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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The Taste of Tea

A favorite film of mine, The Taste of Tea, centers on an eccentric family living in the Japanese countryside. They spend a great deal of time sitting outside, sipping tea and staring into space. They sit as a family, alone, or in a small group and no one talks. They just stare out into the deep green that is the summer. And then they get up and go on walks or go off to work.

The first time I watched The Taste of Tea, I was shaken and delighted that the film gave space and respect to one of my favorite pastimes: sipping tea and staring into space.

When spring grew warm enough, I was inspired by the film to sit outside and stare into my backyard in the early morning. The Taste of Tea had given me a sort of permission to leave stress behind and take this time for one of my deepest desires: to enjoy and contemplate nature while sipping tea.

I named my new practice “Sipping Tea and Watching the Grass Grow.” I felt ridiculous whenever I mentioned it to anyone but that hardly mattered. I was doing what I loved so much, watching plants grow, watching the birds and small animals moving through it all, and sky glowing blue and serene over us all.

 

Grass grows slowly, imperceptibly but after each rain, it leaps up by inches. The violets came in May and they lasted for weeks. After that the dandelions bloomed and I lost a little bit of my heart to them. The wind picked up their seeds and sent the white fluffs floating into the air in sweet, downy clouds. After that, small wild strawberries, glowing like fierce red gems, appeared in the lawn. Now at the end of June, a luxurious, emerald green covers nearly everything. It reaches up from the ground, covering fences and stones or it high overhead, green leaves moving in tall, imperceptible breezes.

 

The heat has settled in so now even in the mornings, I pour sweat while drinking my tea. On some mornings the birds are noisy and busy and on other days they are not. Sometimes a great big bumblebee comes tumbling along, droning in that low, hazy buzz as it investigates every surface and flower. And then sometimes it does not come. Some days the clouds are like fluffs of cotton, other days there isn’t a cloud in sight. Each day brings a new configuration, nature is never still. I watch it all and at other times, I close my eyes and listen to my breathing. I’m not alone, never alone, a part of a whole.

A Tale of Two Worlds

I walk past a window on my way to get a glass of water and note the snow falling outside.  As I fill my glass at the sink, my thoughts have already turned back to my work on the computer. I’m wrestling with the household budget, when I’ll fit some reading in, how to get on with my writing work, when I’ll exercise, when I’ll catch up with email correspondence and the list goes on and on.

Anytime I stop my work and look up, past the chatter in my mind, the snow catches me off guard as if it’s the first time I’m seeing it. I debate whether I can put off the grocery store to avoid driving in the snow.

This is the world of the everyday. It’s full of a thousand petty cares, some essential to living, others not as much but all in a lump group, tugging us along.

But there are times my mind needs something more refreshing, and it’s time to take a break. And that’s where music comes in—as powerful as Circe creating a circle of magic with her staff. I pick out music without words (or words I don’t understand). Today is Rimsky-Korsakov, tomorrow might be the film Phantom Thread’s soundtrack, or a piece of jazz played by Lucky Thompson.

As Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Snow Maiden starts, the circle opens. I come out of the everyday world and enter somewhere extraordinary, where beauty converges with life and cares and worries exit for a time. And all it takes is a little music, a little snow, and entering the moment that is now.

I watch the snow falling, noting the wind direction as the snow blows southeast and then drops and then exhales again southwards. I note the density of the snow, how it’s light and sparkling and then downy, heavy, and wet.  My thoughts finally still and I turn off the music. A heavy relief passes over my body and mind and I am still, watching the beauty of the world.