Heaven on a Stick

Don’t blame the fence, blame the gardener.

White picket fences don’t just happen.

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“That’s heaven on a stick!”

– Mrs. Jane Young, my first boss.

Mrs. Young liked perfection.

One Saturday in 1985, I arrived to work at 8 AM, and Mrs. Young gave me the day’s instructions.

“I’d like you to organize and display all the sterling silver and crystal in the display cases.”

She pointed to the hand-carved, mahogany, floor-to-ceiling shelving behind the waist-high, enclosed glass jewelry sales cabinets.  I knew from a prior conversation that Mrs. Young adored the cabinetry since it was a family heirloom and it was the primary design fixture of her family-owned jewelry store.

With no further instructions, she left for the day.

To say I was intimidated, at age 16, handling the fine silver and crystal and placing the valuables in the gargantuan, cherished cabinetry, is an understatement.

I worked a straight 8 hours, right through my lunch hour. I remember being a nervous wreck the entire day –

Am I leaving fingerprints?

Is that too high?

Does that look good next to this or does this look good next to that?  

Is this lighting going to help this sell? 

Fifteen minutes before the 5 PM close, Mrs. Young entered the store.

Arriving in her blue, crisply-ironed pantsuit with a silk, floral scarf tied at her neckline, she, an ex-NYC runway model, was exquisite looking, and she, herself, downright intimidating.

She gazed at the shelves, inspecting the design, and as I recall, after only 2 minutes or so, she looked me in the eye and gave her appraisal,

“This looks like crap. Now let me show you how it should be done.”

We worked overtime, transforming what I had made look like crap into what Mrs. Young expected and envisioned.

And on that day, I learned a valuable life lesson.

We may think we know what perfection looks like, but it takes more than hard work.

It’s takes listening, learning, accepting criticism, and paying attention to detail, plus a whole lot of practice.

It also takes heart, respect,

and a whole lot of desire,

and if it has true value and worth

we may have to focus for an entire day – maybe even weeks, months and years –

if it’s going to be deemed

“heaven on a stick!”

“That’s heaven on a stick!” (not “that looks like crap,”) has stuck with me since my inaugural design day in Mrs. Young’s jewelry store.

Mrs. Young left her perfect mark on me, and I credit Mrs. Young for teaching me a secret of sales –

how do you make others want what you have?

Invest in good gardeners.

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Proud as a Peacock

The tour bells rang at Filio, indicating the gardens were closed.  Being a photographer, always in search of the perfect golden-hour light, I was a straggler.  The sun was still too high in the northern California sky for my liking. I left, disappointed I hadn’t been able to capture the garden’s beauty in complimentary light, but accepting, to exhaust, that I’m a rule follower.

The sign on the closed exit gate read, USE SIDE DOOR WHEN LEAVING AFTER HOURS.  I exited through the archway of the door with my head down, disgruntled, and stuffing my camera equipment into my backpack.

However, as I learn time and again, we don’t decide when we’re finished. It’s the crazy, little surprises in life that break all the rules and tell us to carry on –

Entering into the side door, used for exiting, the Fioli resident peacock, strode up like a VIP on a red carpet, looked at me, stopped, opened its canopy of fabulous feathers, turned around and showed me its booty and then sauntered right past me and into the closed gardens. The peacock looked back at me, summoning me to join it on the other side, and I followed.

And there we were, back on the inside, after closing hours, with me, fiddling to get all my equipment back out of its storage and shooting this scene of a bird who’d broken all the rules –

Something someone would do who’s

AS PROUD AS A PEACOCK

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Privacy, Please

She kept her personal life close to her heart; for if she revealed too much, she might be exposed to scrutiny, or worse yet,  feel vulnerable and out of control.  These discomforts only added to her pain, so she opted to shut out friends who tried to get too close. We wanted to help, but we knew that knocking repeatedly would only cause her more grief.

The few allowed in are weeping

now that she’s died too young and is permanently sleeping.

We, on the outside, wish we could’ve done more, but respecting her wishes,

we find comfort, trusting that giving space to people who prefer privacy is often granting peace.

And isn’t the gift – to rest in peace – what we desire to give to

those who’re in immeasurable pain?

Not everyone has an open-door policy, and that’s ok.

Respecting others’ wishes –

IMG_4162“Privacy, Please”

Let her rest in peace.