Dorian Webb

Redefining Aquamarine

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Derived from the Latin words aqua marinus, meaning “water of the sea,” aquamarine is a beryl that ranges from the almost clear blue green of a raindrop to a deeper, more striated teal that resembles the depths of the sea. In its brilliant green form, we refer to this beryl as emerald. Aquamarine is the March birthstone and purported to have many beneficial properties.

Aquamarine opens the channels of clear and heartfelt communication. [Simmons, 49]

I turn fifty this month.

Aquamarine embodies all things connected to the sea, as well as the world above it, reflected on its surface. It becomes a mirror, reflecting itself indefinitely, making it possible to discover the hidden meanings of reality. (where do these quotes comes from Need to cite sources.) [Megemont, 31-32]

I started worrying about this milestone birthday when I turned forty-nine. Never a huge planner, I surprised myself with my ability to focus, with feverish intensity, all my thoughts on a date 365 days away. It wasn’t the outward signs of aging that concerned me – how the decades have shaped my perspective and my silhouette (nothing much I can do about that!), but instead the finite number of years that lie before me. Like a hamster’s wheel, my thoughts circled me endlessly:

Am I doing enough?

Am I fulfilling my potential?

How do I want to live the remainder of my life?

I felt compelled to dedicate myself to some life-defining direction but was paralyzed by the specter of roads not taken and dreams left unfulfilled. It did not make me fun at dinner parties.

Aquamarine encourages the ideal of service to the world and to the development of a humanity attuned to healing. [Melody, 129]

My mother suggested I join a venerable organization that I mentioned to her was woefully out of touch with its base and sclerotic to its core, so that I could “move up the ladder and turn it inside out with (my) vision!”

It also allows us to explore the darkest depths of our souls, face to face with ourselves, and with others. [Megemont, 31-32]

I declined.

A travel crystal, Aquamarine protects those who journey by sea, and guards those involved in any long-haul travel such as flying long distances. [Eason, 42]

I did start (mentally) planning a trip to far-off lands, however. I now understand the desire to face the spectrum of possibilities that is the future, surrounded by friends and loved ones, in a place one has only dreamed about. Confronting fears is made easier by a supportive community that knows and loves you. These gatherings not only celebrate the achievement of a date on the calendar, but also one’s ability to navigate the maze of life that led you to that moment.

Aquamarine is calming, soothing, and cleansing, and inspires truth, trust and letting go. [Simmons, 49]

Whether or not I end up celebrating my birthday in some exotic locale (see thoughts on planning above), I will embrace the days ahead, valuing them for the gift they are. I will be grateful for the choices and mistakes I have made in the past and will look forward to and make peace with making another round of them in the future. It’s a start.

 

[Simmons, pp.] Robert Simmons & Naisha Ahsian, The Book of Stones (Berkley, CA: North Atlantic Books, 2007).

[Megemont, pp.] Florence Megemont, The Metaphysical Book of Gems and Crystals (Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 2008).

[Melody, pp.] Melody, Love Is In The Earth (Wheat Ridge, CO: Earth-Love Publishing House, 1995).

[Eason, pp. ]Cassandra Eason, The New Crystal Bible (London: Carlton Books Ltd., 2010).

 

One history, of many...

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My parents are moving to the neighborhood! Since my husband and I first moved to Montclair, they have been enamored this quiet little enclave high in the hills of Oakland. My mom, despite having grown up in coal mining territory- Beckley, West Virginia, was at first terrified of the steep, guardrail-free drive required to arrive at our house. Not at all mollified by the gorgeous vistas of the bay, or the sparkling bridges beyond, she averted her eyes, her white knuckles grasping the back of my headrest for dear life. My dad, comfortable in most any situation, was more sanguine, happily commenting on the new environment as we snaked higher and higher into the clouds, asking a slew of pertinent questions (“So how many people live in Oakland?” What is the elevation?”) that we were ill equipped to answer.

I remember that first visit as if it were yesterday. They had come to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary with us and our friends. We planned a party for about 50 of our nearest and dearest, a group that also included my dad’s best friend from childhood, whom we hadn’t yet met although he lived in Oakland, and a surprise visit from my eldest cousin who lives in Indianapolis, my dad’s hometown.

For most families, a celebration of this milestone would have been commonplace. For ours, it was extraordinary. While the institution of marriage is revered, the ceremony around it has never been all that important to any of us.  My parents, my mother’s sister, and my grandparents before them, all were married in a low key fashion at a local courthouse by the justice of the peace.(“We JP'ed it” my aunt says of the day of her union with my uncle, also 50+ years ago) I’m not sure if any photos exist of these  . I have never seen them.  

When my husband and I were planning our nuptials, he asked/ urged me to invite my parents to “our big day”. Caught up in the moment, and buoyed by his enthusiasm, I did. I regretted it as soon as the words left my mouth.  “Why?” my mother asked me in response to my invitation. I stumbled a bit at the answer, myself, “We thought you and dad might like to be a part of our special day, and, um would like to witness us…” My words drifted off over the phone lines connecting me to the house where I grew up, to the east coast where I knew my mom was cradling the phone to her ear, perched on her favorite couch in the artwork lined family room. Never short of words, she interjected, “Look, Dorian, when your father and I got married many years ago, we paid an inebriated man $20 to be our witness. Are kids not doing that nowadays?”

That was eight years ago, when my father was still able pick out suits and ties and dress himself. Now, on warm summer days, my mom will tuck him into T-shirt we gifted him from a local company that proudly proclaims Oakland's population and elevation under the outlines of a rooted oak tree, and will gently remind him that Oakland is where my husband and I live.

So finally they will return to the Bay Area. Not to Montclair exactly, “About an hour away. That is close enough. We need our privacy.” as my mom succinctly put it. And I couldn’t be happier.

A Prosperous New Year

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Expectations are high. Intentions filled with optimism have been set, and thanks to a self-imposed period of cocooning at home after Christmas, they are matched by a renewed energy level that is almost visible. Despite a track record of spotty resolution execution: 1.2 lbs. lost instead of twenty; three bestselling documentaries purchased, dutifully attempted and set aside (while any trashy novel captivates me like a shiny, irresistible object), I remain resolutely optimistic. This will be THE year. 

And it will be, for the things that matter. My life will be filled with abundance on each of its 365 days. I happily take this fact for granted, knowing that I have done my part. On January 1, 2019, I, along with countless African Americans, ensure a successful year by connecting to our ancestors and partaking in our holy trinity: black-eyed peas, pork and greens.

Black-eyed peas are said to bring luck. Whether these legumes derive their power from the belief that they were all that slaves had to eat to celebrate on January 1, 1863, the day the Emancipation Proclamation took effect, or from the same sentiment that fostered the centuries-old tradition of celebrating Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) with their consumption, black-eyed peas on the first day of the year are a must.

Pork connotes prosperity. Pork, and its “lesser” cuts – pig’s feet, ham hocks, chitterlings – are staples of the traditional African American diet. On New Year’s Day, they are symbols of abundance and progress, similar to that of roast pork and pork dumplings in other cultures. The idea of a pig signifying forward thinking due to its inability to turn its head without turning its entire body, is one that makes me smile.

Greens attract green. Perhaps the most literal of all the holiday’s iconography are leafy, late-season greens. The inclusion of greens on the table (cabbage in many cultures), portends easy access to wealth in the new year. If, unfortunately, you missed the lucky window for 2019, worry not. Even if they may no longer guarantee $1,000 earned with each mouthful eaten, greens are a wonderful treat, no matter when they are enjoyed.

 

Dorian’s Greens

3 bunches of kale or other greens

Quart (32 oz) box of unsalted chicken stock

Small yellow onion, diced

½ cup brown sugar

⅛ cup white vinegar

Red pepper flakes

Salt and pepper

A 1” x 2” strip of fatback (optional)* or a dash of olive oil

Sauvignon blanc or any white wine you have on hand (optional)

Heat half the chicken stock in a large pot. Boil fatback in water until tender – approximately 5 minutes. Let cool slightly and cut into small pieces. Rinse greens well. Separate leaves from tough center spine and cut into small pieces with kitchen scissors. Add to boiling stock. Add onion, brown sugar, vinegar and fatback. If not using fatback, add a dash of olive oil. Sprinkle red pepper over pot. Lower heat to medium and cook for about 10 minutes. Stir. Greens will cook down considerably. Add half of the remaining chicken stock. Continue to cook, adding stock as necessary. If you run out of stock, add wine. Proportions should be greens with some liquid (pot liquor, the best part!) not a soup. Taste, adding salt, pepper and adjusting seasonings to taste. Greens are done when they are easily chewable, about 20 -30 minutes.

*Since fatback is not always readily available, I ask the butcher to put it aside for me a few days before I need it. It is doubtful that you will be able to find a piece that small. Fatback lasts for 3-6 months in the freezer when well wrapped.

 

Creating A Table full of Color, Conversation and Community

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While the thrill of standard gift giving and gift getting may have peaked years (decades) ago, the comfort of community has not. For the best, I think, our newly shortened days force us to make tough choices about our time: what we spend it on, and whom we spend it with. And how. Anything else becomes irrelevant.

I choose home with family, friends and that interesting person whom I happened to strike up a conversation with in the local grocery store. As my favorite writer and poet, Elizabeth Alexander said recently, “Family is porous. Family is accepting and welcoming. Family always has space and makes room for another.”

As a designer, I think that that feeling of inclusivity should be reflected not only in actions, but also in objects that create an environment for those actions to thrive.  Growing up, we rarely decorated for the holidays, with minimal decorations dwindling over the years to nothing. I don’t know if I ever really missed it though- our house was always alive with color, conversation and community.

While many things have changed for me in the last few decades- moving to the Bay Area, getting married, taking long hikes in the middle of the workday - my love of color has not. Perhaps it has something to do with my African American heritage and the long line of people before me making something wonderful out of disparate bits and pieces, but I am most at ease surrounded by vibrant splashes of color and patterns and textures of all sorts. I am energized by the polyrhythmic layering of tones, shapes and sensations. THIS is what excites me.

I believe holiday table setting should be as stimulating as the conversation you expect to flow above it, so I spend the night before every dinner party happily preparing for my guests. Each gathering is inspired by the guests themselves, but five elements remain a constant.

1. White tablecloths are jettisoned for fabrics I have found in my travels. Sometimes a soft cotton scarf, printed with shells that I brought back from Italy acts as backdrop, other times a shimmery green, gold flecked shawl from Delhi makes an appearance.

2. Sets dishes are mixed within one place setting, piling hue upon hue and housewarming presents with travel finds. Conversation starters to be sure, but also pragmatic. In this way, I can easily accommodate additional arrivals with the same level of casual elegance and exuberance that I do for expected guests.  Family always has space…

3. Candles dot the table. They are a cityscape of soft lights that create intimacy and a flattering glow.

4. An unusual centerpiece crowns the table. Sometimes it is a small scale, overlooked sculpture rescued  from a bookshelf that is given its star turn for the night, other times it is constructed just for the evening, using a glue gun and whatever is handy.

5. In low juice glasses (to encourage cross table chatting) I gather seasonal flowers from the local farmers market, and intersperse them with fragrant sprigs of rosemary cut from our hedges, or vibrant red stalks of protea to give a sense of moment and place. These small individualized bouquets are gifts to my dinner guests, as a small memento of our time together.

Wishing you a holiday season filled with color and creativity!



The Space Between

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Happy Holidays!

I always look forward to the last week of the year with great anticipation.

Now that the frenzy of the holiday has passed, and the new year has yet to begin, the days unfold with a new rhythm. The pressure of quotidian life is quickly and gloriously cast OFF. Whether I treat myself to a getaway in some far flung locale, or stay at home to relax in more familiar surroundings, it is a period of interior quiet and reflection. Cocooning is quintessential.

Inside the cozy boundaries of this particular week, isolated from the onslaught of the everyday, we are all given the gift of a time to pause. It is an extraordinary gift: this vital interval nurtures our minds and fortifies our souls. What appears on the surface to be stillness is, at its best, incredibly proactive. It enables us to develop, evolve and ultimately unfurl our creative, marvelous selves.

Now is a critical time devoted to the essentials of a well lived life: Time to simply BE. Time to relax. Time to unwind. Time to breathe. Time to think. Time to remember. Time to let go. Time to accept. Time to review successes. Time to acknowledge challenges. Time to celebrate our strengths. Time to reassess our goals. Time to reconnect with friends, family and ourselves. Time to appreciate the journey we are on.

And really, life is just about the journey, that space between the moments, isn’t it?

Wishing you the luxury of exploring the beautiful space between the moments.

Fall: Bring it ON!

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I LOVE this time of year.

After Labor Day and the unofficial end of summer arrives, fall beckons with promise. With summer memories still fresh in mind, autumn entices with its own distinct palette of activities and colors.  Summer offers much anticipated visits to exotic locales and exciting, far flung locations. Its attraction lies in relaxation. Of mind, and of body. Casualness is its mantra. Days pass with languor.  As you bask in the warm sun, your silhouette relaxes as well. Clothing is spare or loose and flowing. Minimal effort is rewarded.

Summer has its undeniable and simple charms. And yet, it is autumn that excites me.

Autumn is interactive and communal. Its pleasures are immediate. Its beauty lies in remaining closer to home. Invitations for dinner, drinks, gallery openings, art exhibitions, business seminars and charity galas fill your inbox. Each event is an opportunity to reconnect with friends and associates. Each one provides grounds for learning, and for sharing and celebrating what has been learned. Each is a welcome challenge to step up your game, mentally and sartorially.

Fall’s discussions are stimulating, and its conversations ripe with reflection. Remembrances of travel and moments experienced flavor every discourse. Words flow meaningfully and long simmering thoughts become actionable ideas. Somehow, your perspective seems clearer and more sanguine. And maybe it is... You are more attuned to the beautiful details of everyday life that are lost in summer’s glare.

In fall fashions, visual and tactile sensations are heightened. Creamy expanses of suede dissolve into undulating layers of fringe and tassels. Denim stands at attention, darkened, and crisp.  Patent leather winks with shine and decorative perforations. At this time of year, textures and materials are also combined for maximum interest. Structured leather jackets open to reveal silky satin blouses. A cozy cashmere wrap is enlivened by the brilliant sparkle of an unexpectedly placed heirloom. The rhythmic weave of a sweater sleeve ends in the flourish of a conversation-starting cocktail ring.

Now, as the weather slowly begins to cool, summer’s bright colors give way to the more nuanced shades of autumn. The eye eagerly adjusts to the richer hues the season offers. Neutral white morphs into a blush pink, then a deep bordeaux. Sunny yellow becomes a burnished orange, mellowed with time. Blue runs the gamut from the softest cerulean to the most commanding of cobalt. Purples follow lead of the amethyst spectrum. Fuchsia surprises in quick bursts- on eye catching jewelry or the petal of a late blooming flower. Chocolate brown is overlaid with caramel, and given definition with inky indigo. Juxtaposition rules in fashion as in nature. The sculptural qualities of bronze are underscored by pops of turquoise, whether in a statement ring or in the branches of a tree, framed by the September sky. Coral makes a noted reappearance; in autumn, accented with pearl, it retains its individuality, but is polished, regal. The breadth and bounty of fall’s harvest is echoed in the ample use of berried tones and is highlighted by emerald green, teal and gilded surfaces. From its very start, fall is alive with the appreciation of life well enjoyed.

Fall? I’m ready. Bring it ON.