Tiny Stories, Tiny Tales

Tasha Tudor’s Legacy

Far away, up and over the hills, there was a woman who made magic come to life. She sunk her hands into the ground and life came up. She took paint and brush to paper and images came to life, sweet children, gamboling dogs and heady masses of flowers. The flowers followed her wherever she went. Tasha Tudor was committed to her own way of life and she was determined to live it with all the will she could muster out of her body and mind.

She turned back the clock and lived in the era she wanted to live in. She wove blankets, knitted socks, hauled water, cooked in a wood burning stove, made candles to light her winters, milked her goats, dyed her yarn, only wore dresses and threw lavish celebrations. And while this was going on, she painted pictures and sold them. Some were put into books and told children’s stories.

I came to know her at the start of my teenage years. I too longed to dress from an older times. I longed to live on a farm and feed my chickens, be followed by a flock of dogs. I longed to sit in front of a fire, reading books or making clothes, listening to the fire spurt and rustle. I longed to walk into my barn and bring down the hay for my horses, stepping through the sweet smelling straw while it snowed outside, cats curled into tiny bundles in the hayloft. Tasha came to me just as I was beginning to put these desires into words. A life I felt was lost to another time was being lived and it was happening now. “The Private World of Tasha Tudor,” with Richard Brown’s gorgeous photos, awakened possibility and brought glimmers of hope.

Like a fairy godmother, she popped up at difficult moments in my life. At one particularly difficult part of my life where I had lost all my bearings, where I had no idea who I was or what I should be doing and there was no one telling me what to do, she sprang up. She arrived in DVD form, “Take Joy!,” and I watched that DVD day after day for a few months. I can’t tell you exactly why I watched it so many times in a row but I watched very keenly, soaking up something that only the subconscious fully understood.

I’m not entirely sure why I watched the video so many times. The most sense I’m able to make out of it now is that I was watching a woman who created her own life, her own standards and lived this life despite what anyone else had said or done to her. She was in the twilight of her life in the video, coming to the end of a long journey and relishing it all. Her way was so different, so obvious, so blatant, so unapologetic that like a hungry tired plant, I sucked it all in. I never knew Tasha the woman but I did know her as the artist and as a role model.

The title of my blog, Sparrow Post, is a tribute to the wonderful post office she fashioned for her own children, constructed out of cardboard and paint. The postmaster was a sparrow and he had a room in the back, where he could sort mail uninterrupted. Dolls and stuffed animals posted their letters and parcels at the office and I can only imagine the play must have been intense. It fired my imagination in a brilliant storm the moment I read about it and while I have yet to make my own post office, complete with sparrow postmaster, I wanted to invoke the same whimsy, the same delight in the small things in life, in the play and the imagination that comes when we feel free.

This is the space I’m creating in this blog and I want to thank you for reading and joining me. Please read about Tasha Tudor, she really was incredible and if you feel stirred to create a story, a picture or whatever your medium is after reading this or reading about her, please share. I would love to see, honor and know your creation.

Comments (9):

  1. Firmaid

    September 27, 2013 at 7:36 pm

    Fantastic Catherine. It is a comfort to read the credit you shine on Tasha. You speak to the aching longing she elicits in many, and articulate the deep subtleties of what we are missing. Perhaps the homesickness that is exposed by “a woman who lived her own life” is just the medicine needed. It is a wonderful standard to set your sights on, in your blog or elsewhere in life. Thank you for your homage to a rare soul.

  2. Jeff

    September 27, 2013 at 10:07 pm

    Until tonight, I didn’t know the origin of “Sparrow Post”. Thank you for sharing the story.
    –Jeff

  3. Jeff

    September 27, 2013 at 10:14 pm

    I don’t know if you’re interested, but I’ve long had a web page that describes where my domain name originated: http://slidingconstant.net/about

  4. tina

    September 29, 2013 at 9:41 am

    Beautiful post about a wonderful woman. I had only known about her through magazines and books…now I must get my hands on that DVD!

  5. Catherine

    September 29, 2013 at 12:32 pm

    Thank you, dear Fir Maid! I wouldn’t have written it if you hadn’t mentioned it earlier. It also got me to stretch my mind and ferret out just what it is about Tasha that is so inspiring. Let’s be people who join the ranks of women living their own lives on their own terms! Aho! Felt good to articulate it.

  6. Catherine

    September 29, 2013 at 12:33 pm

    Thanks, Jeff, I’ll check it out. 🙂

  7. Catherine

    September 29, 2013 at 12:34 pm

    Thanks, Tina! I’d be happy to loan it to you. Of course I own a copy! I checked it so many times from the library I just had to do something about it.

  8. Maria Mazhary

    March 5, 2015 at 1:29 am

    Thank you for the way in which you honor Tasha’s memory. She was also my role model in so many ways-as a supremely creative single mother- living her life fully, on her own terms, and also as a gardener…I always aspired to create the lush abandon that seemed to blossom around her, as a co-creator of celebrations and rituals, as a mother- honoring the wonder of childhood, as a lover of all things hand made, and of close kinship with animals, as an artist and in her aesthetics…it is a deep regret of mine that I never met her in person…I was just feeling the urgency to make the “pilgrimage” when she passed…but she lives on in us. Lovely to discover your Sparrow Post!

  9. Elizabeth

    April 15, 2015 at 2:29 pm

    Unfortunately I discovered Tasha Tudor after her passing. I was reading a gardening magazine and someone asked her what was her favorite flower of all she had. After a thoughtful pause she said, “whichever one I’m holding at the moment.” Bingo! I was hooked. I understood completely. After deciding to learn more about this seemingly kindred soul I searched her out in the internet. What books I found! And, I bought most of them. What I don’t have, I’m still procuring.
    In The Private World of Tasha Tudor I found we really were kindred souls. So sad to never get to meet her. But, in my little corner of the world I’m still carrying on the homemaking skills, (please, not ‘crafts’), that she so loved. Sewing, tatting, knitting, crocheting, cooking, raising most of what we eat, canning, and the list goes on. It’s good to know I’m not the only one that feels like I was born in the wrong century. After learning about Ms. Tudor, I embrace that part of myself even more. It’s good to be different.

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Winter Aconite & Snowdrop

Spring is whimsical and wary right now, first appearing in a patch of sunlight and then fleeting away in an ice-cold breeze, only to reappear a little later in the liquid song of a redwing blackbird. I wear my winter coat one day, a hoodie the next, and then it’s back to the winter coat the next morning as a heavy frost sparkles on rooftops. Only recently have I given up my thick scarf, though if there’s a wind tomorrow, I may have to pull it out of the closet and wind myself up in it once more.

None but the bravest flowers are blooming, the winter aconite and snowdrop. Winter aconite is a small yellow flower that’s easy to overlook; it remains shut until the sun has deeply soaked its petals, then pops open like a tiny jewelry box to reveal gold petals centered on delicate pistils and stamens. The snowdrops this spring huddle close to the ground, nearly lost in the mud and dead leaves. As of yet, there are no daffodils blooming—their leaves have come up only an inch or so out the brown ground. They are cautious and since it freezes each night, I cannot blame them.

Beyond the flowers there is the ground itself: a muddle of browns, thick with the rotted tree leaves and the dead foliage of last year. There is nothing lovely to see here, only the form of the land itself. It swells and slopes up from the river, lies low along the horizon, and finally drops into a ditch.

On an unexpected day in early March, once the snow disappeared, city workers came to clean up the young trees and invasive species that have been growing avid and unchecked along the creek near my home. It is the first time I can see the contours of the land clearly in all the years I’ve been living here, and I’m struck by the curves and lines that slope down towards the creek, a rollicking bed of dark brown that makes a strong contrast to the bright blue overhead. The undulating land here is small but it’s a dream, a reason, a mysterious being that wraps through the neighborhood’s mind. Soon enough, this dark and curving space will be clad in green, heavily wreathed by plants, bushes and eager saplings. But for now, it is bare and exposed, revealing the dark space between winter and summer. This is where the wind snaps cold like a knife, but the brilliant sunshine keeps calling everyone out despite the drear.

Tips on Surviving the Never-ending Winter

It’s been a long, hard winter. Now that it’s mid-February, the cold days have started stealing into my bones, urging me to stay in bed and sleep until the warm weather comes. As much as I long to take a three month long nap, there’s stuff to be done and living to do.

I’ve gotten more intentional about warding off the winter blues this year and not let myself, mentally or physically, wander off into a nearby snowbank and fall asleep. I’ve been observing and writing down little notes to myself on what lessens the gloom. These notes have become guideposts of sorts, gently illuminating the path through a difficult winter.

  1. The first guidepost may be the most essential: drinking hot beverages continually and consistently helps to ward off the deep cold. I brew a small pot of my favorite breakfast tea blend in the morning, switch to ginger and lemon herbals mid-day, and then return to caffeinated teas like black or green at night. Other people love coffee and others their tisanes. Find one or many and slurp away happily all day. Hot drinks are so deeply comforting when it’s cold and dark.
  2. I’ve learned to take walks even when the weather is crap. Obviously if everything is sheeted in ice, a walk isn’t going to happen but for the those other days, time willing, I make an effort to head outside. There’s the exercise aspect but more than that, it’s important for my spirit and soul. I walk to de-stress, to come in contact with a bigger world than my own, and to climb out of my circular thinking. There’s something about the rhythm of walking that clears junk out of the mind and soul. Our bodies evolved to walk over this earth and so when we participate in it, the old rhythms occur. Walking is a way to feel freedom. And it’s a way to fight too. I feel incredibly alive upon coming inside after walking through high winds and bad weather.
  3. Reading extensively helps to cast off the smothering feel of an endless winter. Last winter I read Alexander Pushkin and discovered the joy of reading Russian literature during the dead of winter. This month, I read City Folk and Country Folk by Sofia Khvoshchinskaya, one in a pair of sisters that wrote during the mid-1800’s. City Folk and Country Folk is a delightful satire, ridiculing a variety of “city folk” and everyone else besides. Among the cast of characters is the intellectual Ovcharov, a dead ringer for Austen’s Mr. Collins. The book centers on neighbors visiting each other, eating each other’s food, drinking each other’s tea and generally getting on each other’s nerves until they all decide to stop visiting one another. Needless to say, I adored this plot line.
    And after a three month long wait, I received The Library Book by Susan Orlean from the library with two week checkout period to read it. No way was I going to read part way through, return the book, and then have to go back into that long waiting line. I set up a rough estimate of how many pages I needed to read a day to make the two week goal and then started. To my surprise, I enjoyed having a book reading goal and  diving into Orlean’s generous and easy-flowing prose every evening.
    My last read for this month is Frederick Douglass’ My Bondage and My Freedom. February is Black History Month and the perfect time to read his work. I’m only a few chapters in but his thoughtful and beautiful prose has pulled me in hard into the tragedy of his story and it’s hard to stop reading his eloquent prose.
  4. Spring will come. It feels so far away and even the evergreens and pines are looking haggard but it will come. When the sky is a certain shade of blue, I remember that it will. I remind myself of this daily.