Welcome to Lydia McCauley's Garden of Simples Blog

The highest reward for a person's toil is not what they get from it, but what they become by it. - John Ruskin

Lydia McCauley and Kurt Scherer are owners of STONEHOUSE ARTIFACTS, offering Treasures from Colonial India. Online Here.

Our shop is located in Bellingham, Washington. We welcome you to come and visit our small estate, enjoy the grounds and share a cup of Chai.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Chinese Calligraphy, a study in softness

PAT PADDEN had a keen desire to learn Chinese Martial Arts at the age of thirteen. She told me "I begged my father to let me study, but the studio was in a bad part of town and Dad would not allow it... I got over it." In California as an adult in her thirties, Pat drove by two martial art studios every day on her way to work and she could not resist joining in. First she started with Chinese Kung Fu (and proceeded to earn a black belt in just about everything). She studied sword fighting, staff, and double stick fighting. Then she moved on to Tai Chi. It was there that she learned about the Chinese people, philosophy, medicine and message. "Both Kung Fu and Tai Chi are martial arts, the first being hard, the second being soft," says Pat.

Some years later Pat and her husband Bill moved to Bellingham. Pat found a good studio, Chinese Martial Arts, in Bellingham and continued her disciplines. She became mesmerized at the calligraphy hanging in the studio. She says she would stare at it for long periods of time, and get lost in it. She wanted to learn how to do it.

Cathy Pak, Master Calligrapher from Hong Kong, who lives in Vancouver, B.C. was giving a children's class (ages 6 - 9) in Bellingham. Pat signed up. She thought, "Why not study as a child? I want to start from the beginning anyway." She studied alongside the children for three months. (I love her for this!) About three years ago Cathy started an adult class which meets at the Chinese Church in Bellingham. Pat found that using a brush came easily for her. From the beginning Chinese looking cranes flew right out of the end of the brush. And bamboo! Bamboo was waiting to be drawn on her paper. Here Pat's voice gets low and she chants, "Must do bamboo...sometimes it's bad, sometimes it good, but must do bamboo before writing anything else!" Even Chinese people have taken note at the authentic way that Pat is able to write their characters. It seems to come naturally for her.

I asked Pat if doing Chinese calligraphy has changed her, and what benefit has it brought to her and those around her? In her own words, "It has become a meditation. It's calming and very relaxing. It affects my whole life. It affects the people around me because I am less stressed. It's bringing out the softness in me and I am much more open and more easily adaptable to things. Tai Chi and calligraphy is part of my life - for good."

Pat's work can be found in select Art Shows in Bellingham. And if one is lucky, may find her practicing Tai Chi somewhere. I am glad to call her friend. When we met together at Pat's favorite CAFE ADAGIO in downtown Bellingham the other day, the owner had decorated Pat's latte foam with a beautiful fern leaf design. That, and the fact that the definition for Adagio is a slow tempo seemed quite appropriate.

a·da·gio (-däj, -j-, -zh, -zh-)
1. Music A slow passage, movement, or work, especially one using adagio as the direction.
2. A section of a pas de deux in which the ballerina and her partner perform steps requiring lyricism and great skill in lifting, balancing, and turning.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Cadel Viva, Anghiari, Arezzo, Italy

Cadel Viva is a farm in Anghiari, Italy that is belongs to our friend Herbert Nagel. It was formerly part of a large estate owned by a Florentine marquis. Herbert has restored the old buildings and built some new ones that fit beautifully into the Tuscan countryside. We have visited him there on several occasions and always enjoy our time there. To find out more about Cadel Viva, visit the website: http://www.cadelviva.com/english/cadelviva.html

The top photo is of Kurt working on Herbert's farm. Upon a closer look you'll see Monkey Pete sitting upon the axe. Monkey Pete lives in Bellingham and is a world-wide traveller.

Herbert's front door has a way of letting in that Tuscan light that we love so much.

The third photo was taken at the English Cemetery in Florence. From left to right: Kurt, Assunta, Herbert, Lydia, and Sister Julia Bolton Holloway (a hermit of The Holy Family who lives in the gatehouse of the cemetery). More about Sister Julia soon...and the delightful Monkey Pete.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Candles in December

Having a fire or even a small flame is a comfort this time of year. December's long nights call for candles. Candles at 4:00 in the afternoon, candles on the dinner table. Candles for ritual.

The photo of three candles was taken in Bagan, Burma in one of the thousands of temples there. Just below is a river of flame that is lit each night at the Schwedegon Pagoda in Rangoon.

The candelabra on the table is at our friend Herbert's house in Anghiari, Italy. He owns a wonderful farm and accommodates guests. http://www.cadelviva.com/english/cadelviva.html