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.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Buying Harmoniums in India

Buying harmoniums in India shouldn’t be difficult, after all they are everywhere. Or most places. Well, you see them sometimes.

Our second trip to India was the fulfillment of two and a half months of pure pandemonium. In a good way, of course. We started in at Pondicherry in Tamil Nadu. How we got to Rajastan is anyone’s guess. I can’t remember to save my life.

Oh right, it was the train. We were in a small compartment with several people traveling through the desert. It was very hot and dry, as you can imagine and we sat beside a woman and her shoeless son who was resting. They both had clothing of the deepest sunflower yellow wrapped about them. I noticed the mother carrying a bamboo staff. During the ride the son’s foot kept inching over to my leg and then pulling away. Inch, inch, pull back. Inch, inch. I was a little perturbed and doubly so because I knew it’s considered terribly impolite to touch anyone with your feet in India.

Anywhere else as well. Anyway. He kept his eyes closed and she tried to keep his foot back until it was time for them to get off the train. It was then that I realized that the son was blind. He may have been resting, but indeed he could not open his eyes and never saw me. I felt a bit bad about being so peeved. I watched them go, mother guiding son with staff, walking together in golden robalia.


Bundhi is the first place in Rajastan that we stayed. It’s a tiny town of 88,000 people and perhaps as many pigs, cows, and goats.

There’s a palace hanging from the cliff where one can walk about freely and enjoy 17th century murals in nearly every room. Above the palace is a fort where monkeys abound. Before you go through the elephant gate passageway, someone hands you a big stick to keep the menacing hoodlums at bay. I took it eagerly, but fortunately didn’t need to bonk anyone’s head. Instead we found this group of monkeys simply sitting, watching the sunset in a quite dignified manner.

In the evenings it was our custom to sit atop a hotel whilst having a lukewarm beer. Here's a copy of important information for the hotel customer - we could somehow never comprehend the gist of it. Is it the beer, dear, or is it just me?

At one point we found ourselves in Jodhpur. That's where I first had the idea that I'd be buying harmoniums in India. We wondered into a fancy hotel courtyard and listened to these guys play music. They gave us a mini puppet show and demonstrated how to play the instruments. I was smitten, directed, and now full of purpose.


Sometime before or after that we were in Agra. Oh yes, the Taj Mahal is fantastic. It truly looks exactly like the photos we've always seen. It's entirely magical and it's really cold there. I remember that. We found this pottery statue in a ditch outside of town. I regret not bringing it back with us.

I did some shopping from time to time. There are billions of things to buy in India. We carried what we could and took photos of the rest.

Of course one needs to eat everyday. We enjoyed Tibetan food in Rewalsar Lake.

We made it through the desert in a sand storm. We waited for trains with the locals. I looked down every street for harmoniums. I ask people to help me and they wrote down addresses. I found spices, incense divine, and the most beautifully woven shawls. We went round and round the sub-continent and I kept my eyes open.

That's when I saw the bus. It was such a lucky break. It had a phone number and everything on it.

After that we found the harmonium shop with no trouble at all.

I bought two. We put them in crates and nailed them down. Oh my, hope we missed the keyboard with the nail. I worried about that for a year.

One of the nicest things we did was travel by night coach to The Golden Temple in Amritsar. It's the major pilgrimage site for Sikhs. Stunningly beautiful and truly hospitable, the temple had a group of men playing harmoniums night and day. The music could be heard in and outside of the burnished gold building.


We made it home. It took some months to recover from such a journey. A year after, just as we were embarking on another trip, the harmoniums arrived. In fact they showed up the day we left. Mind you they didn't work. It took a bit of spit and shine to get them going. After four months they suddenly began to play like new.

I'll be bringing one to my event at Village Books next week. It's travelled a long way to get here and is enjoying learning a whole bunch of different songs. : )

Join Lydia McCauley on November 27 at noon for an in-store performance at Village Books in Bellingham, WA. More information at http://lydiamccauley.com/performance/.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

New! Garden of Simples Shop

"How strange is the lot of us mortals! Each of us is here for a brief sojourn; for what purpose we know not, though sometimes sense it. But we know from daily life that we exist for other people first of all for whose smiles and well-being our own happiness depends." - Albert Einstein

I am very happy to introduce one of my other passions - Garden of Simples, healthful body enriching soaps and salves.
Somewhere deep inside of me is this yearning to conjure up healing products. My Grandmother Cora McCauley used to tell stories of walking through meadows, collecting plants with her Grandpa Morgan, a pharmacist who lived in Michigan. He was a devout Quaker who spoke in thee's and thou's whilst creating an Apothecary of healing simples and tinctures.

I take great pleasure in growing and collecting herbs, infusing and combining them into salves. There's great joy in hand-pouring a soap that is all natural and scented with essential oil. Then there's the naming of them, and designing a label to wrap them in. Here's the Hellebore Smock that I do my lab work in. All creations are overseen by a gentle doggy guy mask that hangs on the wall.

I welcome your comments and questions. Visit the Garden of Simples shop at Etsy.com
With a $20.00 purchase of Garden of Simples product, you'll receive a complimentary Lydia McCauley CD.