Back from the wilds of southern Alabama and the Panhandle of Florida… The trip was too short – as always. Although the weather was not so great, the beaches are white as snow, the Apalachicola River soothing and the shrimp melt in your mouth. There is something about watching rain from a screened veranda that makes me sing.
BUT this trip, my memory and thought are for the longleaf. Driving through the Apalachicola National Forest you get a small inkling of how these majestic giants must have stood in beautiful splendor before the true rape of the south when approximately 140,000 square miles of virgin forests were slaughtered.
Butch believes that the young growth trees we were driving through are about 50 years old but the longleaf begins to reach its splendor at about 200 – 300 years and can live for 500+ years. There are 191 species of plants associated with the old-growth longleaf and approximately 122 of them are endangered.
And Ecology of a Cracker Childhood by Janisse Ray is just about as good as it gets.
Her love and understanding for the longleaf takes my breath away: “I drink old-growth forest in like water. This is the homeland that built us. Here I walk shoulder to shoulder with history – my history. I am in the presence of something ancient and venerable, perhaps of time itself, its unhurried passing marked by immensity and stolidity, each year purged by fire, cinched by a ring. Here mortality’s roving hands grapple with air. I can see my place as human in a natural order more grand, whole, and functional than I’ve ever witnessed, and I am humbled, not frightened by it. It is as if a round table springs up in the cathedral of pines and God graciously pulls out a chair for me, and I no longer have to worry about what happens to souls.”
*Photo by Andrew Kornylak for Garden & Gun
I think that the first love of my life was a book. I am obsessed by books and once worked at Rizzoli in New York City just that I could get a discount and use my part-time paycheck to buy books.
My daughter Maggie started young. Since her birth, she has been obsessed by touching, licking and eating books. You could try to give her toys, pacifiers, food; nothing satisfied like a book. All of our board books have edges that have been rubbed raw by gums sprouting teeth. While I was distraught with thoughts of poisons in printing inks, the contents of paper, etc, etc, every time I turned my head, there she was with a book in her mouth. As she has grown, the only thing that has changed is that she does not eat them. She will surround herself in the bed with piles of books and has memorized many of them that she can then read aloud to her babies. The ones that she has not memorized, she reads in her own language that sounds like a mixture of German, Russian, and Greek with a southern drawl. (Maggie can say “yes” in four syllables!) I catch her rocking in the chair with one of her babies and reading in her secret language from a book that we just got at the library. She will look up at me gently and say, “Mama, go away, I am reading to my baby right now.” It is this private connection between person, word, and image that makes me passionate about books.
I am often asked for a reading list; however, here you have my top ten (well eleven) favorite story books – in no particular order – the list can go on and on and might very well be different tomorrow:
A few years ago, my friend Sara helped me work on organizing my collection of books into a (very loose) library format. The tomes were divided by a “genre” that I determined by somewhat random method but that made sense to me. Books on textiles got a red sticker on the spine and books on design a white sticker with little ### symbols, etc. I did this as a way to make the search for a particular book easier, re-shelving mindless and to create a system to loan books without continually losing them. What shocked me when the library was finished was that the largest category of books was not fashion design or textiles or craft but photography.
Thinking back, this should not have been a shock as I started collecting photography books as design student. Over the years, these books are continually the ones I search out over and over and over again. Writing about Richard Avedon yesterday made me nostalgic for other heroes who have story telling at the heart of their work. When I look at Avedon’s pictures, I dream that I have an audio file from The Kitchen Sisters telling the story with the dual voice of photographer and subject. Let Us Now Praise Famous Men comes about as close to telling the story with the imagery as you can get; however, the book does not satisfy my hunger. I want the photographs of Dorothea Lange to come to life and sit down with me on the porch. As that is not possible, I take one of my books of Dorothea’s photographs, listen to Studs Terkel and dream that I am an oral historian.
One of my all time favorite books of photography was created by Richard Avedon: In the American West. This genre of photography as story teller has been an inspiration to me since the day I first started working. They are images that make me want to HEAR the stories too.
Visit The Richard Avedon Foundation for more.
P.S.: I literally ran into Avedon in a book store in Montauk, New York, some years ago. Backed right into him. As I turned around, I lost all calm and stumbled right out the door.
Anna Maria Horner made a surprise visit to our Trunk Show in Nashville on Friday. Nine months pregnant (#6) and shining, her smile, and bubbly disposition are contagious. What a pleasure to have had a short time to catch up and find all of our common threads in life!
We emailed yesterday and she sent me this lovely sentence which I think says so much about her joy for life:
“Was out in a fresh green 68 acres of hip-high wheat grass yesterday with 2 pregnant friends & a photographer working on the book. Many contractions, naturally, but oh the beauty, well worth it.”
Wishing her the best of luck with her upcoming delivery of Roman and I am looking forward to our many, many future conversations…
Photo: Anna Maria Horner
I am, obviously, a bit behind in my efforts at blogging. Or maybe there has just been so much good recently. Either way, this great Op-Ed was sent to me by my friend Matthew from Savannah. It reminds me of Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell – which I have been heard to (loosely) quote from recently. The bottom line – and great news – is that we can all do just about anything that we set our minds to do…as long as we are willing to practice being good at it. I can hear my father saying over, and over again, “Practice makes perfect. Practice makes perfect.” I guess that he was right.
Genius: The Modern View
By DAVID BROOKS, New York Times, May 1, 2009
Some people live in romantic ages. They tend to believe that genius is the product of a divine spark. They believe that there have been, throughout the ages, certain paragons of greatness — Dante, Mozart, Einstein — whose talents far exceeded normal comprehension, who had an other-worldly access to transcendent truth, and who are best approached with reverential awe.
We, of course, live in a scientific age, and modern research pierces hocus-pocus. In the view that is now dominant, even Mozart’s early abilities were not the product of some innate spiritual gift. His early compositions were nothing special. They were pastiches of other people’s work. Mozart was a good musician at an early age, but he would not stand out among today’s top child-performers.
I returned home from my travels last week to find a box from Cathy and Robin @ Heath.
Inside the box was my new, and now favorite, book for inspiration.
The colors, textures and beautiful simplicity take my breath away:
A heartfelt THANK YOU to Cathy and Robin for making a difference.
Another article I had saved on my computer and was reminded of recently…
A call to arms from Suzy Menkes: