A charming necklace and a gesture of friendship
June 20th, 2010
The back story
My nearly four years in Los Angeles have been quite amazing. We arrived here in late August, 2006, not really excited about leaving our beloved Seattle, but trying hard to embrace our “new” life here in SoCal.
The mood around our household has changed dramatically in 2010. The boy who was entering high school when we moved here has just graduated and is college-bound. The child who came here as a 4th grader is now a teenager, ready for 8th grade. The husband who came here for a pretty great job lost it during the financial meltdown. But in the interim, he earned an MBA from UCLA and joined an amazing new company NOT in financial services – one that uses his combination of legal and business talents for a compelling new business strategy.
As for me, well, this four-year California chapter has been quite an adventure. I have grown professionally, honed my design sensibilities and in many ways gained more confidence (guess that comes with turn 50 anyway, right?). I have met and interviewed incredible people – designers of homes and gardens, artists, actors, directors, producers, animators – famous people and unusual characters alike, all of whom embody this beautiful spot on the planet. Writing about the homes and gardens they possess has been a privilege. Seeing those stories appear in some of the most well-respected publications has been quite satisfying.
So now, we are moving again. And while I have alluded for months to our plans to relocate to Pittsburgh, the surprise ending of our California chapter is that we are actually returning to Seattle.
Bruce’s company – at what feels like the eleventh hour – has shifted strategy and is moving its corporate HQ to Seattle. Manna from heaven, I say. A small part of me thought the Pittsburgh thing would be a fun adventure (actually, after what we’ve been through on the unemployment front, I would have willingly moved to Siberia). I have a few acquaintances in Pittsburgh – through Garden Writers Association – and I was interested in spending more time there getting to know them better. That optimism was combined with anxiety about having to garden in Zone 4 or 5; whatever low temperatures Pittsburgh experiences in the winter, at the very least I know it has snow – lots of it.
So here we are, on the threshold of yet another move. But one that brings us full-circle back to the city where Bruce and I first met, lived as were newlyweds, gave birth to and raised two wonderful sons, became first-time homeowners, and even built our dream house, living a life surrounded by so many cherished family and friends.
However. I now do NOT want to leave Los Angeles. What a paradox. The silver lining to this cloud is that I will be able to continue to work here in LA. I plan on returning every month or so in order to scout homes and gardens, interview, report and continue my network of friends in the design community. Knowing that this pretty cool arrangement will actually work out has lifted my spirits. I don’t feel so sad about leaving. Plus, I remind myself, Seattle and LA are only 2-1/2 hours from each other by plane — not to mention on the same time zone. We are anchored emotionally to the Pacific Coast and I’m eager to enjoy the best of both worlds at both ends of this coast.
Back row, from left: Judy Horton, Libby Simon, Linda McKendry, Paula Panich, Aime Lindsay, Shirley Bovshow, Laura Morton, Annette Gutierrez, Karen Neill Tarnowski
Front row, from left: Mary Gray, Nan Sterman, Deb Prinzing, Jennifer Asher, Stephanie Bartron
Jennifer Asher and Karen Neill Tarnowski, friends I’ve met through my design writing and owners of the contemporary outdoor sculpture firm TerraSculpture, decided to throw a good-bye party for me and invited several other women writers, designers, and artists who I’ve been blessed to meet and know while living here.
The luncheon was scheduled for the Thursday prior to Memorial Day weekend. We gathered at Taverna Tony’s, a delightful Greek restaurant in Malibu. There were 14 of us lined up on either side of a long table. The platters of savory food Jen and Karen ordered just kept coming and coming. Conversations happened organically; a trio here; a cluster at the table’s corner; people across from or next to one another joined in. Good thing it was a relatively slow day or we would have annoyed other diners (luckily, the diners who were there were seated far from us at the other end of the restaurant).
Paula Panich, who I like to call my “writing mentor,” presented me with a beautiful, 14-by-18 inch handmade and bound blank book that she created. She stood and read from a card that she also made using her printmaking techniques. Here is what the card said:
My dear Deb ~ you are about to add another volume to the narrative of your life. You are one of the great cultivators – of words, gardens, children, textiles, and, of course, to those of us lucky enough to be spinning in your orbit of friends, aren’t we lucky? Your story winds and grows and entwines and travels, swims and runs and flies and wheels, trains and sails.
Only some of us move through life with such grace. And you, Cherie, are among those chosen few. With so much love, Paula
Okay, that was hard to hear without tearing up. And yet, I had a secret to share (about moving to Seattle and not Pittsburgh), which made it hard to keep a big grin off my face while listening to Paula reading. At that point, only Paula and Nan knew about our change of plans.
The next presentation came fromStephanie Bartron, a Seattle native-turned-LA girl who has introduced me to some of her awesome gardens (including some I wrote about for the LA Times HOME section). Stephanie has an MFA and is a landscape designer here in Los Angeles. She handed me a package and in it I discovered a hot new version of the Woolly Pocket wall planter. The planters are used for vertical gardens indoors and out. This one, though, is in turquoise blue, ideal for interior plant displays. Yeah, Stephanie! I can’t wait to use it – how thoughtful of you. Thinking this may need to hang in my new office.
And then, landscape designer and artist Laura Morton presented a package from the entire group.
What I opened inside the lavender suede bag strung with a silken cord can only be described as a magical treasure. It contained a piece of affection shared by each woman around the table. It is a stunning necklace!
In her past life, before creating gorgeous, soulful gardens, Laura was a fine jewelry designer. She still creates one-of-a-kind pieces for friends and private commissions. Laura had invited each woman attending the party to contribute a bead, charm or gem to be used in a memory necklace for me.
The final creation is nothing short of stunning. It is amazing. I can’t stop looking at it, stroking it, holding it up to the light to look closely at Laura’s skillful jewelry-making techniques and clever way of incorporating so many unusual trinkets into a cohesive design.
The main strands are made of dark olive green glass trading beads. I be getting this wrong, but I believe the beads were made in Murano, Italy; then migrated to Africa on trade routes. The neck cord is dotted with some attractive striped glass, as well as silver, beads. At the center, the design attaches to a circular piece of wire, also threaded with the dark olive green glass beads. All the way around the circle are the charms from my friends. Each is quite unique but somehow Artist-Laura made them come together in an elegant, cohesive piece of jewelry. We’re taking family heirloom here – that’s how incredible it is.
Laura had made a photocopy of the necklace and asked each woman to sign her name next to her bead on the picture. Here are some of the fun notes people wrote:
Stephanie gave me a tiny sterling and green flip-flop shoe and wrote:“To remember our casual SoCal living!”
Annette and Mary, who own Pot-ted, one of my favorite garden shops, gave me a silver-studded pale amethyst-white crystal and wrote: “Something from our youth to light your way”
Judy, an incredibly talented landscape designer, selected a miniature garden tool, a cultivator – and wrote: “Happy writing and gardening!”
As if she didn’t already do enough to plan this necklace, Laura added a piece of amethyst to remind me of the palette of her client Mala’s garden, the award-winning landscape that first prompted me to interview her.
Our mutual friend Linda added a silver embossed teardrop, “because we won’t get to see you as much as we want.”
Friend Libby, a vintage-loving gal who is soon to graduate UCLA as a landscape architect, added a 1940s green glass grape cluster and wrote “you will be so missed in L.A.”
Jennifer, host of the party and my carpool-from-the-suburbs “date” to all those fun design events in LA, added a piece of turquoise, “to remind you of the beach.” Karen added a beautiful trading bead, which compliments all the green in this necklace.
Aime, my sweet friend and owner of an amazing landscape lighting company, added a double charm – a hand and a wheel, both in bronze. She wrote: “The writer’s hand . . . the wheel of fate,” almost like a fortune to take with me.
Shirley, how can I describe this bundle of energy and creativity? Shirley has a landscape design business called Edenmakers, which she runs when not appearing on television as a gardening expert. She gave me a tiny silver key, and wrote: “You are at the door of Eden!”
Nan, like Paula, is one of the only friends I had when I first moved here in 2006; an authority on California plants, among other things, she added a sterling poppy pod, just like a larger one she wears around her neck. “A pod of love for you,” she wrote.
So those are the elements of the gift. I have been thinking about this necklace composed of individual charms and trinkets. They add up to something quite vital and bold. To put it simply, this necklace has amazing woman power. When we combine our positive energy, optimism, creativity, friendship, support, encouragement, honesty and love, there is truly nothing women can’t accomplish.
I know that to be true. And when you see me wearing this necklace, you will feel that vitality emanating from my throat. It’s really something to experience.
A post-script. Before the party ended, I stood to thank my friends for making it such an unforgettable moment in the Los Angeles chapter of my life. And then I announced to the group that I’m not moving quite as far away as I had planned. It was a joy to share that information around the table – with a grin on my face and lots of hugs, promises of future visits, offers of a spare bedroom, sighs of relief. Yes, it all worked out so well – providentially, actually.