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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Tides of Snow and Ice

This winter has been a continuous series of freezes and thaws: it’s the warmest winter on record, the tenth one in a row. A more usual winter starts with a deep freeze and then stays cold for months. Instead, snow falls, piles up and vanishes; rises up again and retreats, now falling as rain, swelling rivers and creeks. Rain and snow mingle together until everything runs with water; hillsides and flat-sides are coated in a deep, dark mud.

I stopped on my walk today, halted by a sudden flash of gold. The sunset rays were falling into a tiny puddle spanning the space between the root and trunk of a maple. The puddle reflected gold and silver on top and below was dark mud, black and brown, full of microorganisms and other tiny creatures unseen by the human eye. I briefly considered putting my hand to the shining surface. It beckoned, winking like a diamond, but pull of my walk was irresistible and I continued forward. 

Mud is for March and April, mud so thick and heavy that it can pull shoes off and make them disappear like a magic trick beneath the solemn and still brown. Mud in February is a strange slight, an awakening that shouldn’t be occurring yet. It’s all the more cruel because even though the temperatures rise, they inevitably dip into the single digits and everything freezes solid. Many times I’ve spotted squirrels and tiny birds on the creek’s ice, searching for openings to drink from.

During this particular thaw, the creek casts off ice, it’s center opening like a dark cut. The water sings as it cascades over the rocks, proclaiming it’s momentarily relief from the grip of winter. In Scandinavian folklore, there is a belief that given the proper offerings, a creek could teach a human how to play the most bewitching music. I crouch down near the creek, record a video of it singing on my phone and replay its music in the evening while lying on the couch. I should give something in return for the pleasure of its song and I consider. Perhaps some lavender buds I have stored away for a certain recipe, or a small pinecone I keep on a shelf to admire, or birch bark I retrieved from a favorite tree cut down years ago. 

The next day I return, and after waiting for a few dogs and their owners to pass by, I crouch next the side of the creek and sprinkle lavender buds into the small, clear stream. The buds vanish as soon as I drop them into the water– as if they never existed. I drop some more in and the same occurs; they’re gone before I can blink. The current flows by, washing over stones, fleeting by banks of mud, until it vanishes around the bend where the pine trees tower overhead.

As I gaze at the water, first downstream and then upstream, my own self quiets, stills, and momentarily dissolves into the landscape. The relief, though short, is palpable. Alone becomes together and perhaps that is what’s this practice of thanking the creek has been about all along.

Winter in the Time of Climate Change

There is a stream near my home and I walk along it nearly every day; I know its moods and seasons nearly as well as I know my own. We are family and our connections are pure: we’re both made of water.

Every day brings more distressing news about the environment. Big changes need to happen but whatever change that does happen is so slow. Global warming is now being felt by everyone, some more than others. I go out and walk along the stream when the news and all the unfortunate future unknowns press in too hard. Right now, it is running fast. This winter has been a series of freezes and thaws. November hit hard with a heavy, deep freeze and I expected this to lead to a  white Christmas but instead, it’s been a muddy, wet winter, full of more temperate days than frosty ones. The thermometer rides up and down, every day propelled by a bouncing ball rather than a steady progression of tiny fluctuations.

The stream locks and then unlocks. It accepts each freeze and thaw with inestimable grace. After reading the news, it is hard to know what is near or far, here and up in the sky, in the mind or in the present moment. But the stream is always present, it knows no other moment. It lives in eternity; as David Hockney said, “It’s always now. It’s now that’s eternal.”

The creek is still here, I think to myself whenever I see it, it is still living. It runs forward through this strange January, sometimes under the ice and sometimes not. Patches of green moss dot the banks nearby, beyond that the nearby plants are broken, brown, and dried. They are asleep, listening to things I cannot hear, dreaming of things I barely know of.