What an amazing thing to stumble across in the middle of the night. I found it on Twitter, so why am I surprised? This video of blooming flowers set to music is breathtaking. An artistic flower lover’s dream, it perfectly displays the intricate, delicate beauty we sometimes take for granted. We are moved from unfolding flowers to the New York City skyline to the stars. A spellbinding treat for often jaded minds….and hearts…and, yes, even souls.

http://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/spring-timelapse-flowers-blooming?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=atlas-page

Every time I think I will never see a more beautiful piece of art glass, I am surprised by a vision of color, design, and artistic grace. 

My love of Italian Glass, gorgeous objects, and of course all things purple led to this vase coming home with me as a gift to myself. It was a bit pricier than my usual finds, but it was on sale and irresistible. I would probably have bought it anyway, because it’s such a life enhancer to own things that make us happy every time we look at them. 

Some stories are so sad and poignant that they’re still painful a century later. This beautiful little baby was my mom’s sister, Reva Vernell.

I don’t know when the picture was taken, but I found her birth date in an old Bible. She was born on November 24, 1914, so she was five years older than my mom. The date of her death was on another page, August 18, 1916. Her little life wasn’t even two years long, but here I am today in 2017, remembering an aunt I never knew, a sister my mom didn’t know. As was the rest of her family, Aunt Vernell was well loved all the same.

Though old and faded, this is one of my favorite pictures of my grandmother. Of course she was elderly when I knew her, but I’ve heard so many stories about her that it seems as if I was a part of her entire life. 

The one story that is absolutely haunting, though not in a supernatural sense, is that Grandmother said that after little Vernell died, it felt as if she still pulled at her skirts as she went about her household chores. It’s so vivid in my imagination (I almost typed “memory”)…the lovely little toddler, clinging to her pretty Edwardian mother’s skirt, wanting to be close to her always. I can also imagine that Grandmother must have gone to bed crying many nights, after her baby died. They never knew exactly what caused her death. She was in agony from stomach pain. It could have been appendicitis. There was even some thought that perhaps she swallowed a little peach pit. That was a time still in the early stages of medical diagnostics, which left many illnesses a mystery. That uncertainty must have made the loss even more unbearable. 

My grandparents had two more girls (Pearl and Sarah) and three boys (George, Billy, and Earl), but losing Vernell after too short a time surely left a sad, empty place in their family. And their hearts.

​I should know by now that something amazing may be encountered at any time. Shopping is a particular activity that provides opportunities for random fascinating conversations. Once, among the treasures of a Macy’s purse sale, a woman noticed my subtle Phantom of the Opera T-shirt and struck up a conversation about the musical, different versions, Michael Crawford, Broadway in general, and eventually my obsession with all things Wicked. Best Buy was host to a chance conversation with a young army veteran who worked there. We both enjoyed exchanging tales of foreign travel and historical landmarks so much that he would subsequently spot me across the store and come over to resume our conversation, as if it hadn’t been weeks since our last encounter. And a handicapped man at Walmart once told me about his sad, courageous life, obviously a very rare occurrence, spurred into an unfamiliar need for a sympathetic ear after a car almost ran him down in the parking lot. A simple shopping trip can lead to memories that become woven into the fabric of daily life.

Yesterday, I stumbled into a conversation with a sales girl at Pier 1, while lamp shopping. As random discussion will, it started simply, with my love of art glass. Eventually it wound around to some of the cool glass I’m finding among my mother’s things, from Depression Glass, to antiques, to very old photographs. My century old badly faded image of my maternal grandmother, in Edwardian attire complete with a giant hat similar to the awesome ones I was dazzled by in the movie Howards End, tends to trump anything most people have in their family collections. Many modern families don’t even have more than a handful of old pictures, if that. The woman I met had what will probably be the greatest antique photograph story I’ll ever hear.

I mentioned that many people find my mom’s stories of her life fascinating, since she lived through so much history. When I said she was born just a few years after the Titanic sank, this articulate and intelligent young woman quietly stated that more than one of her ancestors were on the Titanic. One of them was a member of the orchestra that famously accompanied the doomed ship on her tragic swansong. A particularly poignant event that’s become a point of consternation among those deeply interested in the fated first and last voyage of the most famous ship in history was that the orchestra member’s wife was charged for his lost uniform. Imagine being informed that your beloved lost spouse’s company uniform must be paid for…as it was lost to the depths of the sea. These are parts of the story I’ve heard about in countless TV documentaries. It was breathtaking to talk about them as someone’s family memories.

People Who Died on the Titanic

​Aimee Mann is one of my all time favorite singer songwriters. According to my taste and experience, she’s never done any bad music. I didn’t discover her until her solo career, but enjoy her ‘Til Tuesday days too. The combination of her voice, lyrics, and melodies has run through my mind like a stream moving as fast as she can produce albums. 

Some music inspires my fiction way more than the rest. Aimee Mann’s has been known to help me generate plot almost faster than I can keep up with it. Some of the best scenes I’ve ever written are connected to her work on the Magnolia Soundtrack and most of all, Bachelor No. 2, or the Last Remains of the Dodo. The latter is my favorite of her albums, and Mental Illness reminds me of it quite a bit. Drenched in strings that are the perfect companions to guitar and piano, Mental Illness is lavishly melodic. She also displays her wonderful ability with often subtle vocal acrobatics. 

Mental Illness strikes me as Dodo’s charming older sister. Containing several waltzes and her usual complex lyrics, this album is amazing and quickly became the kind of thing I have to keep listening to at odd moments. Especially when the unusual, catchy, and beautiful Goose Snow Cone pops into my head. I looked up what it’s about. Turns out Goose is a cat she knows, who also stars in the sweet video. This one is going to keep me listening, as I wait for whatever comes next from Aimee Mann.

​I just watched Solace, and, along with a general impression, moments and images still flash through my mind. Ironically, it reminded me stylistically of the TV series Hannibal. It used unexpected imagery in artistic ways, embedding impressions flawlessly in the viewing experience. The irony of course is that Anthony Hopkins starred in Solace, long after he made Hannibal Lecter a horrorhousehold name. It’s probably entirely coincidental that the Hannibal Lecter TV series he had nothing to do with had so much in common visually with the movie Solace. It’s very odd, though.

His John Clancy is my favorite of his characters in quite some time. Rich and deep, Clancy gives his portrayer a lot to work with, which he does to perfection. A touch telepath who wears tragedy like an uncomfortable overcoat, he reluctantly helps an old friend find and stop a killer. Along the way, he finds a new friend, a strength he thought he’d lost, and possibly a measure of peace.

For all its artistic beauty, the movie shows crime scenes in real and surreal detail. Some of Clancy’s vision are bloody and violent. All of it leads to a showdown played out on mental as well as physical planes. Emotional trauma is at the forefront of many moments, particularly a satisfying ending I thought I glimpsed early on, from mere hints of foreshadowing. Or perhaps bits of writer’s instinct. 

Jeffrey Dean Morgan played his old friend Joe, a dedicated cop with a secret he knows Clancy knows. The eventual reveal and quiet acknowledgments revealed as part of the story’s unfolding the burdens such a man as John Clancy must bear. Morgan’s excellent performance was a reminder of what a wonderful actor he is, for those who can’t help being caught up in the dark days of the Negpocalypse that is his role on The Walking Dead.

I’d seen trailers for Solace for some time. They didn’t do justice to this tight, taut, and mesmerizingly vivid film.

Solace Trailer

Yesterday, while I searched for old family graves, I discovered this beautiful, poignant statue. It speaks so eloquently of loss and sadness, youth and great age. I couldn’t find dates that were most likely worn away by time, but it’s obviously very old. She wears not only clothing of stone, but also a patina that marks the passage of time. While we can’t know her silent and steadfast story, it’s impossible not to imagine that this perpetual child marks the final resting place of a beloved little daughter lost too soon. I hope her beautiful presence brought her grieving family a measure of peace.