There is a great river in Africa known as The Zambezi. It’s one of the top whitewater rafting spots in the world, and it’s replete with crocodiles and hippos. In other words, there are more than a few ways to die on the great river, and in that it’s a lot like life. When faced with the wild majesty that is a human life, there are two maybe three ways to play it: you can stay your arse on the shore where your odds of being eaten by a crocodile or charged by a hippo are relatively low. You can dip your boat in the river but try to stay close to the relative safety of shore. Or, you can raft the darn thing, with all the glory and risk that entails.
I’m the raft the river type. I asked my mother, once, what she thought of me when I was a child. She said, “I thought you were adventurous, and tried my best to rid you of that. I was afraid you’d jump off the roof.” What she didn’t know is that I may have been young, but I had good sense. Not once have I jumped off a roof. I’m more the cliff jumping type. I jumped off the cliff into the creative life, and I’ve never regretted taking the leap of faith. Life, my life, is about the adventure, it’s about the journey we take through the rough terrain of a human life.
It’s been a week since Robin Williams died, and I thought I’d mark the occasion by sharing the comments I posted to Facebook last Tuesday morning, with a few minor modifications. I end this post as I begin it (“Oh Captain, My Captain!”) because of all the ways that Robin touched my life (The Fisher King, Good Will Hunting), it is The Fisher King that most shaped my young mind, inspiring me to go for the life that was authentic, the life that is mine alone. Thank you, Robin, for shining so bright, and for inspiring all of us to let our own lights shine. And now my thoughts of last Tuesday, which are as true today as they were then.
“I was at a play last night by the Pulitzer nominated playwright Rajiv Joseph. Joseph and the male lead both worked with Robin Williams on Rajiv’s pulitzer nominated play, “Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo,” with Robin in the titular role. It was an intimate performance in a very small theatre, but afterwords, the lead actor spoke on behalf of himself and Joseph about their great loss and the world’s great loss. People sprung into tears all around me. A reminder of how deeply we sometimes touch the lives of those we do not know.
In this in this year of great loss in the Hollywood community (Philip Seymour Hoffman and now Robin Williams), I just want to say that we owe a great great debt to those who open themselves fully, who feel so very very deeply for the rest of us (who, like the scapegoats of yore, agree to carry the wounds of the tribe).
Crafting a home, like crafting a life, is an evolutionary process. For me — and this is true of my life as well — it’s a matter of starting with something that’s perhaps to studied, and finding my way towards something that captures the mix of glamour/order and relaxed bohemianism that is my true core.
I am half wild child, half citizen of the structured, orderly world. It’s a vantage point that allows me to innovate while ensuring that my innovations stay connected to the existing world. I believe in imagining the wild possibilities, and then crafting a bridge to get there from here. It’s funny that decorating my home has me thinking of these things. It’s easy, after all, to think of a beautiful home as just a backdrop for other things, but I find that the way we live in our homes can, and at its best does, connect us to how we live “out there,” in the world. I like to live my life “out there” as though it’s okay for me to grow and evolve, and as if all the disparate pieces might be woven together to form a coherent tapestry.
This is what we are doing when we craft strong personal brands or when, as entities, we craft strong corporate or non-profit brands that connect powerfully with other people based on who we really are.
Designing a home and designing a life are really all about letting the authenticity shine through, and given it some definite structure that we can inhabit when we meet the world. It’s an act of translation most of all, a way of saying, in a clear and coherent way, this is who I am.
And so, my home. It is gradually becoming a place that reflects who I am, one iteration at a time. My first Master Bedroom vision board, which appears in the post just below, I used blue — because it seemed like the thing to do. But as I sat with it, it didn’t feel right (even though blue and orange are a lovely combination). It didn’t feel like me. It felt like I was half wearing somebody else’s clothes. And then it hit me: I love to layer colors that are in the same color family but different in warmth and hue. Layers of green, say, or, in this case, orange. So I took my base color, orange, and layered in corals and burnt orange and yellowish orange and finally found my way to orange’s cousin, blood red. Once I happened upon that red, I knew I’d found what I was looking for: something that felt earthy and organic but also vibrant with a hint of glamour, which is who I am or who I want to be or maybe a bit of both.
Now it’s time to execute!
COLLAGE by Paula Puryear Martin using images by Unknown.
My fully realized life is set in a beautiful environment and the most beautiful environment of all should be, in my opinion, the home. Mine is a work in progress (I don’t know about yours), but the journey is (almost) as good as the destination, so I’m trying to enjoy the process of gradually making my home the sanctuary it’s meant to be.
I start all my home decor projects with vision boards. I’ve found it helps me weed out bad ideas with minimal investment of time and zero investment of resources.
Bryan Rowland’s haunting, luminous new film, Preserve, is as fine an introduction of Blake Lively’s new lifestyle site Preserve as I could imagine. The film and the site invoke the magic of preserving the dream that is now.
Here’s to that!
It is a bit early for me to pass judgment on Preserve — it’s young, and I more than anyone appreciates that things evolve, particularly in the immediacy that is digital space, and good things sometimes need time to marinate. Preserve is a bit earnest for me at the moment, a bit trying-to-hard, but there’s no shame in your reach exceeding your grasp.
As a Southerner, I love that Preserve feels familiar, though it isn’t the South I know. Still, it contains familiar echoes. It oozes food cooked slow on the stove, and peas being shelled on the porch, and un-fancy white folks sitting outside a trailer in a lawn chair in a scraggly patch of lawn, or un-fancy black ones sitting up on a rocking chair on the porch.