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Let It Reign

February 4, 2015

three clementines

Three Clementines – Julian Merrow-Smith

It’s the time of year when a parsnip just ain’t a peach.  You know, the time of year when you begin to get a hankering for some fruit and foolishly buy some strawberries. 

But then you get pulled back to the season, and citrus rightfully reigns. 

I’ve noticed a trend as of late.


A friend left a jar of homemade orange marmalade in my mailbox.  It is an orange marmalade without the bitter, and all kinds of orange-ness.  Just like my friend, bursting with goodness.  I am now confident that Paddington Bear would enjoy a stay at my house.



Drops of wild orange essential oil are rubbed together in my palms.  Maybe something is happening with my olfactory nerve and limbic brain, but I don’t worry about that.  I just know there is a time to inhale.


And is there any greater gift to cold hands, than a warm cup?

Orange you glad I shared my three darlin’ clementines?  Stay warm,



New Practice

January 15, 2015


Untold times a day, I reach for these reading glasses.  At least once a day, I search for them.  The search is usually urgent, because when you want to see clearly, now is a good time.


At dinner, Andrew mentions his eyeglasses. I am incredulous, “but you don’t have glasses.”

His incredulous look matches mine.  “Yes, Mom, I do.  Don’t you remember?”  His brother offers reinforcements, “Yeah, Mom, don’t you remember.  He got them so he could see from the back of the lecture hall?”  By then, as if I need further convincing, Andrew races upstairs and comes down wearing glasses. In my defense, he notes that he keeps them in his backpack and wears them only in class.

As dinner dishes are cleared, this exchange sinks in and I am sunk.


My son became bespectacled during the time my mom was going into her assisted living facility.  I know during this time, that I engaged in conversation with my son about  upcoming eye doctor appointments, talk of eyeglasses.  I know that I was shown these glasses.  I’m fairly sure that I offered a smile and appropriate comments as I feigned attentiveness. 

And I now know that I was not present.  So not present.  I have no memory of this small family event of a year ago.  None.

I am stunned, sobered.  I had no idea that I lived in such a state of  distraction for a season. 


And so I have begun a practice.  The practice of being where I am.  And it is a practice.  Not in a practice-makes-perfect sort of way, but in a fledgling-heightened-awareness sort of way.  Some days the practice goes much better than others. 


Every time I visit my mom, I clean her eyeglasses.  It is a ritual, of sorts – I run the sink water, soap the lenses, rinse, dry, place them gently on her face, look her in the eyes and say “better or worse?”  Sometimes she says better, and sometimes, she grins and says worse, which cracks us up.  More and more days, she’s unable to say anything.   More and more days, she speaks with her eyes.   I swear, sometimes, time stands still. 

And I tell you, not only can time stand still, but when I slow down and become present, time expands.  The stuff that needs to get done, gets done.  A paradox.  A paradox worthy of practice.


May time stand still for you,


PS  If you see my shoulders scrunched over my laptop, or my glazed eyes staring at my phone,  give me a shake.  Insist I look you in the eyes.  I thank you in advance!


January 2, 2015

As we have crossed the threshold into a new year, it is inevitably a time for reflection and anticipation.   

A few weeks ago, Frankie and I enjoyed a lovely winter afternoon.  We went to the Candlelight Tour of  homes in historic Oakwood.  We toured and visited a couple of  homes where these furniture pieces reside. 

DSCF1486  DSCF2536  021 

Cinderella                                                               German shrunk                                                 Rattan & Feathers

  019  vanityred

                        Walnut Island                                                                    Vanity

It truly was a joy to see our pieces in their homes.   We laughed a lot…remember the feathers…the near-mishap delivery…the thousand other things we shared.  It was a bit bittersweet, and also an abundant benediction. 

On New Year’s Eve, you straddle the threshold of looking back and looking forward.  New Year’s Day arrives, and you cross the threshold.  And when you cross a threshold, two things are happening at once – you are leaving one place and entering another.  As Frankie and I drove out of Raleigh on that recent Sunday evening, we crossed a threshold of sorts.  Thankful for what had been, but driving forward. 

front door

Callie,  former Fig barn cat, and current  threshold-straddling champ

May you have a smooth crossing into the new year,



December 23, 2014



Epiphany has come earlyit is not yet January 6.  

And epiphany has come (seemingly) late – if only I knew then what I know now.


It is one of my favorite seasons – the season of long evenings, where the tree lights and candlelight extend kindness to our faces and gentleness to our paces.  Kindness, gentleness –  joy, peace – gift-wrapping, merriment.  Those are the things I have associated with Christmas.  (Along with overwhelm and stress, anyone?)   A lovely fa-la-la-la-la.  ‘Tis the season.

But, this year, there’s a connection to the season that has eclipsed all the others.  A revelation, if you will.  Christmas, for me, means forgiveness.   

Holy crap.


What will follow is bits and pieces, in randomish order.  Right now, I have candles in a dark room.  While I can not see the whole room, I will share the outlines of what I can make out.    What will follow is vague.  Some of these things I know well.  Some are things that people I love know very well.

  1. Unforgiveness is a force to reckon with, a mighty force.  Its only match,  forgiveness.   It requires a fierce fight – and it is not a fast fight.
  2. Forgiveness is a bridge to a spacious place. 
  3. Sometimes, you can mind your own business, and trouble comes knocking.  Sometimes, you find yourself opening the door, only to get slapped.  Sometimes, you have to ask yourself, “why do I keep opening the door, only to get slapped?”   You may need to decide not to open the door for a little while.  Or a long while.  (Even a spacious place has boundaries.)
  4. The game is unfair.  A trailblazer of tears comes along, hurts you, and moves on.  And you are left dazed and angry.  Their game piece was a bulldozer.  Yours, a blunt bushwhacker.  Now you have the heavy burden of unforgiveness on your back, as you bushwhack your way through a jungle of bitter madness.   Unfair.
  5. SometimesOftenUsuallyAlmost always, people who hurt are coming from a place of being hurt.  So, quite often, it has little to do with you.  Although, when you are on the ground in pain, and someone comes up and kicks you, it sure feels like it has a lot to do with you.
  6. Sometimes, folks may casually dismiss their actions.  It is an acknowledgement of sorts, but you are left feeling dismissed, diminished.  They may not care what they have done.  That is cold.  Or, they may know not what they have done. 
  7. A contrite heart is a beautiful thing.  Please hold it tenderly, whether it is your own or that of another.
  8. Forgiveness can make the crap holy.  Yep, forgiveness can make the crap holy.  It can bring you to a spacious place.  And maybe, one day, you can extend your hand to help someone else cross that bridge.  You can say from firsthand experience, it was not okay, but you will be okay.  You will be okay.

May your feet be set in a spacious place.

Christmas grace to you,



P.S.  I know, I know.   Unforgiveness is not a word in the dictionary.   But it was how this math major could best describe it.  Forgive me, please, my favorite English majors aka neighbor, niece, and brother-in-law!  Love you.




A Long December

December 11, 2014

According to my kindle, I am only 11% of the way through this book when I head to the bookstore, purchase two hardbacks and have them giftwrapped. 


This story, these words, have caused me to do some uncharacteristic things.  I’m not a big fiction reader, and the title clearly states: A Novel.  I tend to order online, rather than head to the local bookstore.  Raleigh folks, Quail Ridge Books is a treasure. I usually devour written words (which is not the ideal way to properly digest words and story.)  I am reading a few short chapters at a time.  Slowly, savoring. And I certainly do not purchase a book for a gift where I have no idea the ending.  There is the possibility that the ending might break me, and those I love.


This photo was taken by my stealth sister-in-law, seven cusp-of-Decembers ago.   Our sober expressions seem to know something we didn’t at the time –  tempests were brewing, and not too far offshore. 

Our tempests arrived like a procession of  assorted houseguests.  Long-staying houseguests. 

A large fraternity and sorority came, those who are dealing/or have dealt with aging parents.  There’s lots of company in that one. But it’s still hard.  And lonely.

A club came, those who deal with a child in the autoimmune community.  There are concerns.  And hope.

A white-water rafting group showed up, named Paddle the Waters That Are Highest at the Moment. It’s a lifestyle group.  Good grief.

And then, there were some secret societies.   There are some pains that are private.  I have learned that you never know what people you encounter may be dealing with.  Truly. You usually never know.

For the record, I have been a loath hostess.  It’s been a long December.  (And yes, I hear Counting Crows crooning)


Ah, but back to the book.  There is a passage where blind Marie-Laure is exploring a shell in the murex family with her hands. (chapter 11)  What she feels with her hands allows me to see that shell as I have never seen a shell before.  After descriptive words like hollow spines and ridged whorls, Anthony Doerr’s words slay me: it’s a kingdom

Oh my stars.  Oh my bursting stars.  All the light we cannot seeAll the light we do not see.

020   028

My very own murex

This shell was found on the same beach where my mother used to take me as a young girl.  The same beach where we’ve taken our boys and girl.  The same beach where my sister-in-law snuck a photo of us.  I have always liked this shell, kept it in a special place.  But I see it now.  It is a kingdom.  Kingdoms have been in my hands, on my shelvesI just didn’t know it.

The ending might break me, and those I loveThere. There it is.  That is what has hung over me for a seven-year season. That is what has lengthened December. 

A long December.  All the light we cannot and do not see.  Kingdom come.  Christmas.

With hopes for the grace to read (live) on, slowly, not missing a word,


Love Remains

November 10, 2014

Remember, back in January, when I posted the abandoned house with the Love graffiti?  Well, the house came down this week.  All that appears to remain is a pile of rubble. 


When I last posted, I was struggling a bit. The Fig was gaining momentum, and seemed poised to take a good turn.  While we were taking a work break, I was not being honest with myself or you when I stated, we’ll be back.

To further explain, I need to go further back.  My mom had been in assisted living for a week and I was puttering alone at The Fig barn.  And there was a voice.  Not an audible voice, but a  thought.  A thought that was loud and clear.  Very loud and very clear.  An unbidden thought that was intrusive and unwelcome.  Your work here is done. 

I stopped in my tracks – your work here is done.  I shook my head, as if I could un-hear what I had heard.  But here’s the thing, you can not un-hear what you have heard.  While I tried to shake the thought,  the thought shook me.

I went home and told my voice of reason (aka husband).  His response – your mom has just gone into assisted living, it’s been a very hard week, don’t read too much into it.

The Fig commitments were fulfilled, a table was built, time was taken off.  My mind still swirled with ideas.  But to reiterate the thing –  I could not un-hear what I had heard. 

So a tentative hiatus was taken from the business.  And what I knew deep down, I could not say out loud.  (because you know, saying things out loud makes them truer, right?).  In fact, it is only in the past few weeks that when asked about the business, I can answer honestly.  I can say it out loud and not feel sad.

My world has shifted in the past year.  (Actually, our worlds are always shifting, agree?)  I spend a lot of time in my car these days.  I drive my high school freshman to her school thirty minutes from home – two one-hour round trips for me each day.   And I go to Angier – except it is not to the farm, and The Fig barn with my mom across the road.  It is to town, where my mom now resides. 


with my mom and daughter

And Frankie, amazing Frankie.  Let me give you an update. 

One of my dear childhood friends is a farmer, up the road from The Fig.   Frankie has been his girl Friday for awhile.  Literally, she was the girl who would go in on Fridays to help with his payroll and paperwork.  Well, now she is not only girl Friday, but also girl Monday, girl Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.  She still does the paperwork, but she also does lots of things like drives a big tractor.  Yep, you read this right…she drives a tractor!  She is still a thriving, hard-working, holy wonder.

Now when we get together, we are not covered in paint and sawdust, but rather presentable for public restaurants and such. 


Holy Wonder meets Tractor

Remember, at the beginning of this lengthy post, when I said that all that appears to remain of the Love house is rubble.  Things are not always as they appear, eh?  

Sometimes, when things fall down, rubble is not all that remains.  Love remains, folks.  Love remains.


PS – And the barn cats, you ask?  They have adjusted quite nicely to a cushy suburban life.  (I am indebted to my voice of reason  for allowing me to practice cat herding skills on a daily basis)

PSPS – While ideas still dance in my head, ‘tis the season for a measure of pragmatism.  The essentials, if you will.  Driver, laundress, chef on the home front.  Daughter who visits her mom and bends the straw, holds the cup.  Daughter who softens from dutiful to privileged.

I plan to continue writing.  A lot less furniture, a lot more season of essentials stuff.  Thank you, dear readers. 


January 8, 2014

On the road to visit my mom, I drive by an old abandoned house with graffiti that makes me smile.  I often tap the breaks (as I’m usually barreling along the highway) just to take it in.   



While this has made me smile for months, I am now taking it personally and making it personal.   I am putting a period at the end.  Love.  That makes it a directive, you see.  And while the Fig is truly close to my heart, there has been a quiet thought that has slipped in.   A gentler pace is not laziness.  And my friends, I know at this time of my life, I need a bit of a gentler pace.  Just as this winter has made me crave and yield to heartier meals and earlier bedtimes, this particular season of my life is pushing love – not in a noun-ish or feeling-ish sort of way, but in a live it with your time way.

Ten minutes after I leave my mom, she does not remember that I have been.  But when I walk in, her eyes light up and she tells everyone this is my daughter.  No one else can give me that kind of love.  And while she is loved by many others,  no one else can give her my love.  

When Frankie and I had lunch and caught up this week,  I said I just can’t think about furniture right now.  Frankie, with her old soul wisdom, understood. 

We’ll be back: )




   DSCF3141    DSCF3144

A Time to Romp & A Time to Rest

December 2, 2013

Meet Sadie…a dog that has her own stash of Alpo at The Fig.   She’s a rescue Border Collie who knew a harsh hand before finding home with my brother.  We are going to take a lesson from Sadie’s book and take time to romp and rest this December.  Frankie and I will finish a couple of projects tomorrow and then be taking the rest of the month off.



sadie on sofa

and Resting

And yes, this was Sadie taking a breather on a Fig piece!  She thought she was camouflaged (and she was for awhile:) 

May peace and joy find you this season.

Merry Christmas,

june & frankie

A Maple for all Seasons

November 15, 2013

Maple cake in autumn, maple syrup on steaming oatmeal in winter, maple dijon dressing on spring greens, or maple syrup on pancakes with summer fruit – oh yes, maple is a favorite for all seasons.

Oh my, we have some wormy maple at the barn.    (Actually, wormy maple is often called ambrosia maple because it is an ambrosia beetle that gives this wood interest and character)  Anyhoo, we’re rather smitten.  And yesterday, we attached three hefty slabs on these contemporary metal legs for a dining table.  We heaved heavy boards and sanded and then I had to leave.  A half hour later, I received these photos on my phone from Frankie.  This is how it looks with one coat of natural stain.

A table for all seasons, eh? 

maple         maple2






Changing Course

October 28, 2013

Last winter, my eldest came into the kitchen, and with heavy hesitation said … Mom, I’ve been thinking…I want to change majors.   His major had been settled in his mind for years and he was just a year from college graduation.   I distinctly remember thinking be careful how you respond here.  (Because I was thinking … what!?! … where did this come from … you’re almost done … just stick it out)   So I listened.  And processed his words.  And realized that sometimes it takes more courage to change course than to stay the course.


And now a similar thing is happening at The Fig.  From the beginning, when there were requests for custom work, the response was always an adamant no.   My resolve was strong and sure.  But then a few slipped in, and while it was ridiculously hard on my nerves, it is a direction that we seem to be going. 

And crafting our own pieces…that too, is another direction we seem to be going.

We will still have occasional vintage pieces that we re-work and re-think, but there has been a turn in The Fig road.  More custom work.  More building.  We, too, are changing majors. 

Getting schooled!