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Last weekend we took a walk around our neighborhood in Berkeley, California and I brought my camera. Flowers are always in bloom around the San Francisco Bay Area, and though we don’t have the seasonal extremes out here like we do in New England, we do at least have a little bit of seasonal variation when it comes to the flora. RIght now it feels like the end of spring to me, though it’s actually still February. Here’s a peek at the blossoms blooming right now in our neighborhood.

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Now I consider myself fairly knowledgeable about all things botanical, but I’m going to generalize with this one and call it a cherry blossom, though it also strikes me as an apple blossom. The petals are an unusually deep shade of magenta. Dazzling!

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This sweet little guy was blooming on a hydrangea bush along with a few other globes about three times his size. So dainty.

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This is an example of how exotic the vegetation in the Bay Area can be. I don’t know what these guys are called, but they added a flash of brightness to this bed of succulents growing along the sidewalk.

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A dazzling cherry blossom tree. Such vivid color popping up outside this white/grey house. How cheerful it must be to go to work every morning when you live here.

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The church across the street has the most stunning magnolia trees blooming in its yard. We have one in our front yard too, but it gets more sun and is already mostly green.

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Jasmine is bursting from several fences in our neighborhood. They give off the most majestic aroma. I look forward to enjoying these guys through the next month or two.

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And finally, here’s Elodie picking her favorite flowers of the month — some kind of yellow clover blossom. Though the leaves look a lot like clover leaves to me, they’re actually not. A friend once told me what they’re called, but unfortunately I forgot. If you know the names of any of the flowers here that I couldn’t identify, or that I mistakenly identified, please let us know in the comments section.

And if you have some pretty flowers blooming in your garden or around your neighborhood, please send me a photo with a note about your town and the flowers we’re seeing in the picture, and I’ll feature it on Tidepooler! You can email me by clicking here.

Just before I turned 31, I got a sister-in-law. She was about to turn 16 and looked beautiful in her bridesmaid dress. We met six years earlier, when she was just 10. “The thing about my family is that we’re world travelers,” she told me one day during a trip to Paris early on in my relationship with her brother. I was charmed and impressed by this wonderful girl. In time, we traveled the world together, and I can dwell forever on the memories we made. We drifted along the canals of Venice, watched the sky turn pink in Stockholm, and rode a Ferris wheel in Paris. We cracked ourselves up over kidney shaped swimming pools in the Caribbean, were dazzled by directors in Park City, and dove beneath the tropical sea in Mexico.  I watched her blossom, from a graceful dancer with braided hair in the “Nutcracker,” to an energetic young filmmaker pounding the pavement in New York City. In November, I lost my sister-in-law. She passed away in Prague–achingly beautiful, smoldering in history Prague. Of course she died in Prague. Of course the setting for her life’s last chapter was this iconic, legendary city. Sophie is gone from this life. I won’t link her arm in mine again. I won’t hear the sound of her excited, optimistic voice. But she will be with me forever in my heart. Our family believes this to the depths of our souls.

The last time I saw her she was no longer a child. She was a beautiful young woman beaming with love, happiness, and enthusiasm. This is what I feel now when I think of her. Whenever I start to feel sad, I just think about how brightly she shone, and I’m filled with her light-hearted grace. I look at the sky, or the treetops, and I smile.

A couple years ago, Sophie starred in a music video, which she also directed with some classmates from NYU Tisch. It was for the song “All Wash Out,” by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. Last month, the band made her video the official video for the song. (Read MTV’s story) What’s so remarkable about the video is that it gives us a glimpse into her own ideas about life after death. Her film is such a blessing, because we can watch it anytime we want and imagine what she’s doing right now. I know Sophie’s soul is free, and it’s leaping, soaring, dancing, laughing…

Look at the sky, and smile.

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One brisk morning last fall Elodie and I ventured to the Pere Lachaise Cemetery to collect chestnuts. We had noticed the hundreds of chrysanthemum plants for sale at the local funerary businesses in our neighborhood (big bright bursting blossoms set out on the street always made me smile). And that morning, we were surprised to see gardeners planting dozens of them on the cemetery grounds. I later learned that the planting was in preparation for All Saint’s Day, or Toussaint as they call it in French. Celebrated on November 1, the public holiday is reserved for spending time visiting the graves of deceased loved ones. I adore strolling the cobbled paths of that crumbling cemetery any time of year, but the profusion of flowers that covers the newer graves in the first weeks of November make the month a particularly pleasant time to pay your respects to Chopin, Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrison, and all the other luminaries lucky enough to be buried in one of the world’s most beautiful cemeteries. It’s also the time of year when we remember my great-grandmother, who would have turned 101 this year.

Here are a few photos from our walk that that beautiful fall morning in Paris.

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I’ve been missing New York like crazy. So I went ahead and splurged on a little present for myself. I ordered the T-shirt pictured at the top. Now some of my cousins will think I should have gotten the shirt on the bottom, because Rhode Island is after all my home state. Of course Little Rhody, that dear old Ocean State, will always be home, and I get goose bumps just looking at its beautiful shape with all its little bays and inlets. But in my heart of hearts New York is my home. It’s home home, you know what I mean? It’s where I became a person. It’s where I spent my twenties, wistfully following the ghosts of Andy Warhol and Bob Dylan’s 1960s, kicking around Union Square and Washington Square Park like a folk singer or a Factory superstar depending on the day and the current obsession. And when that phase wore off I modeled myself after Bianca Jagger, pining for a Studio 54 of my own while drinking champagne to the beat of the Bee Gees. New York is where I became a career girl, fighting my way off the subway each morning in an A-line skirt and riding the escalator up to my office in Times Square like an East Coast Mary Tyler Moore. It’s where I nurtured my craft, interviewing jazz pianists and saxophonists in teeny apartments, out-of-the-way restaurants, and park benches. It’s where I pliéd and relevéd every Thursday night with an extraordinary group of 25 to 85-year-old women, bolstered by the energy emanating from the grand halls of Lincoln Center down the street. It’s where I spent lunch breaks volunteering at the library at PS3, my little sister’s elementary school. It’s where I walked by Tom Wolfe on an Upper East Side avenue and chatted with Hilary Swank in an elevator, and Monica Lewinsky in a different elevator. It’s where I drank draft beer in a Lower East Side honky tonk bar and danced to country music with the guy who would become my husband. There. So even though I only lived in New York for nine years, plus a couple summers during college, I think I’ve just offered up enough evidence to entitle me to wear the shirt at the top. Now if I can just figure out how to trade in that “California” driver’s license I carry around. Because try as I might, I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to call this place home.

If you want a home T-shirt too you can order them here. Don’t feel guilty about dropping the 28 bucks because part of the proceeds go to multiple sclerosis research. Which state will you get?

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How cute are these beach towels? They’re on sale at One King’s Lane today and I can hardly resist the urge to buy one for everyone in my family. Wouldn’t they make great Christmas presents? Although once the holidays roll around maybe it would seem weird to get such a summery item. Either way, I’d love to throw one in my bag and head out to Rockaway Beach right now.

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This photograph makes me think of peace. I can imagine being there, feeling the cold air, hearing the lapping of icy waters — all so still and calm and beautiful. The picture arrived in my inbox via an email from e-flux, which tells me about art exhibitions and other events going on around the world. I hope I don’t get in trouble for using it. After reading the email, I learned that it is an image of Fogo Island in Newfoundland. I’ve always dreamed of going to that part of the world, and once I’m happily settled back in the Northeast, I plan to spend some time exploring the green and white terrain of Nova Scotia. I’m not sure I’ll make it all the way to Newfoundland, though I’d like to.

This summer, scholars, architects, geographers, and planners are meeting on Fogo Island to discuss ideas about rural renewal. I love that concept. They’ll be talking about preserving the heritage and local traditions of far off places where the threads of history are fading — places like Fogo Island, where remnants of Irish and English heritage are still woven into the lives of the people who live there. I look forward to reading about what kinds of ideas they come up with.

If you’ve got the urge to go to Fogo Island, you might want to consider staying at the Fogo Island Inn, a striking new hotel where quilts hand sewn by fishermen’s wives lie across the beds.

And if you’ve got any tips for my eastern Canadian odyssey, do let me know.

Photo: Steffen Jagenburg via e-flux.

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