Serendipity: Wish You Were Here

How’s this for serendipity: While visiting a vintage shop in San Jose, I stumbled across this postcard.

Mike Roberts iconic photograph of the San Francisco Bay Bridge

Postcard: Mike Roberts photograph of the iconic San Francisco Bay Bridge

The reverse side of postcard | Sunset, San Francisco Bay Bridge

To the average viewer, it’s unremarkable. The card is a reproduction of a photograph of the San Francisco Bay Bridge. Photographer Mike Roberts photographed the bridge multiple times in order to capture this shot. He published the photo in September 1959, five days before I was born.

My family moved to the US in November 1966, and a year later my father painted this oil on canvas. Dad died in 1969.

My dad Eric Milner’s oil painting, painted in 1969, two years before he died

Stumbling across the postcard literally stopped me in my tracks. My heart did that strange flutter as I tried to make sense of the photo. I realized at that moment that a small piece of unknown history grazed my fingertips. The postcard photo had been my father’s muse. I never knew.

Returning home with my friend Kelly, we jumped online and looked up Roberts and his work. From there I discovered this book

book cover Wish You Were Here

Wish You Were Here: Mike Roberts | The Life and Times of America’s Postcard King | by Bob Roberts

Mike Roberts was working on a memoir when he died in 1989. According to his son, Bob:

…yellow Kodak boxes snoozed in my basement for twenty years. For reasons financial, literary, and personal it took twenty years to pull together the pieces of Wish You Were Here. The words and photos were rummaged from his early musings, classic transparencies, and drafts. The rest of the story springs from our family, his friends, media accounts, and those yellow boxes. Enjoy! – Bob Roberts, March 2015

A page from Robert’s book describing the photoshoot

Title page of Mike Roberts book purchased used online

Here’s one more bit of serendipity. While thumbing through my husband’s family photos, I came across this snapshot. Check out the art on the wall!

My husband Mike’s family gathered in front of a painting of the Bay Bridge, circa the 1960s | Mike is wearing the burgundy shirt, lower left

I’ve loved reading about Mike Roberts’ life and work. I appreciate his incredible artistry and his love of the humble postcard. Most of all, I’ll never tire of those serendipitous moments in time, when a daughter stumbles upon an old postcard, bringing forth a snapshot in time.

I wish you were here.

Serendipity – Revisited

Back in 2014 I chose Serendipity as my word of the year. It’s a noun defined as “the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.”

I miss that word. It’s fun to say and wonderful to experience. Without so much as a backward glance, I’ve decided to welcome it back into my life. Who says you can’t choose a word of the year in March? After all the start of a new season is just around the corner.

I will continue to resist, volunteer, and make my voice heard, but I’m also going to focus on the positives, the synergies and the serendipity in life, no matter how small.

Here are a few that make me smile.

I enjoy playing Words With Friends, a kind of online Scrabble. Most of my friends are high-scoring players, so though I often lose, I’m improving and enjoying the challenge. I played the word “Tui” in a game with my smart and clever friend Mary Elizabeth who wasn’t familiar with the word. Then a few days later she found these gorgeous tea mugs. Serendipity! ) Thank you once again, ME.

tea mugs New Zealand Tui

New Zealand Tui mugs from Mary Elizabeth

About a year ago, Marlene who blogs at In Search of It All sent me a stunning, machine-embroidered gift. Isn’t it lovely? I debated turning it into a pillow or framing it, so I just let it be for a while. Then I realized that the colors worked beautifully with a small throw pillow in the some-times guest room. (It’s my son’s room but he’s mostly away at college). I ironed the edges and hand-stitched the embroidery to the pillow. Perfection! When my son came home from college for the summer, I planned to store the pillow in a closet. On a whim I took into our bedroom. Serendipity! The colors go beautifully. Thank you once again, Marlene.

Marlene's embroidery

Embroidered panel, left, made into a pillow and modeled by Mouse the Cat, right

The third and far less interesting moment of serendipity arrived in a large plastic bag. It was part of the packaging for our new printer. Long story, but I’ve been meaning to make a cover for a mobility chair that lives in the garage along with dust bunnies and bugs. I bought it for my mom in her declining years to help get her to her medical appointments. I kept it after she passed and my sister was able to use it when she first returned from Iowa (she has MS). Last year it came in handy for outings when I was recovering from surgery. And I’ve loaned it out several times to a neighbor who’s had many surgeries herself.

So back to the printer bag. It’s an odd size, wider than a large trash bag but not that tall. On a whim I tried it out on the mobility chair, and you guessed it, serendipity! It’s the perfect size and shape. It saved me the trouble of making one, it kept the plastic bag out of the landfill, and I like that it’s clear.

mobility chair

Mobility chair with custom-sized cover

So how about you? Do you look for these special moments in your life?

PS

Lindy wanted to be including in this post. She insists that this shoe box is the perfect size for her girlish figure. Ah…serendipity?

Connections: Our Big Beautiful World

Nandini and boys

Nandini and our boys

Sunday morning I spoke with my long-time friend, Nandini via Skype. She currently lives in Chennai, India. It’s wonderful to connect.

I shared this passage on Facebook:

Nandini and I worked together at a start-up called Pretzel Logic Software in 1995. We became fast friends, then first time moms when we had our boys just six weeks apart in 1997. We supported each other through those sometimes difficult and perplexing first months of parenthood. We met weekly for tea, pushed our strollers through the park, and enjoyed time at our respective homes. It was a sad parting when she moved back to Chennai in 2000 in order to support her aging family. I’m grateful for the technology that allows us to continue our conversations, and to marvel at the fact that those baby boys will soon turn 18.

That’s when all the connections (my word of the year) started rolling in.

When you tag someone in a photo on Facebook, their friends can see it too. After several lovely comments from my local friends, Nandini’s cousin, Sujatha left a few words. When she did, it showed that we had a mutual friend named Akila. Akila’s son attended pre-school with my younger son here in California. Incredible.

Akila joined the conversation, saying she knew Nandini’s cousin as a family friend. That’s when Nandini’s friend, Parvathi posted, saying she also knows Akila. Nandini knows Parvathi because their sons are schoolmates in India.

It’s been amazing discovering these connections throughout the day. I’m humming with the joy of it.

How about you? Have you uncovered an unexpected connection between a friend or colleague? Please share your story in the comments section, below.

Any one person is connected to any other person through six or fewer relationships, because it’s a small world. SixDegrees.org is about using this idea to accomplish something good. It’s social networking with a social conscience.

Word of the Year

I love the idea of choosing a word of the year. Unlike new year’s resolutions which seem doomed to failure, I like the transformative qualities of a single word.

This past year I chose serendipity, or serendipitously, the word chose me. You can read about that process here.
According to Wikipedia,

Serendipity means a “fortunate happenstance” or “pleasant surprise”. It was coined by Horace Walpole in 1754. In a letter he wrote to a friend Walpole explained an unexpected discovery he had made by reference to a Persian fairy tale, The Three Princes of Serendip. The princes, he told his correspondent, were “always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things which they were not in quest of”.

As you know, once you focus on a word, theme or idea, you find examples of it everywhere. All year I noticed serendipity at play. It was energizing, so much so that I’ve decided to elevate it to word of the decade. I’m not letting that gem go!

2015 Word of the Year

I’ve chosen connections as my word of the year.

To connect is to:

bring together or into contact so that a real or notional link is established.

For my part, I like the idea of bringing people and ideas together in a positive way. The notion that a whole is more than the sum of its parts is appealing. The amazingly unexpected connections made through blogging gives me hope. Life is good. People are good. I will look for and make positive connections throughout the year.

How about you? Do you set your intentions for the new year? Do you choose a word or a mindset or a series of goals?

Please share in the comments below.

 

Meeting Serendipitously

Serendipity!  It’s everywhere.

A few weeks back, while sitting on our deck, a woman called to me from the curb . She was looking at our Little Free Library and wanted to ask a few questions. As it turns out, she wants to build one of her own.

We chatted for a while and discovered all sorts of things in common: our love of books was an obvious one, but she also likes making cards and she enjoys miniatures. It was fun sharing my fairy garden.  She’s also a gardener, and the conversation turned to a lovely book called Epitaph for a Peach.

Honestly, we could have chatted all day.

A week or so later I came home to find her lovely note, a handmade card and a copy of the book, graciously on loan from her own library. My heart swelled.

handmade card

Handmade by Jaci

Epitaph for a Peach is

A lyrical, sensuous and thoroughly engrossing memoir of one critical year in the life of an organic peach farmer, Epitaph for a Peach is “a delightful narrative . . . with poetic flair and a sense of humor” (Library Journal).

When Jaci reads this she won’t mind that I shared the first line of her gracious note:

I very much enjoyed our serendipitous meeting recently…

because of course she doesn’t know that serendipity is my word of the year.  I’m still smiling.

Little Free Library

Though the novelty of the library subsided a few months back, I’m still delighted when people stop by. Books continue to flow in and out.

Two recent additions include Beverley Canon’s A Tale of Two Tails and a copy of Robert Munsch’ The Paper Bag Princess.

A Tale of Two Tails is a gift from the founder of Friends 4 Pets. Beverley takes in unwanted cats and shelters them till she can find them a good home. My sister Sharon fostered a few cats for her as well.

A Tale of Two Tails

A Tale of Two Tails

Munsch’s children’s book is the tale of a  princess with a feminist ending.  How could I resist?  It flew home with me from Victoria, making it extra special. Spoiler alert: the last line of the book is “They didn’t get married after all.”

The Paper Bag Princess

The Paper Bag Princess

The Long View

Thanks for commenting and voting in yesterdays’ poll on photos with the long view. If you missed the post and you’re interested, please let your voice be heard.

Art and Serendipity

My word of the year is serendipity,

the act of finding something valuable or delightful when you are not looking for it.

So joyous is this word in both sound and deed, that I may choose it again for next year.

2014 is also turning into my year of art. In January I won (yes, won!) this gorgeous Butterfly Sprite. The mixed media piece, created by the generous and talented Pauline of The Contented Crafter.  I smile at this carefree sprite every day, and every day she smiles back. Butterfly Sprite lives among soothing greens and flowers and texture that lifts my spirit. Art does that.

butterfly sprite

Butterfly Sprite by artist Pauline King

Also in January, I took a mixed media art class at A Work of Heart in Willow Glen and dabbled in my own little art project. I thought about Pauline the whole time.

Remarkably, I won another beautiful piece of art, a Bavarian textile knee blanket lovingly crafted by Dani of Teddy and Tottie. I guess this sort of thing happens when you choose a word like Serendipity.

Bavarian Knee Rug by Dani

Bavarian Knee Rug by Dani

I discovered another blogger via Dani and Pauline, and because you can’t make this stuff up, Fran blogs at The Road to Serendipity.

Last week my friend Whitney shared an album of photos for her upcoming art show in Gilroy, California. Whitney is a creative arts graduate of San Jose State. We met on Facebook via mutual friends. As I virtually thumbed my way through her online album, this sunflower rainbow stopped me in my lurking tracks. The piece celebrates three of my loves: old windows, brilliant colors and sunflowers. Seren-dipity-do-da!!!

whitney with painting

Artist Whitney Pintello

I asked if it was still available, she said yes, and now it’s hanging in one of my garden seating areas.

Sunflower room

We like to sit here in the evening to escape the heat

sunflower window front and back

Window painting, front and back

Whitney creates and sells vintage window paintings at a couple of local festivals each year. From her website:

Painting old windows is Whitney’s favorite medium, and came from exploring how to reuse old architectural elements. The process involves reverse painting: starting with the details of the painting first, then the subject, then the background, all on the back of the glass. Patrons like the casual, rustic quality the paintings have and the “found art” reuse of the vintage windows.

Who knew there was magic in a carefully chosen word?

Fairy Garden Additions: A Little *Little* Free Library

Mary Elizabeth planted the seed. In her sincerest voice she asked “when will you be building a Little Free Library for your fairy garden?”

Well.

I picked up the fairy-dusted gauntlet and came up with this:
miniature little free library

The shell for the library illustrates a classic case of the box being more interesting than the contents. Setting aside three tiny jars of purple glitter, I got to work on the structure. I finished it in no time.  Fairy structures are like that. If you’ve been putting off building one, today’s the day. Working in miniature is rewarding and relaxing. If you use items on hand, it’s also affordable if not free.

miniature library

Miniature Library Materials

Old matchboxes infused with special memories served as the basis for the larger books. Toothpicks covered with vintage stickers made slender chapter books. Miniature titles are at the ready for diminutive passersby.

The roof signage came from the bottom of one of the LFL brochures. It’s the perfect size.  Serendipity.

mini little free library

The mini LFL sits at the curb of the fairy garden

Like its bigger cousin, this L(L)FL sits near the curb. It was my son’s idea to support it with a clothes pin. Garden builders under 18 often have the best ideas.

My fairy gardening style is ever-evolving. Check out my Page, above, Fairy Garden Frivolity for a look back.

The Little Free Library movement encourages ‘reading for children, literacy for adults, and libraries around the world.’ Little Free Library.org