Friday, September 18, 2009

Hunting for Wildflowers with Grandma Jordan



One of Aunt Mer's Gifts to me recently was my grandmother's collection of Tonala figurines. They too have had quite a global journey. From Mexico to San Pedro (L.A.) to Uganda to Ethiopia, they finally arrived in Belgium via suitcase about a month ago, with only one tiny glue-able injury among them. I love having them with me.... even though they are just one more bit of stuff that nobody really needs.

Grandma originally bought them on a trip that she and Grandpa took to go hunting for wildflowers, shortly after she retired. I always thought it was so cool that they went wildflower hunting together. They used to take us kids lots of places, but we were never invited on a wildflower trip (at least not that I know of).

In my memory it was their thing together, and I imagine it was probably very romantic. Grandpa just loved serving grandma like a queen. How gallant it must have made him feel to still take his beloved to such romantic destinations. How important, the reading of the map well in advance. How flattering that his driving skills (especially in their later years together) could still be put to noble romantic use.

Grandma especially loved the world's blue flowers, particularly those that dare to grow wild and take over whole hillsides and valleys. They brought her joy, and she traveled the world to see them while she could. When she'd traveled to Mexico with Grandpa by train, she was so moved by the wildflowers that she found a way to bring them back with her.



Yes, Grandma went just a little bit crazy at the Tonala Pottery factory shop. For the living room she had the collection of Tonala animal figurines and a non-useful tea set, neatly displayed on a round corner table. What made those seem a bit crazy were the plates, cups, saucers, and bowls in a complete set of at least 20, plus serving bowls, wine decanters, trivets and serving platters that she'd also brought. Our dining experience at Grandma's house became, forever more, a meal among Mexico's blue wildflowers. (I can't find a picture of it - does anyone else have a photo of us eating in the blue?)

All these years later, this lively - if relatively little - bunch of Grandma's Mexican wildflowers fits right into my global eclectic home decorating approach. Of course, it would, since the way I decorate my own homes is so completely Grandma-inspired.

Behind her chair and the sofa, for as long as I can remember, was a huge wall with an amazing collection of paintings she and Grandpa had collected together in their travels around the world. Barns they had seen, works from artists they knew or had met. A prominent feature overlooking the family from another wall was a large landscape painting of a Spanish valley. They had bought it from the artist on a market in Spain together - an adventure I never got tired of hearing about.


@Grandma's with Aunt Mer and another of her gifts gifts I still have, circa 1985

Much of what I have around me in my "portable" home also offer physical reflections of the global journey that my life has been. Our posters and paintings are from places I've visited or lived. Our photographs are of family groupings of us with our various families in different countries. Much of the better art is by artists I've personally known. I've no idea, nor do I care, if my collection of "valuables" is meaningful to anyone else. If I love it so much, should I insure it? I don't think my global collection is altogether worth a lot of money, but it grounds me - and for that, it's worth it's weight in gold.

Much as I hate to admit it, I am very "attached to my stuff." I have a hard time throwing anything that has a story away. Expensive as it is to ship so much useless stuff, my various collections and special pieces of globally acquired junk are important emotional tools for me as I pick myself up and move from home to home. They help me define my portable comfort zone. My castle is my armament. My home is who I am, what I've experienced, and what I've loved in this life so far. It's getting a bit cluttered, but Grandma's free blue adventure spirit inspired a lot if it.

As my Grandma might say, though, if you ever see me overdoing it on the blue again, then somebody please shoot me! Though I always felt I understood her desire to paint herself up in blue for the last years of her life - and loved her for it - I did feel the blue "meadow" she later turned the living room into was a tiny bit much ;-)

But the visible touch of her free blue spirit that Grandma's Tonala brings into my home fully deserves the new space of prominence I've created for it in our portable living room. These silly little animals remind me daily to hunt for wildflowers everywhere! That's the most important life lesson my Grandma taught me. As a general philosophy, it's been what's helped me keep love for this thing called life alive, through bad times and good.

Thank you Grandma Jordan, for your inspiration that has guided my global journey, and so strongly shaped my personal sense of "home."



By the way, if you're a facebook friend, you can see photos of my latest "portable global home" project in Brussels over here: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=111891&id=504778241

Next time: A roommate I loved at UCLA passed on an unforgettable piece of "wisdom" she said she'd received from her grandmother: "We should fall in love as many times as we can in our lives, because whenever we allow ourselves to love, we learn something important about ourselves." Well thanks, roommate's granny, and here's the rub 20 years down the line - Relationship Status: It's Complicated.

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