Hey there! I thought I’d have a little open house and invite you all over today for Christmas!

I haven’t said a whole lot about my current living situation but here’s the deal: I’m sharing a fairly huge house with the gal who owns it. There’s a curving walkway in the front, and in the back a big backyard with a fountain, a white painted Provence table, and a shaded patio. There’s a kitchen, long dining room, living room with two comfy couches, a “meditation room,” and then I have basically the servant’s quarters but really a very nice “wing”: hardwood flooors, French windows, bathroom with black and white tiled floor and clawfoot tub. (Her headquarters are upstairs, plus she has a business and therefore an office downtown, plus she has a whole life out in Joshua Tree, where she also owns a house so I often have the place to myself).

Anyway, with my monkish bent, whether my housemate is here or not, I of course spend about 98% of the time in my cozy and fairly spacious room which I have tricked out for the holidays and I think amply demonstrates that the best things in life are free, or almost free. So come on in! Have some mulled cider, or peppermint hot chocolate, or if you like to “celebrate” the holidays the way I used to, a giant tumbler or two of straight gin and about ten non-filtered Camels and welcome to you. You can use that hand-painted Talevara saucer for an ashtray.

I don’t really don’t have room for a tree this year, but here are some antique bulbs, with a very cool flaked glass finish that I purchased for a dollar at the late, lamented L.A. Skid Row Salvation Army Store at Stanford and 7th. (Sorry for the photo quality; I am still laboring along with a DumbPhone). The bowl is from a thrift store on Main Street in Belle Fourche, South Dakota where I was visiting a friend after a writer’s residency in Wyoming, and I still remember the prairie he showed me around the Badlands, and the many beautiful kinds of grasses, and how we stopped to look at one particular kind called broome.

Here’s my crèche of cunning clay African figurines. You can’t really see, but the Virgin Mary has actual round wire earrings and and the three wise men are wearing tiny bead necklaces. I bought this at the Claudia Laub studio up on Beverly Boulevard at a post-holiday sale for 18 bucks around 2000 and still carefully unwrap the figures each year from the individual squares of black tissue paper they came in. The baby Jesus always gets unwrapped the very last, and when I put him in the middle, I know it’s Christmas.

After an unfortunate incident that occurred early in my stay here, I’m terrified of burning down the house or some other electrical mishap so instead of festooning lights over and around the windows, ceilings, shelves,  lamp stands, bed and sink as I usually do I simply picked up the whole huge tangle, placed it in Nana’s sterling silver fruit bowl, and plugged it in. Voilà!

Before I moved out of my former apartment early this year, I did a whole paring down which frankly, at the moment, is making me a teensy bit nostalgic. I gave away all my records, for instance, many of which I’d been lugging around since high school, to a gal who lived in a loft downtown, after reading my craigslist post came to pick them up, and proceeded to stand in the middle of my living room, burst into tears, and announce, “My boyfriend just dumped me and I need a HUG!” So I have her a hug and not only my LPs, but my videocam, my portable sewing machine and my sound system as well. The 30-something gals in my life had sniffed, “Nobody has a sound system anymore, you just get some Bose speakers and plug in your ipod.”

I wasn’t so sure but I was leaving in a few days and it just seems wrong to have so much stuff you have to put things in storage so I gave this gal the whole lot and she said, “I’ll make a notebook binder for you out of some of the album covers,” so I said “Okay” and gave her my address in Taos where I was going for the first three months of my trip and never heard from her again. You ever notice how the people who are always nagging about paring down and simplifying and being “green” and leaving a small “footprint” are rich people who have houses and cars and after getting rid of half their stuff wouldn’t even notice or feel it? I wasn’t trying to be “green.” I haven’t regretted my move for a minute. But just for the record, I have noticed. I have felt it.

Anyway, now I have a Sony transistor radio! Which I bought on ebay for 16 bucks and makes me feel like I’m about 16 and that I have to say I love. At night I scrunch up under these two giant comforters, open the little window by my bed, gaze out at the pepper tree in the moonlight and listen to Jim Sveda play Christmas music on KUSC.

And fall asleep praying for YOU on that lovely black and gold rosary.

Christmas miracle! I said I never heard from that girl again, but I did, just last week! She had in fact made me a binder, with front and back covers from an old Judds album, and sent it to Taos in October (I left in April), and finally, amazingly, this delightful gift had made its way to me here in Silver Lake, California. So who says what goes around doesn’t come around?

And here’s the pièce de résistance: three deep pink dappled-with-white camellias. I don’t know if you have ever seen a camellia close up but they are breath-taking. They have layers and depth and complexity and secrets. And that I can walk into my back yard and simply snip as many as I want, for free, is a window onto a whole other kingdom that I would not have missed for anything in this world.

So hang out as long as you like. Come back any time. Hey, I said the ashtray, not the floor–you better leave your car here and get someone else to run you home, here, take the rest of that Wild Turkey. But first, let’s sit  quietly for a minute and listen to this poem together, which is somehow all about the light that shines in the darkness, mingled joy-pain, and the beyond weird paradox in which we live…and die…and live again…


“I love you all way. I go tonight with Christ. I love him too.”

–Last note written by a miner to his wife, Frankfort, Illinois, where 119 lost their lives on the last shift before the Christmas holiday break, on or about December 21st, 1951


  1. This is so incredibly dear and sweet.

    It's no GM Hopkins, but you should check out my interview with Cindy Lou Who. (linked to my name)

    Merry Christmas to you, and all your readers and friends!

  2. Your moment of silence gave me a chill.

    Thank you for inviting us into your house! (I remember I had a transistor radio when I was about six, it looked like Snoopy.)

    Those camellias are awesome. I keenly lament that I don't know the names of birds, trees, and flowers as well as I should.

    A merry and a blessed Christmas to you!

  3. Heather: Thanks for your hospitality! A very sweet entry today.

    I stumbled onto your blog via New Advent, and I've been a subscriber since.. Your posts fill me up…. I always come away with something new.

    Merry Christmas to you and many blessings in the New Year!

  4. Thank you for stopping by. I was thinking this morning of Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker, and her "houses of hospitality" (for the poor), and how in a way this whole blog is my version of a house of hospitality…doors are open…food for thought on the table..of course that means I have to keep my floors vacuumed!…

    Blessings, peace, hope and joy to all…

  5. Pied Beauty is now the third synchronicity I've seen on this site from my own personal site, mainbrace:

    Pied Beauty at mainbrace, 11.22.07

  6. Thank you for inviting us to your home Heather. 🙂 I love how carefully you fix up things and how every piece has a meaning.

  7. Off-topic, but the O.T. reading at Mass today (Song of Songs 2:8-14) reminded me of Flannery O'Connor's "Greenleaf". Really made me sit up in the pew.

    Oh! I've got a heater just like yours. Really takes the edge off the cold – I love it.

  8. Thanks for the tour. Reading about your giving up your old apartment relates very much to my experience. In April of this year, we sold our house and moved to a small condo, mostly to make life easier for my husband who has Parkinson's. We'd been at the old place for 26 years and had lots of stuff to get rid of. We ended up just giving things away: no selling, no bartering, just finding homes for things, and it worked very well. (And lots of recycling and just garbage!) The only thing we miss now is our old library–we had probably over a thousand books, and this place has room for only a very few. But otherwise, the whole experience was quite freeing, and we're loving life up in the sky on the 18th floor.

    And of course I love the poem. I loved Hopkins so much when I studied him in high school English that I memorized several of his poems and still have them in my head. Have you read his recent bio by Paul Mariani? I got it from the library and thought it was really good. I highly recommend it to Hopkins lovers.

  9. Yes, the liturgy yesterday was so beautiful, with that Song of Songs passage and then the Visitation…and the L.A. Public Library indeed has the Paul Mariani bio of G.M. Hopkins so I will definitely get to it and thanks for the tip…I myself don't totally understand the deep "paring down" urge or where it will take me or whether it is just a waystation or what…something to do with being willing to let go of part of my identity, or to pass some point of "no return"…Of course I still live in relative splendor compared to most of the world, but it is good to know even a tiny bit of the Son of Man, who though the birds have their nests and the foxes their lairs, had nowhere to lay his head…

  10. Love this piece and I am thrilled to have discovered you. I am new to the writing and blogging world and you are an inspiration…

  11. Anonymous says: Reply

    Thanks for the invite. It's cozy and sounds
    -well, it sounds as though less is more:)
    Thanks for sharing Heather and while I discovered your wonderful writing late this year, it has given me a great deal of hope.
    Merr Christmas Heather. And a wonderful 2011.

  12. It couldn't have been easy to give away those record. I have not and will not be giving away my albums anytime soon even if I have replaced many of them on cd. The Talking Heads "Fear of Music" sleeve has it's own merit even if I don't play the record. And seriously, I have an EP from The Jazz Butcher Conspiracy that will never be on cd! But this was an important Christmas because I gave my Godson/nephew my massive football and baseball card collection. It was a great treasure of my youth. I knew I would be giving it to him since I became a priest and would never have a son of my own (biologically speaking). So he is 13 and I told him there was only one stipulation on this gift. He is never, ever, ever to SELL these cards. I don't care how destitute he is at age 23 or desperate for beer money. (I didn't tell him that part.) He is to give them to his own son or a Godson in the event he becomes a priest…to which his 19 year old brother said of course he's not picking him to be Godfather to any of his kids.


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