I though I’d do a little baking to kick off 2014. My motivation? The realization that I need to do something creative or experience something beautiful every day. If I’m not careful, I can lose myself in the day-to-day grind. Work, paying bills, running errands . . . Too much of that without a splash of beauty or creativity in between, and I look up wondering why I feel brittle and hunched over. RP has a saying: “You can exist, or you can live beautifully,”which I think I’ve quoted here before. Every time I hear him say it I think how simple and profound a statement it is. We’re not talking grand gestures here; you don’t need a lot of money. More often than not, it’s about the small things: drinking tea from a handmade ceramic mug, planting a flower bulb that will bloom months from now, taking half an hour to read.
A cherished memory of my time in New Orleans last summer is the day I met Mary Cooper. Peter, Suzonne, and RP had talked about her for years, but our paths never crossed. Then one afternoon we stopped by her house in Bywater. A chair caner by profession, Mary has an exquisite eye for color and design, and makes a habit of transforming every house in which she lives–whether it’s a Creole cottage or a 1930s bungalow–into a small jewel for the imagination. You can read more about her and view pictures of her beautiful home on Suzonne’s blog, Urban Comfort. When we arrived, Mary invited us to sit on her back porch overlooking her garden. It was a typical July day in New Orleans: witheringly hot and steamy with just a hint of occasional breeze. As the afternoon unfolded, we talked, and sipped ice tea, and ate the most delicious short bread cookies I’d ever tasted. Mary stored them in an Mason jar in her kitchen, and what I remember so clearly is the beauty and ease of her presentation. Just ice tea and homemade cookies–so simple–but served with great care and an abundance of spirit. It was a perfect afternoon.
A few days ago, a package I’d ordered arrived. In addition sending the item I purchased, the artists tucked a small linen bag filled with freshly dried lavender into the box. I immediately thought of my afternoon at Mary Cooper’s and decided that if I had to wait another six months before I could visit her again, I could at least recreate a bit of the magic of that afternoon, so I made a batch of lavender shortbread cookies. All these months, I believed Mary made hers with lavender too, but I learned the other day she actually used Rosemary. Oh, how funny our memories can be! Oh well. The moment I bit into the first cookie, I was right back on Mary’s porch, sipping tea and talking with my friends. And that, after all, was the point.