We were done moving. Laguna Beach was to be the place of our retirement and we’d found a Mediterranean style home built in the 30’s standing tall on High drive with a commanding view of the town and even a peek of Main Beach with its curling waves flowing in from the great wide Pacific. We spent eight years enjoying that charming old house and wearing our fingers to the bone bringing it up to its heyday standard.
“Enough of this,” Wally G. said. “Let’s get a house that serves us instead of one that makes us serve it.” So we bought a lot further down High Drive and built our dream house. It, too, had a view of the ocean overlooking picturesque rooftops and trees.
A friend, an interior designer, offered to help us but Wally G. said, “No thanks. Joyce is good at that.” I wasn’t so sure, until I saw what our friend had in mind. It was all in monochromatic shades of gray to go with the stone fireplace. We didn’t have the extra money to invest in the new furnishings and when she insisted on re-covering Wally's favorite chair and ottoman, we got along without her help.
I can’t say that I don’t admire beautiful and professional interior design. Many a model home I could have moved into happily but how long would it stay that way? Could I ever ditch all our personal family memorabilia and keep that plain tasteful serene look that you could take in at a glance and never need to step up close to examine anything and ask about?
I suppose if my house were to burn down and nothing was left but ashes I could do it. But after nearly seventy years of collecting, discarding, and collecting more, Christmas gifts, shopping spree finds in quaint places, I’m done hoping for the designer look. I say to myself, “Forget that, face up to the facts, - you’re never going to get out of your Old Curiosity Shoppe.
I have a few friends who are into African decor. Large and small carved creatures such as giraffes, elephants, zebras etc. tell me they’ve either lived in Africa or visited it or hope to visit it and that they’re intrigued enough to bring the safari home. Others have gone Asian with parasols and calligraphy. The cottage look would be my choice, but what does my home tell? It won’t take long to see that I’ve brought the farm home with me. I have chickens, roosters, mother hens, and even pigs. Not large collections, not large pieces, but pictures or small carvings. My theme could have come from my cousins’ farms that I enjoyed with them as a child. (If I ever find a little Shetland pony like their “Fanny,” you can bet she’ll come home with me.) Also, the ranch we bought after the dream house, the one nestled into the Applegate River in Oregon amidst the Siskiyou foothills. Eight years of country living remain indelible in my heart and mind.
Yesterday Robin and I dropped into The Cottage Gallery on Los Rios Street in San Juan Capistrano where she shows her watercolors. Of course, I loved her display. My walls could be her gallery. I was delightfully impressed by the other artists’ works also and came across a portrait of a sheep, probably a ewe, that stopped me. The artist, Nancy Egan, just happened to be manning the desk and she told me that her paintings of sheep were done from photographs of real sheep who are going to native people in third world countries. With the permission of the Heifer Project which allows her to use photographs of the animals to paint from, she is able to donate part of her earnings to their efforts.
“So, this beautiful creature is one of the project’s real animals and may very well be alive today helping some little family get a foothold on a good life?”
“Yes,” she said. “Each one is taken from a photograph of a real animal and when I paint it I get such a feeling for the creature itself that I fall in love with the work.”
“I can certainly see that!” I said. “Well, I want to look for a small cactus arrangement out in the back garden, but I’ll be giving thought to this painting of yours.” When I’d found the perfect miniature cactus garden in a small white bird cage I brought it to the desk.
“I’ve been thinking,” I said. “Your ewe has crept into my heart. She can be symbolic of the sheep we raised at our ranch. I never got any pictures of them then. So, if I may, I’ll buy her.”
“I’m so glad she’ll be going to a good home,” Nancy said.
That’s how my home gets designed. Little by little my heart gets into the act and my home becomes a museum. The pig from Hog Hollow, the pair of yellow chicks my sister-in-law gave us, the rooster, the mother hen on a nest of eggs, these are my decor. They are me, a self designer of one well-feathered nest. And now a ewe. I can see her basking in the sun or seeking out the shade in her family home. I can see her lambs too bouncing around with small dark children. A new painting can reveal a wealth of scenery, past and present. An interior designer might tell me where to hang it, but it will no doubt go the rounds here in my cottage home. You’re welcome to come and see!