Often as I am driving along the country roads in England, I throw on the brakes, screech up onto the curb, and whip out my phone to take a picture of a house that has caught my eye. There are great houses everywhere here! My taste ranges from sheds to thatch huts to stately homes, and I seem to prefer Georgian architecture over gothic or Victorian – not that I would be able to tell you that without my husband’s input. He can look at any house and tell you what century, decade, and style of architecture it belongs to. I envy this knowledge, but I do not possess it. Despite being a History of Art major in college, I focused the bulk of my architectural history classes on the 20th century. It also doesn’t help that I am American, where there isn’t the same exposure to historical architecture that you would have coming from Europe. I hope some of it will rub off on me while I’m here.
So far the thing I love most about England is how easy it is to clear my head when I need a break. Sure I get caught up in my emailing, or distracted by my kids, or overwhelmed by the prospect of starting from scratch on a new book just like I would in my life in New York. But here it is so easy to clear the decks and start again by walking the dog, going out on a ride, or collecting the chicken eggs. My favorite way, however, is to arrange flowers from our garden. I always get a twinge of anxiety when I start because its never obvious which flowers I am going to pick or how I am going to arrange them. Often one variety is in bloom, but there is not enough to make a whole bouquet with. So I have to figure something else that will look pretty with it. This is a challenge for me. For many years I have been a flower minimalist – I like a handful of all the same flower tightly and tidily arranged in a neat little uptight city-girl bouquet. But the country has made me relax. A little. My arrangements are looser and I have learned to mix and match when necessary. I have also come to like the uneasiness I feel as I figure out what I am going to do. I realize that subtle tension is a natural by-product of creativity. It makes the process more engaging and ultimately more satisfying.