Stills

comments: 101

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A couple of years ago — or maybe it was even last spring? — I read Howards End for the first time. It blew. my. mind.

I had seen the movie many times and had always loved it. The movie is fantastic. One of the best movies I've ever seen. As great as the movie is, the book is even better. There's a section where Margaret can't figure out why Helen has been so distant, and as she thinks about it she comes to the wrong conclusion. I read that part while eating pad thai alone at Stickers cafe and I cried into my lunch at two o'clock in the afternoon. Unable to see the words on the page, I swiped at my face with my napkin — the brilliance and total fallibility of her conclusion moved me so much. She'd gotten it so right and was still so wrong. I looked up and was alone in the restaurant. I'd been there for a couple of hours. I paid, took the book, and headed down the road to the Reed College campus, needing an emergency tree to sit under to finish the book. I found a great tree but then pretty soon a guy came along on one of those riding lawnmower things and started mowing the enormous lawn right in front of me, slowly going back and forth and back and forth, getting ever closer to my tree and making me all nervous . . . plus it was extremely loud. I picked up and went across the street to Crystal Springs and found another tree at the water's edge. I finished the book there, sitting on a tree root in the dirt, late in the afternoon. I can't remember the last time I read (or made time to read) for that many hours in a single day. That was the best book. For me, at that time in my life, on that day, it was. I didn't want to let that one go.

The opening scene of the movie, where Vanessa Redgrave is walking around in the fields outside her house (the house is named Howards End) at dusk, dragging her long skirts through the long grass, and the rest of the family are seen through lighted windows playing a game inside the lovely house. That scene isn't in the book, I don't think — at least not that literally? But those first two minutes or so — the purple-gray evening light, the glowing Queen Anne's lace, the paned windows, her walking alone — they have always stuck with me. It's almost like certain visual moments make such an impression on you that you somehow internalize them, or memorize them, and then you might find, without your totally realizing it, that you're looking for a place like that, or trying to make a place like that. You're conjuring something. I remember another time, way back in River Forest, when I was sitting at the drive-through at the River Forest Bank, waiting for the money tube to come back. It was late summer, early evening, the light was golden, I was just waiting, and a bunch of seed pods and dandelion puffs floated past, and for a moment they were silhouetted black and silver against the sun. And I thought suddenly, "There. That. Like that." As if I'd somehow been waiting to see dandelion puffs and seed pods sail by. Like I recognized them, somehow.

101 comments

Dear Alicia,
After following you silently for years(4? 5?), I gradually realise that aside from your lovely crafts, what keeps me returning is your writing.

You add an ethereal aura to the little things you see. I come here (from Singapore) to view the world through your beautiful lenses, be it your crafts, pictures or your writing....

Mary Ann says: July 26, 2011 at 08:06 PM

So beautifully written and the images so evocative of that place and moment....

Mary Kaeding says: July 26, 2011 at 08:12 PM

I couldn't agree more. I read Howard;s End in college - and have re-read it several times since - it is SO true and affecting.

Thanks for a lovely post.

Mary in MN

Gosh you're poetic. I know about scenes (and narratives that you make about scenes) that fire up your imagination and stay with you. Not everyone works like us though. Most people (sadly for them) don't actually "see" and certainly aren't affected.

I went on a work trip to Singapore a few years ago and sat absolutely enraptured at the Raffles Hotel, the lazily turning ceiling fans, the white linen, dark mahogany balustrades and brass fittings, imagining the after image, of long white dresses and gloves, waxed mustaches, pith helmets and fob watches. Tales of adventure and intrigue (Somerset Maugham-esque)...everyone with me thought I was mad.

Yes, yes. I never saw "Howard's End". But just today I was remembering "Brideshead Revisited", and the beautiful sound of Jeremy Irons' voice at the beginning of each episode, speaking about "the gillyflowers" and there was something about it that was way beyond what the program was actually about. That English atmosphere, I guess.

But I also have to say that your Swedish quilt has a similar effect on me. Something about it.

Your photos show a wonderful summetime place of relaxation, which is hopefully what it is.

this is such a gorgeous post. thank you!

Love the "stills" and your thoughts.. I know I saw Howard's End, but now I want to revisit it. Love reading your thoughts...

What a post, Alicia! Man, you must have some incredible fiction inside of you wanting to emerge as books of your own? Lovely prose.

i love to read anything you write...and now i have another book to add to my list. beautiful, beautiful, bEUtiful!! xo

I am soooo happy I visited your blog today! Thank you for the imagery...beautiful...

Summertime...just so peaceful, isn't it?

Jenn in Seattle says: July 26, 2011 at 09:40 PM

Thank you, what a lovely post this is, as so many of yours are. I think as a child I was likely to see and be moved by little lovely things more than now in middle age. I like appreciating the details through your eyes, it takes me back I guess, but also forward.

I am adding "Howard's End" to my list of books to read, and perhaps it is time to watch the movie again too. Thank you for the reminder.

Thank you. Because you open your thoughts, let us in... thank you. You enrich my life.

Mailornish@gmail.com says: July 26, 2011 at 10:25 PM

Only connect.

Marcy in California says: July 26, 2011 at 10:27 PM

Gin Ho, above, spoke my thoughts completely! The way you think and write keeps me coming back every day for more. You are a lovely person. Thank you.

this post really got to me because that scene affected me the same way. it was just so beautiful, and so true. i don't know how to explain it as well as you do, but i totally get what you mean. and i love the book, too.

oh, this is just beautiful. thank you for this!

Michelle says: July 26, 2011 at 11:12 PM

Gorgeous post. As a long time E M Forster / Merchant Ivory fan I also love both the book and film adaptation of Howards End. I could empathise with every word you write.

i love the movie...now i'm going to read the book...someday ;-) beautiful post. xo

Today I was reading about JRR Tolkien's ideas on what good fantasy writing should do to the reader. He said that the sense of wonder it (a "secondary world") brings should be "not a discovering of the exotic, but a recovery of the familiar." In other words, that it helps give us a clear view of the things in our own, real (primary) world, without taint. So that in the fantasy world, we should be as excited about a dog as we are a dragon, and then maybe when we come back to our real world, we're excited about dogs again.

I'm doing a lousy job of explaining it, and it's not really that complicated or esoteric, but I think this has something to do with your dandelions puffs and seed pods.

Lovely, lyrical post...like a painting really.

This is a lovely post. I know exactly what you mean, you have really evoked that feeling of recognition.
(I don't want to break the spell but you might be interested in Zadie White's appreciation of Forster in the NY Review of Books. This is a good read in a chatty and not too nerdy way; 'E.M. Forster Middle Manager'. It's also in her anthology)

Kathleen Dooly Bourne says: July 27, 2011 at 05:11 AM

Alicia: Truly a delightful post--both text and photographs. The rain is absolutely pouring down here and both text and words have taken me away from the gloom (although excellent for the garden). Thank you.

Question: In the sixth photo, there are hostas and beautiful dark pink flowers. A beautiful photo. Just wondering if the flowers are flocks. If not, what would they be?

Thank you

What a lovely bunch of stills!

Speaking of delightful period pieces, I just watched Gosford Park for the first time two weeks ago. I might have even been working on the sampler during it; I don't recall.

Oh, I have no point, but I do need a re-watch of Howard's End.

Laura A. says: July 27, 2011 at 06:10 AM

I know those moments well. It still floors me that one of the things I remember most from the autumn my father was ill and dying was the beautiful light. I spent a lot of time walking to and from the hospital alone. Time was kind of frozen because nothing else mattered--not work or my love life or what I was going to eat for dinner. And I was desperately searching for signs that life was still beautiful and would go on. It is and it does...though not at all the same.

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About

My name is Alicia Paulson
and I love to make things. I live with my husband and daughter in Portland, Oregon, and design sewing, embroidery, knitting, and crochet patterns. See more about me at aliciapaulson.com

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Since August of 2011 I've been using a Canon EOS 60D with an EF 18-200mm kit lens and an EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens.