrh, wherever I am in the world, I am immediately transported to the majesty and wonder of a Greek Orthodox church.

air travel

March 17, 2020

I have a bittersweet relationship with airports. As a child, I spent a lot of time in Athens airport. We’d always arrive half an hour before our flight, (back in the day when you could) and it was a mad dash to make our plane. We were the last to board –– can Mr. Tsavliris make his way to Gate 17 –– which made me feel both important and embarrassed. When I met Jason, airports became the best and worst place in the world. I remember my friend, Stephanie and I planning my outfit for my first flight to Toronto. Black trousers. White t-shirt. Denim jacket. My plane was delayed by hours and hours, and I recall sitting at Heathrow, worrying about whether Jason would have received the update, and if he’d be at the other end to greet me. Sure enough, there he was at 1 a.m., wearing a beautiful smile and a blue anorak. Leaving him made my heart ache. Every time. I’d sit on the tarmac and cry into my paper pillow. The excitement/heartache went on for five years, and between us we clocked a great many hours at airports. Heathrow. Pearson. Benito Juárez. Suvarnabhumi. Tito Minniti. When I moved to Toronto, I worked in the domestic terminal greeting flights from Timmins and Thunder Bay. I was homesick. Lonely. Purposeless. I spent hours in the magazine shop waiting for my walkie talkie to talk to me. The silver lining to the experience was seeing loved ones reunited. That always warmed my heart. Husbands and wives. Mothers and sons. There’s such intense and beautiful emotion on display at airports. Once, I met a family from Ethiopia, greeting their grandmother who had never travelled outside her village. I remember how dazed and vulnerable she looked as she stared at the escalator, a thing she’d likely never seen before. I wondered what the cold felt like as she stepped outside in her traditional cotton dress. I haven’t forgotten that woman, I likely never will. Today, as a family of five, we move through airports with ease. We’re experienced. We’ve travelled far and wide. In emergencies. At leisure. Had we known that the Covid-19 virus would escalate to the degree that it has, we wouldn’t have travelled recently. Moving through Pearson last night was surreal, to say the least. The lady at the Air Canada desk who checked us in, beautiful features and a thick Arabic accent, could not have been kinder, more reassuring. Our border control officer in Toronto welcomed us home with the warmest of smiles. It’s the people front lining through the crazy that we are so grateful for. On our drive home, I thought about a photograph of a sunset that hangs on the wall of a security hall at Pearson. “I think about how many sunsets I’ve been fortunately aware enough to enjoy,” reads the caption. “This one, even in all its splendour, is wonderfully familiar. It elegantly confirms the beauty of a world I’ve contemplated so often before. I have no hotel for tomorrow. I have only a sketch of a plan for our next expedition. Yet, for this quiet moment, in union with the shadows of a fading sun, I am content knowing that everything is going to work out just fine.”

universal picture

March 15, 2020

Our friend, Adrian’s Dad died this week, and his friends came together to support him. “I know he [God] has made it possible for Olive, Alex and Hugh to be there for Adrian today,” wrote our friend Charlotte in a message on the morning of the funeral. “He finds us who we need way ahead of us needing them.” I thought that was a beautiful idea. I thought about what Charlotte has come to mean to Olivia, what Olivia has come to mean to Adrian, what Adrian has come to mean to Hugh. To Alex. And so on. And how friendships have a way of weaving their way in and out of our lives. And how the people we need, can very often land on our doorsteps, without our even knowing that we needed them. In the form of a hug, or a fillet mignon, or a walk down memory lane. Today I read a lovely quote from Great Goddesses: Life Lessons from Myths & Monsters by Nikita Gill. “The universe plots to bring those who can heal each other together.” I watched my Mum walk along the beach this week with her oldest friend in the world. She and Irene met in Great Neck, New York when they were both toddlers. They have kept in touch over the decades, and every few years, their paths cross. Irene lost her Mum last week, and I do believe that the universe had a hand in bringing Maria to Longboat Key within days of Big Irene’s passing. Coincidence, yes. But I choose God. I choose the universe. I choose that mystical, otherworldly force that resides over, and within us all. It was a beautiful thing to watch them walking the beach together, a literal lifetime of thick-and-thin friendship between them.

bird watch

March 13, 2020

It’s such an enormous compliment when readers tell me that La Parachute feels like an “escape,” “a secret garden,” and an “open window.” Because that is very much what this portal is for me. A place to wash away the worries of the day, world even, to explore and contemplate, to indulge, muse, play and delight. When the world is on its head, it can feel inappropriate to wax lyrical about a sunset or a bunch of flowers or a hand-painted wallpaper. But I do believe that there is respite and perspective in gazing at a Rothko, or watching a flock of gulls take flight. And more then ever, we all need a bit of both.

glass act

March 12, 2020

I am not drawn to glass the way I am stone, paper and metal, let’s say, but I do find the glass making process quite astounding to watch. We took our children to the Dale Chihuly collection in St. Pete yesterday and watched a live demonstration of glass blowing. It was intensely hot in the studio, and there must have been twenty steps, at least, to the process. The glassblowers moved deftly through the studio like they were performing a well-rehearsed dance. They handled heavy, piping hot equipment with grace and ease and patience. It was kind of amazing to watch this small chunk of molten glass morph into an enormous shell-like vase. Magic. Chihuly’s work is best seen in nature, he says so himself. Set among flora and fauna, the acid green tendrills come to life, and look like they’ve sprung from the ground beneath them. His colours are wickedly intense, garish even, and the forms are beautiful and grotesque. The work isn’t for everyone, but you can’t not see the awe in it.

skip to my loo

March 11, 2020

I’ve had my eye on these shell sconces for weeks, and the salmon pink paint colour is divine. There’s really nothing I don’t adore about this loo, from the brass taps and marbled fabric to the botanical drawings, hyacinths and peonies. We all know how much I love a good guest loo. They’re a decorator’s dream, and very often, a holiday from the rest of the house.

marmalade

March 10, 2020

When I was a little girl, there was a travelling fair that would come to Staines, complete with all the rides, tombolas and candied apples that a child could imagine. I remember my family going on a rickety ride, and all of us being so scared, that my Dad started screaming expletives at the person operating the swing. “Stop the fucking machine,” he bellowed from above! The best thing about those fairs was winning a goldfish. Sometimes, we’d come home with five or six of them. Fish are the perfect first pet. Caring for fish gives children a manageable amount of responsibility. I fed our fish, talked to it, and cleaned its bowl with a toothbrush. Maybe even my own toothbrush. I’m pretty sure all my goldfish were called Marmalade.

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