pre-publication review: May 27, 2005
In a House by the Seaby Sandy Gingras
Sandy Gingras has created a genre all her own. Whether you call it new age, or spirituality, or self-help or inspiration, her mix of prose, poetry and artwork is enormously popular. The author-illustrator always delights and surprises readers with her wit, her observations, with layers of reflection and a depth of feeling in her deceptively simple series of
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Sandy Gingras has created a genre all her own. Whether you call it new age, or spirituality, or self-help or inspiration, her mix of prose, poetry and artwork is enormously popular. The author-illustrator always delights and surprises readers with her wit, her observations, with layers of reflection and a depth of feeling in her deceptively simple series of books.
The beach house - a house that may be metaphorical or real - inspires her latest title, In a House by the Sea. A collection of short essays, stories, prose poems and illustrated vignettes, the book is about emotion and feeling as much as place, mood and memory as much as the beach. In the essay "This is What Makes Me," she writes of being oriented in life by "A beach (more emotional than geographic) that I keep walking on. A summer (more attitude than season) that I keep longing for."
"A is for Attitude" offers a whimsical beach woman's A-to-Z (from "A is for Away. Away, beach woman, away with you to the beach! You've had enough reality" ...to "Z is for zither and zoology and Zena the Warrior Princess and all those other things that you will never do or be, and how perfectly OK that is with you.") The prose-poem "How to Build a Castle" and the essay "Navigating" are thoughtful reflections about awareness, discovery and acceptance, as is the story "Change" - a wind that blows through lives. "Storm" and "You and Me in a House by the Sea" are emotionally rich love letters.
"A Beach House - What the Realtor Should Have Told You," and "What the Beach House is For," remind us that what people really desire (at the beach or anywhere) can not be bought, that simplicity and happiness can only come from the life you live.
"Outside Shower" delights in the freedom and wildness of this quintessential summer beach experience. And the wit in illustrated vignettes like "Flip-Flop Moods," "Beach Hats," "Sunsets," or "Moods" will make the reader smile while distilling life's moments into their pure essence.
Living in the moment, finding beauty in one's surroundings, an awareness of the moods and feelings that make life whole - these thoughts resonate poignantly in In a House by the Sea.
pre-publication review: May 27, 2005
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This is what makes me
It's the first day of summer. I'm ten or maybe twelve. School's out, and the world is stretching itself into one long basking day after another. My father is driving my family to the beach in our station wagon his one arm (tan from the bicep down) angles out the window and he's drumming his fingers on the car door. "Up, Up and Away" is playing on the scratchy car radio. I'm sitting on my one folded leg to get a little height so I can be the first one to see the ocean as we go over the bridge. I'm trying not to throw up from too much excitement and too much time in the back seat. We're getting there. The air begins to smell like salt. There's suddenly sand on the side of the road.
When we pull into the overgrown driveway of our summer house, it's noon. It's high noon. It's the heart of the day. I run over the dune. The sky is huge. The water is blue and glistening and utterly calm. The tide is lower than it's ever been. Come to me, it is calling. The sand is an endless stretch of beckoning flatness. Run on me, it is saying. A little sailboat is making its slow way along the horizon. I'm half girl, half woman, just like I'll always be. I realize suddenly that summer is a verb. Beach is a verb. I am a verb. I want to beach, beach, beach, summer, summer, summer, I, I, I. Do you know that moment? Do you know what it's like when there's enough life to grasp and squeeze and you can feel the juice running down your arms. When there's enough life to waste and sift through your fingers and squander on pure silliness. When there's that much abundance. That much possibility...
You do. I know you do. If only in your imagination. And that's all you really need. Because this moment never really happened to me either. A couple parts maybe, but the rest is a mixture of fiction and dream and desire. Yet it defines me more than any "real" memory. However I grow, my mind is anchored in this moment. And wherever I go, my heart steers toward it as sure as a compass. It's not nostalgia. And it's not stuckness. It's just an idea I have inside me: A beach (more emotional that geographic) that I keep walking on. A summer (more attitude than season) that I keep longing for. This is what moves me. This is what makes me a beach woman.
A Beach House: What the realtor should have told you
Let it have the feel and smell of the beach in it. Let the salt and the sand buff the boards, let the colors bleach. Let the shells collect, let the wind blow, let the towels flap on the line. Easy does it... Let the hard stuff soften. Let the harsh things fade. Let it have the soul of the beach in it. Do you know what I mean? It doesn't matter what it cost or how big it is or what couch you put where. Simplicity is not for sale. Neither is peace. You have to live it. I'm sorry but you do. The realtor should have told you this when you were buying the house.
You have to love in this house. You have to remember yourself here. You have to go out onto your decks, sit on them and breathe. In these rooms, you have to live. You have to laugh here. And kiss and tickle and play, nap and yawn and read, bask and dream. Allow all the good verbs. Let them romp. And your kids have to learn how to swim here, manage a rip tide, cut their feet on shells, sink a little into the marsh, have their first crush on a lifeguard, their first kiss in the dunes. They have to burn and dive, they have to be tossed by waves, they have to soar their kites far over you heads. You know they do...
Don't plan the day. It's OK, it's OK. Really it is. If there's sand on your feet... If the chairs don't match...If nothing gets done... Can you let it be? Can you feel how right it is?
Let there be pencil lines on the white kitchen paneling where the kids' heights get marked every summer. Let the bikes rust. Let the bayberry bush grow wild and unruly in the front yard (it gives the porch that green shady shimmery scent and makes it feel like such a secret place). Let the freezer have a plastic bag of minnows sitting on the shelf next to the carton of ice cream. Let the plates be paper. Let the tomato plant grow out of the compost pile. Let there be stories in this room. A mess made there. Rest in that chair. Close your eyes. Let it be what it is.
The decorator should have told you. The realtor should have told you. A beach house doesn't come furnished with life. It doesn't have simplicity built in. You can't buy the mood. Even if you have a lot of money. You have to live it in.
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2001 Pulitzer Prizewinner for poetry, Distinguished Professor of Creative Writing, Richard Stockton College of New Jersey
author of A Year by the Sea, An Unfinished Marriage, and A Walk on the Beach
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