Sunday, January 29, 2017


DEBORAH CROMBIE: On Friday, a friend suggested on Facebook, that, "If you are able, find a way to get some money into the pocket of an artist. A musician, a painter, a writer--any of those people who help us give our lives meaning and depth and joy."

What a great idea, I thought. It not only supports the artists, but it is a way of helping us feel centered and able to look positively at the world.

I only read this after I had been out for the day with a visiting friend, but I realized I had done just that. In our local kitchen store, I'd spotted a card with a beautiful watercolor painting of two green pears. When I said, "Oh, I love this!" the shop owner replied, "Let me tell you the story behind that card."

She said that her father had recently died. Her mother, an artist, had not been painting for some time. But two weeks after her father died, her mother sent her this little painting. The shop owner framed the original (which she showed us) but decided to have her mom's painting reproduced on cards and then give the proceeds from the sale of the cards to the hospice that had cared for her father with such love and kindness.

Of course I bought the card, and it's now sitting on my kitchen windowsill, to remind me of beauty, and kindness, of creativity, and of the affirmation of life.

REDs, are there any little treasures you've found recently, much-needed touchstones for the power of good?

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN:  Touchstones? Well, this actual stone is on my writing desk. I see it every time I sit down.  I consider it every day.

Jenn: A friend of mine is a writer. A reporter and then a novelist and successful at both but then life came along and she stopped writing. Recently, I got an email from her saying she was having a jewelry sale. I went and was completely blown away. She had spent the past few years making bracelets, necklaces, and earrings and the same creativity that was evident in her writing was now visible in her jewelry. I bought gifts for everyone but kept this one for myself. It reminds me of river stones that are tumbled and smoothed by the water that rushes over them and reminds me that creativity is always a part of you no matter how it manifests itself.

RHYS BOWEN: I really own touchstones! My son is really into healing stones and gave me these two worry stones which I keep in my pocket when I travel. And I find that when I am stressed, as in right now, I have to do something with my hands: knitting, sketching, beading. Anything creative attempts to make sense of life.

HALLIE: Love the card, love the bracelet.

Updating belatedly: I try to surround myself with objects that have special personal meaning that calm me. Here's a wall in my office. Each object (a cat from Kate's Mystery Books, a Christian Louboutin nail polish (my daughter has designed the interiors of his boutiques), a Virginia Woolf-holding a martini card that a dear friend sent when my first book came out, a picture that my grandbaby drew, and a wooden lady riding high on a bike that my then best friend gave me. Each loaded with happy memories and inducing calming thoughts: This too shall pass.

DEBS: I love that Hank and Rhys have actual touchstones! And I love Jenn's friend's necklace, and the fact that she invented a new channel for her creativity.

READERS, do you have special things that help you remember the creativity and joy in the world?


  1. I just wanted to add some acknowledgments here: The friend I quoted from her Facebook post was Carol Daeley, one of the wisest women I know.

    The kitchen shop was Etienne Market in McKinney, and I'm sorry I can't add the name of Coryanne's mom, but it's not on the reproduction of her lovely painting, and I'm not quite certain I can decipher it from her signature.

  2. I have a small angel touchstone and, like Jenn, I have a lovely piece of handmade jewelry. Your description of these treasures as “much-needed touchstones for the power of good” is so perfect; it makes my heart smile . . . .

  3. I am a firm (but wildly imperfect) believer in William Morris' rule: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful. My favorite beautiful and useful things are my handmade pottery dishes. My collection started with mugs for tea and hot chocolate, then expanded to bowls for soup or cereal. Plates became inevitable, and now I have a fairly diverse range of serving dishes as well. Each piece is an individual work of art. Few of them match anything but my own aesthetic, but when I set the table with them, they can be stunning, and when I sit down with my breakfast bagel or after-work tea, I am reminded of the skilled hands and generous imagination that shaped these bits of clay with love and personal energy. They feel good when I hold them, and make my food look prettier by association. I think art should be part of everyday life, and money spent on art is never wasted if you get a little jolt of joy every time you look at it.

  4. Gigi, I love that feeling of a beloved mug warm with coffee held in both hands... And like you we do spend on art, especially art we love by people we care about.

  5. I so agree--when I look around my home, everything displayed or hung on the walls is something meaningful to me, that brings a moment of joy and pleasure into my life when I look at it or touch it. There are two drawings especially--one by each boy--as first and second-graders--that I had professionally matted and framed--one is a huge, vibrant red dragon that makes me smile every time I look up over my desk--the other an evocative scene of browns and turquoise like a modern dream of the symbols of the southwest. There are actual stones, too--picked up or given to me by friends--a simple shell with a perfect heart-shaped hole--

    And even my books fall into the category of touchstones--the ones I keep are the ones I treasure.

  6. I, too, love the William Morris quote, Gigi. I have certain pieces of art on my walls that make me very happy, and I always wonder at the talent that can create such things. I am a big fan of getting handmade pieces when I travel. We have cloisonné from China, and we were able to see the artisans practicing their craft. Every time I look at the pieces, I think of that trip and the skill and talent that went into each item.

  7. I recently wrote about this exact thing - Looking for Beauty -

    Touchstones have always been important to me. I have a pottery bowl made by a friend which is the receptacle for small pewter "stones" and small pewter seashells that are engraved with words - peace, imagine, laughter, grace, etc. Sometimes when friends go home after a visit they're likely to find one of these stones or shells in their pocket.

    William Morris would most like croak coming into our little home. It's quite full to over-filling with books and artwork and "stuff." While I may not be able to tell where each book came from, I do know the story behind every piece of artwork and every single knick-knacky thing on every shelf.

  8. Like Kaye, my house is full of touchstones, and everything has a memory attached--of a place, of a friend, of a time in our lives. All comforting, but it does make decluttering a challenge!

    I've been reading more about hygge, thanks to my publisher, William Morrow, sending me a copy of The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living by Meik Wiking. I'm beginning to think I must have a Danish strain somewhere in my blood, and I no longer feel so guilty about my passion for lamps and pillows, both of which contribute to hygge.

    Would the world be different if everyone took the time and effort to fill their homes with things they loved and that had personal meaning?

  9. oh, Debs. "Would the world be different if everyone took the time and effort to fill their homes with things they loved and that had personal meaning?" - what a wonderful thought. This made me cry.

  10. Absolutely love this post. We all need touchstones in our lives.

    And I completely agree with buying local - it allows us to support local artists/writers/crafters, and what we buy has so much more meaning (both to us and to the local artisan).

  11. Before I read Kaye's comment, I was thinking that my whole house is one touchstone after another, so I'm happy to see that my sister Kaye has a house that's the same. And I know that Kaye and I are also alike in seeking out a piece of artwork when we're traveling to commemorate where we are visiting. It's funny, but I had just been arranging a few touchstones prior to getting on the computer. Oh, and Debs, the pears are so lovely. One of my favorite touchstones is an original pear painting from an artist in Kentucky. It's a textured piece, with the touch of raised edges that are irresistible. Sometimes I think that I should write out a document about my touchstones, telling the history and acquisition backstory for my kids to have one day. And, Debs, those stories about how the art came to be are so special. Rhys, I love your worry stones that you travel with. I have a particular necklace that matches one I bought my daughter, and I always wear it when flying as my worry stone.

    Buying local is something I love to support, too. That includes buying from local artists when I'm traveling, instead of mass produced items. I'm not saying I never buy any mass produced items, but my touchstones are the locally created art.

    Debs, I have that particular hygge book on my wish list. Sounds like I need to go ahead and purchase it.

  12. Kaye, I'm really enjoying the hygge book. Lots about the history of Danish design and culture.

  13. I have a Mu. I wish I could attach a picture. I used to have a book of Mu which would be very helpful to explain all of this. He is an oriental cat, sort of, made of three stones with a contented grin, his lower extremities curved in a lotus position. Mu sits on the base of one of my task lamps and when I am extremely stressed, I rub my hands over him. The coolness of his stones seems to calm me. I also have a number of jade hearts that serve a similar purpose, each heart a gift from a good friend. Their cool smoothness calms me.

  14. I love most the beach stones I've saved from home.