Royal Beauty + Birgit’s True Elfins + Podcast: Gruen’s Ageless Passion

María del Rosario Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart y Silva, 18th Duchess of Alba
María del Rosario Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart y Silva, 18th Duchess of Alba

Passion at Any Age by Lee Gale Gruen Happiness Between Tails

#Authors #Books #Writing #Aging #Acting Do you worry that you're too old to accomplish something you 're passionate about? Lee Gale Gruen started acting, publishing books, and blogging after she retired from a career as a probation officer. Share your thoughts, experiences, and questions by recording them on my Anchor by Spotify page — or comment at HappinessBetweenTails.com — or email me. Like what you hear? Buy me a coffee. buymeacoffee.com/SupportHBT Time Stamps (where segments begin): HBT introduction Today’s topic and about today’s guest 1:05 “Passion at Any Age,” by Lee Gale Gruen My question for you HBT outro Links used for the HBT blog post of this episode: Lee Gale Gruen's website. Original blog post for this episode at Happiness Between Tails. Lee Gale’s prior guest blog post at Happiness Between Tails. Lee Gale’s books are available at Amazon. Martha Graham, modern dance pioneer, bio at Wikipedia Epictetus, ancient Greek philosopher, bio at Wikipedia Photos available at the HBT post for this show: Photo of Lee Gale Gruen. Covers of Lee Gale Gruen’s two books: “Reinventing Yourself in Your Retirement Years: Find Joy, Excitement, and Purpose After You Retire,” and “Adventures with Dad: A Father and Daughter’s Journey Through a Senior Acting Class” — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/depe9/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/depe9/support

Click H-E-R-E for my podcast page at AnchorFM. This week’s episode is the audio version of  “Passion at Any Age: Writer/Actress Lee Gale Gruen” that you can read the text version of H-E-R-E.

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You know how it goes when you’re doing research, maybe for something you’re writing? Google one thing, and end up in a totally different place. In my case, since my novel-in-progress is called “Flamenco & the Sitting Cat,” it started with looking up the Spanish iconic painter, Francisco de Goya. Coming across his 1700’s portrait of a prior Duchess of Alba sent me clicking.

Goya’s image, called “The Black Duchess,” portrays a young woman in mostly frilly black portrays a young woman in a mostly frilly black outfit that’s punctuated with a red sash, as well as a gold blouse, shoes, and accessories…

"The Black Duchess" by Francisco de Goya.
“The Black Duchess” by Francisco de Goya

More clicking led to a modern-day Duchess of Alba. María del Rosario Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart y Silva, the eighteenth Duchess of Alba, remains the most titled of aristocrats. Much was made of her socialite “joie de vivre” (here’s a video of her dancing flamenco at her last wedding) and how she married three times. Husbands two and three were “commoners” — gasp! — and the last one was twenty-five years her junior. When her kids fussed about her love interests, she told them that as divorcees, they ought to mind their own business….

Black and white photo, probably from the 1960s or so, of the Duchess dancing with a guitarist.
Ever a flamenco aficionada: María del Rosario Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart y Silva, 18th Duchess of Alba.

It’s no business of mine what others think of their looks, and if they care, I encourage people to do whatever allows them to love themselves more. The reason I’ve brought this present-time duchess to your attention is because I’d love for you to fill me in on anything you might know about her. Her in-your-face boldness is something I’d give anything to pull off. More to her credit, she didn’t seem to take herself too seriously and she had a great sense of humor. At that flamenco wedding, she handed out whimsical party favors that were little sculptures of her face, broad-lips, deep-set eyes, and whirl-wind hairstyle.

Seeing photographs from late in her life, though, compels me to wonder why men don’t change their appearances as frequently and dramatically as women do? Sure, one need look no further than our orange-haired embarrassment of a former U.S. president, but men still lag far behind women when it comes to the extensive remodeling that induces a double-take.

Maybe it has to do with how girls and women are culturally and commercially targeted nonstop about how they appear. There’s a cruel power play that never ends, no matter how old we get. It’s as insignificant as when a yoga classmate gives me lip for favoring a little make-up and heels, and as weighty as when an influential woman is marked as a crackpot because she doesn’t look Wall Street enough.

Today’s guest shows us how ugliness and cuteness can blend together, certainly when it comes to elfins!

Birgit hales from Germany and blogs from Denmark. At her Stella, oh, Stella site, there’s always something uplifting, educational, beautiful, and fun, including videos of her and her gentleman making music…

Before I turn you over to Birgit, here’s my first try at a new bread recipe that I mixed and baked in under two hours, thanks to Jenny Jones! Khashayar confirmed (since my long-term post-Covid probs limit my senses of taste and smell) that…

Love can mean pain… but this time it’s the French definition!

Photo of loaf of bread I baked.
Dinner was home-baked bread with fresh mild herbs, drizzles of extra virgin olive oil, and fancy cheeses.

A True Elfin Story by Birgit

That’s it, I cannot do anything else for now. I will have to continue in spring.

The beginning is done: the fireplace, the ladder, the tiled path, the area for gatherings … the rest will have to wait. A pile of firewood is also ready …

What I am talking about is, of course, the elfin dwelling place in the birch tree stump. I have marked the places for the entrance door and the windows, but it is getting too cold to accomplish artistic wood carvings.

Photo of blogger Birgit.
Blogger/author Birgit in one of her gardens, where she lived near the German border.

The following winter is comparatively mild, but grey, rainy, stormy, in short: not cosy at all! The spring bulbs are slowly coming our with their first green.

At the beginning of May, my husband enters the kitchen and says enthusiastically that the door, which I have carved into the birch stump looks incredibly real, the windows as well. I rush into the garden right away. It is true! Where I have marked the door last winter, is now an intricate carving looking like Yggdrasil, the world tree from the Nordic cosmology. Further up I can see two windows. They do not look real, no, they are real, with frames and panes and everything. This is not my handiwork! I have not hollowed the tree stump and put in windows and a door. I believe my husband is playing a joke on me. 

I take him to task, but he denies all knowledge of the matter. Very well then, I will let him have his fun!

The same night, around one o’clock in the morning, I take a last stroll in the garden, as I often do. There isn’t any wind for a change. I detect a light at the south end of the house. Has my husband lit the candles? 

On the birch stump I discover a little figure, swathed in bright light. It is dressed in green cloth from top to toe. Furthermore, one can clearly see four wings on its back. Am I going crazy? Is my imagination running wild? No, my husband must be playing a practical joke. Somehow he is projecting pictures. I go back into the house to tell him that he cannot fool me. I discover that he is already in bed and asleep. What am I to think?

I look out of the southern window. The little figure is still standing out there and is looking directly into my eyes. I go outside again and head towards the birch stump. The elfin, and such a one it is, is not moving an inch. 

This first night we only look at each other in silence. I do not remember, how long, but very long. During the following nights we start talking. The elfin understands me and speaks our language. Incredible! What did I expect?

Four elfins have moved into the tree stump, two couples. From my preparations they could see that they would be welcome here. They have embellished everything a lot. The door was too low, the gathering place too small, but then I did not know how tall an elfin was, did I?

It is wonderful to have the small creatures living in the garden. I could watch them for hours. But one day a devil is possessing me. I want to prove to other people that the elfins exist, that they are not purely spawn of my imagination. 

So I take my husband’s camera and secretly take some photos. Only one of them is really sharp. But … what is that? Those are not the creatures that I photographed! The figures on the photo look like brown Goldsmiths; still dressed in green, but looking more like insects and with ugly, wrinkly faces. One says that a camera does not lie. I don’t know what to believe. 

The next evening I confront the elfins with the photo that I have printed out. They are startled, and then sad, letting their shoulders sag. Slowly their appearance changes, until they resemble the creatures on the photo. But then they begin to whisper among each other, and I notice that their sadness turns into rage. They all look at me with very angry eyes. Can the small ones seriously harm me? I ask myself. 

“You know what?” I say. “I will burn the photo. Nobody will ever know anything about this.” I take a match and burn the photo on the spot. The faces are looking friendlier already. They come to me and tell me that the elfin faces I have seen so far are only projections, because they have only experienced rejection with their real appearance. People had thought that they were big insects and had tried to kill them. As they are magical creatures, they had thought up the deception with the projection. They had given themselves the cutest possible appearance, so that they would be generally accepted. “Although it does not really matter so much anymore. Hardly anybody can see us nowadays, not even the children”, I am told. I am glad that peace is restored and the elfins don’t bear a grudge. All four of them have already changed into their cute version again. I wish them good night and go back into the house.

Before I go to bed, I want to delete the electronic original of the photo. My finger hovers a long moment above the delete key. This photo is my only proof of what elfins really look like. But does it really matter? What do those, who do not believe in elfins, care whether they are cute or not? I press the key; the photo is deleted. I will take the secret with me into my grave.

Photo of Birgit's elfish abode under a tree in her garden, replete with small rocks to mark a path, and doll-sized pots, pans, and chairs.
You never know what you’ll find in Birgit’s garden — or at her blog!

Epilog…

Twenty years have gone by now. The elfins are very comfortable in our garden. The furry animals stay away from them. Their only irritation is the clumsy pheasant that upsets everything and often tears the pile of firewood apart. I wonder what he expects to find there?

They do not care so much anymore about their projected image. I don’t care. I have grown fond of them; they are my friends, no matter what they look like. My husband also started seeing them after a while. Sometimes they make themselves invisible and pull his beard to tease him. From one second to the other the “cute little creatures” become an “irritating gang of mosquitos”. When we are alone, to provoke me, he sometimes calls them my “tame goldsmiths”. But it is all in good humour; everybody respects each other.

When the elfins have children, they urge them quite soon to find their own dwelling, so that the birch stump is not over-populated. They are six now; one more couple has moved in. 

From under the roots of the birch stump they have dug a secret tunnel. Not even I was told where it surfaces. I do understand them!

How do you define beauty?

Inspiration at the Getty Museum Los Angeles by da-AL

My honey, me, Angela, and Kim took a tram up to see the Getty Center.

Having family over to visit is an opportunity to see my own city through new eyes. It’s the best kind of stay-cation! We took them to visit the Getty Center (which shouldn’t be confused with the Getty Villa)…

The Getty Center offers amazing views.

The first area we visited was their gardens…

Getty Center gardens with the Getty’s amazing travertine architecture.

What could be better than art featuring a cat lover?…

Portrait of Magdaleine Pinceloup de la Grange by Jean-Baptiste Perronneau, 1747.

And what’s more manly than manly royalty showing off his 64-year-old dancer legs in tights?…

Portrait of Louis XIV by Hyacinthe Rigaud, 1701.

Which is happier do you think — horse or rider?…

Angel of the Citadel by Marino Marini, 1950.

Mercury is a god of things good and bad and everything in between, so it stands to reason that his shadow would be as interesting as he is…

Mercury by Johan Gregor van der Schardt, 1575.

All this art was made me hungry…

Still Life: Tea Set by Jean-Étienne Liotard, 1782.

The sun began to cast long shadows across this Getty fountain — we were inspired to make our own art!…

Our great day at the Getty made us want to dance!…

so we danced…

and danced…

and danced!

It was a perfect way to end the day!…

Sunset at the Getty is spectacular!

What inspires you?

Part 2 of 3: Strolling the British Museum by da-AL

There’s so much at the British Museum! I don’t recommend trying to see it all in one go — nor all in one blog post. Here’s Part 1 of our visit, here’s Part 3, here’s our overall visit to London, to Bath, Avebury henge, Stokesay Castle, Harlech and Conwy and Penrith and Ullswater, and to see the Kelpies of Scotland. Let’s start with the Parthenon for the second leg of our walk through the British Museum…

This chariot horse is worn out from carrying moon-goddess Selene to the Parthenon. 435 BC.

Does the Parthenon look inviting to you?…

At the Parthenon, who’s stronger — a centaur or a Lampith?

This maenad, two satyrs, and panther are followers of Dionysos, a.k.a. Bacchus, the god of wine. Roman, about 100 AD.

These Assyrians are hunting through a garden. About 645-635 BC.

“I’m looking at you.” This King Ramesses II was carved from one block that was quarried almost 200 kilometers south of the king’s mortuary temple!

General Horemheb has rather pronounced breasts — yet his wife’s are concave… Hmmm… 18th Dynasty, probably reign of Ay (about 1327-1323 BC), Horemheb’s tomb.

An ancestral figure from Easter Island, Chile, about AD 1000-1200.

The flames of Hindu god Shiva, here as Nataraja, the Lord of the Dance, demonstrate how one cycle gives over to another. He creates and then he destroys. About 1100, south India.

Only one flap of Garuda’s wings is needed to orbit the cosmos while he protects followers from serpent spirits. 1800s, Tibet.

Is there an era’s art that you prefer?… 

Part 3: Purringly Stunning Sydney, Australia with Video by da-AL

Beaches, cats, tango, and theater — that’s how our extraordinary trip came to a marvelous close.

Relaxing under a rock.

Our last little bit of holiday was spent admiring Sydney’s shore. The weather was gusty and somewhat chilly for us sunny-never-a-cloud Los Angeles folks — so when one of us decided it was time for a siesta, we gathered ourselves under some rocks. The view of the sky was terrific…

Australia’s beaches are stunning.

Bondi Beach is ultra-popular, though I doubt any of Australia’s shoreline isn’t stunning. Did you know that Australia has surf life-saving clubs?…

Bondi Surf Bathers Life Saving Club.

Our bed and breakfast hostess, Belinda Selway (you can reach her at: Belinda at ArtbyDesign dot net dot AU), revealed heroic patience when she tolerated my extreme egg fussiness and made me the b-e-s-t poached egg ever — I’ve yet to risk another even cooked by me! Under her roof, we admired great art and sorted out romances. She offered us useful tips for where and how to enjoy the short remainder of our stay.

Belinda and her cat are the best!

Plus, she shared her charming cat. Don’t be fooled by those sweet feline eyes — pretty kitty is quite the mouser. And her purring is hypnotizing…

We were so busy having fun that we forgot to take more photos…

  1. Many sincere thanks to the supremely likable Tango Embrace Australia dance group for being so kind that they asked one of their members to give us a ride. Oh, how I wish I remember that charitable dancing driver’s name. Better, however, that I admit my bad manners than allow her to think we don’t continue to be grateful for her generosity and that we much enjoyed our chat with her!
  2. At the Sydney Opera House, we bought same-day tickets to their theater and got front row seats to an outstanding show — for less than we’d have paid for a half-decent dinner! We also had a scrumptious splurge meal on their patio that was served by a waiter who was bionic, a great entertainer, and professional. Alas, another Sydneysider who I’d like to thank more personally but whose name eludes me…

This great trip started with New Zealand’s beautiful Auckland / Rotorua / Redwoods / Huka Falls / Craters of the Moon / Waitomo Glowworms Caves / Taupo / Pirongia / and Hamilton Gardens. In Australia, we met terrific family in Gold Coast / observed these exciting birds — and these too / hiked breathtaking views / enjoyed delicious eats at the beach / saw some wild things and cute things at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary / had fun with Rita Rigby / enjoyed a bit of the beauty and beasts of Brisbane / and in Sydney we enjoyed these sights and this art, as well as what you just saw in this post…

How loud does your cat purr?

For fun’s sake by da-AL

Spanish wax napkin origami of Flamenco (Sevillana) dancers.
By Eekiv – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19924480

Surfing about the net while I’ve been editing my soon-to-be self-published novel, “Flamenco & the Sitting Cat,” I found this and thought you might enjoy it too — for all the time I spend writing via my computer, I still love paper! And dance! And travel! And cafes in Spain! And creativity!…

And more cuteness! Here’s my dear doggie before our walk…

My dear doggie before our walk. Photo by Khashayar Parsi.

And here she is when we went out and encountered this uplifting chalk art!…

“Stand here & think about someone you love.”

“You are loved.”

Do you love writing, paper, dancing, foreign cafes, creativity, and cuteness too?…

Video: Great TV, an Inspiring Author, and a Humble Tango by da-AL

My husband I do a little dance for our dear cousins.

Someone said that a good story makes you both laugh and cry. To me, a remarkable story does all that while capturing the nuances of how each of us can be wonderful yet flawed. Bramwell, a TV show I only recently discovered, does it all. It’s from the 1990s, which apparently is so old that the closest to a trailer for it that I could find for you is this opening…

I’m discussing Bramwell to tell you about the inspiring screenwriter. Wikipedia notes, “Lucy Gannon once worked as a military policewoman, a residential social worker, and a nurse, and lived in a concrete council house with no central heating. She later moved to a converted barn in Derbyshire and now lives near Cardigan, in Wales.” Here she describes how she came to writing…

And here, my friends, is a tango that my husband and I danced for our dear cousins in Gold Coast, Australia…

What makes great writing for you?

Chinese Lantern Festival Videos, North Carolina

da-AL in front of lighted Chinese astrology banner
Pigs are great!

What’s a Chinese Lantern Festival? It took visiting a good friend in North Carolina for me to discover. Theories vary about its origins, but always it’s tied to the Chinese New Year. This one was an eye-popping expanse of light sculptures beautiful enough to make all ages brave the cold outdoors …

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… And there were even performances! …

Here’s about Georgia O’Keeffe in North Carolina. Also, here’s about the North Carolina Museum of Art’s Women-Powered Art, and its Outspoken and Ancient Art and its Cutting Edge Art.

Have you attended a light festival?…

Flamenco Fusion by da-AL

“Flamenco & the Sitting Cat” is the title of the first of my soon-to-be self-published novels. The ‘Sitting Cat’ part of the title refers to the geographical shape of Iran…

Map of Iran out lined in shape of a Sitting Cat.
Map of Iran outlined in the shape of a Sitting Cat.

I grew up with only classical music — and flamenco music and dance. My father, who left Barcelona in his mid-20s, wanted it that way. Since I left home at 18, it’s a gift to watch any type of dance I like and to listen to every kind of music that comes my way.

Shahrokh Moshkin Ghalam respectfully and lovingly fuses dance cultures.
Shahrokh Moshkin Ghalam respectfully and lovingly fuses dance cultures.

I still love classical — and flamenco! Especially fascinating to me is when flamenco is fused with the dance of Iran, where my husband was raised. Shahrokh Moshkin Ghalam is an Iranian dancer now residing in France. Flamenco is as much about individuality as it is about technique — it accommodates all cultures, all forms of beauty.

If only politics were as intent on creating a climate of ‘we’ rather than an ‘us vs. them’!

The way Ghalam (click here for his Facebook page) fuses dance styles is respectful and hypnotic…

For more flamenco, check out Part 3: Marvelous Madrid — Flamenco

What fusion art do you enjoy?

Tango Elegante Video: “El Día Que Me Quieras” by da-AL

da-AL dances Argentine Tango with her honey

Each year, a dear friend opens her home to her dance-loving friends. We share great food and either perform or just enjoy watching.

My love of dance is great — that’s why one of my upcoming novels is titled, “Flamenco & the Sitting Cat”! The style of Argentine tango that my husband I dance is called Tango Elegante, taught by these outstanding teachers.

Our friend’s daughter kindly shot this video of my honey and me…

What’s your favorite dance?…

Guest Blog Post: Don’t by Born in Providence

When nowhere seems safe, blogger Born in Providence invites us to find shelter on her Island of Sanctuary…

Born in Providence

Don’t show them your drawing

They’ll find the mistakes, compare it to what’s already on the fridge or that Picasso we saw on the field trip last year. Third grade is no excuse; third degree.

Don’t ask them how you look

They’ll find the bump in your pony, the hole in your sock which is already inside your shoe, which are too tight and have a scuff. They’ll see that too. You look tired. Did you even brush your teeth?

Don’t tell them you’re hungry or full

They’ll decide you’re too big, small, selfish, greedy, a bottomless pit, picky. Comparing your plate to everyone with more or less deserving than you, making it impossible to taste or swallow past the lump in your throat.

Don’t offer your opinion even when they ask

They’ll decide their ideas, experiences, thoughts and preferences are superior while simultaneously highlighting why everything that comes out…

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