As the moon set I set the alarm for two am, yet by midnight I was still awake.  I could not shake the events of the past few days and I could not get this phrase out of my head: “More being, less doing.”

 

The moon setting over "our" mountain

 

It is no secret that we love our life in the country. We have managed to rebuild a slow home that we have furnished with vintage and mid century pieces and live an intentionally slower life that we fully embrace.  We even held off bringing internet into our home for over ten years, fearing that it might inhibit the quality of life we enjoy here.  I write about it all the time, the slower pace, the thoughtful lifestyle, paying attention to the little things, making memories, taking the time to smell thethe rebirth of spring, but never had the importance of this lifestyle become clearer to me than this past week.

I attended the memorial service of a friend’s sibling, an extraordinary individual who passed away too soon. Although the situation was tragic, the celebration of his being was stunning and I walked away wishing I had known him in life. His wife’s words resonated in my head as she reflected upon their life together, wishing that there were “more being and less doing”.

More Bee-ing

 

So simply stated, it was profound: More being, less doing. Which brings me back to Friday night.  Setting the alarm and getting up at 2am would probably have not been a priority two or three years ago.  I would have probably set the alarm with good intentions and then shut if off and gone back to sleep.  I now know better.  Given the finite amount of time we are privileged to be here and how quickly it flutters by, every day & every experience is a gift to be savored. The time spent “being” is why we do all the ”doing” in the first place.

Life Flutters by

 

Although I know that inherently, and write as well as talk about it, I often forget to do it.  My children remind me of this all the time and to be honest, I am not always the best at practicing what I preach, but I am going to try each and every day as I chant my new mantra: More being, less doing.

So, Irwin and I took a blanket outdoors after 2am and lay under several more as we faced the Northern sky awaiting a five thousand year old event that did not disappoint.  We spent over three hours gazing at the meteor shower and the enormity of the heavens; just being, not doing.

Perseid Meteor Shower

 

It's All About the Little Things

While we can all agree that gifts of jewelry and expensive handbags are always coveted and appreciated, sometimes it’s the little things that cause our hearts to swell as we become teary-eyed and farklempt...And it is the little things that make our houses cherished homes.

That was just the way I felt on Sunday when Irwin surprised me with breakfast on the patio.  Irwin, our resident Frittata Master, chose to treat me to an asparagus and goat cheese omelet.  While the omelet was delicious, it did not bring a tear to my eye, despite the red pepper flakes.  What really touched me was the coffee station he set up in our prep/storage room, complete with farm fresh milk. It made a simple breakfast at home seem like a private dining experience in a lovely bed & breakfast; just a little touch that meant the world to me.

Breakfast waiting at the "Coffee Station" on the way to the patio

 

our storage/Prep room-Not yet finished

 

 

my coffee station-"A little thing" that meant the world to me

 

 breakfast gobbled up but the hydrangea remains

 

Irwin is constantly tweaking our home.  Editing and rearranging have become a way of life for our family and we all enjoy the inherent surprises that are revealed to us almost daily. It is absolutely true, that on any given day, we might arrive home to find our den and dining room flipped, or the master bathroom re-accessorized.

In light of this, it should come as no surprise that, while I was out of the house driving our oldest to the train station Sunday afternoon, Irwin was busy rearranging a corner of our bedroom so that I could have a dreamy reading niche.  Yes, yes, I know I have expounded on the many seating and eating areas in the house, but NONE of them are in our bedroom.  When I cannot sleep and want to read, I cannot do it in bed because Irwin is extremely light sensitive.  I have desperately attempted to circumvent this issue by implementing the use of reading lights…and even flashlights, but it was to no avail.  If I wanted to read while Irwin was sleeping, I had to go downstairs. 

 

My reading niche

But now those worries are a thing of the past, because Irwin generously presented me with this sweet niche he created by re-purposing pieces from other parts of our house including the stunning Hydrangea (the only bloom we had this year) that was on our breakfast table.

 

it's all in the details including my breakfast hydrangea

The focal point of the area is a vintage chaise that I adore.  Although it is delicate, it is extremely comfortable and I love laying on it.  I have my own reading light, far away from our bed that will afford me hours of uninterrupted reading while offering Irwin hours of uninterrupted sleep. Beautiful artwork,a fantastic screen, candles, a throw and fresh flowers complete the niche.  The only thing missing is a decadent box of chocolates...and me!

Perfect:Down to the smallest detail

 

Like “Dining Out…at Home”, the little things that we do to our living environment can make us feel like we are spending time in a lovely inn or hotel and who doesn't enjoy that?

Time at home feels like time away

 

I look forward to returning to the country later this week and relaxing with my book and a glass of wine in my reading niche, enjoying the little things that make everyday life so special.  But first, I’d better check with Charlie. I have no idea what he's reading.

Charlie's Book Club?

 

**Thank you Irwin for always reminding me to pay attention to the details and nuances in life!

 

Batter Up: Just Another Wednesday Night in the Country

Last week I read a post by my good friend, interior designer Jonathan Legate and it reminded me of an experience I had written about two years ago.  In keeping with sharing the good bad & hysterical experiences of country living, I decided to go back and edit this never before published piece and share it with all of you. Enjoy!

 

Talk about confronting phobias head on.  Tonight I came face to face with the granddaddy of all of my phobias, BATS. And I’m not talking about the kind that A- Rod swings.  I am talking about the Titans of Transylvania.  Those webbed- winged, blood-sucking vampire vermin of the night.

 

A transylvanian Titan

 

Anyone who knows me knows that despite being an avid nature lover, I loathe having anything fly over my head.  As far back as I can remember, I had been petrified of low flying birds.  When my grandmother let my budgie, Billy Boy, out of his cage for his daily exercise, I ran out of the room screaming.  Over the years, I have attempted to analyze the reason for this phobia but have not been able to come up with anything concrete.  I often wonder if, as an infant, I was traumatized by a bird mobile hanging over my crib, or could it possibly be the flying spoons of soft-boiled eggs that my grandmother piloted from the bowl to my mouth each morning that set this irrational fear in motion.   Perhaps it is simply because I spent the first twenty years of my life living directly under the Kennedy Airport flight patterns; whatever the reason, I am petrified of all low flying creatures especially ghoulish, rabid mosquito slurpers.  

 

just like my billy boy

 

My Fright Night began quite normally enough.  With Irwin in the city and my chores complete, I settled down in front of my laptop, icy cold cocktail in hand and prepared to begin my first attempt at serious writing.  Before I was able to type my first word, I saw something from the corner of my eye that sent a chill down my spine.  I shook my head, trying to clear the cobwebs of the cocktail when it appeared again.  It was big and black with the wingspan of a stealth bomber and it was traveling through the den at what seemed like Mach 1 speed.  Shockingly, just as I was about to begin writing a bat-tale, a new one was unfolding right before my somewhat bloodshot eyes.  Being known to occasionally overreact, it should come as no surprise that I immediately began to freak out.  I catapulted myself off the couch and barely missed the low farmhouse ceiling as a high-pitched shrill escaped my lips.  I frightened myself and can only imagine what it did to the not-so little fella, who was blinded by all the lights on around the house. Thankful that my screams were not confused with a bat mating call, I did what any bat-o-phobic person would do; I began to rant and cry, calling for help from Charlie, our laid-back, Flat Coated Retriever mix.  Unfortunately, and not surprisingly, he offered no support, so I immediately pulled up the hood of my sweatshirt and ran to higher ground. 

A lovely summer evening....at bat-o'clock

 

 


 Icy Cocktail


Our master suite is located on the newer side of the house directly above the great room.  It is separated from the staircase vestibule by a pair of French doors, installed in classic “local country” manner: upside down and accordingly, they do not close properly.   Being a quick witted adaptive Manhattan native, I grabbed a small towel and tied it around the handles to attempt to secure them.  Actually, I am sure there were about a gazillion other choices that would have been more effective, but it was the best I could come up with in my semi- catatonic state. 


secured french doors


All the lights were on and my not so adorable, winged friend was charging the French doors like a “ bat out of hell” as I began to hyperventilate and mumble to myself.  He seemed to be trying to leave through the porch screen door located at the bottom of the stairs and being the naturist I am, I knew that bats can fit through openings as small as an eighth of an inch so I began to pray that this winged creature of the night would exit stage left through a gap on the side of the screen door.  But, that wish was not realized and my nemesis continued to swoop and fly aimlessly, crashing into walls, doors and windows. 

 

 

 

escape route below

As I stood, peering out from my temporary safe haven I realized that, in my haste to escape, I had taken nothing with me; not my cocktail, not my computer, and most importantly, not even a phone. I was now sobbing uncontrollably and screaming “ I don’t even have a phone with me, I don’t even have a phone”, as the enormity of my dilemma set in.  Irwin, who had always come to my aid during  “bat-ventures”, was miles away in NYC and I was left with Charlie to deal with the situation.  And what a situation it was.  While I was sobbing, Count Batula was storming the palace.

 

The Count and I had one thing in common; his exit was paramount to both of us. As he repeatedly attempted to escape, I became his biggest fan, cheering him on and offering words of encouragement.  Unfortunately his sonar must have been on the blink because he was just not able to find an escape route and resumed his erratic flight pattern.

 

As I stood trembling behind the French doors, my flying nemesis took off in search of an alternate egress, leaving me a window of opportunity.  Understanding that I had little choice, I wrapped my hooded self in a towel for extra protection and opened the French doors (not a difficult task considering the fact that they don’t actually close).  With the speed of a jaguar- okay, so maybe it was more like a highly caffeinated tortoise, I ran back to the den and retrieved a phone, my drink and my laptop and retreated once again to my tower.  I took a couple of swigs of my lukewarm cocktail and waited for the pseudo-courage of the vodka to set in.

 

 

That's me...the speedy tortoise

 

After what seemed to be a millennium, the bat no longer appeared in the vestibule and I hoped that, like that infamous season of Dallas, it had all been a terrible dream.  Armed with my trusty phone, I called my husband and sobbing uncontrollably, filled him in on my predicament.  In truth, I knew that he could not help me, but I had to talk to someone and Charlie was just not interested.  In fact, despite my insane behavior, he was sprawled across my bed, dozing.   

 

 

Sound asleep

 

Irwin confirmed what I already knew.  I was on my own with no safety net.  I was forced to confront one of my greatest fears head on and despite my somewhat unstable emotional state, I was enveloped by a sense of inner calmness.  I closed the vestibule light, took another sip of my cocktail and began to write this tale.  In truth, I knew that after turning off the light, it was only a matter of time before the bat resumed his pursuit of freedom and although I was still shrouded in panic… and a bathroom towel, I also knew that I could not sleep until I set my airborne enemy free. 

 

As I continued to write, I heard a gentle knock on the wall and knew that “Darth Vader” had returned.  I attempted to quell my rising panic with another swig of vodka as I pondered my next step. Feeling as fearless as a marine, I formulated plan of action.   I would brave the elements, run down the stairs and attempt to release him by holding open the screen door on the porch.  At the time, it seemed like a simple solution.  If ‘Bat-zilla” saw the open screen door, he would simply leave- end of problem.

 

I barricaded Charlie in my bedroom and flew down the stairs.  I flung open the screen door and held it from behind as any courteous doorman would.  I waited and waited as my worthy opponent continued to fly around the great room and vestibule performing feats any Blue Angel would be proud of.  Unfortunately, he came nowhere near the door.  As I stood, paralyzed in the cloak of darkness, a frightening thought occurred to me: I might actually be inviting more bats to enter rather than assisting the departure of this single bat.  Despite this, I continued my bat-watch.  When I realized that there were no bat sightings for over forty-five minutes, I closed the screen door and did something I would not have believed possible an hour before.  I relinquished the role of victim and in its place, assumed the role of hunter in pursuit of prey.  Allowing myself no time to reconsider, I grabbed a flashlight from the porch and mounted an expedition both in and around the house, shining the light into the darkest recesses, looking for my unwelcome guest. Although life altering, the unsuccessful mission brought me back, once again, to my screen door post, prey-less.  Hunter or not, I was really tired and just wanted this adventure to come to an end.   As if hearing my prayer, Sir “Bat-a-lot” reappeared and resumed his air show.  Then, as suddenly as he reappeared- he was gone again and all was quiet on the screen door front.  I was baffled because he had been at the top of the stairs near those shoddily installed French doors just a moment before.  Where could he have possibly gone?  A quick walk up the stairs answered my question.  My very own flying “Fear Factor” was now on the other side of the French doors swooping over Charlie as he napped on the bed.  

 
Blue Angels could learn a thing or two from my little winged angel

My sense of calm immediately dissipated as I envisioned Charlie being attacked by the bat. I threw open the French doors and shrieked at Charlie who followed me down the stairs and out the screen door.  Now we were both on the porch holding the door open waiting for our uninvited guest to leave.  It was like “déjà vu all over again” and although I can’t speak for Charlie, my patience was running thin and I was rapidly running out of steam.  It was now after one a.m. and I had been dealing with this situation for over four hours.  I knew I could not leave the perpetrator in the house but had no idea how to evict him.   I am not a quitter by nature but enough was enough.  I was ready to give up, take Charlie and sleep in the car. It was a small convertible car – but it was also a bat- free car.  Anything had to have been better than this “Cat and Bat” chase.

 

 It was just at that moment, a moment of complete and utter desperation, when it dawned on me.  If The Count was not going to come to me, I was going to go to him. I went back up the stairs to watch the latest flight exhibition when I noticed “Bat Masterson” trying to escape from my room by climbing on the open window screens.  I considered closing the window, trapping him between the screen and the window but could not bring myself to get that close.  What if he was startled and flew right at me?  Who would be there to call 911 when I started foaming at the mouth?  Although like the Cowardly Lion, I too had found courage, I was not totally bonkers: I was not about to go “Rambo”.   Instead, I immediately knocked out the screen from the window closest to the door, closed the door and waited.  Finally, miracle of miracles,  “Bat-dini” made his escape and flew out the open window.  I instantly ran in and closed it and was immediately flooded with relief and awash with sheer joy. 

 

I was absolutely giddy.  I wanted to call everyone and anyone I knew and tell them that I had indeed completed my “Mission Impossible”.  I yearned to shout it from the rooftop, to write it across the sky.  I had beaten my foe.  I conquered what I thought was an insurmountable fear.  I outwitted my blind friend and won the battle.   Unfortunately, it was just before two in the morning and most of the world was sound asleep so….I climbed into bed with Charlie, who had resumed his snoring, and recounted my tale to….my laptop. Just another Wednesday night in the country.

 

Another Season

As we turned into our driveway and caught sight of the magnolia in bloom, I took a deep breath and let out a sigh; another season had arrived. While all of the seasons are breathtaking in the country, spring is by far my favorite.

Our Magnolia

We had planted the magnolia five springs ago in memory of Irwin's father who had passed away the year before. Magnolias were his favorite and this little fledgling has been a source of inspiration to our entire family. So to see it in bloom with daffodils at its side practically brought tears to our eyes.

Beautiful magnolia blossom

 

Daffodils

Irwin and I first became acquainted with our country home in the springtime ten years ago.  At the time, it was a decaying house and acreage.  Looking back, it is hard to believe that we were able to envision any existence in this place, yet ten years later we continue to marvel at how life affirming this plot of land on this mountain can be.

our mountain

As the house was in the process of a rebirth, so too was the surrounding land, which began to revive itself and offered up new surprises almost daily.  There were the apple trees that revealed themselves the first fall, the shock of lilacs the following spring, rosebushes that seemed to appear out of thin air several years later, and the countless other miracles of nature that we have been privileged to witness, including the appearance of our beloved Charlie, who too was a gift of our mountain.

Lilac in bloom 
 

our sweet willow

charlie, our greatest gift

When spring arrives on “our mountain”, as we have come to think of it, the simplicity of rebirth and renewal make almost anything seem possible.  As Irwin and I took a walk out into the woods, signs of spring’s resurgence were all around us and the profusion of new growth was awe-inspiring.

A walk in the woods

 

rebirth on the forest floor

 

 

Greenery abounds

We were greeted at breakfast Sunday morning by our first guests of the season, who were up bright and early working on their new home right in the elbow of the gutter outside our kitchen window.  Seeing those birds made me smile because they were confirmation of spring’s return and with it the proliferation of new life. I was duly impressed by their fortitude; they were not deterred by our removal of all the nests last fall in order to repaint the house.  They returned and began to build anew in the very same spot they had built their nest last year.   

 

our 1st guest

foundation is built

All of the creatures, both large and small have been busy preparing for springtime on our mountain. There is much activity, some of which is easily observed.  Other activity cannot necessarily be seen, but signs are all around.

the smallest creatures

 

Paw prints courtesy of our friends down under: raccoons

That is the miracle of another season.  No matter how severe the winter, no matter what happens on Wall Street, when spring arrives and the creatures of our mountain that share our house and land return, we know that literally, hope springs eternal.

Even the inanimate objects have embraced the season and have found ways to come to life.

 

mossy turtle 

And if the sights and sounds that surrounded us were not affirmation enough, what we stumbled upon on the path leading to the back of the house confirmed what we already knew: We are extremely lucky.

 

lucky penny

Whether we realize it or not, nature is our greatest collaborator each and everyday.  So while we should celebrate the 40th anniversary of Earth Day on April 22, 2010, we must cherish our Earth and it’s miraculous beauty every single day so that generations to come will be able to bask in the sheer joy of… another season.

 

Earth Hour Came A-Courtin'

Irwin and I decided to spend Earth Hour in the country this year.  We thought it would be a good opportunity to celebrate global renewal in a place that celebrates life everyday, in simpler, more basic way.

And simpler it is.  Our house is located in a rural community, where cow crossings outnumber street crossings.  Our single stoplight town is a twelve-minute drive down the mountain and has no drug store or cleaners. Our road is unpaved possessing neither streetlights nor sidewalks, and cell phone service is non-existent on our property.

Cow Crossing

 

Local Pedestrian

Our one & Only

While we celebrate the fact that we have indoor plumbing and electricity (most of the time), we have no internet access and put our cable television service on hold from January through May, requiring us to get in the car and drive over a mile and a half down the road in order to check our email or text messages. It doesn’t get much simpler than that for modernists like us.

That being said, celebrating Earth Hour in the country required very little powering down.  In fact, just before 8:30 pm, when Earth Hour began, only two small lights were on in the house and Irwin & I were already seated in front of a roaring fire, in our otherwise unlit Great Room.

Can you hear the roar?

As Earth Hour approached, we powered down the house and lit a small candle in a chamberstick as well as pair of beautiful candles in our courting candlesticks for extra light.  Yes, you read that correctly, courting candlesticks.

chamberstick

 

 

courting candles

I had no idea that courting candlesticks even existed until last time we were in the country and used these candlesticks.  I made a comment about the fact that these rustic candlesticks had a crank to adjust the candle up or down, and Irwin then explained that these were, in fact, courting candlesticks.

Courting candlesticks were used from the 1600’s through the 1800’s by the parents or guardians of proper young women to set an appropriate time limit for dates with their suitors. The candle would have been placed in the room where the young girl would have welcomed the young man.  If a parent did not approve of a young man, he or she might be inclined to put out the candle immediately.  If the suitor was well liked, the candle might be raised to the highest point to allow for a longer date.  Who knew?

 

Courting candlestick

And so Earth Hour was spent, relaxing in front of the fire with courting candles for added light.  While banding together with our global community is empowering and working towards a common goal of global sustainability is extremely important, we don’t need to wait for Earth Hour to arrive to “power down “ our lives.  The benefits of getting back to basics on a regular basis are bountiful and a renewed appreciation for the many blessings we already have in our lives is paramount.

Earth Hour Came A-Courtin'

 

Mother Nature's "Purge-ery"

Although I had anticipated posting a new ‘In Voice” post today, this morning’s walk along the Hudson inspired me to do otherwise.  The originally scheduled post will appear later in the week.

Manhattan was fortunate.  While this past weekend’s storms hit the outer boroughs, along with parts of New Jersey, Westchester & Connecticut, the island of Manhattan came through practically unscathed.  The weather was so tolerable, that I was able to resume my brisk walking Sunday afternoon.  While I fully expected to see downed branches on the street and throughout the park, what I encountered at the Hudson shore shocked me. 

The debris left after the storm

 

It seemed that the river’s waters had risen quite substantially during the storm and overflowed onto the docks and shoreline.  While the waters had receded, the Hudson’s gift to us remained: Miles and miles of trash.

While I understood the significance of this gift, nature’s “purge-ery” after the deluge, the impact of this event did not hit me fully until I returned to the Hudson for this morning’s walk. 

debris remaining today

 

Today is a glorious day, the antithesis of the events of the past few days.  And while the parks department has removed a considerable amount of the refuse, the clean up continues still.

Garbage bags filled with trash that washed up on shore

 

An unsightly reminder

 

I know that we are all working very hard to improve our environment by recycling, repurposing and using greener alternatives.  I know that the once polluted Hudson is far cleaner than it once was, but the evidence of our neglect cannot be overlooked and cannot be swept under the rug or into trash bags, even greener, reusable ones, without a moment of reflection.

re-usable trash bags

 

We need to step up our game.  While some of the debris from the storm could not be helped, most of the trash on display consisted of water bottles and soda cans, both of which are so easily recyclable, yet there they were, strewn along the river’s edge for all to see: A clear message from Mother (or Father) Nature. 

understandable debris from the storm

 

The ugly truth-What most of the debris consisted of

 

It’s as if Mother (or Father) Nature had had her fill and literally threw up all over us- returning to us what she could not digest.  It is definitely payback, our karma, which we all know can be a “B#@*%”.

So, here’s the memo directly from the front office, don’t turn your back on Mother (or Father) Nature, whose wrath we have seen so often as of late.   Take five extra seconds and properly dispose of cans & bottles, or even better, stop purchasing bottled water all together.

don't turn your back on mother (or father) nature

 

Let’s not have to wade through debris while on our nature walks at the shoreline.  Because while galoshes can be cute, nothing can replace the feeling of sand in between our toes.

 

 

Polka dot boots from zappos

 

sand between our toes

 

Start with the Art

Many of my clients visit the gallery looking for new and interesting ways to either redecorate or update their homes.  Often, they come in armed with paint chips and fabric swatches, along with a long list of questions.  The most common question, and often the most perplexing issue for most people is: “Where do I begin?”

Many designers subscribe to the philosophy of room design beginning with the selection of a rug.  Over the years, I have also used a rug, or the room’s “lawn”, as the foundation for color, pattern and overall inspiration.  While there is nothing wrong with that design approach, I have begun to abide by a somewhat different, if not irreverent, school of thought: Start with the Art.

Since opening the gallery, I have surrounded myself with different forms of art, from oils to lithographs, silkscreens and prints.  Living with, and looking at various pieces of art in different gallery vignettes, had enabled me to understand the power that art has over us.  If we allow ourselves to be open, we can all learn to build entire rooms around a single piece of art, raising it from accessory to focal point.

Art should be eye opening, stimulating, subjective and controversial.  Art's ability to evoke emotion and energy can be the necessary catalyst to spark your imagination and allow you to think outside of the box.  It may be a single color in the background, the blending of a brush stroke, or the basic composition, which generates that much needed new idea.

So pay attention to what is at eye level.  With art as your inspiration, you can reach new heights of design achievement.  Remember, you will never spill wine on your art, your dog will never have an accident on your art, and you will not have to vacuum your art. AND, best of all, Art is Eternal.

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