Art, literature

Taking a Second Look

I have just finished reading Dan Brown’s most recent book, Origin, which had many references to  Gaudi’s Casa Mila and Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. These gave me reason to review photos I had taken of both.

As I looked at them, they gave credence to Gaudi’s words:

Nothing is invented, for it’s written in nature first. Originality consists of returning to the origin.

At Casa Mila, the influence of nature is obvious beginning with the facade which reminded of something growing from the earth.

Inside graceful nautilus shapes are among those reminiscent of the sea.On the rooftop are amazing organic structures with flowers and layers resembling the earth’s strata.

Sagrada Familia continues to illustrate Gaudi’s fascination with nature and his interpretations go beyond traditional which for me is his genius.


Inside are soaring treelike columns.

Their branches spread across the ceiling giving one the illusion of being in a forest.

One could go on and on about the natural elements at Sagrada Familia, but as I looked at my photos I was stuck by contrasting religious images.

Ones depicting the birth story are delicate and detailed.


In sharp contrast are the dramatic interpretations of the crucifixion.

Not only are they crudely done, there is such incredible sadness in them.

Without question, Gaudi was an architect of tremendous talent who was not afraid to think outside the boundaries.  While other of his work is complete, Sagrada Familia has been a work in progress for 140 years.


Thanks to private donations someday, perhaps by 2040, it will look like this.

As in his other books, Dan Brown’s Origin raises some interesting questions, but what I most appreciated was being influenced to take a second look at Gaudi’s designs and again being awed by his originality.

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

Random, Travel

Hemingway in Cuba

One of my all time favorite authors is Ernest Hemingway, so it was a special treat to visit Finca Vigia, his retreat in Cuba.  Located outside Havana, Hemingway purchased the property in 1940 and lived there for the next 20 years, staying longer than many Americans when relations between the U.S. and Cuba began deteriorating.

Hemingway houseThe house only could be viewed through large open windows, and the first thing that struck me was how many books were there.  I overheard a guide say there were 7,000 volumes on the shelves.

Hemingway houseI so wished to be close enough to read the titles in order to see what authors or subjects interested him.

Hemingway houseAs I looked through the window into his study, I imagined Hemingway sitting at his desk surrounded by favorite things and writing The Old Man and the Sea.   His Nobel and Pulitzer prize winner was influenced by the local fishermen with whom he became friends. How I would have loved to hear the stories and fishing adventures they shared!

Hemingway houseIn every room were trophies from his hunting excursions,

Hemingway houseand on the bathroom wall over the scale he scrawled his weight.  Such personal touches made Hemingway seem so real, and my mind was reeling as I recalled snippets of his life and from his books.

Hemingway houseLook closely on the shelf and you will see a rather large lizard preserved as a testament to the bravery of one of his cats of which there were said to be many.  The lizard was a little creepy, but Hemingway obviously had no aversion to being in the company of formerly living creatures.

Hemingway houseYou may remember Hemingway was friends with Picasso and the white piece barely seen clearly here is the artist’s interpretation of a bull’s head, perhaps similar to the one hanging next to the disc.

Hemingway house.Every room was open and airy, giving space to a man known to live life to the fullest.  It is said that Ernest Hemingway was well liked in Cuba and to this day there is a marlin fishing tournament in his honor.

Finca Vigia is one of several places Hemingway spent time that I have visited, and this was my favorite because so much of him seemed to be there.  While I didn’t breathe his air, it was a treat to walk in his space.

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind


Metamorphosis Monday

You’re Gonna Love it Tuesday


Havana: A Quick Glimpse

CubaFrom my hotel room window, Havana looks like any big city, sprawling and busy.

CubaWhen you wander out, however, the street scene takes on a life of its own.  First thing you notice is the cars, old American made ones from the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s.    Someone told me there are about 50,000 of them in Cuba which makes it a veritable car museum!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACubaIt’s not at all unusual to see a hood lifted, the driver pouring in a quart of oil or fiddling with the spark plugs or whatever.   And the interiors are real throwbacks….no automatic windows, sophisticated sound systems, luxurious finishes here.

CubaOmigosh, this one is identical to my first car which was pretty old when I got it.    Do you think it possible that old Chevvy ended up here?

CubaAs fascinating as the cars were the people.  I generally don’t take a lot of people pics, but I couldn’t help myself this time, and you can probably see why.  I mean how often do you see a woman smoking a cigar

Cubaor such a dapper gentleman strolling the sidewalk?  Of course, when he noticed I had snapped his photo, he subtly held out his hand.  Remember, it’s possible to make more money posing for photos than working in a professional capacity.

CubaCubaCubaCubaHad I been able to wander I do believe I could have captured people enough for a book.

CubaThese guys would definitely be in it 

Cubaif for no reason other than their ingenious chessboard!  Necessity is, indeed, the mother of invention.


CubaCubaCubaOld cemeteries fascinate me, so a visit to the Christopher Columbus Cemetery (no, he’s not buried there) was a favorite stop.   If you’ve ever visited Recoleta in Buenos Aires, you will be reminded of it.   In fact, I’m not sure this one isn’t even more lovely with its stained glass windows, interesting shapes

Cubaand beautiful carved sculptures such as this version of the Pieta. 

CubaBecause this is a much visited site, it is one of the places being refurbished by the government.  The result is a sparkling wonder.

CubaFor book lovers, the square in Old Havana is filled with volumes, old and new.  A collector would have a field day visiting here, that is if he were interested in Spanish language books.  Every  vendor appeared to have copies of Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea which was inspired by Cuban fishermen.  I’m now wishing I had bought an old copy.

CubaFor years, the Tropicana Club has been a favorite of visitors to Cuba, so how could it be left out?  

CubaCubaCubaCubaSitting under the moon and the stars,  we were treated to a Las Vegas style extravaganza all performed to Latin rhythms.

There is more to Havana than meets the eye here, but it’s impossible to share it all nor did we see it all as so much of our visit was limited.   Hmmm, wonder if that’s reason to go back another time!

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind


Anything Blue Friday

literature, Tablescapes

Book Inspiration

How some people always manage to get it right is beyond me, but when I tell you this gal does, it’s true.

book club tablescapeFrom the minute you enter this lovely Maine cottage  you can expect to find welcoming vignettes.

book clubIf you are fortunate enough to pass through the kitchen, you will find something interesting or beautiful occupying every space and giving clues about the owner’s sensibility.

book club tablescapeLucky for the book group, she hosts us at least once a year, and we know the table will be a wonder to behold with a just right centerpiece and a mix of pattern and texture that make a perfect whole.

book club tablescapeOur book of choice this time is The Woman Upstairs in which the main character is an artist whose creations are miniature roomscapes.  Do you believe our hostess just happens to have pieces that capture the essence?

book club tablescapeIt would have been enough to have just one of these miniatures, but here are two, each with intricate detail meriting careful attention.

book club tablescapeThe hostess has magic fingers in her garden so we can always expect to see beautiful specimens  artfully arranged to complete any centerpiece and complement the patterns in linens and dishes.

9780307596901_p0_v2_s114x166With so much energy emanating from the table, you can bet a lively discussion of Claire Messud’s novel ensued.  This selection particularly lent itself to a variety of comments, some of which opened my eyes to a different way of looking at the book.  

In a nutshell, The Woman Upstairs  is a riveting confession of a woman awakened, transformed, and betrayed by passion and desire for a world beyond her own.  Nora Eldridge, a thirty-seven-year-old elementary school teacher in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who long ago abandoned her ambition to be a successful artist, has become the “woman upstairs,” a reliable friend and tidy neighbor always on the fringe of others’ achievements. Then into her classroom walks Reza Shahid, a child who enchants as if from a fairy tale. He and his parents—dashing Skandar, a Lebanese scholar and professor at the École Normale Supérleure; and Sirena, an effortlessly glamorous Italian artist—have come to Boston for Skandar to take up a fellowship at Harvard. When Reza is attacked by schoolyard bullies who call him a “terrorist,” Nora is drawn into the complex world of the Shahid family: she finds herself falling in love with them, separately and together. Nora’s happiness explodes her boundaries, until Sirena’s careless ambition leads to a shattering betrayal which is the source of many an interesting opinion.  

The book haunted me for several days as I pondered who did what to whom.  Each character was so needy, and that in itself can often lead to unhealthy relationships.  All in all, The Woman Upstairs is a good selection for a book group as it allows a multitude of opinions as well as provides insight to the differences in perception.  If your book club takes it on, I’d love to hear about your discussion.

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

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Book Love


I love books. The way they feel in my hands. The smoothness of a cover. The texture of pages. The allure of a clever jacket. And there’s nothing better than finding them in a small, cozy bookstore.

Come with me to Parnassus Books an easy to miss place located in a Green Hills (Nashville) strip center. It got its beginning when a long time independent bookstore, Davis-Kidd, closed. It was that closing that inspired well known author Ann Patchett and publishing veteran Karen Hayes to open another place that book lovers could browse in a friendly setting.

As you might guess, all of Patchett’s books are on the shelves, and if I remember correctly, they are signed by her.

In addition, there is a rack of books that are Ann’s recommended reads. This could be a good place to start this new year.

What I really loved, however, are the notes penned by store employees and Patchett that dot the shelves. Seeing those made me want to buy every book commented upon.

I could have stayed in Parnassus for hours browsing each section which was beautifully displayed in a space warmed by color.

The children’s area has to be a kid’s delight with games to play, animals to cuddle and an incredible selection of books.
There’s more to Parnassus than just books. It hosts talks by well known authors and a very energetic book club. With every bit of information book club leader Kathy Schultenover gave me, my appetite was whetted. I can’t wait to go back, and if you are a book lover in Nashville, this is a place you won’t want to miss.  And thanks to Ann Patchett for thinking that opening an independent store for booklovers was important.

I so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

PS You can now Like Lulu’s Musings on Facebook. I’d love to have you there.

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Random, Tablescapes

There’s a Story Here

The book club gathered this week at a charming Maine cottage for a spirited discussion of Desperate Characters by Paula Fox as we enjoyed a tasty lunch.  As always, I am delighted by the effort of a hostess to make dining a special pleasure.

This table combined touches of elegance with the simplicity that to me is characteristic of Maine.

The dishes were old, I think, reminiscent of another time.  They lend themselves to a formal setting, but today complemented with casual table linens, they had a just right feeling of comfort.

Taking comfort one step further were the vases simply arranged with a few colorful stems from right outside the cottage.  Access to blooming things, be they wild or cultivated, is another of the things I love about Maine.  No home ever need be without them!

As lovely as the table setting was, it was the table itself that absolutely blew me away when everything was removed from it.  It was long and narrow, well worn, much used.  From where had it come?

Was it from a ship bearing the name Achilles

and was this the ship?

Was the table in the gun room?

Who were the midshipmen who sat at each numbered place?

The hostess did not know the answers.  She and her husband saw the table some years ago, liked it, made it theirs.  What an absolute find!

 My mind is reeling with images of voyages on the open sea and the sailors aboard the good ship Achilles.  There is surely a story here that would tell of their conflicts, their homesickness, their adventure.  Oh, if that table could talk and if the story could be written!  

Should we give it a try?

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The Help…My Take

With the possible exception of  the last Harry Potter film, has any movie been more anticipated than The Help?  So much so that I was almost afraid to go see it for fear of being disappointed, either because the movie was not well done or because it mutilated the book.  Neither was the case.  The movie accurately portrayed the book, and I thought the characters were as they should be.  When I have read a book that becomes a movie, I always have my character images.  I read slowly, relishing the words, getting into the story, setting the stage so to speak.  Often I read out loud making an to portray the characters.  In The Help, I’m not sure I got the dialect quite right, but my vision of each person was much as they were presented in the movie.

I grew up in the south, but it was south Florida, and my world was very different from the one presented in the book.  I only knew one family who had a maid and whenever I visited that home she was polite and generally had treats for us to enjoy.  I never thought about where she went to the bathroom or how she got home or what her life was like.  In my town, Negroes, as they were then called, lived on one side of town, whites on another.  We went to separate schools and while they did not go to the drug store soda fountain or the same movie as me, I have no recollection of there being signs that prohibited their being there.  The Help and other books/movies that address civil rights make me wonder if I lived in a vacuum.  If that was the case, I also grew up without too many prejudices.

The friend with whom I saw the movie had quite the opposite experience. She grew up in the south more similar to Jackson, Mississippi, and her family had help.    She well remembers being cared for by a maid who disciplined her, taught her manners, gave her hugs, and approved (or not) of her dress.   This woman also had a bathroom separate from any used by the family.  My friend loved the help and took for granted that her presence and the way she was treated was the norm as most of the people my  friend knew also had help.  Strange how different circumstances can be which means the reaction the two of us had to the movie was somewhat different.

Just as I didn’t have the experience of help, I didn’t know a Hillie, and I say thank goodness to that.  I found myself wondering how anyone could be so influenced by someone like her and respecting Skeeter for having the courage to go beyond that silliness.  I also wondered who I would have been in that scenario.  I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t have been Hillie, but I can only guess if I would have followed along in order to be accepted.  I also wonder if it would have ever occurred to me to question what life was like on the other side.

Getting back to the movie, I enjoyed it.  There was the right amount of humor and sadness.  The characters were believable.  It made us see once again, albeit in a fairly subtle way, how slow the white south was to accept people different from itself.  In some ways, I wonder if that isn’t still the case.

If you’ve seen the movie, I’d love to know what you think; if you haven’t, go!

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