Unreal

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“Oh look, there’s Meg Ryan.”

A curly topped slim blond woman in oversized jeans, striped tee, sunglasses and Dansko clogs stood in the lunch line with us.

Peeking out from under a floppy hat like the celebrity I am not, I whispered to my husband, “She looks sweet.”

Of course, I’m appraising this from the soft landings her movies emote — When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle… I have no idea if she is sweet.

Since I wrote the article about cosmetic surgery, I’ve been thinking about what is real and what is not. What’s artificial beauty? Are cosmetic “enhancements” and hair dye unnatural? What about hair extensions?

Meg Ryan looked like Meg Ryan.

In my last post, a reader left this comment about the characters in one of my favorite Netflix series:

“Seeing Jane Fonda on Frankie & Grace and Meryl Streep makes me ill. They’ve aged sooooo well.”

Remembering the scene where Grace (Jane Fonda) takes off her makeup, hair extensions, and the little clips on her face that give her a surgery-free facelift, makes we wonder whether passing judgment on what is real and unreal has any merit at all, especially in the entertainment business, an industry so inflated, so distorted.

Maybe Meg Ryan had facework like the tabloids claim. Or maybe not. To me, Meg (apparently, we’re now on a first name basis since we stood in line together) looked like the other 50-something-year-old women waiting for sandwiches.

She looked sweet. She looked real.

Is it real when you feel comfortable in your skin?


A few extra notes:

Note #1 Eco-design followers: I haven’t forgotten you! Here’s Meg’s design philosophy:

“The whole idea is to keep things as simple as possible; I like everything pared down to its purest form.”

Check out how she puts this into practice in her Martha’s Vineyard beach house.

Note #2 In my summer travels, UNREAL candy — “reUNventing your favorite candy” — has been popping up — and into my mouth. Is candy with “real” ingredients and less sugar unjunk?

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A Trend. A Pushback. A Change.

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A Trend.

“Take any girl in her twenties and then check back in with her 20, 30 or 40 years later. I guarantee that you will see a stronger, smarter, better version of that woman later in her life.” ~ The Prime Book

Stronger, smarter, better…

Resonates, doesn’t it?

A Pushback.

Many of you know I decided to grow out my long, dark chemically-dyed hair. All transitioned now, it is a flowy silver mane. I love it. Yet, for decades I dyed my hair the color of coal. In fact, one of the main chemicals in my old hair dye, PPD, para-Phenylenediamine, is derived from coal tar!

The Green Divas invited me to write about the roots of our obsession here: 3 Questions About Hair Dye & 3 Reasons To Ditch It .

Now, my mother, my best friend and most of you color your hair. So believe me, I get it. The barrage of age-appropriate hair behaviors we ascribe to is a tough nut to crack, and no one wants to find themselves on a hairdresser’s hit list.

Speaking of hairdressers…

I chuckled reading about the flap on the other side of the pond between Sarah Harris, the feature fashion director at British Vogue, and Nicky Clark, “UK’s leading celebrity hairdresser.” Silver-haired Sarah responds with just the right fervor to Nicky’s urging the Duchess of Cambridge to cover her gray roots — or else — it will be a “disaster.”

Nicky: “Until you’re really old, you can’t be seen to have any gray hairs”

Sarah: “To cast such trite aspersions is like saying that women can’t have long hair the other side of 40, or that a 57-year-old man can’t have a blond, flowing, tinged (?), highlighted (?), backcombed (!) bouffant, whether they’re a celebrity hairdresser or otherwise.”

A Change.

As we get older, women can defy the notion that we need surgical procedures to disguise ourselves into looking youthful. But when roadblocks present a picture to younger women that they better do something quick or else the ravages of time will surely take their toll, I am reminded of this,

“Each person must live their life as a model for others.” ~Rosa Parks

And that is why I wrote a rapid response to the recent TIME cover article, Nip. Tuck. Or Else: Why You’ll be Getting Cosmetic Procedures Even If You Don’t Really Want To? Here’s my take on this trend:

Nip, Tuck…and What?

There’s a sea change in the way we see ourselves and are seen. While it may seem like we live in a culture that prizes youth above all, in the miles ahead we can renounce those who tell women to tuck up, cover up or shut up — and become living proof that with age we are stronger, smarter, better.

Taking Flight, Again

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Last year, Phoebe, our winged resident, built her nest in one of two Arroyo Craftsman lights that frame the front door. Each year, I marvel at why she chooses the busiest location to tend to her nest, as she has a hissy fit — tail flicking, stressed alarm calls — each time the screen door opens and closes. Despite the coming and going disturbances, she keeps showing up each year to tend to her latest brood.

Peering around the corner from my summer office, the screened-in porch, I watched the building take shape. My front door, with its lopsided entrance, one light adorned with twigs and branches, the other naked, winked daringly to keep my distance.

It reminded me not to leave behind my work utensils on the commute from kitchen to porch.

Computer, check…glasses, check…phone and headphones, check…cloth napkin, check (have been known to spill while groping for the teacup in a computer trance)…

With loving care, Phoebe folded the natural bedding round and round until the little nest fit her perfectly. Then she sat, shimmying from side to side, watchful eyes aimed at the porch. One day, her peeping took on a fevered pitch and she was done sitting — hatched — five tiny, translucent bodies with open wide beaks peeking over the top of the nest.

Then came a soaking rainstorm. In the early morning hours, the summer sky opened to a deluge of windswept water. When the riot subsided, I tiptoed out to the porch, arms full of work paraphernalia, focused on not slipping on the slick deck. Stepping into the safety of the porch, I noticed the silence. No mother/child chorus. No movement above the light. Dead quiet.

Right about this time, my writing ebbed.

For months, writing had flowed out of me like nobody’s business. Notes filled notebooks and pages piled up. Then an insightful editor told me to put the breaks on the floodwaters and get cranking on publishing.

In the meantime, I continued along my work trail. Work thrived. Writing limped.

Even blog posts that used to spring out of nowhere, where nowhere in sight.

Waiting.

A few weeks ago, right on schedule, Phoebe came back and laid her eggs — one, two, three. All fluff and beaks, these minis flourished.

One morning, the birds stood up, peered around their nest, and like a toddler about to throw one chubby leg over a crib gate — they were ready. Thinking the birds would jump ship, I went around back to enter the porch. But they held tight.

The next day I was leaving for the BlogHer conference – 3 insanely hectic days in NYC. I dreamt about gardens and flight. The stark contrast of my lush home in the woods to the rush of city lights and throngs of people, couldn’t be harsher. But I enjoy the freedom of travel and look forward to the change of scene; always thankful I have a refuge, this haven, to return to. My nest.

Returning, I walked out to the porch this morning and the peeping started, reaching an all-time high. Then, in a blink of any eye, the babies flew over to the power line that connects us to the rest of the world. There they sat, tails flicking like mom’s. Once safely ensconced in my writing porch, I watched them fly into the woods, one by one.

Settling down to work, I click on my computer and instead of opening my Inbox, I stare at a blank white page. Maybe I could write something today? How do I know?

‘Cause just like that a post took flight.


Photo note: I tried hard not to disturb Pheobe and her babies. I didn’t dare take photos. This photo of sleeping newborns is from Shutterstock.

The Sun Sets, The Mood Changes

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Often places and objects that transform, reveal a visible pace of change. This shack, called the Lucid Stead, is an installation created by Phillip K. Smith III on a 70-year-old wooden residence in the California High Desert. It wears its heart cleverly on its sleeve, as you can see right through it. While quietly changing its mood as the sun rises and sets, it settles into its surroundings.

It endures. It thrives. It fascinates.

This reminds me of another house I’ve written about, the Mondrian House. I revisited it last month on a brisk morning, pausing to watch it live, breathe and shake off the difficult winter. The house cautiously takes in the ocean air, while gazing out over this Aquinnah landscape:

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The homes we take for granted rise and fall as we do. Taking with them bits and pieces of the past, present and future with variable degrees of wear and tear.

As the sun sets and the mood changes, a big birthday rises this week. There are no clear aging guidelines, only ones derived from instinct. It’s not really the age I feel. I could remodel, but that doesn’t seem authentic to me.

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I’m summoned towards nostalgia for the freedom of the good old days, while looking out over the changing landscape and seeing things as if viewing them for first time, with fascination.

Photos: Mirror House: Steven King Photography, Landscape: Ronnie Citron, Water image: Gabrielisak Photography

The Poetry of Ikebana

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I watched this short video about Ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arrangement, three times.

Years ago, when I was a teacher, I met a poet, Skip, who insisted children read poems three times to unlock the meaning. He asked them to experience a poem these three ways:

– Read it silently.
– Read it aloud, focusing on the sound of the poem — listening for rhyme and rhythm.
– Read the poem aloud, again, as if it is a blooming flower.

Ikebana is more than the creative expression of putting flowers in a container. It’s a disciplined Japanese art form that brings nature and humanity together. Steeped in the philosophy that being close to nature provides relaxation, the living branches, leaves, grasses, moss and seedpods produce natural shapes and graceful lines.

“In Japan, flower arrangements are used as decorations on a level with paintings and other art objects … The remarkably high development of floral art in Japan can be attributed to the Japanese love of nature. People in all countries appreciate natural beauty, but in Japan, the appreciation amounts almost to a religion.” ~ Ikebana International

Like poetry, watching this video three times made it bloom for me.

Spring is a tender time. There’s a youthful vibe in the changes and order of nature as life pops. What’s blooming for you?

Photo: Shutterstock

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