Mood of the Day

There are days when I’m In A Mood. You’ve been there, right? Some days I’m wary. Some days I’m bull-headed. Some days I’m that free-spirited 20 year old looking for a meadow to roll around in. Some days I’m afraid. But most days, most days, I’m everything at once.

I feel the bliss of quiet sunlight illuminating early morning leaves. The protective warmth of green tea with honey and milk. I feel the dread of an upcoming errand that requires leaving home and interacting with strangers. I feel uncertainty about tomorrow. I feel both joy and dread in possibility. I feel.

And you know, I’m lucky that way. Not everyone allows emotions to have their sway with the head and heart. It’s a risky business, no doubt, but would life be the same without that full-on face to face with the world? With myself?

It absolutely wouldn’t.

And so as much as I luxuriate in the morning bubble that allows me an hour to visit the realm of my choosing, I try my best to equally meet the rest of the day head-on. To listen. To learn. To honor. To allow the ups and downs. To close the doors that need closing. To walk through the doors that patiently wait. To honor both past and future. To give equal consideration to the skinny branch. To choose my path each day, be it safe and comforting or wildly (and perhaps ill-advisedly) experimental.

I think we’re all allowed a certain number of safe and boring days. They heal. Find the balance.

Flowers on a wall in Giverny, Photo by Pam Goode

In the Neighborhood

When we first moved in, we could sit on the porch and see nothing but green. No other houses. Rarely a human form. It was pretty amazing, considering we live smack dab in the middle of the city, or less so, realizing ours is the last on an unmarked dead-end street with only 5 houses in total.

We have no back yard, but the front runs for 120 feet and then drops into Briar Creek (aptly named), and thus began our soul-stirring relationship with nature. We could see egrets on the bank, training their eagle eyes on unsuspecting fish, hawks circling for daily joy rides, deer prints …. I drove home from the studio late one evening, and as I reached our short street, an owl appeared and flew alongside me not even two feet from my face until I pulled into the garage, my mouth hanging open the entire time.

And then as gardeners do, we began planting. Okay, mostly my husband, who cares nothing for temperature or insects or the clock or even food. And of course the more we planted, the fuller and more lush the garden became, transforming itself to a wonderland so deep and multi-layered that we could no longer see the creek or the egrets standing watch, and we assumed that “progress” in the neighborhood had moved them along. I missed them, but I also loved the banana and fig and mimosa trees that had magically sprung up in their place.

Or perhaps more accurately, the banana and fig and mimosa trees that had shortened my vision.

A few days ago we went for a walk along our winding two-lane main road, and I suddenly felt pulled to jump off the sidewalk and shimmy down the bank for an eyeful of our creek from a different point of view. And there, some fifteen feet below the level at which we pass our days, focused too heavily on where we’re going and whether or not we’ll be late, I spied a gorgeous four foot heron picking her long-legged way towards us.

Hang on Sweet Nature. You give me hope.

What do You See?

I see a whole bunch of us not understanding what’s going on in our world.

I see a child wondering where rain comes from, and why.

I see a construction worker who draws well.

I see happiness in the cordoned off zone of a parking lot.

I see someone, or a universe, that needs a hug.

I see polka dots.

I see yellow shoes that have been places. Lots of places.

I see a smile that’s only implied.

I see love waiting for her other half.

Book Release Coming Right Up!

It seems easy enough, right? Many claim to have penned this truth: “Writing is easy. Just open a vein and bleed” — and no doubt we’ve all felt it, whether during middle school exams or penning a verse to a would-be lover.

But the truth is, writing is sometimes hard and sometimes easy, but editing and publishing can extinguish god’s own holy spark in the best of us. Not that I’ve ever been particularly holy.

Regardless, I believe I’ve just pulled myself through the last hoop atop the last hill (and yes I CAN hear you laughing in the background) and have pushed the appropriate buttons to make the July 24 release date.

Can you hear my wild self-applause????

Touch of Fire by Pam Goode, available as e-book or paperback July 24, available for e-book pre-order July 10, aka, NOW.

Pre-Order Link here. Let’s roll!

Bowling Lady Watering Can

Birds and Words

Today I got out early enough for a bit of a breeze and so many birds, The birds are a gift to my own ever-tenuous ability to hear, as well as a sort of much needed cosmic validation that stretches between us. I’m still here and you’re still here, and some knowing of that life spark passes between us.

When I walk, the words flow, quite unlike the way they sit, box-like, arms crossed and eyes shut tight to truth, when I’m still. I often invite them quite graciously to join me at the table, but they know my tricks. And more, they know the cage has to rattle for truth to escape.

So I use my legs for the rattling. They say exercise saves lives. I say that much of that rebirth springs from the ground and heads straight to the page.

Birds in Tree Crop

Telling Stories

Heart in Stone
Hello Hello!
I’m Pam and I’m a mosaic artist. Mostly. Just not right now.
Twenty years. I’ve made mosaics for TWENTY years, and the first thing that happened when I started worrying about our global situation was my loss of any interest in art. I don’t know why, but I suspect my soul was pushing me in a direction it felt I needed.
During the first few days of self-quarantine, I did what everyone did — we cleaned. Now I’m not much of a cleaner, but when high anxiety hits, I become a frenzied organizer. It felt good and positive, and somewhere along that path the universe threw an old manuscript my way and said, “It’s time.” And you know what? It was time.
So I dusted off that hard copy, paid my daughter to type it up, and dove in. I’ve spent almost every quarantine day working at the table on my front porch to birdsong and endlessly fascinating skies. I’ve walked miles through my neighborhood studying the trees and other walkers, the aftermath of storms, and human resilience, and then written about those in snippets for Facebook. And I finished the book. Eep!
Back in the old days, some lucky souls were able to sit down, write a masterpiece, hand it to their agent, and hang out at the farm or the beach or Studio 54 until copies were rolling off the press.
These days anyone can publish and sell on their own. The only requirements are:
1) Some sort of topic and then some words,
2) A psychic ability to format your work by carefully following the exact details for your specific software as it would have appeared multiple upgrades ago (which are no longer available for use) and somehow making that work,
3) The willingness to trash and redo the manuscript page number formatting daily for weeks until you magically hit upon the exact sequence required — and can instantaneously press save before it reverts.
I’m so close. And yes I’m thrilled to be almost done. And yes, the difficulty of properly formatting with outdated instructions has dimmed my ardor a bit, but it has also doubled my excitement over scaling this Everest of a platform.
So I’ve done it. I’m proud of it. I’m proud of me. I’m proud of my supportive family. And I’m mostly proud that I wrestled that bitch software to the ground.
There are stories everywhere — in the trees, the glance of a stranger, in our children, on the open road, or even last night’s pizza. You just have to be open to the whispers.
I’m guessing you have a story somewhere inside. Will there ever be a better time to sit on the porch and start? Even if you don’t finish, I wholeheartedly believe that these are the days for introspection, hard questions, a clearer vision, and coming to terms with your life, your love, your choices, and your future.
And when you finish, I’d love to read it.

On My Walk: Six Sisters

Six SistersWhen I was younger with kids at home, there were days when the heat of South Carolina, which normally just lay on you like a suffocating stillness, took a turn. When I sensed the change I’d grab them both and we’d walk and run and skip to the end of the street across from the bay. Though we couldn’t feel it six houses away, some force in that spot gathered up the breezes from the water and spun them by their tails, and we’d stand with our faces upturned and our arms stretched wide so that as much of our bodies as possible could catch that magic and let it run right through us in an unexpected gift of renewal.

I spotted these six sisters on a walk yesterday. They’re watching and pulling for us, and I’m pulling for them too.

Creating a Life: Inspiration from Orvieto

Pamela GoodeThere are those who ask me why I love to travel. In a few words: the exploration, the reversion to a simple and spare life, the crisp solitude of being alone in a new culture and unfamiliar language. Quite simply, stripped of my accustomed ways of being, I open my eyes and see. I remember who I am (and who I am not) and redefine the ways I want to experience my finite number of years. Travel sets me free to choose anew and gives me focus.

Below are a few things I’ve learned about myself during a cultural immersion week in Orvieto, Italy, and a handful of images to remind me when I’m tempted to give in to big city ways and forget.

I Want to Live a Life

I want to live a life on the edge — a life between consciousness and culture, between solitude and community, with easy access to the gifts of both.

Adventures in Italy

I want to live a life where city walls both shield and embrace, but also beckon me past my accustomed boundaries.

I want to live a life engulfed in scents and tastes and textures, with visual surprise around every corner, be it a new village or a just-unfurling jasmine bud.

I want to live a life where the strong and stalwart and majestic serve as constants for the fragile, a land where the porosity and lightness of stone do nothing to diminish its fortitude.

I want to live a life where both the dead and the living are honored, and joyously — a life where Etruscan tombs from 400 BC sit beneath the waving of wild cherries, and a waiter from lunch three days ago will wave you down in the lane for a smile.

A life where it’s okay to say hello to anyone you pass, to acknowledge life wherever it exists, including your own.

I want to live a life on many levels, from the surety and abundant offerings of ground and field to the communal path, the surprise and joy of rooftop gardens, the soaring art on soaring cathedrals to cotton ball skies and Jupiter shining above the lane after dinner in Charlie’s gardens.

I want to live a life where children in gingham smocks gather magnolia leaf bouquets and squeal with delight, where song is a part of every day’s curriculum, where physical safety is a given.

I want to live a life as many-layered as this cypress, this town, these rooftops.

I want to live a life with as much community as these vibrant streets and as much peace as these convent gardens.

I want to live a life as broad as this vista, completely unbounded by my psyche and conventions, my habits and my fears. I want a life with such clarity and vision that all of my options are recognizable.

I want to live a life where unexpected joy exists stunningly, and sometimes consists only of a gathering of simple greenery. Where the breezes dance, where the air is cool and clear and food holds the tastes of sunshine, rain, and origin.

People ask me why I travel. I travel to pull myself out of daily habits and rituals that keep me from growth. I travel to empty and refill my soul, to recapture moments that makes my heart beat faster.

So Go. See. Assimilate. Love It Up and let it make you better. And do whatever it takes to sear those images and awakenings onto your heart for the days ahead. Take photos. If there’s one thing I’ve learned taking 57 million photos of life, it’s this: turn around. From every position, there are at least two views, and they will constantly surprise you.

P.S. I’m very blessed to be traveling for six weeks in Italy and Ireland. Endless thanks to Adventures in Italy for giving me the fabulous opportunity to teach, to the loving and adventurous  group that accompanied me to Italy, to Olive Stack Gallery in Listowel Ireland for gifting me an entire month to explore and create, to the inimitable and wondrous Olive herself, and to Laura McRae Hitchcock, best residency partner on the planet. You can read more about my Irish adventures for the month of June at https://exciraanddelira.wordpress.com. Love to All!

The White Room

Whar are You Waiting For?The walls are not actually white, but a not totally unpleasant pale taupe. The sheets are white, though I supplement them with a blue and white geometric print comforter, which I remove from the closet, unfold, and put back at the foot of the bed every time the aides fold it up and put it away. And it’s true, he is warm, and the room is warm, but I know he likes it this way, and I know the blue and white comforter has been on his bed since 1978, and it’s pretty and ordered and architectural and civilized, and he would like that, not to mention the whole normal-life-ness of it all.

If he could see beyond the blue and white comforter folded over the footboard, he could look beyond to the grinning cherry-lipped sock monkey sitting on the desk, and behind him the full-size French flag pinned to the wall. The flag is new. Not new but newer, and still the red edges which hang toward the floor are a fringed jubilee of red threads from so many summers high atop the rafter at the peak of the beach house, burnished by the sun and whipped into a Marseillaise frenzy by seabreezes and Northeasters and summer suns. Our older version, which we still have, split into thirds at the color joins one winter, the white section ripped completely apart. My father sewed a white pillowcase between the blue and the red and ran it right back up the pole, undeterred, until one of us gifted him the new version, which was perhaps less fitting but rather more socially acceptable among some of the less imaginative locals.

The drawings that fill the walls are black on white, an aging white that claims an “I’ve been around the block and I’m still the best looking gal you’re liable to lay eyes on” cachet, and it’s true. The houses, varied and elegant and in no way restrained, are all hand drawn (“there is no art in a straight line,” my father said), and show evolutions of design and clientele and becoming and grabbing back and unleashing again. Above them is a long rectangular work made my grandmother, a Paris art student who spent her later years tearing up perfectly nice books to make collages that are rather stunning.

The large and exuberant artworks on the not-quite-white walls were made by his children, of which I am one, and framed and hung and moved from house to house and office to office by my father over the course of 49 years. That’s love, or at least the love I know.

And so the room is not very white. I won’t let it be white. But white is for beginnings and I see them everywhere here: the once blank pages, laundered and bleached sheets warm from the dryer, the cord for the call button, the slats of blinds that let in or keep away the light.

There are moments when he looks like he’s praying, and you might think prayer is white, but I think not.

I wonder if there is enough to hold him here, but he was never one to walk away from a challenge, or sit quietly. Never one to be bored or tired or to say “I’ve done it all” because when you’re game to take on the world, there’s always always more and backing away is never even a smidgeon of a thought. And you can say, “but there is fatigue,” but I’ve never seen that, or any kind of “been there done that” because creators can’t not create, can’t stop making the world new and bright and more than it was.

Some find it hard to wait in rooms like this, to watch and breathe the breaths and count the seconds between, to dampen the forehead and smooth the ruffled hair, to watch the face I’ve known for 60 years morph through the day from the rattling of an 86 year old man with pneumonia to a man of 40 taking a 20 minute rest between the morning feat and the afternoon magnificat. The familiar snore that might stop of a sudden with an abrupt sitting and then a booming voice and jubilant invitation to walk the beach or lay a terrace or thrust fingers into fresh-boiled crabs or hoist a kite.

The pillow is white. His hair is white. His breath comes in staccato bursts that punctuate the Rachmaninoff like a practiced bow. The watching and holding of a heart is joyous, and not unlike the watching of his children as they slept in early days, or my mother through her final nights. This man who almost never slept is sleeping, and I watch, and I’m not sure what this is like, other than a heart breaking.

Fifteen years ago I bought a house with white walls, which had come into vogue again and were shown in all the crisp magazines. I whitewashed the floors and gave it a good go, but within a week I had bought paint in pretty greens and set about glazing the walls until they sang, or perhaps more accurately, until I sang. It’s funny that we can love something without being able to live with it.

One day soon, and perhaps tonight but no longer than next week, the room in which I sit and he lies will be white again. Not because I have removed the colors of a life but because he is gone, with his fully-feathered largeness and 86 years of stories. There are little breaths now in my ears — a soundtrack of life. They sit with me while I wait outside the door during changes or turnings, and sing with me while I walk to the end of the hall and back to get the blood moving.

It’s funny how many times you can think, “He’ll be fine as soon as we can get him home.”

For Sherman Pardue, 1929 – 2015, child of New Orleans, who loved my mother and his, architecture, travel, music, New Orleans and French cuisine, furniture design and fabrication, cooking and family, spending many weeks of the year sitting on the lawn of the family home in Pass Christian, Mississippi. He was a spirited pianist, playing entirely by ear, a prolific writer, a determined gardener, and a lover of fish ponds, designing and building them for every home of every family member throughout his life. He took joy in everything he did, researching the process and going at it full throttle, as comfortable laying bricks and digging drainage ditches as taking pencil to paper and designing estates or writing poetry. He shared his love of exploration, both territorial and philosophical, with his children and grandchildren, and was delighted when his eldest grandchild Jason followed him into the field of architecture. He studied at NC State School of Design and Harvard, attending small groups with Frank Lloyd Wright and studio sessions with Buckminster Fuller, and received a national award for Classical Design in 1992.

A Word for the Journey

Star Provisions AtlantaBlasphemy, to be sure, but Thanksgiving has never been my favorite holiday. Of course the food rocks — nothing twitters my tastebuds like turkey and cranberries, and I can’t wait to get a nibble of my sister’s 2012 dessert: Sugar Cream Pie (thank you Indiana Quakers!). Pretty leaves crunch and crackle, the crisp air is set to a tolerable chill, apples abound and the smell of mulled cider is blissful. Group cooking (if you’re lucky), family (if you’re lucky/unlucky), hugs, smiles both genuine and forced, too much TV and the lure of deep sofas and downy throws round out the day. And then there’s the thanks-giving, which is lovely and meaningful, though for me more of a personal exercise than a group-share. I never show my heart in group-share. Sometimes I don’t even show my heart to myself.

A friend asked me yesterday if I’m living the life I want to live. Now that’s some hefty food for thought.

2012 has been a year of surprises for me — some good, some not. Today I’m thankful to be alive, to be loved, to have options, to have the ability to change.

I don’t consider myself a risk-taker. Others do, but they’re wrong. I’ve been able to do some Big Things with my life because I’ve thought and researched and dreamed and imagined and researched and thought and tested until I’ve found ways to make Big Leaps comfortable for a Small Step girl. In other words, I’ve discovered, or created, the exact formula that allows me to grow in a certain instance. Did traveling overseas alone for the first time at 41 free me from fear? No. Did opening a gallery alone at 53 free me? No. There are still oodles of things I can’t or won’t do, but the difference is that now I understand that there’s a way to be comfortable with the new and to thrive — I just have to find it. It’s like having children; you learn as you go.

And so as I think of this year of dancing with cancer, my family, my art, the gallery, the future and my own unknowing, I’m wondering: am I living the life I want to live? Am I growing into me?

For the most part, yes, absolutely. But there are always passions on hold, dreams that slip up to me in the darkness and tug on my nightshirt: “Is it my turn yet?” I think I’m getting a little old to keep saying, “Shhhhhh, not quite yet.”

And so my word for the rest of this journey was gifted by the photograph above, snapped eighteen months ago in Atlanta at Star Provisions. It’s time to stop maintaining and get back to growing. It’s time to get uncomfortable with comfort and snuggle up to surprise. It’s time to get dreaming again and researching that special alchemy that handholds reluctance into reality. It’s time to crawl into my heart and ramble around, and then to crawl back out and trample the shell, burst at the seams, strain towards the light. Time to Grow. And Grow some more.