mentors: Tasha Tudor

It’s been hot here lately.  Every day I watch brave floral optimism blossom then shrivel with the arc of the sun.  At night, we drag out the hoses and give our flower beds courage to face the next day. I have dreams of a Tasha Tudor-style garden, but it is early stages yet.  I baby along a single poppy, four or five zinnias, a handful of sweet peas, short and unfragrant.  In the books I have of Tasha’s garden, everything is lush and cool and lovely and Tasha is never flustered, never sweating through her improbable dresses trying to unkink a length of pale green rubber hose, never standing over empty beds wondering where the seeds went or why those plants all died so quickly.  It doesn’t discourage me.  I pour over her books anyway.  Over the years, I’ve come to welcome her as a mentor.

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Tasha at home.  From “The Private World of Tasha Tudor” by Richard Brown

Lately, with so much of my life shifting, I’ve been thinking about these teachers we come across, the ones who unknowingly shape us into the people we are becoming.  Tasha comes to mind first because she was a gifted commercial artist and illustrator, but she proudly defended her life as a homemaker:

“Whenever I get one of those questionnaires and they ask what is your profession, I always put down housewife.  It’s an admirable profession, why apologize for it?”

So often I find myself torn between vocations, but Tasha didn’t seem burdened by that dichotomy at all.  As beloved as her art became, she didn’t see herself lessened by her commitment to homemaking;  she admitted she illustrated so she could afford flower bulbs and corgis and her 1850’s-homage house.  I find it a pleasure to keep a tidy house, to keep the cookie jar stocked, to crochet a blanket or sew a pair of pants, to have a meal ready when others come home.  Whenever I’ve ignored these things for the sake of more “important” work, I feel untrue to myself.  But Tasha reminds me it is possible to go this way, to craft a life that holds both my work as a writer and my work as a homemaker in equal value.

“I’m perfectly content,” she says. “I have no other desires than to live right here with my dogs and my goats and my birds.  I think I’ve done a good job of life, but I have no message to give anyone.  If I do have a philosophy, it is one best expressed by Henry David Thoreau:  “If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”  That is my credo.  It is absolutely true.  It is my whole life summed up.”

I can’t imagine Tasha rushing through her life, wringing her hands over her busyness (like nearly everyone I meet these days).  I imagine her purposeful and committed, showing up each day for the narrow band of things she wanted her life to encompass: her garden, her family, her books and art.  There’s no sense of drama about Tasha.  She wasn’t trying to save the world, to fix every injustice.  She created.  She nurtured.  She lived.  And so many of us have found her a refuge, a point of light.  If for no other reason, she’s a worthy mentor because she shows us that we change each other by being unapologetically true to who we are as individuals.

So inspiring, isn’t she?

I’ll write more about other mentors later, but I’d love to hear about any you have.

Some glimpses of home:

FW18.geeseandhouse
Buttercup and Westley and the gang perusing the weeds in the front “flower” beds.  Just keeping it real  🙂
FW18.youngapples
Apples on the way!
FW18.nutmilk
Working on reducing our use of tetrapaks.  Homemade pumpkin seed milk and almond milk, plus mint infused water for these hot days.
FW18.bagels
Meg made GF bagels and we topped them with Everything Bagel Spice.  So good!
FW18.readingandflowers
Neil Postman’s “Amusing Ourselves to Death”:  enlightening!  And ugh.

10 thoughts on “mentors: Tasha Tudor

  1. Tasha is one of my favorites as well! Tonia your home is breath taking! I find myself finding more and more as my bio kids have flown and come home, they purposely seem to head my way because of the quietness and cookie jar, and weed filled chaos. I also know that my fasd (letters that dont define just tell a story) adopted 11 year old boy needs this place. Right now he loves home and I am grateful. Trauma filled kids cause trauma. I need my feet on the ground and solid things I can change (weeding!) and nurture (and birds to sing no matter what, 🙂 All is grace from God in my mind. I have no idea what my son’s future holds, but right now here, its flowers and a pond and chickens and zucchini….thank you for your words. They helped me exhale this morning. And just a side non political note, refugees and immigrants are really wanting what we have yes? A home, to put their feet on and cultivate and love? A jar of flour in the cupboard and bread in a box? We are so blessed!

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    1. We are SO blessed. I think of that often, how wealthy we are, just by having a safe home and flowers and food in the cupboard. For so many in the world our lives are filled with an unbelievable luxury.

      It’s so important to me as well that my grown kids (and now grandkids!) have a true home to return to, and having raised an fasd child myself, I know how critical that availability and spaciousness will always be for him. I truly feel like it is my calling to create this space. (And how important it was when everyone was younger to have someone home creating beauty and peace when (as you said) trauma was spilling over and creating more chaos for everyone.)

      Giving thanks this morning with you!

      tonia

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  2. So enjoyed this, tonia…especially the photos of your place and the reality of your small successes and, perhaps, not always confident advances. At least, that’s how I find my own living out of her favorite philosophy.

    You know that Tasha has been an influence on me for a long while, and when I think of her now, I can see more clearly all that went into the creation of her lifestyle…her upbringing…the letting go of her marriage…how she seemed to gather supportive people around her. You know, the ones that did the bulk of the mowing with machines after she scythed the tricky bits of her garden. : )

    And she lost her way sometimes (and that encourages me because it is one of the more modern/relatable episodes of her life) like when she went a ways into the commercialization and branding of her lifestyle for awhile.

    Your thoughts especially speak to my thoughts, having just finished the second chapter of A Gift from the Sea for Wisteria & Sunshine. Because T.T. was really good at shaping her life the way she wanted. Of course, she was able to because her work wasn’t dependent on the interwebs as so much work is now.

    “There’s no sense of drama about Tasha. She wasn’t trying to save the world, to fix every injustice. She created. She nurtured. She lived. And so many of us have found her a refuge, a point of light.” I feel such relief in these words of yours! As I turn towards my elderwoman years, I am finding the intense passion I until-recently felt for “saving the world” has slipped away. Not that the concern or caring has, but the way I will express it is shifting. To think of simply manifesting it in the everyday deep and sharing it ways that feel good (she wouldn’t be one of our lights without her books, would she?) is so hopeful. xo

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    1. Dearest Lesley,

      I was thinking as I wrote this out that TT is one of those mentors I only want from afar. What appeals to me is not her humanity, per se, but the life she created – which is, in essence, her art. I don’t think I’d actually want to know her personally. (We feel this way about visual artists and movie stars, too, I think sometimes….we’re enamored of the work, not the person necessarily.)

      I do admit it makes me smile to imagine how cranky and persnickety she must have been. I’m sure it was difficult to live with someone who was so SURE of her path. 😉

      ~ You know, I’ve undergone a shift recently too and feel more comfortable just being human these days. I don’t do anything perfectly or all the way, in fact, I feel like I’m mostly good at being reasonable and moderate about things. Hee! Maybe it’s like any relationship…eventually you move past the passion and emotion and into the slow, daily growing upwards, with seasons of fallowness and seasons of springing up. I certainly see your life as a light, and from here, the trajectory of your intentions seems evident, but I’m glad you aren’t feeling the great weight of it all these days. Maybe that’s a blessing of the elderwoman stage!

      Sending love.

      tonia

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  3. Tasha Tudor has been an inspiration for many and I can see why. I so enjoyed this post Tonia (and I’ve missed your words, too.) This line especially resonated:
    “Whenever I’ve ignored these things for the sake of more “important” work, I feel untrue to myself.”

    My journey into the Christian writing community via blogging and conferences has definitely morphed; truly, poetry seems to call the most and when I enlist my energies in that endeavor I do feel most like the self God made me to be.
    —–
    Mentors? Hmmmm….I’m going to have to think about that. Models of how to live a life might be a better turn of the phrase (semantics. always semantics :-). Living–Lanier Ivester comes to mind.
    Not living–Gladys Taber. They both/each embody a way to live through the simplest joys of this world–beauty in flowers, the right cup of tea, the wealth of the right words, the company of dear friends.
    And a sense of God’s hand in it all–I think they model that well.
    ((I love your mint-infused water idea. Mint has threatened to take over my vegetable bed–I should go get some right now and try that. 82 in Seattleland and more heat on the way. Stay cool!))

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    1. Oh yes, Lanier is exquisite. Great choice. And you know how I treasure Gladys Taber. She’s much more down to earth than Tasha! 🙂

      This experience with writing online and being in community is really a journey isn’t it? I’ve really changed as well. I love that you are finding your home in poetry. We need poets desperately.

      Stay cool! It’s 96 here today. Egads! Not good for my Oregon-heart.

      Peace keep you, Jody.

      tonia

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  4. Is it not too weird to say that you have felt like a mentor many times?
    🙂
    I was so clueless all those years ago. Finding my faith, finding my feet and learning how to keep a home and be a Mama. It was the dawn of the internet and I was in a new home, a new town and feeling quite alone. I know technology has its negative side (and I’m rambling way off topic here 😉 but the handful of blogs I visited written by seasoned, christian mothers who shared both their struggles, joys, faith and insights were lifelines and gave me gentle inspiration and mentoring that I will always be grateful for.
    Tasha Tudor, like many great artists creates something that epitomises a beautiful, transcendent ideal or idea which is beautiful even if real life can never perfectly replicate it.

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    1. It doesn’t sound weird to me, because of course, I was in a similar boat and you have been a lovely mentor to me as well. We nurtured each other in those early days, didn’t we? I love that so many of these relationships have continued in the same way.

      Yes, Tasha’s mentoring for me is one of ideals, not practicalities! She emulated something to aim for and I am truly grateful for her presence and art!

      Love to you my dear friend. Always.

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